Lockdown II Week 5, November 30th to December 6th 2020 inclusive

Monday, November 30th

Latest diktat from the dictators of Downing Street – people in Tier 3 areas are not allowed to go and watch kids’ nativity plays, but people in Tier 1 and Tier 2 areas are.  It’s like a bloody Dickens novel.  People in London – eat, drink and be merry.  People in Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham, Sheffield, etc – Christmas in the workhouse for you.

It says in this morning’s paper that footfall in Blackpool fell by 44% between the end of August and the end of October.  And the idea of bringing in business by ending the Illuminations season’s been ruined by the Tier 3 restrictions.

It’s being reported that up to 100 Tory MPs are unhappy with the tier system, although it’s not clear how many of them will vote against it.  But Labour are wimping out and refusing to vote against it.

I wish someone would slap Matt Hancock.  He’s so bloody patronising!

News from Wales – indoor entertainment venues have got to close, and pubs, bars, cafes and restaurants are banned from selling alcohol and have to close (except for takeaways) at 6pm.

It’s rained nearly all day.  So the park was quiet, which at least meant that there wasn’t a queue in the cafe!  I’ve had two face-to-face interactions with human beings all day – asking for a cup of tea in the park cafe, and asking for stamps for my overseas Christmas cards in the post office.  I’d rather have this than being in the office, but it’s a bit miserable as well.

A new tumble dryer will hopefully be arriving on Thursday.

 

Tuesday, December 1st

Labour have wimped out and abstained, so the Let’s Level Down The North And Give London Special Treatment tier system looks set to go ahead.

A Lincolnshire MP asked why Market Rasen is in Tier 3 when East Ham, in London, has 6 times the number of cases and is in Tier 2.  Boris sidestepped the question.

The Arcadia Group’s gone bust, which takes out Evans, Top Shop, Top Man, Wallis, Burtons, Miss Selfridge and Dorothy Perkins.  Debenhams, which is closely linked to it, has now collapsed too.  I can’t believe it.  The big Debenhams in Manchester has been there since 1957, and known as Debenhams since 1973.  So it’s been a big landmark all my life.  BHS on Market Street’s another shop I’ve gone to all my life.  And Top Shop was the in place for teenage girls to shop when I was a teenage girl – not so much for fat kids like me, but certainly for cool kids.  They were struggling before this, but lockdown and social distancing have finished them off.  Unless something can be done, 25,000 people are going to lose their jobs, plus the knock-on effect on suppliers and landlords, the loss of council tax, and the general impact on footfall of big shops not being there.

 

Newcastle v Villa’s off due to a virus outbreak at Newcastle – the first Premier League match to fall foul of it since the restart.

And even the Queen’s Christmas plans have been mucked up: she and Prince Philip are staying at Windsor, not going to Sandringham.

On a happier note, today has been sunny.  And I’ve eaten the first chocolate out of the Advent calendar.

 

Wednesday, December 2nd

The UK’s become the first country in the world to authorise use of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.

This is obviously great news.

However, it’s going to take a long time before it can be administered to everyone.  In the meantime, we’re stuck with this system that seems designed to do down the North and Midlands.  I’ve e-mailed my MP to thank him for voting against them, but, unfortunately, it didn’t change anything.  Stratford-on-Avon’s actually taking legal action against the government.  I’m trying to think of some Shakespearean joke to make about that, but obviously it’s not funny.

My brother-in-law is self-isolating for a third time, after coming into contact with someone who tested positive.  Bleurgh.

And we lost to PSG.  I should have been having a nice hot chocolate at the Christmas markets, then going to see United take on Mbappe, Neymar and co … and, instead, I had to watch it on TV.  And we lost.  And need at least a draw at Leipzig to be sure of qualifying.

 

Thursday, December 3rd

You can now travel from England to Wales.  Unless your area’s in Tier 3.

Lots of pictures of football fans being welcomed back to matches.  But not if your area’s in Tier 3.

Lots of pictures of people enjoying evenings out at pubs and restaurants.  But not if your area’s in Tier 3.

Even some pictures of theatre performances.  But not if your area’s in Tier 3.

