Here we go again? Week 1, December 6th to 12th 2021 inclusive

Monday, December 6th

I had my booster this morning.  It was Pfizer – they were actually using Moderna as the default one for boosters, but I was nervous about that because my friend was ill for several days after having it, so they said I could have the Pfizer.

I’ve got the dates for the scans and other tests.  I am really stressed about it all, especially the one in January which will be under anaesthetic, but at least it’s all been booked in.  I’m struggling badly with being at work at the moment – there is no privacy at all, nowhere to take a moment if you need one.  I assume that anything bad would have showed up at the first scan, and they wouldn’t leave it till January if they thought anything bad had been missed, but these things are always stressful, and I just want it over with.  A former colleague of mine, who sadly died last year, had an operation postponed twice and did his best to work every day whilst waiting, even though he was in a lot of pain.  Most people are obviously braver than I am!

 

Tuesday, December 7th

Boris has said that the Omicron variant seems to be more transmissible than the Delta variant.  And Storm Barra is about to hit us.

 

Wednesday, December 8th

The weather is vile, and the Ashes series has got off to a bad start 😦 .

There’s a lot of talk about imposing additional restrictions because of the Omicron variant.  There’s a press conference at 6, so maybe something *is* on the cards.   Meanwhile, there’s a fuss going on about whether or not staff at 10 Downing Street held a Christmas party last year.  It does sound as if they did, and obviously that’s not very impressive, but it was 12 months ago and we really need to be focusing on what’s happening now.

 

Thursday, December 9th

Well, we are now on Plan B.  So we are supposed to be working from home.  But my bullying employers have refused to agree to this, even though it’s government guidance.  I am so angry.  We worked from home perfectly well during lockdown.  They just do not give a s**t about people’s safety.  All through lockdown, everyone did their best, with no support, no offer to pay towards the gas, electricity etc that people were using, and not even so much as a Christmas card, and now this.  You are supposed to work from home if possible.  We have all got remote links set up, so it is perfectly possible.  There wasn’t even any discussion about it.

 

We also have to wear masks in theatres and cinemas, and other places such as hairdressing salons and banks, and will need Covid passes for nightclubs, indoor unseated venues with more than 500 people, unseated outdoor venues with more than 4,000 people and any event with more than 10,000 people – so this includes Premier League football matches.

On top of everything else, my computer is playing up.  I think it’s time for a new one – this is Windows 7 – but am hoping the repair guy (who is coming on Sunday) will be able to keep this one going in the meantime.

Oh, and we drew 1-1 with Young Boys last night.  And Carrie and Boris have had a baby girl.

 

Friday, December 10th

We are now being told that there are signs of “vaccine escape”.  Why these silly terms have to be used, I don’t know.  It makes it sound as if a hundred doses of the vaccine have climbed out of a lab window and gone to the pub.  However, I think we get the idea, and it’s not good.   *But* – apparently you should be OK if you’ve had your booster.  So we’re back to the virus versus vaccines race – can we slow the spread of the Omicro variant

Sturgeon’s telling people in Scotland to cancel Christmas parties.  We’re not being told that in England, but I’m hearing from some friends and relatives (my miserable office, needless to say, wasn’t planning a Christmas party anyway) that their parties have been cancelled.  I’m desperately sorry for the hospitality industry, but I also understand the concerns of the people making the decision to cancel.  I do *not* understand the people whingeing that Boris is a liar for reintroducing restrictions when we were told that we’d got on an “irreversible road” out of them: it isn’t his fault, or indeed anyone else’s, that this wretched new variant’s appeared.   It’s just so demoralising.  Snakes and ladders, again … we’ve just gone right down a nasty big snake.

There are rumours that more restrictions could be on the way.  It’s expected that the Omicron variant will spread rapidly.  After weeks of new cases being around 40,000 daily, they’ve shot up to nearly 60,000 daily.  And yet my callous, uncaring employers refuse to let us WFH.

On a happier note, I went to Lightopia at Heaton Park this evening.  It was lovely.  And it didn’t rain.

 

Saturday, December 11th

Great.  The desktop has now packed up completely.  The IT guy has tried and failed to resuscitate it.  I’d already accepted that I needed a new one, but I was hoping it’d last out until then.  There’s never a good time for these things to happen, but a fortnight before Christmas is a particularly bad one.

I went to the pantomime today – Aladdin, at the Opera House.  It was a great pantomime, and I had a bagel and a scone (er, so healthy) at The Vienna Coffee House beforehand, and a walk round the Christmas markets.  Town was pretty busy, and, by the time I was heading home, the Christmas markets were heaving.

It’s now compulsory to wear masks in theatres, unless you are exempt for medical reasons.  And I think young kids are exempt, which is stupid as the highest rates of infection are in young kids.  Well, I thought 80-85% of people would comply, and 15-20% wouldn’t.  Wrong.  Only about 15-20% of people were wearing masks.  The theatre company had sent out e-mails, and an announcement was made before the performance, and staff were reminding people at the doors, but most people just took no notice.  I’m not sure what else you could ask the theatre staff to do – they could hardly challenge that number of people.

