Lockdown II Week 3 – November 16th to 22nd 2020 inclusive

Monday, November 16th

Since the start of the pandemic, the oven has broken, the toilet has broken, the toilet has broken again and damaged the kitchen ceiling, a lightning strike has knackered the router and the phones, and now the oven has broken again.  I mean, is it me?!  A new one will hopefully be coming on Thursday or Friday.  More money.

Went into town for an optician’s appointment today.  Very strange seeing everywhere so quiet, when the Christmas markets should be open.  I love the Christmas markets.  And that miserable git Matt Hancock’s said that it’s too soon to say whether or not the lockdown will end on December 2nd.  Retailers are getting really fed up: Waterstones (books) and Clinton (cards) have both complained about their shops having to close, when books and cards can be readily bought in supermarkets, garden centres and newsagents.

On a happier note, another firm, Moderna, have also got a vaccine which is over 90% effective.  And hopes are rising that testing will be made available to people with loved ones in care homes, allowing for visits.

Meanwhile, Boris is self-isolating, just at a crucial stage of the Brexit negotiations and in the middle of Lockdown II, after an MP with whom he attended a meeting tested positive.  Several other MPs are also affected.

And there’s been a worrying surge in cases in Hull and Grimsby.

 

Tuesday, November 17th

Superb match between Rafa and Dominic …  which, sadly, Rafa lost 😦 .

A load of virus cases in England have been “relocated”, because the addresses on the system were wrong.  Is this a joke?  Needless to say, they have mainly been relocated to urban parts of the north.  The area with the largest number of cases relocated away from it is the area which includes Rishi Sunak’s constituency.

Easyjet’s suffered the first loss in its history.

And Glasgow and various other parts of Scotland are being put into Tier 4 … which is basically the sort of lockdown that the whole of England’s presently in.  This is awful.  I know this is a horrible situation, but people and businesses can’t take much more.

I went to Tesco this morning, coming home at about 10 to 9.  The amount of traffic, considering that we’re meant to be in lockdown, was insane.  OK, the stupid council’s decision to reduce the main road to one lane each way makes it a lot worse, but even so.  Could have been parents returning from taking kids to school, but I’m not convinced.  Loads of people are working at offices, when they could be working from home.

And the police have been told to stop issuing the highest level of fines for breaking regulations.  TBH, I agree that the fixed penalty system’s stupid – £10,000 is a year’s net income to some people but loose change to others.  But why wasn’t this taken into consideration in the first place?

 

Wednesday, November 18th

I went to the office to drop some stuff off this morning.  Just after I arrived, the fire alarm went off.  I was tempted just to go home and leave the stuff I’d dropped off lying about on the desk where I’d dumped it, but decided that that wouldn’t be very fair, so I waited outside until it was sorted and I could go back in and put everything away properly.  Hordes of people came streaming out of the other offices in the block – and these are people whose jobs could certainly be done from home.  There were even people from a social group which uses one of the offices for meet-ups, and I’m pretty sure that social groups aren’t allowed to meet up during lockdown –  unless it’s some sort of emotional support group, which this isn’t.  FFS!

There’s talk of making restrictions in Tiers 2 and 3 even tighter when lockdown ends.  I have just had enough of this.  We’ve been under restrictions since July.  Rates in the North West are falling.  What are they going to try to do to us now?

In Scotland, police are to have powers to stop people travelling outside their own council areas in Tier 3 and Tier 4 areas.  Like they’re living in an open prison.  I understand that this is a really, really shit situation, but people have just had enough.

There’s been a big anti-lockdown protest in Berlin.

There is some talk of a Christmas truce here.   As long as you only hold small family gatherings, and only travel by car – which is a pretty stupid suggestion, given that a lot of people don’t have cars.  But maybe it means that my sister and brother-in-law and nephews will be able to come here for Christmas after all.

But there are concerns that the Australian Open may not be able to go ahead.  Players have said that they’re willing to self-isolate for a fortnight – which, given that that’d include Christmas and New Year if they were to be out of quarantine before the start of the warm-up events, is no small commitment.   But now the government of Victoria’s suggesting it won’t let players arrive until January.

And Boris has appeared at PM’s Questions by video link, as he is currently confined to barracks.

 

Thursday, November 19th

The new oven has arrived, hooray!

Rafa has reached the semi-finals, hooray!

Government funding’s been announced for some sports clubs, due to the effects of the virus.

Mink in Sweden have now got the virus as well.  What is it with mink?!

More bad news in the retail industry today – more firms going into administration.  And we’re only hearing about big firms – how many small shops have gone?

Infection rates in the North West continue to fall, which is obviously very good news, but infection rates elsewhere in England continue to rise.  It’s weird: it’s like we’re having a different pandemic to the rest of the country.   The infection rate across the 10 boroughs is down to 399.10, down 22% week-on-week.   The average across England is 265.5 and rising.  Over 500 deaths across the UK again today.  Italy suffered nearly 800 yesterday.  And New York’s closed schools again.

Hull is much the worst affected place in the country now, with Scarborough, Teesside, Bristol, Swale (in Kent), Stoke, and parts of Leics, Lincs and West Yorks also struggling.

Please, please, please let us out of bloody lockdown on December 2nd.  Northern Ireland’s going back into lockdown after next week.  So they’re coming out for one week.  Well, I hope everyone manages to get a hair appointment.  How bloody demoralising – practically straight back into it.

And Brexit talks have been suspended after one of the EU negotiators tested positive for the virus.  It wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if Michel Barnier had made the whole thing up to throw a spanner in the works, but I suppose we have to assume it’s genuine.

 

Friday, November 20th

It has rained nearly all day.  Despite this, there were still long queues at both the cafes in the park.

Not convinced about all this focus on Christmas.  Much as I want to see my sister and brother-in-law and the kids, we’re being told that 5 days of lockdown will be “needed” for every day for which restrictions are eased.  If we have 5 days over Christmas (the 27th and 28th are Bank Holidays, as Christmas Day and Boxing Day fall at the weekend), plus New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, that means a 35 day lockdown.  People’s mental health is suffering as it is, and a lot of businesses won’t make it through another 35 days of being closed.  We’re not in some sort of Hollywood film where everything revolves around Christmas.  I just don’t think it can be justified.  Which is extremely sad.

2 million people in Scotland are now back in lockdown, and businesses in Northern Ireland are furious that they’ll have to close again after only being able to reopen for a week.

The Serbian Orthodox Patriarch’s died with coronavirus, after attending a funeral for the Serbian Orthodox church’s chief cleric in Montenegro … lots of people, no social distancing, people even kissing the body.  It’s very sad, but there does seem to be an issue with people thinking that religious services should be exempt from the rules.  It’s happening here too.  I don’t understand why religious people seem to think they should be exempt.

Matt Hancock’s wittering on about how “we must keep our resolve”.  It might come across quite well if it was Churchill saying it.  Still, at least he manages to brush his hair before leading a press conference.

 

Saturday, November 21st

Oh no!!  Rafa lost to Daniil in the semis … after serving for the match in the 2nd set.  Just can’t win the World Tour Finals 😦 .   And it looks as if the Australian Open might be put back to March.  Tennis Australia’s idea was for the players and anyone accompanying them to arrive in mid-December, go into quarantine for 2 weeks, and then be ready for the warm-up events and for the Open to start on January 18th as scheduled, but it looks as if the government of Victoria’s going to put the kibosh on it.  That is a blow 😦 .  January’s a miserable time of year even in normal times, and the Aussie Open’s the one good thing about it.   And then that’ll muck up the calendar for the rest of the year

On a happier note, United beat West Brom, 1-0.

It’s five weeks to Christmas!   Doesn’t feel like it, with no Christmas markets … although some people are trying to cheer themselves up by putting their trees and decorations up.  Please tell me that the people over the road are going to switch their garish flashing lights off during the day – I love Christmas, but those lights flashing 24/7 will do my head in!

And it’s 5 days until Thanksgiving … and cases seem to be soaring in most parts of the US 😦 .

Managed to walk round Hollingworth Lake and have a mince pie 🙂 from The Olive and Pickle before the rain started.

I meant to go out for another walk later, but I had to make a start on clearing out the kitchen cupboards, and then Dominic and Nole’s match lasted nearly three hours and it was dark by the time it’d finished.

 

Sunday, November 22nd

We’re going to be told tomorrow what we are and aren’t allowed to do over Christmas.  It’d be vaguely comical if it wasn’t such a nightmare – it sounds as if we’re all being summoned into the school hall to be given a lecture about how reports will be handed out after the carol service and the Chanukah play, and you must give yours to your parents Or Else.