So sick of being treated like a criminal, a leper, and generally a second-class citizen.

A rather childish row’s broken out over the vaccine, after the Education Secretary joked about Britain authorising it first because we’re the best country, and the stupid idiots at the EU took it seriously and got the huff!

Kids doing GCSEs and A-levels next year are to be told what’s on the papers.  I’m not sure that that’s a very good idea – the rest of the syllabus is then going to be relegated to the background.  It’s a nightmare situation, because some kids have been in school continuously since the beginning of September, whereas others have missed weeks and weeks because of having to self-isolate.  That’s no-one’s fault, but I’m not sure that this is the best way of dealing with it.

The tumble dryer has not arrived.  It is supposed to be coming tomorrow.  But I will not be in tomorrow.  So I’ve had to ask Mum and Dad to wait at my house for 2 hours, which I feel a bit awful about, and I’ll just have to hope I can work out how to use it.  FFS, just the one day I’m not in!!

 

Friday, December 4th

This is the weekend I was going to have a Christmas market break.  2017, Cologne.  2018, Munich.  2019, Vienna.  2020 … er, no Christmas markets, and you can’t go anywhere without going into quarantine when you get back, and there are restrictions in most of Europe anyway.  But I have been for a Festive Spa Day at the Last Drop, and very nice it was too!   I’m so sorry for them – there are usually weddings, barmitzvahs, conferences and all sorts going on there, and now the hotel and restaurant aren’t allowed to open at all.  But the leisure club can – the pool, jacuzzi and aromatherapy rooms are open, and you can have spa treatments.  And you get a festive afternoon tea.

The festive afternoon tea – turkey, cranberry and stuffing sandwiches, a jam and cream scone, and two mince pies – had to be served as a takeaway.   It’d been dry when I’d gone in for my treatments (facial, back massage, scalp massage).  When I came out, and collected the afternoon tea, it was snowing!  There are picnic tables in the hotel grounds, so I decided that it’d be lovely and festive to sit there, with snow falling around me, and eat it.  It wasn’t – it was bloody freezing, and I ended up giving up and bringing it home (and very nice it was too).  But it made a great photo for Facebook!

Loads of snow on the moors, and cars coming down from the moors had loads of snow on their bonnets.

The Brexit negotiations are not getting far.  Every time I put Sky News on, they inform us that yet more food has been delivered.  WTF?  Tell them that they’re not getting another morsel to eat until they reach a deal!  That idiot Barnier’d soon stop being so awkward then.  He wears an EU flag mask.  How sad is that?

The R rate is below 1, and infection levels are falling everywhere except in the NE.  Infection rates in Greater Manchester are falling faster than anywhere else (I think).  Only Rochdale and Oldham are still struggling a bit, and rates are coming down even there.  Everywhere else is below or only just above 200, and 4 boroughs are well below 200.  But we’re still stuck in Tier 3.  It has been noted numerous times that the rates in parts of London were 340 when they were put into Tier 2.

Rapid testing for care home visitors has been stopped in Greater Manchester, Merseyside and South Yorkshire, because of fears that the results aren’t accurate enough.

The new tumble dryer is here 🙂 .

 

Saturday, December 5th

It was really snowy at Lyme Park/Pemberley today!  The roads were clear, but there was loads of snow on the grass – kids were throwing snowballs – and, on a lovely, clear, day, glorious views of the snow-covered Peaks.  Absolutely glorious.

 

I honestly wasn’t sure whether it was in the borough of Stockport (Greater Manchester), the borough of High Peak (Derbyshire) or the borough of East Cheshire.  However, the postal address, as given on the booking e-mail, said “Lyme Park, Disley, Stockport”.  However, it turned out that it was a few hundred yards into East Cheshire.  So I suppose I inadvertently broke “guidance” by being there – me and the other 85% of people there who’d have come from either Greater Manchester or High Peak/Buxton.  Being in East Cheshire meant that, hooray, the house could open, so you could see all the lovely Christmas decorations in there, and you could sit at the tables outside the cafe (or indoors, if you were wimping out of the cold – a nice dry cold today, not damp cold like yesterday).