I get that a lot of people are fed up.  This has been going on for nearly two years.  We were told that restrictions had been lifted, but now some of them have been reimposed and it looks likely that more would follow.  And we were told that vaccinations would be our way out of this, but now we’re being told that two doses of vaccine may provide as little as 2% protection against the Omicron variant.  I do not envy the people having to make the politicians.  The scientists are shrieking that Omicron’s going to overwhelm the NHS and we need to go back into lockdown, but, in addition to the economic impact, I just don’t think people’d stick to it.

The good news – apart from United beating Norwich, 1-0 – is that, if you’ve had a booster, your level of protection against the vaccine should be fairly good, as much as 75%.  But Omicron is said to be spreading more quickly than the original virus did at the start, before anyone was vaccinated.  And there are big local discrepancies in the percentage of people vaccinated.

Eeh, I am fed up.  Everything was going pretty much OK, and, in the blink of an eyelid, we’re back to talk of another lockdown.

 

Sunday, December 12th

My new computer has been ordered.  Fingers crossed.

Max Verstappen beat Lewis Hamilton to the F1 drivers’ championship.  Bleurgh.

And Covid.  Ah yes, Covid.

  1.  My reward for being one of the minority of people who actually wore a mask all through yesterday’s pantomime was to be woken up several times in the night by horrendous catarrh.  I was OK after wearing a mask on the trains to and from Scotland, but I suppose modern railway carriages are rather better ventilated than Edwardian theatres are.
  2. I stayed in the fresh air when going out today – to Styal.
  3. The Covid alert level has been raised from 3 to 4.
  4. Anyone fully vaccinated who comes into contact with a Covid case is now supposed to take LFTs for 7 days.
  5. Some people are in hospital with the Omicron variant.
  6. I’m hearing about a worrying number of people who’ve tested positive despite being fully vaccinated and trying to be careful.
  7. Over 1/2 million boosters were given today.
  8. The trouble is that we’ve got no idea yet just how problematic Omicron is going to be.  It seems certain that it’s very infectious, but how many of those who catch it are likely to need hospital treatment, at a time of year when hospitals are under pressure anyway?  Where do you pitch things?  Impose additional restrictions, which will upset some MPs who are already objecting to “Plan B”, alienate some sections of the public – everybody is *so* fed up –  and probably risk non-compliance, especially if it affects Christmas, and risk sending the economy down the toilet?   Or leave things as they are, and risk hospitals being overwhelmed if Omicron turns out to be really bad?   It’s just a nightmare.
  9. There’s been a Covid outbreak at United.  And Spurs.  And Chelsea.  And Norwich.  And Villa.  And QPR.  And West Brom.

I am so sick of Covid.

 

New little hopes: return to Old Trafford

It’d been 17 months and 6 days.  I know it doesn’t quite fit, but imagine that sung to the tune of “Nothing Compares 2 U”.   March 8th 2020.  United 2-0 City.  We came out with huge smiles across our faces; but, at the same time, we knew that the season was probably going to be suspended before long.    It happened within days.  What we didn’t imagine was that it was going to be 17 months, and 6 days, before we went to Old Trafford again.  It’s been a long and difficult time, especially here in the Manchester area where we’ve been so badly hit by the pandemic.   But, today, not just crowds but capacity crowds were allowed back in, for the start of the Premier League season.  And what a start – stuffing Leeds 5-1!

I am *not* in the general habit of quoting Lady Chatterley’s Lover, but there’s a paragraph in there which seems quite apt for today.  “The cataclysm has happened, we are among the ruins, we start to build up new little habitats, to have new little hopes. It is rather hard work: there is now no smooth road into the future: but we go round, or scramble over the obstacles. We’ve got to live, no matter how many skies have fallen.”   Obviously I’m not comparing the last 17 months to the horrors of the Great War, but the idea’s relevant.

We’ve got to go on.  With this wretched virus, it’s not going to surrender, and it’s hardly as if you can invite it to a peace conference to negotiate terms.  Maybe it’ll fade away after another few months, like the Spanish flu did.  Not looking likely.  Maybe we’ll keep getting waves of it for years.  Or even for decades, as with the Black Death.  Maybe, and this seems to be the current thinking, it’ll become endemic, and it’ll just always be around, like flu, and our wonderful scientists’ll keep tweaking the vaccines to make us better able to fight it.  It certainly doesn’t look as if we’re going to be blowing a final whistle and holding Victory over Covid street parties.  Didn’t the Czech Republic actually hold “Victory over Covid” parties last year?   Sadly, they were a bit previous.

But we’ve *got* vaccines now.  It sounds as if, from the beginning of October, vaccine passports will be needed for sports events, certainly at the top levels.  There are arguments for and against that, but it does look like it’ll be happening – and, if it helps us to keep a lid on this virus, then so be it.  I suppose we’ll get used to showing our Covid certificates, like we’ve got used to having security checks.  No-one likes the security checks, and they cause queues; but, after what happened at the Arena, everyone accepts that that’s the way it is.