Then, on Thursday, we’re going to be told which tier we’re going in after lockdown.  This again sounds like being at school.  Some areas are being moved into higher tiers.  It doesn’t sound like we’ll be going into a lower tier.  The average infection rate across Greater Manchester’s below 360, which is well below where it was, but the national average is around 260.  Hull, by contrast, is up at around 700, with Swale in Kent around 650 and several other places over 500.  Worse news is the talk of tighter restrictions in each tier.  FFS, are things not bad enough?  But the 10pm curfew’s being lifted, which isn’t an awful lot of help when pubs and restaurants are closed anyway.

Finished clearing out the kitchen drawers and cupboards, but ran out of time, energy and enthusiasm so still haven’t done the fridge and the freezer.  I’ll try to get them done tomorrow.  Then that’s inside done.  My car urgently needs valeting, but all the decent places are closed due to lockdown.

Medvedev won the World Tour Finals.

Went to Tatton Park this morning – and there was a rainbow right over Tatton Hall!   You have to book to go round the gardens, which I’d done, but not for the estate, which was pretty busy.  It’s a big enough place to be able to walk around without going near anyone else, but the queue for takeaway food and drinks was horrendous!  It wasn’t too bad when I went, at about 11, but by half 12 it really was long!  Nice sunny morning, after all the rain yesterday.  Once we’re back in the evil tier system, I shouldn’t officially be going outside Greater Manchester into East Cheshire, but … well, we’ll see.

 

The Great Christmas Debate

  Over the next few days, the powers that be are going to be telling us what we are and aren’t allowed to do over the festive season.  I can’t believe that I’ve actually just written that: it sounds as if Oliver Cromwell’s troops are liable to call round, take us by our left legs and throw us down the stairs.  That’s 2020 for you.  However, it sounds as if the authorities, not just here but everywhere else, *don’t* want to be like Cromwell and go down in history as the people who cancelled Christmas, so we’re going to get a few days “off”.   But is that the right decision?

We, in Greater Manchester, have been banned from going into other people’s homes, or meeting people inside public places such as restaurants, since July 31st.  It was announced late at night, with no warning, to come into effect within little more than two hours.  We were barely out of national lockdown at that point.  Due to work and educational commitments, many people hadn’t yet chance to be reunited with loved ones whom they hadn’t seen since before this nightmare began – and some still haven’t.  In mid-October, we were told that we could at least see people in private gardens, but, less than a fortnight later, not only had we again been banned from doing that but we’d been told that we weren’t even supposed to leave our local area.  In an age in which pretty much everyone’s got immediate relatives and close friends living in other parts of the country, imagine how that felt.  I hear people down south moaning about having been put into Tier 2 – maybe try to remember that we’ve had tighter restrictions than Tier 2 for almost four months now.  So we, more than anyone, are desperate to get together with our loved ones over Christmas.

Usually, by this time of year, I’ve got “Fairytale of New York” (with or without words banned by the BBC) and “Merry Christmas Everybody” going through my head.  This year, it’s Freddie Mercury singing “Oh, my friends, it’s been a long hard year.  But now it’s Christmas … for one day”.  One day.  Well, a few days.  It’s not even just about the fact that it’s Christmas.  Yes, it’s “the most wonderful time of the year”.  Yes, most of us have got a sentimental attachment to it, regardless of what religion, if any, we practise.  But, after the year we’ve had, I’d jump for joy at the thought of being able spend time with family and friends to celebrate the fact that it’s actually not raining this morning, or that United beat West Brom last night.  Anything.

And yet … switching from Queen to the Pet Shop Boys, “Is it worth it?”.  (OK, the song’s “Was it worth it?”, but near enough!).  There’s a lot of talk of facing five days of tighter restrictions for every one day of a Christmas truce.  We’re probably talking five days over Christmas, plus, to respect Scottish culture, two days over New Year.  So that could mean over a month of near-lockdown.  A lot of businesses and not-for-profit cultural institutions won’t survive that.  Small shops, cafes, restaurants, pubs, bars, hair and beauty salons, gyms and leisure centres, hotels, public transport, museums and other tourist attractions are struggling as it is.   The airline industry, sports clubs whose fans are banned from entering the stadia, cinemas, theatres, live music venues, wedding planners, caterers … they’re on their knees.  Another month or more of tighter restrictions could cost thousands of jobs.

And there are the mental health implications.  January and February are never the most cheerful months of the year as it is.  We’re already going to be facing them under severe restrictions.  Could this mean that those restrictions are even more severe?  And there is, of course, the issue of spreading the virus.  Infection rates here are, mercifully, falling, down by 25% in our borough since last week, after sky-rocketing throughout September, October and early November.  Do we really want to risk seeing them go right back up again?  See hospital admissions, and, tragically, probably death figures, go up again?  For the sake of a few days?

And yet those few days would mean so much, in what’s been a pretty rotten year.

I don’t know what the answer is.  There are no easy answers.  And, let’s face it, a lot of people will be getting together over the festive season anyway, because they’ve just had enough.

So what’s going to happen?  Well, apparently we will be finding out over the next few days.   One thing’s for sure, it’s going to be a Christmas like no other.  But, eighty years ago, the Luftwaffe killed nearly 700 people in the Manchester area in horrific bombing raids on December 22nd, 23rd and 24th, and over 350 people in the Liverpool area on December 20th, 21st and 22nd.  If the wartime generations coped with that, we can cope with whatever this year brings.  Somehow.

Town before lockdown

I’ve been into town this morning, partly because I needed a new watch battery, partly to do the “Windows of Creativity” walk before we’re confined to barracks again, partly to lend support to my favourite cafe before it has to close again, and partly because I just wanted to be in my city centre, the centre of Manchester.   We’ve got through worse times than this – 80 years ago, Luftwaffe bombs killed nearly 800 people in the week before Christmas – but, oh, it’s miserable, seeing pubs with “Closed” notices on them, and knowing that restaurants and many shops will be closing for at least a month from Thursday, just when we should be getting ready to have a glass of gluhwein by the singing reindeer head at the Christmas markets.

Pretty much of all of Europe, and many other countries, are in the same mess that we’re in, so I’m not blaming the authorities.  The virus is just a lot cleverer than we are: it’s very difficult to defeat nature.  There isn’t really much option other than another lockdown, but the thought of what it’s going to do both to people’s mental health – I’ve got a long and unpleasant history of anxiety – and the economy is very worrying.  And we, in Greater Manchester, have now been under additional restrictions for over three months, and yet things have just got worse.

I’m a historian, so I am supposed to be an expert on the evils of bias and prejudice.  And I usually find them very annoying.  The Whigs said this and the Marxists said that and the revisionists said the other … just tell me the facts and let me decide for myself.   The same with media reports now: just tell me the facts, not your biased opinion of it.   But, now that I’m actually writing a first hand account of a major event in world history (even if I don’t suppose it’s of much interest to anyone but me), I’m finding it impossible to be objective, because it’s all just so close to home.

For whatever reason, Greater Manchester has been the epicentre of the pandemic in England since July.  As I said, we’ve been under additional  restrictions for over three months now.  And, at the centre of events, we have, as the people’s champions, United’s own Marcus Rashford, not only a United player but “one of our own”, Manchester born and bred and at United since he was a kid, and Andy Burnham, whom I’ve had a bit of a crush on for years ❤ .  I once wrote to Andy Burnham about something, and I got a letter back with “Dear [my name]” handwritten at the top, and “Best wishes, Andy Burnham,” handwritten at the bottom, and I was so excited that I kept the letter: I’ve still got it.    And don’t get me wrong, I’d have supported the children’s meals vouchers campaign regardless of who’d started it, but Marcus is one of our own.

Incidentally, could someone please tell me why a 67% furlough scheme was considered adequate for Manchester, Liverpool and other parts of the North, but, the minute London’s put back into lockdown, it’s announced that the 80% furlough scheme would be extended, something which Andy Burnham asked for and was told wasn’t an option?   It’s pretty hard to be objective when you’ve got good reason to feel that you’re getting a raw deal.  And it’s hard to be objective about anything when your city, your region, is at the heart of it.

Even with the 80% furlough scheme, a lot of businesses will inevitably have to make redundancies, or even fold completely.  And the mental health effects of another lockdown, especially at what’s always a fairly miserable time of year made bearable only by the Christmas stuff that won’t be happening this year.  This is going to take a hell of a lot of coming back from.

But we’ll get there.  We’ve got through worse.  It would just be very nice to see some light at the end of the tunnel.  And it would be nice to get back to feeling that we’re all in it together, that Spirit of the Blitz which we had in the early days.