This is the country we now live in.  A few hundred yards make the difference as to whether a hotel can open or has to close, and a restaurant can open or can only offer takeaways.  Those which can’t operate normally, or at all, get no more support than those which can.  In the West Country, there are three tiers.  If you live in Cornwall, you can go into a pub and drink a pint of beer.  If you live in neighbouring Devon, you can go into a pub in Cornwall, and sit at the next table to someone drinking a pint of beer, but you yourself cannot just drink a pint of beer.  However, if you also order a Scotch egg, you can then drink the beer.  Crossing from Devon into Somerset, if you live in North Somerset, or neighbouring South Gloucestershire, you are not supposed to go to either Devon or Cornwall at all.  Nor may you cross the Severn Bridge from South Gloucestershire into South Wales.  If, however, you live in Devon or Cornwall, you may drive through North Somerset and South Gloucestershire into South Wales, but you can’t drink alcohol in a pub, and you can’t even eat a Scotch egg in a pub if it’s after 6pm.  If you live in South Wales, you may drive to Cornwall, go into a pub, and drink as much as you like, without any Scotch eggs, even if you come from Blaenau Gwent, where the infection rate is around 500 per 100,000.  The infection rate in South Gloucestershire is around 150 per 100,000.  It’s like a cross between a George Orwell novel and a bad sitcom.  But it’s really not funny for those of us in areas which have been under additional restrictions since July.

The takeaway businesses set up by places round here which never used to do takeaways are doing really well, though.  I felt so sorry for a Catalan/Balearic restaurant which’d barely opened when lockdown started, but they had someone cooking paella outside today, with people gathering to watch (there’s far less “social distancing” in takeaway queues than in sit-in restaurants, but try telling the clowns in the Cabinet that), and the guy told me that they sold out in 14 minutes the first day they tried it.  Good for them!

And fans are back at Premier League matches.  But not in Tier 3.  United were playing at West Ham – so fans were allowed in, as London, bien sur, is not in Tier 3.  We won 3-1.  Yay!

 

Sunday, December 6th

Went into town today.  Due to the building work at the Town Hall, Father Christmas is sat outside Central Library.  And there are other decorations up too.  That’s my takeaway tea and bagel, not litter!!

There were plenty of people around  – although not on these photos, which I took before the shops opened and which are away from the shopping area anyway – but absolutely nothing like you’d expect 19 days before Christmas, and it was very sad to see all the empty spaces where the Christmas markets should have been.  Some of the usual decorations and trees were missing, too.

There were long queues outside Primark.

A lot of food places were open for takeaways.  I’m trying to use independent places as much as possible.  The chains have got money coming in from areas that aren’t under these horrendous restrictions.   Local independent places haven’t.  They’re all doing their best, but I had people apologising to me for the limited options on offer, saying that they couldn’t sell things like fresh cream cakes because they don’t keep and they just aren’t selling enough in a day to make it worth it, and that they’ve even had to run down their stock of non-perishable stuff because they’ve had to empty some of their freezers as they can’t afford the cost of the electricity to run them.  Yet places like these only get the same small business grants, which are very little anyway, as places in Tier 1 and Tier 2, which are able to open up and offer sit-down meals as normal.   This is the sort of thing that Andy Burnham keeps talking about.  Levelling down the North.

Gary Neville was on the Sophy Ridge interview on Sky News this morning.  He was having quite a rant.  Good for him.

The usual brass bands and carol singers weren’t around either, but four students with brass instruments were playing carols outside Marks & Spencer’s.  They made me smile 🙂 .   Thank you, carol-playing students!

 

 

 

 

 

Lockdown Week 11 – June 1st to 7th 2020, inclusive

Monday, June 1st

Mum is 75 today, and Dad is 75 tomorrow.  We arranged for afternoon tea to be delivered to them 🙂 .

I feel a bit peeved that, whilst I’m doing as asked and staying away from the Lakes, other people apparently aren’t, and that these include people who’ve dropped litter all over the place and parked badly.  I’d never do that.  I’m trying to find out if the hotel I booked in April is reopening in July or not, but they haven’t answered my e-mail.  I’d kind of like to wait until the boats are running again, but it’ll be busier by August … although it sounds as if it’s quite busy now!  I do wish that places would answer e-mails.