There was nothing really different at the match today.  Well, it was a miracle that everyone actually got there, with all the roadworks and all the tram line closures, but that was nothing to do with Covid!   There’d been talk of wearing masks, but very people did.  There were some hand sanitiser stations.  You had to pay by card, not cash, if you wanted to buy a programme or something to eat or drink.  That was about it.  I’m not sure what else could have been done.  The Premier League had been waffling on about not getting too close to other people, but how do you avoid getting close to people in neighbouring seats?   Just have to hope that, in an outdoor setting, things won’t be too bad.

And did it feel good to be back?  Oh yes!  Quite emotional, really.  I’ve been to the ground since last March, to the souvenir shop, but obviously that wasn’t the same thing!   Even just walking down Warwick Road, seeing everyone heading for the ground, was emotional.  And then the teams came out, the whistle went, and we were off.   A live match again, at last.  I know some people felt that sport shouldn’t have restarted until crowds were allowed back in, but I don’t know where I’d have been without televised football, tennis, cricket, athletics etc since they all restarted.  They really have been a godsend, especially during the lockdown periods: they’ve made a big difference and really have been very important to me.  But getting back to live matches, getting back to Old Trafford – that was something special.

This is a big day.  And beating Leeds 5-1?  Well, that made it even more special!

The road to freedom? Week 13, June 21st to 27th 2021 inclusive

Monday, June 21st

There is a major war of words going on between Sturgeon and Andy Burnham.  It should be noted that the Scottish Conservatives and Scottish Labour have both agreed with Andy.  The Scottish government don’t even seem to be clear where exactly their own travel ban, announced with no discussion and no notice, covers.  Is it central Manchester and Salford, or is it the whole of Greater Manchester, i.e. including Wigan, Stockport, Bury etc?   They said “Manchester and Salford”, but then they said “Greater Manchester and Salford”, which doesn’t even make sense as Salford is in Greater Manchester.  Rates in Burnley, Hyndburn and Rossendale are higher than they are in central Manchester and Salford, but apparently they aren’t covered by this ban.  And infection rates in Dundee are higher than they are in Bolton, but it’s OK for people from Dundee to travel around Scotland but there’s a specific ban on people from Bolton doing the same.  When challenged, all Sturgeon could do was accuse Andy Burnham of trying to get attention ahead of a possible Labour leadership challenge.

I am really fed up.  I was seriously considering booking a tour of the Scottish Highlands.

 

Tuesday, June 22nd

Andy Burnham is to “hold talks” with Nicola Sturgeon – but I suspect that the stroppy cow will refuse to back down because she won’t want to lose face.  I’m not sure whom I’d most like to smack, her or the people who brought the Delta variant into the area by travelling to the Indian sub-continent at a time when no-one was meant to be going anywhere.

I really am feeling despondent.  We’ve had months of lockdown.  We were told that everything’d be OK if we got vaccinated.  And now Manchester, Salford and Bury are in the top 10 boroughs in the country for infection rates – and Blackburn’s is coming down, but our rates aren’t.   And most of the others are also local – Burnley,  Hyndburn, etc.  I just can’t see a way out.  Most of the cases are in schools, and there are no plans to vaccinate kids, so what do we do?  Whatever this “extra support” is, I haven’t seen any evidence of it.  Why have we been hit worse by this than anywhere else in the country?   Having said which, rates in Newcastle and North Tyneside are sly-rocketing now, and the picture’s not good in Liverpool or Leeds either.

Italy’s called for the Euro 2020 final to be moved away from Wembley, “because of the Delta variant”.  They’re only saying that in the hope that it’ll be moved to Rome, but, because of the bloody Delta variant, it feels like we’re a pariah state again, like we were with the Kent variant.  As Mario Balotelli would say, why is it always us?

The good news is that, because of yesterday’s results, England are guaranteed to reach the knockout stages of Euro 2020, as a “least worst 3rd place finish” if nothing else … but we really could do with a win tonight.

Later – won 1-0!  Top the group!   The snag is that we now play either France, Germany or Portugal!   Scotland are out – I’m sorry for my Scottish friends, and for Scotland’s players, most of whom we “know” well, but it feels a bit like the universe’s karma against that odious woman.

 

Wednesday, June 23rd

Depending on what you read, either:

  1. The pandemic is all over bar the shouting.  Come July 19th, all domestic restrictions will be lifted, bye-bye to masks and social distancing, and anyone double vaccinated will be able to travel to amber list countries as if they were green list countries; or
  2. We are in a dangerous third wave, rates are about to sky rocket across most of the country, there is now a “Delta Plus” variant which is even worse than the original Delta variant, we will have to wear masks and observe social distancing unto all eternity, and we will probably go back into lockdown in the winter.