Second Wave Week 8 – October 19th to 25th 2020 inclusive

 

Monday, October 19th

It’s strange being down here with all this going on at home.   It’s like another world down here.  There are just so few people about.   Apart from Bristol, there are no big cities.  Even Bath, where I went today, is pretty small compared to towns like Bury and Rochdale.  No wonder infection rates are so much lower here.  I went to the Pump Room and the Roman Baths – both pre-booked due to virus issues.  The Assembly Rooms were sadly closed, again due to virus issues!  There seem to be quite a few overseas tourists around, strangely, but nothing like as many as usual: there’d usually be coachloads of people, especially Americans, in the area, to see Stonehenge, the Magna Carta and Jane Austen’s Bath.

Still no definite decision on Greater Manchester.  No-one seems to know what the hell is going on.  When all the details of the financial wrangling emerged, it turned out that, having asked for £95m – perfectly reasonably, given that Merseyside, with half the population of Greater Manchester, got £45m – we were only offered £60m.  We then asked for £65m, but they wouldn’t even agree to that.  It is impossible for me to be objective about this.  This is MY city.  This is MY region.  (And I’ve had a bit of a crush on Andy Burnham for years, although that’s rather beside the point!)  But the financial “support” on offer is a joke.  How are people meant to manage on 2/3 of their wages?  And local lockdowns do not bloody work.  We should know.  We’ve been in one for three bloody months,

Meanwhile, Wales is going into full lockdown for three weeks, from 6pm on Friday.  And the Republic of Ireland is going into full lockdown for SIX weeks, from Wednesday.  And Northern Ireland is now in lockdown.

 

Tuesday, October 20th

I cannot believe what has gone on today.  The upshot is that we’re being forced into Tier 3 from Friday – and with only around £20m on offer, although it looks as if we will get the £60m mentioned beforehand.  But … the national government, which is supposed to represent us, has treated us like some sort of enemy.  A high noon ultimatum was offered.  What is this, 1939?  People were gathering in town.  I don’t know what they were expecting to happen, but that’s how big it was.  And that idiot Robert Jenrick, the Housing Secretary, was saying that, if Andy Burnham wouldn’t agree to do what he said, he’d “report” him to the Prime Minister.  Who does he think he is, the school sneak?

Then Andy Burnham, speaking in town, found out from a message on a phone shown to him by an aide about what was happening.  Boris held a press conference at 5, and said that Tier 3 restrictions were being imposed on us.  Like we’re a colony.  £5m.  It’s a drop in the ocean in terms of government spending.

I am so angry that we are being treated like this.  I really did have faith in Boris Johnson’s government.  Hah!  And I am so worried about the state of the local economy.  And I HATE the idea of travel restrictions, even if technically they are only “guidance”.  Pubs are not important to me personally, but travel is.  Now I’ll be going against “guidance” if I go to the Lakes. Or even to Blackpool, to see the Illuminations, even though that’s in Tier 3 too.  So it’s OK to go from, say, Standish to Altrincham, which is over 25 miles, because that’s not leaving Greater Manchester, but not to walk from Standish to Chorley or Wigan to St Helens, even though they’re all in Tier 3.

I am so angry.

Meanwhile, I’ve been to Stonehenge, and to a lovely National Trust property called Stourhead.  I’ve never been to Stonehenge before.  And United have beaten Paris St Germain!

I suppose that I’ll technically be breaking rules if I stay away overnight on Friday and Saturday now, but it’s hard bloody luck.  I’ve paid for the hotel for the week.

 

Wednesday, October 21st

South Yorkshire – Sheffield, Barnsley, Rotherham and Doncaster – is to move into Tier 3.  No news yet on Nottingham, the North East or West Yorkshire.

Anti-government graffiti is appearing around Manchester and Liverpool.

Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner called another MP “scum” in the House of Commons today, in a row over Tier 3 restrictions.  OK, she was bang out of order to use language like that, but feelings are running very high.

Gyms are to reopen in Merseyside.  More chopping and changing.

Rather wet today, but I had a nice day anyway – I went to Cleeve Abbey, which I wanted to see because of its links to Elsie J Oxenham’s “Abbey” books, and to Dunster Castle.

 

Thursday, October 22nd

I went to Salisbury today – Old Sarum in the afternoon but, first, the cathedral, where I saw one of the four surviving original copies of the Magna Carta.  I wore a Manchester bee face mask for the occasion.  The Magna Carta’s in a little tent to protect it from the light etc, and you go in on your own: it’s quite a spiritual experience.

It doesn’t cover pandemics.

Then I went to Cheddar.  Not to the caves, though – they’ve closed down because of the pandemic.

Slough, Coventry and Stoke are moving into Tier 2.

Parliament has rejected Marcus Rashford’s proposal to provide meal vouchers during school holidays for kids who get free school meals.  It’d only have cost £20m, which isn’t a lot in terms of public spending.  People are furious about it.  There’s very strong support for it, and social media is now full of remarks about how the government doesn’t care about hungry kids.  It’s not good.

 

Friday, October 24th

Greater Manchester is now in Tier 3.  And Warrington is to move into Tier 3.  People there are being asked not to leave the borough, which is ridiculous.

“SOS” has been beamed on to the side of Blackpool Tower.  Loads of half-term bookings have been cancelled, and the Illuminations going on until January isn’t going to be much help now that there’s “guidance” against people going there.  The Lake District’s also seen a lot of cancellations – and businesses there won’t get any help at all, because the Lake District itself is in Tier 1.  It’s just a nightmare.

I’ve been to Wells today, and then to Nunney.

 

Saturday, October 25th

Went to Glastonbury today.  I climbed Glastonbury Tor!  Then went to the Chalice Well.  Then to the Abbey.  I drank a bit of the Chalice Well water, supposedly springing from where the Holy Grail’s buried.  And I saw where King Arthur and Queen Guinevere were supposedly buried.  Now would be a very good time for King Arthur to come back and save us all!  Then I went to Farleigh Hungerford Castle.

The number of councils and businesses offering vouchers or free meals to children is soaring.  One of the papers called it “the Duncook Spirit”.  Hopefully it’ll genuinely help some of those in need.

It’s making the government look very bad indeed.

Infections are continuing to rise.  Here and all over Europe.  We’re not hearing much about what’s happening elsewhere, and it’s not as easy as you’d think to find information online .

Home tomorrow.

 

Sunday, October 25th

I’m home!  Via Witley Court and Stourport-on-Severn.  Done the washing.  Not done the ironing.

The motorway was certainly quieter than usual.  But infection rates keep rising, especially in Oldham and Rochdale.  There are rumours that a “Tier 4” could be introduced, which could include shutting restaurants and “non-essential” shops.  Whatever a “non-essential” shop is – there is a row going on over this in Wales at the moment.  Apart from Wales, the Republic of Ireland and the Czech Republic, nowhere else seems to be going that far.

So fed up.

Marcus Rashford has repeatedly said that he wants everyone to work together and is not trying to score political points, but tell that to all the vile people twisting his kindness and humanity into abusing the government for their own ends.  So sick of all the nastiness – but so heartened by all the good-hearted people offering free meals for children as a response to Marcus’s campaign.  We’re sticking together.  Street food traders and sandwich delivery businesses are partnering with pubs, to enable them to serve meals and therefore be allowed to remain open.  But anger at Westminster is growing.

And so I’m home.  In Tier 3.

 

 

 

 

The Harrying of the North, or The Two Nations

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been in the crazy situation of having my home city, my home region, involved in a stand-off with the national government which is supposed to represent us.  Last Tuesday, we were given a high noon deadline to agree to what the government said or have Tier 3 restrictions imposed on us without local leaders’ agreement – the latter being what eventually happened.  One the one hand, it sounded like something from 1914 or 1939 – here is an ultimatum.  Crowds were gathering in town, waiting to see what would happen.  On the other hand, we had Robert Jenrick saying that, if Andy Burnham wouldn’t do what he said, he was going to report him to the Prime Minister, sounding rather more like the school sneak than a member of the Cabinet.  It was so farcical that it would have been funny had it not been so serious.