Primary schools were supposed to reopen today, but the ones here haven’t.  Loads of kids in the park!

I messaged my hairdresser to ask if they’d be reopening in July, and she said yes.  I’ve now messaged back to ask when they’ll be taking bookings.  No answer yet.  I don’t want to hassle her, but, if I don’t, other people will, and I don’t want to miss out!

Coronation Street‘s started filming again – hooray!

And such lovely pictures on TV of grandparents meeting their new grandchild for the first time, with the easing of lockdown rules.

 

Tuesday, June 2nd

Back in April, when we had no idea when hotels would reopen but things were getting booked up rapidly as people accepted that their holidays abroad weren’t going to happen, I provisionally booked the Lakes for a week in July and a week in August.  The hotel is hoping to reopen by then … but the July date’s probably too soon – especially as I might not even have been able to get my hair cut by then, and I do not want to go away looking and feeling such a mess – but the thought of another 2 1/2 months without a break is pretty miserable.  And, whichever week I go, it’ll probably rain.  And July’d be quieter.  I wish my hairdresser’d got back to me.  If I could get an appointment booked, I’d feel so much better.

Went into the office this morning, after I’d been to Tesco and M&S.  I think one boss has dimly grasped the fact that people are upset, although it still doesn’t seem to have occurred to him to send round an e-mail asking if everyone’s OK.

Still so hot and sunny!

 

Wednesday, June 3rd

The weather turned today – unfortunately, just on the day that Mum and Dad spent in London, being reunited with my sister and bro-in-law and the kids (whilst I was chained to the depressing office network).  I thought it was very noble of them to stay outside even when it rained!  I got drizzled on in the park, but it’s dry now, so I should be OK to eat my frozen yoghurt in the flower park.

It’s so hard to plan anything.  People want to plan holidays: you can’t just up and go.

Still over 300 deaths a day here, whilst Italy etc are down below 100.  This is just awful.

 

Thursday, June 4th

I’m very pleased to say that the frozen yoghurt shop’s doing so well with takeaways and deliveries that it’s now back to its normal opening hours, and all the staff are back from furlough!   In these difficult times, it’s so good to hear a success story.

Wearing face masks will be compulsory on public transport from June 15th.  And who’s going to enforce that?

The park was quite quiet today, but that could just have been because the weather wasn’t great.  The council have mown the grass.  OK, it needed doing, but it’s quite sad that all the wildflowers have gone 😦 .

And I am so desperate for a break.  Some friends working from home in jobs where they get treated decently and get a reasonable amount of annual leave have taken a week off just to recharge their batteries, but we get so little annual leave that I can’t do that.  I think July may be too early for the Lakes, even if hotels are open by then, but am hoping for August … but it seems a long way off.  With not getting my weekend in Grasmere in April, I haven’t been away since early December, and haven’t had a day off since New Year.  Normally, in June, I’m so wrapped up in tennis that I can cope with not having had a break for ages.  And I’d normally have had my weekend in Grasmere in April.

Oh well.  Roll on the restart of the football season!

 

Friday, June 5th

The official UK death toll passed 40,000 today.  In terms of deaths per head of population, we’re only slightly ahead of France, Spain and Italy, and that’s to be expected given our greater population density, but it’s very worrying that the daily figures are still so high, and also that the R number has apparently gone back above 1 here and in some other areas.

Atlas Bar says that, when it reopens, people are going to have to register on an app if they want to use the toilet.  Is this someone’s idea of a joke?!

On a happier note, I’ve got football fixtures on my calendar again!  4 matches in 12 days, which is an awful lot, especially with the players not at peak fitness, but it is what it is.  Bring It On!!

And the weather’s gone mad.  I got caught in two showers today, one on my way back from Sainsbury’s Local and one on my way back from the park.  Heavy rain’s forecast for early morning, but will hopefully have eased off before I go to Dunham Massey.

The police have shut down 35 knock-off clothing and electrical shops in Strangeways, for being open during lockdown.  They’ve been open all along!  Nearly 11 weeks.  Why wait until now?!