I’ve had a look at some options in case travel restrictions *are* eased … only to find that a load of options are no longer options because airlines have pulled flights.  For example, there used to be several flights a day between Manchester and Zurich, and, both times I’ve flown there, I’ve arrived at 11am.  Now, the only option is to arrive at 10pm, which doesn’t really work.

And, for all the talk of lifting restrictions, you can’t go anywhere, even school or work, without risking being told to self isolate for 10 days.  In fact, it’s not so much “even school” as “especially school” – loads of kids are being sent home, again.

I am so fed up of all this.

 

Thursday, June 24th

Hairdresser’s this evening!

So sick of all the politicking.  Andy Burnham has tried to get some sense out of Sturgeon, but all she cares about is trying to make herself look big – or else why would she have imposed a travel ban on “big names” like Manchester and Salford, but not on Burnley, Hyndburn and Rossendale, where infection rates are much higher?   And Angela Merkel, evidently still bitter about Brexit five years after the referendum, wants all EU countries to impose quarantine on British tourists, and has had a go at Portugal for not doing so.  Since when was it up to the German Chancellor to tell the Portuguese government what to do?

Meanwhile, it looks as if rates may be plateauing in Salford.  But they’re sky-rocketing elsewhere, notably in Newcastle.

 

Friday, June 25th

The Pitcairn Islands (as in Fletcher Christian) and the British Antarctic Territory have been added to the green list, prompting an exasperated newspaper cartoonist to show a green list including Craggy Island and Tracy Island.  The Balearic Islands, Madeira and Malta have also been added, a bit more helpfully, as have some Caribbean islands.

The whole thing is totally arse about face now, because, despite having the highest vaccination rates in Europe, we’ve now got the highest infection rates in Europe.  Belgium has banned British tourists.  Angela Merkel is busily trying to blame British tourists for the increase in the Delta variant in other countries, even though a) most of Portugal’s cases are in Lisbon, not Porto or the Algarve and b) how exactly can British tourists be to blame for the surge in cases in Russia?

I hate the f***ing Delta variant.  I appreciate that it isn’t trying to cause problems for me personally, but it doesn’t half feel like it.  I really fancied doing a tour of the Scottish Highlands: I’ve always wanted to go but, with limited holiday time, always opted for somewhere with better weather instead, but this would have been the perfect year for it.  (Tours weren’t operating last year.)  But, because Sturgeon has used the Delta variant as an excuse to declare war on the Manchester area, it’s no go.  And it’s so bloody frustrating, because she hasn’t mentioned other places with high infection rates – Newcastle’s is now over 300.  I hate Nicola Sturgeon even more than I hate the Delta variant.  And I hate Angela Merkel as well.  And, yes, I know that I sound like I’m about 12, and moaning about school bullies or nasty teachers, but it’s so frustrating!

And it feels like we’ve been sold a bit of a pig in a poke with the vaccines – they’ve reduced hospitalisations and deaths, which is obviously the main thing, but loads of people are testing positive despite being fully vaccinated, and, thanks to the bloody test, trace and isolate system, that means that you cannot get your life back.  Once people are trapped in offices, it’s going to be very difficult to protect yourself, especially if you need to travel by public transport.  And 1/4 million kids have been sent home from school.

 

Saturday, June 26th

Wales are out of Euro 2020, beaten 4-0 by Denmark.  And Matt Hancock is out of the job of Health Secretary, after the Sun published pictures of him snogging a colleague, and pontificated about breaching social distancing rules.  He’s an idiot and I’m not sorry to see the back of him, but I do feel very sorry for his wife.  I also feel a bit sorry for Boris.  It’s one thing after another, and, thanks to the bloody Delta variant, over 18,000 new cases were reported today.   We’ve got to get past this obsession with infection rates, but it’s stopping us from being welcomed abroad.  Sajid Javid’s the new Health Secretary.  I rather like him.  He was born in Rochdale, after all!

On a more positive note, I don’t want to speak too soon, but there are signs that things may be plateauing in the Bury council area, as well as Salford.

I went to Hardwick Hall today.  Lovely place!  The gardens aren’t the world’s greatest, but I think the house is my favourite NT house.

What a palaver, though.  Give your name and show your card at the entrance to the car park.  Give your name again and show our card again at the visitor centre.   Scan your card in the tearoom.  Scan your card at the kiosk, but only if you’re sitting at a table on one side of the path.  Scan your card at the entrance to the house – which I wouldn’t have minded had they not refused to let anyone scan their card until they’d tried to persuade them to buy a guidebook or make an extra donation, holding up the queue and annoying everyone.  And some bossy woman said that you had to “clear the desk”, as if it were an airport!  Also, you still can’t get to the ponds through the gate by the gardens or the gate by the courtyard: you have to go all the way back round, walk the other way, and then walk across the fields.  Why??  Does the virus care which gate you use?   Sorry, moan over!

 

Sunday, June 27th

Twas the night before Wimbledon – at last!  This is distracting me from being a huge fat blob with too-short hair.