None of this was political.  MPs and council leaders from both main parties stood side by side on this.  That seemed to be what threw the government – the City United response, and the strength of it.  It wasn’t about point-scoring.  It was about the need for fairness.  I’m sure we all accept that this is an extremely difficult situation, and that it’s one which no-one really knows how to deal with.  It’s no-one’s fault that infection rates are rising.  It’s happening right across Europe and beyond, regardless of the different policies adopted by different authorities.  It’s no use blaming the track and trace system, the Eat Out To Help Out scheme, the behaviour of different demographic groups, or anything else – and it’s certainly no use blaming people in densely-populated areas where infection rates are inevitably higher than those in sparsely-populated areas.  It’s just the way pandemics go.  There are always second waves.  This is where we are, and we need to try to deal with it.  We all want to get infection rates down.  But the methods being used are not working for the North of England.

There were two main issues involved in the “stand-off”.  One was the fact that local lockdowns just don’t seem to work.  We should know.  We’ve been under additional restrictions since the end of July.  The first lot were announced, with no warning, on Twitter, at around half 9 on a Thursday night, to come into force at midnight.  Parents due to be at work the next morning were told that they’d now be breaking the law if they left their children with relatives or friends.  We’ve had one set of rules after another – this lot for Bolton, that lot for Oldham, the other lot for Wigan.  None of them have done any good.   And then different rules were introduced for other parts of the North, causing more and more confusion.  The North East had three different sets of rules in ten days!  And leaders there were only informed of one of the changes five minutes before the details were released to the press.

And infection rates have just kept going up anyway.

The other main issue was the financial support, or lack of, on offer.  £60 million for Greater Manchester.  Merseyside, with half the number of people, was offered £45 million.  I’m not a mathematician, but it’s not difficult to see that that doesn’t work.  And we only asked for £65 million.  In terms of public spending, it’s a drop in the ocean.  How many billions are being put into HS2, which not one person in a thousand actually wants?  I’m sure we all appreciate that the state hasn’t got a bottomless purse, and can’t borrow ad infinitum, but how are people in businesses being forced to close supposed to manage indefinitely on two-thirds of their income, which is all they’re going to get?

And that’s just for people in businesses which are having to close.  What about taxi drivers?  What about all the people running B&Bs and guesthouses in Blackpool, who’ve had all their half-term bookings cancelled?  An SOS was beamed on to the side of Blackpool Tower last week.  That’s how bad it is.  What about all the other businesses suffering as people have to tighten their belts?  Not to mention all the nightclubs, theatres, cinemas, lower league football clubs … the list goes on and on.  We know that the government can’t pay for everything.  But it can pay for a lot more than it is doing.

We’ve had three months of being told that we can’t meet our families and friends in any indoor setting, or even in private gardens.  Now, we’re only supposed to meet up in parks.  Or beaches.  Or forests.  Well, obviously there are miles and miles of beaches and forests in Manchester!   It’s horrible for everyone.  But it’s particularly worrying for those whose livelihoods are at stake.  Communities are pulling together, which is something: sandwich delivery businesses and street food traders are partnering with pubs, to enable them to provide food and so be able to remain open.  Pubs are offering beans on toast, chip butties, anything.  A small number of people find that irresponsible, but most people seem to be backing them, knowing that they’re just trying to stay afloat.

And, across the country, people have rallied behind Marcus Rashford’s campaign to end child food poverty.   It’s crazy, isn’t it?  Our 22-year-old striker, young Marcus who’s been at United since he was a schoolboy, seems to be the only person providing any sort of national leadership.  I started keeping a pandemic blog so that I’d have a record for myself that wasn’t in my illegible handwriting.  I never thought that I’d still be keeping it at the end of October, and I certainly never thought that Greater Manchester would become the centre of it all and that one of our players would be the one piling pressure on the government to do more to help those in need.

That’s a national thing, though,  But the Tier 3 restrictions aren’t.  So far, they affect much of the North West, and South Yorkshire, and, shortly, they’ll also affect parts of Nottinghamshire.   It’s possible that West Yorkshire and the North East may follow.  Yes, I know that we’re the areas with the highest infection rates.  But we haven’t bloody well done that on purpose, the areas affected include many communities which are already amongst the most deprived in the country, and we deserve to be treated better than this.  Back in the spring, there really was a “Spirit of the Blitz” feeling, epitomised by that wonderful “We’ll Meet Again” speech given by our beloved Queen.  That’s gone now.  Any sense that we’re all in this together has gone.  And the national government issuing an ultimatum to Greater Manchester, as if it were about to declare war … what is going on here?   We’re supposed to be fighting the virus, not each other.

In the words of the Conservative leader of Bolton council, “What a clusterfuck”.

No-one knows what the answer to this nightmare is.  But making people in the North feel that they’re being treated like second class citizens certainly isn’t it.  Ironically, this has united Manchester and Liverpool, Newcastle and Sunderland, Lancashire and Yorkshire …. that takes some doing.  But it’s united us all in feeling that we’re getting a raw deal.  And it’s not on.  Stop treating the North like this.

 

 

 

Second Wave Week 6 – October 5th to 11th 2020 inclusive

 

 

Monday, October 5th

What a bloody fiasco.  Over 16,000 cases were missed due to this “computer glitch” – which was apparently because someone couldn’t manage to use Excel properly.  The setting they’d used didn’t pick up all the rows.  I mean, seriously?  I use Excel myself every day, and I’m hardly an IT whizz.  It’s not exactly difficult to use.  We’re now on over 12,500 cases a day.  Rates have soared over the weekend, even without the missing cases.  And most of the missing cases were in the north, so infection rates in all the local boroughs are way higher than we thought.  Manchester city centre now has the highest rate in the country – although it’s nearly all students.  Newcastle’s got a similar issue with students, but it’s not clear what’s causing the problem in Liverpool.  I could cry.  Just when I thought I could start looking forward to my holiday.

The good news is that deaths aren’t rising.  Most of the cases are in low risk groups.

Paris has closed all bars.  I wish they’d do that here.  The Czech Republic’s closed schools.  Moscow’s told elderly people to stay indoors.

Everyone’s just had enough.  We’ve been in local lockdown for over 2 months.  Most of us are keeping the rules.  But rates keep rising.  A load of jobs are going to go when the furlough system ends.  Oh, and Arsenal have made Gunnersaurus redundant.  People’s mental health is suffering, and there’s no end in sight.  Iran reckons it’s having a third wave.  And that ties in with what’s happened with previous pandemics.

Bleurgh.

 

Tuesday, October 6th

Things are not good.  Infections are up.  Hospital admissions are up.  Deaths are up.   New restrictions are to be imposed in Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.  For all the balls-up with the Excel spreadsheet, I’m not really blaming the authorities.  Most countries are in the same boat – Poland’s struggling particularly badly this week – and no-one knows what to do anywhere.

Local leaders have complained that local lockdowns are doing no good and causing harm, but it looks as if Nottingham could be the next place to have restrictions imposed on it.  Maybe Oxford too.  Universities going back has been a disaster.

Donald Trump’s back at the White House.

Mesul Ozil has said he’ll pay Gunnersaurus’s wages.

 

Wednesday, October 7th

I do appreciate that the virus is not timing things to cause issues with my holiday, but it doesn’t half feel like that. Nicola Sturgeon has imposed travel restrictions on Glasgow, Edinburgh and various other areas, and closed all the pubs and licensed restaurants there for at least two weeks.  I don’t honestly think that Boris would do that here, but things certainly aren’t very good.  Universities going back has been a huge mistake.

The Manchester Evening News has published my letter asking it to try rallying the troops – “A City United”, “We’re all in this together” type thing – rather than its current negativity.  I doubt it’ll take any notice, but I tried.

Rafa is through to the US Open SFs, and will play Schwartzman, rather than Thiem.

 

Thursday, October 8th

Bleurgh.  It does now look as if there will be restrictions on travel, or certainly on overnight stays.  Coming in on Wednesday, and I was due to go on Saturday.  I’m SO upset.  I was going now because this was the time I’d booked off for my Japan holiday.  Then that was cancelled but they were supposed to be doing trips to France or Italy, so they were cancelled too.  Work won’t let us carry the time forward, so my holidays, of which I get so few and which I try so hard to make the most of, are … well, I don’t even know what I’ll be able to do at home.  I’ve spent hours working out where to go and how to get there.  I’ve booked tickets for things and, as they’ll still be open, I won’t be able to get the money back.  So, so near … and yet so far.   And, as it’ll run into half term loads of families with young kids will be in the same boat.

I am sick of the virus.

I am sick of our area being one of the worst hit by it.  I don’t understand why.

I am sick of the Government.  They have completely lost the North now.  Details have been leaked to the papers before they were discussed with local council leaders, and the exact details are still unclear.  People don’t know whether to cancel holidays.  Businesses don’t know whether or not they’ll have to close, and what compensation there’ll be if they do.  People don’t know whether or not they’re about to lose their jobs.  N

Cases, hospital admissions and deaths are going up and up, so I accept that something has to be done, but I don’t see why I would be a danger to anyone in a hotel room on my own – especially as it’s apparently OK for me to be in an office with other people.