 

Saturday, June 6th

It was so lovely to be back at Dunham Massey!   It was a shame that we weren’t allowed into the gardens – the roses will all be out – but it was lovely to be walking round the deer park again.  I’ve missed the place.  Not as much as I’m missing the Lakes, but still.  There were some heavy showers, which were annoying, but it was a lovely morning.  Good to be back!

Annoyingly, it then threw it down, so my plans to see a) my cousin and b) Mum and Dad had to be shelved.  It cleared up later, but it was a bit late for visiting by then, although I did go to the park.  After I’d had my scone!

Tatton Park’s reopened as well!  I’ve booked that for next Sunday.  I was sort of leaving Sunday free in case the fruit farm’d opened by then, but a bird in the hand … .  It’s so much better now that places are open, even though it’s a bit of a pain having to decide and book in advance.  Life seems a lot less empty now.

This should have been French Open finals weekend.  Rafa told Roland Garros TV that he’s trying to focus on what he’s got, not what he’s missing.  I hope he really means that and isn’t just saying it, because it’s a lovely attitude to have.

Phone update this morning, which totally stressed me out, but thankfully only a small one!

Not very happy about these big protests about George Floyd’s murder.   What happened was appalling and we should all be speaking out about it, but it’s not the time for big gatherings.  The ones here were peaceful, but there was trouble in London.  None of the people who were shrieking that Dominic Cummings should have been crucified for driving from London to Durham, in his own car, not coming into contact with anyone outside his own family, have said one word about people breaking the rules to gather in their hundreds and thousands when gatherings of more than 6 are banned.  People are such hypocrites!

Sunday, June 7th

Stupid weather!   It’s nice and sunny now, at 7pm, but it was pouring down when I got to Lyme Park this morning, and only cleared up just as I was about to leave!  Oh well, I took my brolly, and still had a nice long walk.  I don’t see why they won’t let people into the gardens, and I’m not impressed that they haven’t opened the tearooms for takeaways, but it’s still good to be back!  It’s such a huge estate.  I don’t normally walk round that much of it, because I usually spend most of my time in the gardens.

Went to the park later.  Unbelievably, the stupid council have removed the bins from by the entrance/exit!  Like there’s not enough trouble with litter.  FFS.

In between the two walks, Mum and Dad came round, and we all sat in my garden for a while, which was lovely.  We are all desperate for haircuts, but thankfully OK otherwise!

And so ends yet another week of weirdness … .  I’d hoped to spend today watching Rafa winning La Tredecima.  The USTA are still hoping to play the US Open, but I can’t see how it can be done, with so many players from so many different countries.  I’d love to see some live tennis, but I just don’t think it can happen yet.

Seeking peace in nature: Back to Life with the National Trust and English Heritage

In these troubled times, it can be difficult to find peace.  One of the best ways of doing so is walking through woodlands or gardens, and so I’m delighted that Dunham Massey, Lyme Park, Quarry Bank Mill (Styal) and Tatton Park have reopened, and that Brodsworth Hall and Beeston Castle will be reopening this weekend.   “Something kindly, beautiful, peaceful and stable … evoked whenever the name of England was spoken.”  (Reay Tannahill, Passing Glory).  You have to book, they won’t let you into the gardens at Dunham and Lyme for some irritating reason, and there’s a disappointing lack of takeaway tea and scones;  but it’s a start.

Nature doesn’t care about coronavirus.  The flowers are still coming, the fruit and vegetables are still coming, the deer are still wandering around in the deer park at Dunham, and birds have been nesting in the woods at Lyme whilst there’ve been no humans around.  You can walk and walk, enjoy the timelessness of the woods and the beauty of the flowers, and forget about everything that’s happening for a little while.  Lockdown spring’s come and gone, and now we’re into the summer with no Wimbledon; but it’s still summer, and the natural world continues to turn, turn, turn.  It’s good to leave everything else behind for a few hours, and lose yourself in that.