Went to Clifton Country Park this morning, then, house stuff done, into town this afternoon.  I think it was the busiest I’d seen town since this whole nightmare began.  The shops didn’t look that busy, but there were loads of people sat out in Piccadilly Gardens and Exchange Square, and people eating out everywhere.  Funny, there was some talk 30 years ago about getting into a “cafe culture” like in Barcelona, and people scoffed at it because of the weather, but Covid seems to have created it.  Well, on a warm, dry day, anyway!

There’ve been some reports in the MEN recently about swarms of bees hanging around in town, and I actually saw one!  In the middle of Market Street, of all places.  Wouldn’t you think bees would hang around in gardens, rather than outside the Arndale Centre?!

Sajid Javid is apparently keen to end restrictions … which, unfortunately, is not much use as long as a) the test, trace and isolate system remains (how long after July 19th before a load of people are being locked up for 10 days because a colleague has tested positive?) and b) we can’t go on holiday abroad.   Meanwhile, it looks as if the accursed Delta variant will delay “unlocking” in the Republic of Ireland.

Here’s to Wimbledon …

On and on and on

I need to rant.  I am fed up.  We have nearly all dutifully turned up for our vaccinations.  Over 81% of adults have now had their first jabs: many others have got appointments booked to get theirs soon.  I think around 60% of adults have now been double jabbed.  We’ve got far higher vaccination rates than France, Italy, Germany, etc.  And yet, for all this, infection rates are on the up and up, thanks to the bloody Indian variant (sorry, the Delta variant); and, even though most infections are amongst schoolchildren and the risk to or from double-vaccinated adults is low, this means that more travel restrictions are being imposed on us from abroad, and now even from the ever-irritating Nicola Sturgeon.

There is a major war of words going on between Sturgeon and Andy Burnham.  It should be noted that the Scottish Conservatives and Scottish Labour have both agreed with Andy.  The Scottish government don’t even seem to be clear where exactly their own travel ban, announced with no discussion and no notice, covers.  Is it central Manchester and Salford, or is it the whole of Greater Manchester, i.e. including Wigan, Stockport, Bury etc?   They said “Manchester and Salford”, but then they said “Greater Manchester and Salford”, which doesn’t even make sense as Salford is in Greater Manchester.  Rates in Hyndburn and Rossendale are higher than they are in central Manchester and Salford, but apparently they aren’t covered by this ban.  And infection rates in Dundee are higher than they are in Bolton, but it’s OK for people from Dundee to travel around Scotland but there’s a specific ban on people from Bolton doing the same.  When challenged, all Sturgeon could do was accuse Andy Burnham of trying to get attention ahead of a possible Labour leadership challenge.

FFS.

Meanwhile, there’s a lot of talk going on about July 19th being “Freedom Day”, but it actually won’t be.  We still can’t go abroad without a load of huge hassles.  We still can’t go into a cafe without worrying that we might get a call to say that the person who was at the next table has tested positive and so we’re supposed to self isolate for ten days.   And we can’t book anything at all without worrying that either it’ll be cancelled or that we won’t be able to go.

I know several families who’ve taken kids out of school to avoid the risk of them missing important family events.  That’s breaking the truancy laws, and it’s not doing kids’ education any good, but I really don’t blame people.  Everyone’s plans have been mucked up enough without finding at the last minute that little Susie can’t be her auntie’s bridesmaid because the kid who sits in front of her in maths has tested positive for the lurgy.

And, whatever happens, there’s always someone trying to turn into into a culture war. There was some complete and utter idiot on Sky News this morning, claiming that the Government doesn’t care that music festivals are being cancelled because most of the people who attend them are likely to be posh liberal elite brats, so not exempting music festivals from restrictions is part of a war on wokedom.  Excuse me??  That’s one of the most ridiculous non sequiturs I’ve ever heard!

I am really fed up of all of this.  On and on and on it goes.

/rant!

 

The road to freedom? Week 12, June 14th to 20th 2021 inclusive

Monday, June 14th

Boris has confirmed what’d pretty much been said already, i.e. that “Freedom Day” is being postponed from June 21st to July 19th.

The limit on the number of guests for weddings will, however, be lifted as long as “social distancing is observed”.  What on earth is that supposed to mean?!

I don’t think there was any choice about this, but I’m extremely sorry for people whose jobs/businesses are affected.

At least nothing was said about local lockdowns.  However, “the Liverpool City Region”, Cheshire. Warrington and Birmingham have been added to the naughty list.  Where is this “extra support” we’re all meant to be getting, anyway?  I wasn’t exactly expecting to see a regiment of soldiers marching down the street, but I was expecting something.

On a different note, it’s so nice to be watching grass court tennis again, at last … although Rafa’s being a bit vague about Wimbledon.