I know this sounds really self-pitying, but I am feeling very sorry for myself 😦 .

 

Friday, October 9th

This is absolutely f***ing ridiculous.  Scotland had its announcement on Wednesday.  We are just being left in suspense, with people panicking about jobs, holidays and other things.

  1.  Which areas will be affected?   Most of the papers are saying Manchester, Liverpool and Newcastle.  But will that include the suburbs and satellite towns?  Sadly, the answer is probably yes, which is bloody ridiculous because it means it’ll affect us and other places like Stockport, yet Bradford, Burnley, Preston and various other places where the rates are no lower than, and in many cases higher than, here will not be affected.
  2.  Is this a “circuit breaker” like in Glasgow and Edinburgh, or will it go on indefinitely?   Given that Rishi Sunak’s just announced a SIX MONTH plan to support businesses affected … well, it doesn’t sound good, does it?
  3.  What will it mean?  Will it include a ban on holidays?  It seems all but certain that eating and drinking places will have to close, but where else?  Golf clubs?  Gyms?  Cinemas?  Maybe even shops?
  4.  Are we seriously supposed to go for 6 months with no contact with other households?
  5.  The rumours in the press, which are upsetting everyone, also include a return to shielding.  Is this being planned?

WTF is going on?  This is just ridiculous.  And the support for business is something, but won’t go anywhere near saving many businesses from collapse, if they have to close for months.

Meanwhile, Nottingham, which now has the highest infection rate in the country, at well over 600 – thanks yet again to an outbreak at a university, the latest place to be affected by which is Bristol – isn’t in local lockdown at all!  Nor are places like York and Barrow, where infections are soaring.

I’ve sent an angry e-mail to my MP about all the uncertainty, but he was only elected in December.  It’s like asking a first year to stop the prefects from bullying people.

I have had enough.

The only good thing is that Rafa’s into the French Open final 🙂 .  Although I’m not sure I can cope with yet another defeat by Nole.  The second semi has just started. Come on, Stef!

 

Saturday, October 10th

In news not related to the pandemic, Rafa will have to play Nole in the French Open men’s final, Iga Swiatek won the ladies’ final, and Marcus Rashford has been awarded the MBE.  And I have had my hair cut.  The hairdresser said that they were managing, but things were nowhere near back to pre-lockdown levels, partly because some elderly people are nervous about going out and partly because some people are trying to reduce their spending due to worried about redundancy.

I still have no idea whether or not I will be getting my week’s holiday or spending my few days’ annual leave hanging around.  Every newspaper and every TV channel has its own version of the restrictions coming in next week.

Andy Burnham, the Mayor of Greater Manchester, has threatened to sue the Government.  OK, it’s easy to criticise when you’re not the one at the sharp end, but he’s quite right about the inadequate financial package.  Most people who work in pubs, bars and restaurants do not earn much anyway.  How are they meant to cope on 2/3 of that, indefinitely?  And, if the whole industry’s closed down, their chances of finding other work is going to be minimal.   And many places may never reopen.  Liverpool’s said that half its council tax comes from hospitality places, and I’d assume the figure is similar for Manchester.  The Government says that local leaders are being consulted, but they say they’re not.  Even within Boris Johnson’s own party, people have had enough of the appalling contempt being shown towards Northern England.  MPs for northern constituencies have formed a pressure group.

I am very disappointed in Boris.  And I could wallop bloody Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary.  If he says one more word about “hard work”, I shall scream.  What does he think people in Manchester, Liverpool, Newcastle, Preston, Burnley, Bradford etc are doing?  Going out raving every night?   Hospitality workers in Scotland have dumped a load of ice outside the parliament building in Edinburgh.  I wish someone’d dump a load over Matt Hancock’s stupid head.

Back in April, when the Queen made that wonderful speech, there was a genuine “Spirit of the Blitz” feeling of togetherness.  Now, people in urban areas of the North are angry and bitter.  What a mess.

 

Sunday, October 11th

Bizarrely, just as the world’s about to fall apart again, this has been one of the best days of the year.  I always go to Blackpool on the morning of the French Open, so, being superstitious – and because the weather was glorious – I went today, even if it was October rather than June.  It was a lovely morning.  And then Rafa beat Nole, 6-0 6-2 7-5!   I can’t believe it.  I wasn’t optimistic, and I thought that, even if he could do it, it’d be a long and tough battle, especially with the roof being closed.  But he was just incredible.  Absolutely wonderful.  It also means he and Roger have got the same number of Grand Slam titles, but I’m not so fussed about that – Rafa, Roger and Nole are all great, and I can live without all this “Who’s the GOAT?” stuff.  But I was definitely fussed about today, and … oh wow.  Wonderful.  Just wonderful.

Now we’ve got to see what tomorrow brings.  Five Manchester MPs have said that they won’t support Tier 3 restrictions, but Matt Hancock and Boris don’t give a damn what anyone else thinks.  If the travel ban’s advisory rather than mandatory, do I still go?  I won’t be going near anyone else, and I haven’t been in close contact with anyone except Mum and Dad, but … I’m kind of bothered people will think badly of me, which I know is an awful way of looking at things.  But I heard loads of Scottish accents in Blackpool today, even though people in Scotland are “advised” not to visit parts of England in local lockdown.

This whole situation is ridiculous.

But today’s about Rafa ❤ 🙂 .

Madrid, which saved my life … well, OK, sort of

I’m very saddened by the state of affairs in Spain; and Madrid is having the worst of it.  The focus here is largely on the domestic situation, and that’s quite understandable, but let’s not lose sight of what’s happening elsewhere – partly as a warning to the idiots who don’t seem to realise how bad this could get, again, and partly just out of general humanity.   Spain lost 239 precious lives to this horrible virus last Thursday, and people in parts of Madrid are now forbidden to leave their own districts.  The US, India, Brazil, Argentina … it’s horrendous there too.  But I’m thinking about Spain just now.

Did Madrid save my life?  Well, sort of!   In 2013, I had a very severe bout of anxiety and depression, and I was so tensed up that I was in severe pain and I could hardly move my arms.  I’d had tests, scans, painkillers and physiotherapy, and tried moving all the office furniture around to help the “ergonomics”,  but none of it worked because it was mostly anxiety tension.  I only really got that during a Champions League match between United and Real Madrid.  It’s quite a well-known match – Nani was controversially sent off, and we conceded two goals after that, and lost.  And my right arm, which I’d hardly been able to move all day – I could hardly write or type, it was that bad – eased up, because I was so caught up in the football that, despite being a stressful match, things somehow relaxed.  Trapped nerves and all the other things which had been suggested don’t magically resolve themselves because of bad refereeing decisions.  After that, I rang in sick, and then I went to see the doctor.

Then, four months later, I went to Madrid.  Nothing to do with the match – I’d booked it months earlier.  But, for a long time, I’d thought I wouldn’t be able to go, and being able to go after all was such a wonderful boost.  I was so excited to be there that I made the rep who met me at the airport look at all the photos of Rafa on my phone.  He must have thought I was mad.  However, I’m not sure I’d have got through it if it the worst of it hadn’t coincided with the clay court season, and I hadn’t had Rafa to focus on. Maybe I should have put “How Madrid and a Mallorcan saved my life”.  I’m afraid that things aren’t going very well in Mallorca either, and that saddens and worries me too.  But Madrid seems to be having the worst of it.

I haven’t got the same romantic feeling for Madrid that I’ve got for some European cities.  Venice.  St Petersburg.  Prague.  For a kick off, Mancunians tend to identify with Barcelona.  We love the fact that the Catalans are always taking on what can sometimes seem like a rather overbearing capital city!  And I don’t think we tend to get romantic over Spain in general in the way that we do over Italy.  Well, OK, I cried buckets when the Spanish flag went up after the 2008 men’s singles Olympic tennis final, and I’ve got very worked up over Spanish Davis Cup matches, but that’s Rafa, not Spain in general 🙂 .

All that Black Legend stuff.  Then, after the Napoleonic Wars, Spain was pretty much isolated from international affairs for decades.  And, when it became a major tourist destination, it was more a sun and sand thing than a cultural thing – although, obviously, there are many wonderful places to visit to experience the cultures of the different parts of Spain.  I’ve been to some of them.  I want to go to many more.   But I do love Spain.  And I do love the city of Madrid.  And it’s heartbreaking to see any city suffering like this.