I went to Dunham Massey on Saturday and Lyme Park on Sunday.  It was certainly different to all the previous visits I’ve made to either of them.  There were cones all along the roads outside, to stop people from parking there and walking in.  We really are in a difficult position at the moment.  People are bored and fed up and feeling trapped, and shops, cinemas, theatres etc still closed, and sport are only just getting going again.  We need somewhere to go.  But there are issues with overcrowding.  I’ve seen some very nasty sneery comments about this, and I suspect that most of them are coming from people who do not live in densely-populated urban areas where public parks are getting very crowded and many people do not have gardens.  It’s not easy.

And stupid local councils are not making things any easier by refusing to unlock public toilets, sealing up bins and closing car parks.  Having said which, there’s no excuse for people parking all over the place, dropping litter, and trying to break into places which are closed.  I’m missing the Lake District like mad but am staying away as I know the authorities there don’t want too many visitors, and it annoys the hell out of me when I see pictures of litter being dropped all over the place.  Could we all make more effort, please?  That also goes for the people ignoring the “one way only” signs at Hollingworth Lake.  People were even ignoring the signs asking visitors to go into the Lyme Park toilets one way and out the other.  Come on, folks.  I’m sure we can all follow an arrow.

Anyway, to get back to the cones, sites which have reopened are presently admitting people for pre-booked visits only.  It’s a bit of a hassle.  If you’re working, you’re restricted as to when you can go, so you have to be very efficient about booking.  Then you have to stress about making your timeslot – not so bad at the moment, but might be more difficult once traffic gets heavier again – and can’t change it if the Great British Weather does not smile on you.  It’s hardly ideal for the National Trust or English Heritage either: they’re expecting big losses this year, the actual houses won’t be opening for some time yet, and a lot of people have cancelled their memberships, so they urgently need more visitors, not fewer.  But nothing’s perfect at the moment, and we’ve got to go with it – and focus on the positives.  And these really are very big positives.  We’ve still got these places.  They’re still there.

I didn’t half need to get out at the weekend.  I know that many people have been furloughed from work, and that many others are still working but getting tremendous support from their employers.  I’m working from home but we’ve had no support whatsoever, just complaining, and, with my holiday having had to be cancelled, I really was feeling quite down and very trapped … and the National Trust picked me back up.

The familiarity helped, for one thing.  Does that sound strange?  I’ve been seeing an awful lot more of my own house and garden recently than I do usually, and of my local park, so looking for more “old familiar places” might seem odd, but they’re familiar in a different way: they’re places which I associate with comfort and relaxation, with getting out and about.  And with scones, but hopefully the tearooms will reopen before too long!

And they’re so big!  Lyme Park in particular.  I walked round parts of the woodland there which I’ve never been to before: I usually spend most of my time there in the gardens.  Climb over a stile and you’re out on the hills, the Peaks – all that Manchester Rambler feeling.  You can just wander and wander.  It’s all open.  You feel so free.  And it’s quite hard to feel free when you can’t go on holiday, you can’t go out to a café for a drink and a scone, and, unless you sit outside, you can’t even go round to a relative or friend’s house for tea.  But, in the deer park at Dunham, out amongst the trees, or in the hills and woodlands of the Lyme estate, you can.

And, next week, all being well, I’m looking forward to visiting Styal and Tatton, where, hooray, the gardens are open, and I’ll literally be able to stop and smell the roses!   This year, I haven’t been able to see the daffodils at Chirk Castle or Biddulph Grange, I haven’t been able to see the bluebells at Windermere or Erddig or Capesthorne Hall, and I haven’t been able to see the laburnum arch at Bodnant Garden.   OK, I’ve seen daffodils and bluebells at the local park, but I always go to visit particular places at particular times: anxious people don’t like having their routines interrupted, and I’m particularly fond of those places.  But we’re moving on now, and I’m going to have a few hours of getting away from the uncertainty (I do not cope well with being unable to plan ahead), from the doom and gloom on the news, from the nastiness – all that Spirit of the Blitz/communities pulling together stuff we were hearing about in April didn’t last very long, did it 😦 – and from feeling trapped, and being able to stop and smell the roses, just as I’ve already had a few hours of walking through fields (at Nostell Priory, the first National Trust property in the North of England to reopen) and woodlands.  And that is something for which I am extremely grateful.

 

To her fair works did Nature link
The human soul that through me ran

Wordsworth