 

Tuesday, June 15th

Hooray!   Completely unexpectedly – I’d been waiting almost a week for an answer – I received an e-mail to say that people can work from home 2 days a week for at least the next 6 months, and hopefully indefinitely.  I still haven’t had an answer as to whether we remain WFH full time until July 19th, but I’m (optimistically) assuming so.

I didn’t expect that at all.  If this can go on long term, it really will make things a lot better.

 

Wednesday, June 16th

My October holiday to Japan’s been cancelled.  The holiday company’s pulled its entire Far Eastern programme for the rest of the year, because a lot of those booked on it are from Australia and New Zealand and therefore unlikely to be allowed out until 2022.  I wasn’t really expecting it to go, and I suppose at least now the uncertainty’s been removed, but I’m very sad at losing a second year of travel, am not sure what to do instead, and didn’t really expect to have to process this just now.

France has started vaccinating children, but we’re being told that that’s unlikely to happen here.  I take the point that the risk to kids is very low, but kids are being sent home from school because another kid in their class has tested positive, and other family members have to isolate if their kid/sibling tests positive, so it’s all a bit of a mess.

The 2021/22 football fixtures came out today.

Meanwhile, cases keep on rising.  Deaths, thankfully, don’t.

 

Thursday, June 17th

My brain really cannot deal with much more this week.  The latest is that Rafa isn’t playing either Wimbledon or the Olympics.  He’d kind of hinted at Wimbledon, but I’m surprised about the Olympics – although I do understand that it’s a lot of surfaces, travelling and time zones.  But I’m sad 😦 .

There’s renewed talk about vaccine passports to make foreign travel easier.  I’m still hoping to go abroad in the autumn – I don’t think it’s the year for long haul bucket list trips like Japan, but I would very much like to get to Italy.  Meanwhile, from having had far lower rates than Italy, Spain, France etc, we’ve now got higher rates, thanks to the people who travelled between Bolton/Blackburn and the Indian sub-continent at a time when millions of people didn’t even leave their local areas for over five months, then spread the variant around.  Some people were even boasting to the local press about how, after Pakistan was put on the red list, they were dodging quarantine by flying home via Turkey.  Israel and parts of the US have been able to scrap almost all restrictions now that so many people have been vaccinated, whereas we, with everyone over 18 now able to book vaccines and vaccination rates higher than anywhere in Europe (except Gibraltar, I think), recorded over 11,000 cases today.

And Stroppy Sturgeon has banned travel between Scotland and Manchester/Salford.  No consultation, no notice, no warning.

 

Friday, June 18th

England v Scotland tonight!   So nice to have everyone focused on something other than the pandemic.

Torrential rain down south, meaning that there was no tennis 😦 , but it was dry here, and I managed to book to go evening strawberry picking at the very lovely Kenyon Hall Farm.

Almost all Covid cases in the UK are now the bloody Delta variant.  Case numbers aren’t rising by nearly as much, but they’re still rising.  Stroppy Sturgeon has told Scots not to go to Manchester, although how she plans to enforce that is anyone’s guess.  And Italy has imposed a 5 day quarantine on visitors from the UK.  Bleurgh.

The water board have asked me to read my own meter and submit the reading online, “because of Covid”.  I have no problem doing this: I’ve been doing it for years with the gas and electricity.  But I am sick of organisations using “because of Covid” as an excuse to cut services.  “The bank/post office/library will only be opening limited hours, because of Covid.”  “It will take longer than usual to answer your call, because of Covid.”  “It may take longer than usual for your parcel to arrive, because of Covid.”  Gah!!

Come on England …

Later – FFS!  England 0-0 Scotland.  That is not the result we wanted!

 

Saturday, June 19th

Gold star for the weather for staying nice today … and please, please be nice for my Lakes week in July too.

I went to Bodnant Garden today – so pleased to be able to see the famous Laburnum Arch (photo on the left), which I missed last year because we weren’t allowed into Wales at the right time.   They’ve scrapped that ridiculous one way system which no-one could follow last year, so you just walked round as you pleased, which was much better!

Then I went into Llanrwst, and then stopped at Colwyn Bay on the way home.

It was nice to see some coaches around: domestic coach tours have resumed.  But it’s so frustrating that, after everything we’ve been through, and the success of the vaccination programme, we’re now stuck with the Indian variant.   So many of the cases are in schools that it’s hard to see how the vaccination programme can stop it from spreading: there are no plans to vaccinate schoolchildren.

Heigh-ho …

 

Sunday, June 20th

Andy Burnham has had a right go at Stroppy Sturgeon over the travel restrictions, and demanded compensation for anyone affected.

I’ve managed to set up the NHS app on my phone – which, believe me, was a lot easier said than done.  It’s such a nightmare that I know some people who’ve ended up giving up.  So, hooray, app set up, downloaded my vaccination certification … only to find that the certificates expire after 30 days.  WTF?   They have “barcodes”, which “refresh” every 30 days, “to protect your data”.  Excuse me?  Do passports expire after 30 days?  Do driving licences expire after 30 days?  Do you become unvaccinated after 30 days?  What if they expire whilst you’re somewhere with no internet connection?  I really am annoyed about this.  There’s already concern about the whole idea of “proving your status”, which does sound a bit like something out of Nazi Germany, and then they make it extremely difficult to set up the app in the first place and then have this 30 day business.  So stupid.