Parts of France aren’t far behind.  Bordeaux and Marseille seem to be particularly bad.   It’s all over.  Even places like the Czech Republic, which didn’t do too badly in the spring, are badly affected.  Israel’s back in lockdown.  And, as we know, the situation here is deteriorating rapidly – and we could do with a lot more compassion and a lot more sense of community, and a lot less nastiness and points-scoring.  But spare a few thoughts today for Madrid, and especially for the people who aren’t even going to be able to leave their own districts and say that they feel as if they’re being shut up in ghettos.  And reflect on the fact that we’re all in this together.

 

 

Second Wave Week 2 – September 7th to 13th 2020 inclusive

Monday, September 7th

Oh, WTF is going on??  Infection rates in our borough were below 25 a week ago.  Now they’re at 42.  This is just a nightmare.  Why can our region not get out of this?  Left-wing councillors are claiming that it’s to do with poverty, but, if that were the case, parts of Liverpool, Sheffield and other parts of the north would be affected too, not just us and West Yorkshire.  Anyway, one of the worst-affected areas is Hale Barns, Millionaires’ Row!  There’s certainly a link between the worst-affected areas and the ethnic make-up of the population, but some predominantly white and black areas are being affected too, not just predominantly Asian areas.  And why aren’t the council doing more?  I have not heard a peep out of our council leader.

Infection rates are rising everywhere, though.  The political points-scorers are blaming the Government, but it’s the same pattern right across Europe.  Most of the cases are amongst people in their 20s and early 30s.  There’ve been calls in Scotland for pubs to be closed, but it seems that private house parties are an issue as well.

The travel corridor rules have been changed, so that the mainland and islands of the same country can be treated differently.  It was thought that this meant that the Canary Islands would be coming off the list, but, instead, some of the Greek islands have gone on it!

Mason Greenwood and Phil Foden have totally shown up United, City and England by breaching coronavirus bubble regulations at the England team hotel in Iceland.  They’ve been sent home in disgrace.  Why can’t players behave?!

EastEnders is back tonight.  And, after Novak Djokovic was chucked out of the US Open last night, someone is going to win their first Grand Slam singles title!

And those schools which weren’t already back have gone back today.

I can’t believe how much I’m writing each day.  Nearly six months into this nightmare, there’s still just so much to say.

 

Tuesday, September 8th

I am a historian.  I am used to dealing with situations where I know exactly what the outcome will be.  I do not like not having a clue what is going to happen next.  Tesco have – it being, er, the beginning of September – put the Christmas stuff out.  What will happen at Christmas?  What will happen next week?

And I certainly don’t like the fact that Bolton, a neighbouring borough, a place I know so well, is the centre of attention because its infection rate is now over 120 per 100,000.  Food outlets there are now only allowed to operate as take-aways, and have to close between 10pm and 5am.  I don’t disagree with the closing of pubs, although I’m extremely sorry for the owners/managers, but it’s a shame that cafes and restaurants are affected too.  And, whilst I’ll hit the roof if these restrictions are extended to neighbouring areas, what’s to stop people from Bolton going to pubs in Bury, Salford, Wigan, Chorley, Blackburn or anywhere else?

The rise in infections is very much being blamed on young people socialising.  Political points-scorers are saying that the Government’s lost control, but you cannot defeat nature.  Most of western Europe’s a few weeks ahead of us, and infections there are soaring.  If there was a way of stopping it, short of another full lockdown, wouldn’t the authorities in France, Spain etc have found it by now?  The Netherlands, with a population a quarter the size of ours, had 5,400 new infections today.  We had around 2,000.

My trip to France in November, which I booked after Iceland and Japan were cancelled, has been cancelled.

My nephews have had a narrow escape from having to self-isolate.  A kid at a football training club they go to has got the virus.  Thankfully, they missed the last session because they had something else on, so they aren’t affected.

We now have to have our temperature taken every time we go into the office.  This is stupid.  I go in, go into an empty room, put away anything I’ve finished with, take anything I need, and leave,  I have no contact with anyone else other than saying hello and goodbye (from a distance) to the receptionist.  But at least they haven’t said any more about wanting us to go back in full time.

And Ash Barty has pulled out of the French Open.

 

Wednesday, September 9th

Bleurgh.  It was announced late last night (why late at night?) that, with effect from Monday (why not immediately?), social gatherings in England will be limited to 6 people.  This is an all areas – why are we under specific restrictions, when areas with higher rates are not? – and in all settings.  If you are a mum and dad with three kids, you can only see one grandparent at a time.   We’ve been shown graphics showing that we’re now on a curve similar to France and Spain’s, but that Belgium flattened theirs by these sorts of measures, so hopefully it’ll work for us, but it’s pretty crap.  Is Christmas effectively cancelled?  When will we EVER be allowed back into football grounds?

My little nephew’s birthday party will have to be cancelled.  Hardly the end of the world, I know, but it is when you’re a little kid and it was all arranged and you were looking forward to it.

Boris is talking about everyone testing themselves daily, I suppose like some diabetics do to test their insulin levels, but that relies on people being honest, just as all of this relies on people keeping the rules.  Young people are whingeing about being blamed, but the statistics show that most of the increase is amongst young people.  The police have the power to enforce “the rule of six”, but how can they check everywhere, especially if people are holding house parties?

Everyone is getting rather despondent 😦 .

 

Thursday, September 10th

The infection rate in our borough is now 69.6.  It was in the 20s not a fortnight since.  In the city centre, it’s 71.6, and in Salford, 82.3.  Obviously this is horrendous, with the national rate only in the low 20s.  However, Birmingham is on 77, Sunderland 69, Leeds 61.7, and they are not under additional restrictions.  We are being picked on.  It’s not on.  I wouldn’t mind if the restrictions were doing any bloody good, but they’re not.  Bolton’s rate is 160.7.  I don’t know what’s going on – are people testing positive being asked for information to try to ascertain where they caught it – but I do know that stopping people from visiting their families and friends is causing a lot of distress and not doing any good.

Scotland has just also introduced the “rule of six”. Northern Ireland has imposed additional restrictions on some areas.

Nationwide, I do wish people would realise that this is not about party politics or culture wars, and that it certainly isn’t about Brexit.  It’s a pandemic.  The way some people (mostly bitter Remoaners) go on, you’d think the entire thing was the Government’s fault.  They’re moaning that the rules keep being changed.  Yes, they keep being changed.  Because the situation keeps changing.  Rules are changing everywhere.  Portugal has just reduced the number of people allowed to meet.  Israel is facing another full lockdown.  Just because you’re bitter than you lost a referendum four years ago, don’t make this political.  It isn’t political.  It’s a pandemic.

The Portuguese mainland is now back on the quarantine list.  Also on it is Hungary.  And Reunion and French Polynesia, not that I suppose anyone was intending to go there anyway!  However, Sweden is off it.  The Swedish situation is fascinating.  Sweden didn’t introduce full lockdown – and now has lower infection rates than most countries which did, but without the economic damage.

I am so sick of this.  And, with universities about to go back – and I’m sorry for all the people who’ll be missing out on a lot of the fun of university life – it may well be about to get worse.  There are also concerns, as there were with Eid, about the possible effects of Rosh Hashanah and Succos.

On a happier note, Rafa has arrived in Rome.  The Italian Open starts on Monday.  Bring It ON!!!

 

Friday, September 11th

Birmingham, Solihull and Sandwell have been put into local lockdown, on the same level as Oldham.  Liverpool’s been added to the watchlist as an “area of enhanced concern”, as has Sheffield.  Newcastle, Sunderland, Leeds and some other areas are now “areas of enhanced support”.  I think I’ve got all that down right ! The national “R number” is now above 1.  Wales has also introduced the “rule of six”, and finally made wearing face masks in shops etc compulsory. Doom merchants on social media are saying that we’ll all be going back into a full local lockdown.

People are moaning that the rules keep changing, but the situation has changed very rapidly in the last few days.  Some MPs are saying that restrictions should be reviewed more regularly.  And also that rules should have to go through Parliament … which I’d agree with in principle, but, after the nightmare we had when Parliament refused to pass the Brexit bills, just isn’t practical.  The virus will not wait around whilst MPs bicker and try to score points off each other.

Four children in Sydney, whose father is tragically dying of cancer in Brisbane, were told by Queensland state officials that only one of them would be able to visit him.  The authorities eventually said that they could all go, but only if they went to a quarantine hotel, costing around £9,000.  Kind-hearted well-wishers have raised the money, and a lot more, but FFS.