Went to Hollingworth Lake this morning.  Rained overnight, dry during the day.

I really do not like Nicola Sturgeon.

The road to freedom? Week 8, May 17th to 23rd 2021 inclusive

Monday, May 17th

As of today:

  1. Hotels guesthouses and B&Bs can reopen.
  2. Indoor seating at restaurants etc can reopen.
  3. Sports stadia can admit limited numbers of fans.
  4. Theatres, cinemas, museums etc can reopen.
  5. Saunas and steamrooms can reopen.
  6. People can meet outdoors in groups of up to 30.
  7. Up to 30 people can attend a wedding reception.
  8. People can meet indoors in groups of 6, or 2 bubbles, and stay overnight.
  9. Some overseas travel’s resumed.

But the Indian variant’s casting a bit of a wet blanket over it all.  It’s now the dominant variant in Bolton and Blackburn, and it seems highly unlikely that it won’t spread.  Rates in all the local boroughs have been fluctuating – one has a couple of bad weeks and then its rates drop again, whilst another sees its rates fall right down but then go up again – but there’s been nothing to worry about for weeks … but you now have to wonder if the trend over the last few days, up in most places, might continue.

Vaccination booking’s opening up to people aged 37, then people aged 36.  As happened in Blackburn last week, the authorities in Bolton wanted to open it up to anyone aged over 16, but Westminster put the kibosh on it.

Why Bolton, again.  We’re hearing the usual lines about “deprivation” and “multi-generational housing” and “unable to work from home”, but they apply equally and probably even more so to, say Oldham, than to Bolton, and the infection rate in Oldham is currently below the national average.  Well, this time, it’s clearly happened because someone, or presumably several someones, brought the Indian variant back from the Indian sub-continent and spread it, but people from loads of areas must have been to the Indian sub-continent in the last couple of months.

Bedford’s rate is worse than Blackburn’s.  Is it something about places beginning with B?!  But the media seem to want to focus on the North West.

 

Tuesday, May 18th

Fans are back inside Old Trafford tonight, for the Fulham match!   Sadly, not me, yet – only 10,000 people – but how great to see anyone there.

The holiday company have cancelled all trips departing up to and including July 15th.  But mine is July 18th.  So I am still in limbo.  I can’t see it going, and I do understand that they can only deal with so many things at once, but they really need to give people more notice.

The whole travel situation is a muddle.  A government health minister and the Welsh First Minister are both saying that no-one should be going on holiday even to “green” countries.  Boris and Matt Hancock are both saying that no-one should be going on holiday to “amber” countries.  And does that invalidate insurance policies?  But some people have been told that, as there’s no ban on going to “amber” countries, they won’t get refunds on existing bookings if they cancel.  There’s also a feeling that the system’s unfair to people who have to go to work and therefore haven’t got the option of deciding to “take” the 10 day quarantine on return.  A straight green/red split would cause arguments with people genuinely needing to travel on business, or who’ve got loved ones abroad.  Incidentally, why were so many people travelling to and from the Indian sub-continent in February, March and April?  Don’t tell me it was all “essential” travel.  In the middle of it all is the poor beleaguered travel industry.

There’s also the issue of people coming here.  It’s all being talked about in terms of British tourists jetting off for a fortnight of sun, sand and sea (which is so not me anyway!), but what about all the overseas tourists we’d usually expect in the Lake District, London, York, Bath, Edinburgh etc?

Some universities are continuing with online lectures, and may do so in the autumn term as well.  Given what happened in September, it’s probably wise, but I’m so sorry for all the students missing out on a proper university experience.

And we’ve now got the virtue-signallers saying that it’s wrong to criticise people who’ve chosen not to be vaccinated.   This comes after Andrew Lloyd Webber said that refusing to be vaccinated was like drink driving.

 

Wednesday, May 19th

Now that hotels are open, I’ve booked to go to the Lakes for the weekend.  However, the weather forecast has now changed, and Sunday looks distinctly wet.  Gah!!  Needless to say, it looks much better for Monday and Tuesday, which is no help.  It’s no wonder people want to go abroad!

The Indian variant’s now been found in a number of other places, in different parts of the country.  No mention of it being anywhere else in Greater Manchester yet, but rates are shooting up in several boroughs.  And it’s spread from Blackburn to Burnley.

Someone’s got the lovely job of analysing sewage to see where it’s spreading!

The good news is that the vaccines do seem to be effective against it, but we can only vaccinate people so quickly.  And trials of booster jabs are to start.

And another royal baby is on the way!  Princess Beatrice is expecting in the autumn.