I went to the office to collect some stuff today.  Ah, the great new temperature-taking system.  “Hold it an inch from your face.”  So I did.  It came out at 35.2!  This was clearly crap, especially as my home thermometer had just said 37.  I tried holding it closer, and it said 36.6, which made a bit more sense.  But they’ve been writing everyone’s temperature down as 35.something.

Finally got my refund from the gym.

And Vika has knocked Serena out of the US Open.

 

Saturday, September 12th

Not two weeks since, I was writing that the infection rate in our borough was falling.   It’s now hurtling rapidly towards 100 – worse than Oldham, Rochdale or the city centre.  WTF is going on in this borough?  But rates are rising in most places, or at least in most urban areas in the North and Midlands.  We’re actually ahead, not behind.  And, frighteningly, we are now seeing a small increase in hospital admissions, and, sadly, deaths.

To some extent, this was inevitable once things opened up again.  Most people are doing their best, but there are reports of crowding on rush hour public transport.  But a lot of it is because of idiots ignoring the rules.  The police broke up a wedding reception for 100 guests in Bolton.  And a party attended by 300 people in Bishop’s  Stortford.

As the Chief Constable of the West Midlands police has said, there is, with the best will in the world, not that much that the police can do.  In Birmingham and the surrounding areas, there are over 4 million people subject to the new restrictions.  How can the police keep an eye on over 4 million people?  During the Blitz, there were local ARP wardens, but society’s changed, and no-one now would break up a party because Joe Bloggs from round the corner told them to.

I’m afraid that our borough is heading for tighter restrictions.  It’ll be a devastating blow to cafes etc which are only just getting back on their feet.  And, when so many people are depriving themselves of contact with even close relatives and friends, it’s so frustrating that a minority of idiots are causing everyone else to suffer.

There are problems with the testing system, too.  Home tests are running short, the website is telling people that there are no slots available, and there are long queues at walk-in centres.

At least we haven’t lost our sense of humour.  The internet is full of memes about the Secret Seven, the Seven Dwarves and even Jesus and the disciples at the Last Supper being ticked off by the police for gathering in groups of more than six.

I had my hair cut this morning, and went to Clifton Country Park this afternoon.

And, in between, I went to Old Trafford!   Only to the shop.  I wanted something for my younger nephew’s forthcoming birthday.  His party’s had to be cancelled, and he’s sad about it 😦 .  OK, I could have ordered something online, and had it delivered to my sister to save having to post it, but I hadn’t been to the ground for over 6 months.  You can’t even walk right round: part of it’s cordoned off.  But still.  Our first match is the season is next week – we and City both got an extra week due to being involved in the European events – but the new Premier League season has begun today.

 

Sunday, September 13th

This has been such a lovely day that, at times, I’ve almost forgotten this nightmare that we’re all caught up in.  By my calendar, summer ends when the US Open ends, so that’ll probably be early tomorrow morning our time.  Come on, Dominic!   I hope this foot problem he had in the semi’s nothing serious.  Good final between Naomi and Vika last night. Sad for Vika to lose from a set and a break up, and it would have been such an amazing story if she’d won, but well done to Naomi.

I’d booked Bodnant Garden for today, and I struck lucky, with gorgeous weather.  I had such a nice time … apart from a few issues with the rather poorly-signposted one-way system put in place due to the virus!  The gardens were looking superb, which a lot of gardens don’t in September, and then I went on to Llanwrst, and then stopped at Colwyn Bay for a walk along the beach and an ice cream.  Such a glorious day!

Infection rates in Bury, Manchester, Salford and Rochdale all fell yesterday.  It’s only one day, but … could it mean something hopeful?

The demographics are hard to make sense of.  Left wing councillors and newspapers are claiming that it’s all to do with poverty, but Stockport’s seen an increase in cases due to a small spike in the affluent areas of Cheadle and Gatley.  In Trafford, there’ve been issues in the very wealthy area of Hale Barns.  In Birmingham, there’ve been a lot of cases in the very wealthy area of Edgbaston.   A few weeks ago, the majority of cases were in people with South Asian heritage.  Now, they’re in white people.  The only consistent factor is that most cases are now in young people.

I think we need more hard-hitting … adverts is the wrong word, but publicity, whatever.  All this “Remember, hands, face, mask,” stuff sounds like someone telling a 3-year-old to remember to wash their hands after they’ve been to the toilet.  It’s not strong enough.  France is now recording over 10,000 cases a day, and seeing a worrying upturn in deaths.  We do not want to go the same way.

Israel’s going into full lockdown for three weeks, over Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Succos.  It’s the first western country to go back into full lockdown.

Oh, what a week!  I’m looking out at the most beautiful sunset, and getting excited about what should be a cracking US Open and will see someone win their first Grand Slam title … and the region, the country and the world are in chaos.

 

 

 

Trying to smile behind the mask

  We are now, so the papers are telling us, in a race to save Christmas.  It’s like some weird mutant version of The Grinch.  And the coronavirus capital of the country is Kearsley.  For anyone who may be reading this and doesn’t know Kearsley, it’s a perfectly inoffensive area on the Manchester/Salford side of Bolton, around five miles from chez moi.  There is nothing unusual about it.  I have no idea why it should have more cases than anywhere else.  Maybe the rumours about a “super spreader” going round Bolton pubs are true.  The Super Spreader and the Grinch.

And I’ve booked a ticket to pick a pumpkin before the start of play on the middle Saturday of the French Open.  The French Open is not supposed to be in the autumn.  It’s supposed to mark the start of summer.  Does anyone actually know which month we’re in?  The Italian Open’s being played, so it must be April.  But the French Open starts next Sunday, so maybe it’s May.  However, the football season’s just started, so doesn’t that mean it’s August?  Or maybe it’s July – it was boiling hot on Monday and Tuesday.  But then Tesco have put the mince pies and Christmas puddings out, so is it December?  Then again, after going to Tesco, I went to Marks & Spencer’s, and they’d got a sign up saying “Happy Rosh Hashanah”, so maybe it’s September.

Marks & Spencer’s are right.  It’s September.  I knew that really, because the US Open’s just finished, and the schools have gone back.  But so many of the things that mark the stages of the year have been lost that it’s enough to confuse anyone.  There hasn’t been a decision on the Manchester Christmas Markets yet, but it’s going to take a miracle for them to go ahead.  I see that London’s New Year fireworks have just been cancelled.  I’ve bought my calendars for 2021, but I think I’ll be writing most things in them in pencil.

However, the sun is out, the sky is blue, the Italian Open tennis is on on the TV – and Rafa won his first match with a double breadstick 🙂 – and United are playing tomorrow.  And I’ve almost got my Word Press record of the pandemic up to date – just two more weeks to tidy up.  Maybe one day I’ll be a famous diarist like Samuel Pepys.  Or maybe not, but at least I won’t have to read my record of events in my illegible handwriting!

I’m seeing and hearing quite a lot of nasty, bitter stuff, and I’m trying to remember that everyone’s fed up and frustrated, and not to be upset by it.  But I’m also seeing some “keep smiling through” stuff, about not giving up on this year, about seeing the smiles behind the masks, about looking after each other, about trying to make the best of what we’ve got, and about pulling together.  And that’s what we need.  Well, that and a miracle (on 34th Street or otherwise).

If anyone’s read this, thank you.  And, if you’re one of the people posting cheerful stuff on Word Press, Facebook, WhatsApp or anywhere else, a very, very big thank you.  Keep smiling through …

 

Second Wave Week 1 – August 31st to September 6th 2020 inclusive

Bank Holiday Monday, August 31st

Back home.

We were able today to see some other relations who live in London, and whom none of us (i.e. Mum, Dad and I) had seen since before lockdown, so that was lovely.

After the under 12s cricket, we went out to eat … last day of Eat Out To Help Out!

And the US Open has started … minus a) Rafa and b) fans.  But it’s started 🙂 .

And there’s talk of Portugal being put back on the quarantine list, when it’s only been off it for five minutes.  This is ridiculous.  I understand the concerns about avoiding importing cases from abroad, but all this on-off-no-notice stuff is making it impossible.  Oh, when will I be able to go abroad again?  When will my lovely coach tours resume?

 

Tuesday, September 1st

The infection rate in Italy has apparently doubled in a week.  I just don’t get this.  I don’t get how the infection rate in Bolton can have gone up so much in a week either, but, OK, in one town, one cluster can have a big effect.  But across an entire country, with over 50 million people?!  The rate’s also up in Glasgow, where restrictions have been imposed.

We’re being told that footfall is being much slower to recover in big cities like Manchester and Liverpool than in smaller towns, but that doesn’t surprise me.  A lot of the footfall in big cities is from people going into shops before/after going to events (the weekend just gone should have been Manchester Pride), football matches, the theatre, the cinema, etc, and that just isn’t happening at the moment.

I had a problem with my car this morning, and had to go to Kwik Fit.  Luckily, they weren’t busy, and I was only there for about half an hour, and hopefully it’s now sorted – touch wood!  But, had I had to go and be trapped in the office, I wouldn’t have been able to get it sorted … and this is really stressing me out, because they’ll probably want us back in soon, and probably the number one reason I’ve struggled so badly with anxiety over the years is this issue of struggling to get things sorted because of being trapped in an office.

I’m also worried about my weight.  After months of struggling, I’d done much better since lockdown started, but then it all went back on on holiday.  I always pile weight on on holiday, because my metabolism’s so bad that any break from my diet leads to disaster, but the gym is still closed (and I’ve still not had my refund) and I will lose my long daily walk if (when) I have to go back to the office.

I know.  I’m catastrophising.  But not without good cause!

 

Wednesday, September 2nd

FFS!  Bolton and Trafford came out of local lockdown at midnight, and were back in it by midday.  My hopes of our borough being released this week or even next week are fading fast, after this.  So, so fed up.  And it rained all afternoon.  And Scotland and Wales have put Greece back on the quarantine list.  We’re supposed to be feeling cheerful because kids – sorry, “young people” (when did “children” become “young people”) are back at school, but I feel like this local lockdown’s never going to end.  Thank goodness for the US Open!

 

Thursday, September 3rd

The infection rate in our borough is 25 per 100,000, and we are in local lockdown with no suggestion that it will be lifted.  The infection rate in Middlesbrough is 35 per 100,000.  In Stoke, it’s 31.  In Birmingham, it’s 30.  None of those places are in local lockdown.  Why is the North West being picked on?  Also, why have I still not had my refund from the gym, and why are Sky refusing to answer the phone (on a number which they e-mailed me) unless you say you are in a vulnerable group?  Gah!   This has been going on for nearly 6 months now: using it as an excuse for crap service is no longer acceptable.

On a happier note, the sun is out today.  And my elder nephew started secondary school today.  Thankfully, he’s so excited about being at a big, grown up school and going on the bus that he doesn’t seem fazed by all the stuff with masks and bubbles and zones.  In some ways it’s easier for kids in the first year of secondary school, because it’s a new start so it’s not as if they’ve missed a whole term out of an ongoing syllabus.  Younger nephew goes back on Monday.

 

Friday, September 4th

Leeds has been added to the “watchlist”.  Rates here continue to fall, and are well below those in Leeds – and less than half those in Corby which, presumably because it’s not in the north, is being left alone – but there’s no talk of lifting restrictions here.  Rates are also falling in the city centre, but unfortunately are rising in most of the other local boroughs.  I’m so fed up of this.  When will it ever end?

Portugal’s been put back on the quarantine list by Wales and Scotland, but not by England and Northern Ireland.  The Greek islands have also been put on the list in Wales, and the whole of Greece in Scotland.  This is silly.  If you live in Chester but work in Wrexham, or live in Hereford but work in Hay-on-Wye, and you’ve just come back from Portugal, are you allowed to go to work or not?  Does anyone know?!

Andy Murray’s out of the US Open, beaten by Felix Double A.

I went to the office this morning, to collect some stuff.  Thankfully, they seem to have realised that being nice to people works better than the other way!  There was a form on my desk saying that, if I was planning to stay there all day (which I was not), I had to sign something to say that I hadn’t got any virus symptoms.  No-one does want to stay all day, though.  This can’t go on indefinitely, and I accept that, but I really don’t want to go back, and that seems to be the general feeling across the country.  For one thing, there’s the genuine fear of getting the virus at your workplace or on public transport, and also of then passing it on to a vulnerable relative or friend.  There’s also the fear of the sheer bloody inconvenience of having to self-isolate if a colleague or client with whom you’ve been in close contact gets the virus.

And there’s the fact that working from home is much better.  From my viewpoint, the main thing is that it takes away the terrible anxiety of how to cope if someone needs to be at home because a repair person or delivery person is coming.  And it takes away the horrible feeling of being trapped.  Also, if you need to make a personal phone call which can only be done during working hours, you can do so without everyone else hearing all your private medical or financial issues.  You’re not wasting time and money commuting.   And you’re not having to put up with other people coughing, sneezing, clearing their throats, bellowing down the phone on hands free, hogging the kettle, or opening all the windows in the middle of winter!

Who knows how all this will pan out?

Later – more changes!  Corby, Kettering, Middlesbrough and South Tyneside are now also on the watchlist.

Later again – why can’t they announce everything at once?!  Soft play centres, beauty salons, casinos etc will all be able to reopen here from Tuesday.  Except in Bolton.  And pools and gyms can reopen in Blackburn.

 

Saturday, September 5th

I went to Shugborough today.  The sun came out and it was lovely.  I posted on Facebook to say that I was having morning tea at the Queen’s cousin’s house 🙂 .  It’s the first time since all this started that I’ve been to an NT property where you’ve been able to sit inside the tea room, although I prefer to sit, and did sit, outside anyway.

People in Bolton have been asked to avoid mixing with anyone outside their bubbles, and not to use public transport unless absolutely necessary.  WTF is going on in Bolton?  In some areas, increased rates are due to clusters associated with one workplace, childcare centre, pub or indeed illegal party, but that doesn’t seem to be the case in Bolton.  One minute the rates there were right down, and now they’re the highest in the country.  It has been claimed that it’s due to someone who got the virus in Spain, didn’t quarantine, and went on a pub crawl.

Last night’s US Open match between Sascha Zverev and Adrian Mannarino was delayed for 4 hours whilst the State of New York decided whether or not it was OK for Adrian to play, because he’d been in contact with Benoit Paire, who’d tested positive for the virus.  Adrian had played two matches already, and no-one seemed to have an issue with that.  Today, Kiki Mladenovic, another of the “Paire 11”, was issued with a “quarantine order” by the state of New York, and forbidden to leave her hotel – meaning that she and Timea Babos, the top seeds, had to pull out of the ladies’ doubles.   Also, it was announced that the UEFA Nations League match between the Czech Republic and Scotland was off because some of the Czech squad had tested positive, but then it was announced that the match was going ahead, with “new players and new staff”.  No, me neither!

Boris says that civil servants should go back to their offices, so that everyone else will.  The words “non” and “sequitur” spring to mind.

And there have been anti-restriction protests in Edinburgh.

 

Sunday, September 6th

Local infection rates are up again.  I could cry.  Will we never get out of this?  Nationwide, there were 1,813 new cases yesterday, but 2,988 today, the highest number in one day since May.  It doesn’t make any sense.  How can there be such a big change in one day?   Portugal is struggling again, and Italy’s seeing an increase in cases.   But it’s infections, not deaths.

Jerusalem, of all places, appears to have the highest infection rate in the world.

I am sick of having to pre-book everything.  If you’re travelling to somewhere a couple of hours away, how are you supposed to know what the traffic’ll be like, or how long it’ll take to park, or, if you’re going somewhere first, how long you’ll be at the first place, and whether you’ll be delayed by waits in cafes or queues in toilets or anything else?  And you can’t book some places until a few days beforehand, which is stressful if you want to book accommodation.  Gah!

Went into town today.  I had a walk round, and went to my favourite café for a sandwich.  I was pleased to find that there were plenty of people in there … although, with tables moved apart due to social distancing, it perhaps looked busier than it was.  Most cafes were busy, but shops weren’t, which was interesting.  That seems to rule out fear of the virus or watching the pennies as a reason for shops being quiet.  Are people not going into town because cinemas, galleries etc aren’t open as usual?  Is it because there are no out of town visitors because there are no concerts or theatre events, and fans aren’t allowed into football matches?  Can people not be mithered with masks, queues (although only a few shops had queues outside them), and not being able to try on clothes?  The vast majority of people were wearing masks indoors, but a few idiots weren’t.  And there were loads of people selling masks from trolleys on Market Street – and no-one hassling you to do surveys or sign petitions.

The council have put up banners on King Street, saying things like “New normal, same Manchester” and “New chapter, same history”.  And “You are not alone”.  I don’t often praise the council, but I thought that that struck exactly the right note.  We are not getting this from Westminster at the moment.   Sort it, please, Boris.  And the media aren’t helping, promoting division rather than unity.  So much for all that “Spirit of the Blitz” talk back in March and April, eh?