 

Thursday, May 20th

Infection rates in our borough had been falling for weeks.  They were below the national average.  Now, suddenly, they’ve doubled in a week.  And most cases are in an area which borders the borough of Bolton.  No mention of the Indian variant as yet, but it’s in about 80 different areas, including Tameside.

The holiday company, presumably in response to a lot of phone calls and e-mails from frustrated customers like my good self, has issued an “open letter” asking people to bear with them.   This is not helpful.

Easyjet are saying that it’s fine for people to go to amber list countries.  Boris says it isn’t.  Someone’s said they turned up at the airport to board a flight to Spain, only to be turned away because Spain isn’t yet accepting UK tourists.  OK, he should have checked, but it was irresponsible of the airline not to warn him.  And umpteen flights a day are operating between the UK and India, which is on the red list.  This really is silly.

People aged 34 and 35 are now able to book their first jabs.  And Prince William’s had his.

I’m having my hair cut and dyed tonight.  One of those things you just used to take for granted!

 

Friday, May 21st

It has rained all day.  However, tomorrow should hopefully be better.

Nicola Sturgeon – how that woman does annoy me – has said that people from Scotland shouldn’t go to Bolton, Blackburn or Bedford.  And that people from Bolton, Blackburn and Bedford shouldn’t go to Scotland.  How exactly does she propose to enforce that?!

Surge vaccinations are being carried out in some areas locally, even though we were being told last week that they wouldn’t be.   And surge testing’s being carried out in a number of areas nationwide, not that it seems to help much.  The good news is that hospitalisations and deaths aren’t going up.

 

Saturday, May 22nd

Hooray!   I finally got to stay overnight in the Lakes!  To stay overnight anywhere, for the first time since October.  And it didn’t rain.  I went to Coniston this morning, and went on a boat trip there.

 

Then went to Hawkshead, then Wray Castle.

 

Then on to Grasmere.  It was actually sunny by late afternoon!

Then I watched the Eurovision Song Contest in my room.  How sad am I?  I wish we’d stop funding it – the voting’s political, no-one votes for us, and yet we pay!  Italy won.  It’s still a good laugh, though.   Hotel Covid protocols still in place.

Cases in Bury are sky-rocketing.  From a low level, so nothing horrendous, but it’s a very worrying trend.  A lot of it seems to be in schools, again.  And Germany has banned British tourists due to the Indian variant.

But how lovely to have a weekend away!   The hotel was fully booked – everyone’s desperate for a break.

 

Sunday, May 23rd

It poured down first thing, but it went off, so I had a walk round Grasmere.

Then it rained again, but wasn’t raining much by the time I went to Allan Bank, which has now reopened.

 

And then it was dry whilst I was at Bowness and Sizergh Castle, so that wasn’t bad at all, and it was a nice day.

 

I was expecting to be able to go round the actual castle, now that indoor attractions have reopened, but no.   Limited numbers of people are allowed into the grounds and you have to book a time slot, which I’d done, but only limited numbers of those limited numbers are allowed into the houses, time slots to be booked on arrival, and, as it was mid-afternoon when I got there, there were none left.  This sort of thing is really, really annoying.    OK, it’s not the National Trust’s fault that there’s a pandemic, but I’m not surprised that people are cancelling memberships.   Not being able to have a breakfast buffet or even order at the bar in hotels is annoying too.

Got home in time for the second half of United v (at) Wolves.  We won 2-1.  Nice to end the league season on a high, and we’ve gone through the whole league season unbeaten away.  We finish 2nd.  Liverpool and Chelsea get the other 2 Champions League spots, Leicester missing out.

 

 

The road to freedom? Week 7, May 10th to 16th 2021 inclusive

Monday, May 10th

Boris has confirmed that, as of a week today:

  1. Hugging will be allowed again.  As long as you make informed decisions and hug safely.  What a crazy world we find ourselves in, being given instructions about hugging!  But, hooray, hugging is back on.
  2. Hotels, hostels and B&Bs can reopen.
  3. Sports stadia can reopen, but only to limited numbers.
  4. Cinemas, theatres, museums, indoor seating at eating and drinking places, etc, can reopen.
  5. Masks will no longer be required in schools.
  6. Face to face teaching at universities can resume.
  7. People can meet indoors, and stay overnight at other people’s homes, as long as no more than either six people or two households are involved.
  8. Up to thirty people can meet outdoors, and attend weddings, christenings, bar mitzvahs etc.
  9. Saunas and steam rooms can reopen, and indoor exercise classes can restart.

We’re officially moving from “level 4” to “level 3”.

More details to come on what may or may not happen on June 21st, but he seems optimistic that all restrictions will end then.  (Which is good, except that that may mean an end to working from home, which I am dreading.)

The holiday company have said that they’ll extend my payment deadline.  I assume this means that they’re still waiting for their international head office to make decisions about July.  Oh well, at least it’s something.

And we’re guaranteed a top 4 finish after West Ham lost last night.

 

Tuesday, May 11th

Ugh.  With 4 matches in 8 days, I can’t blame Ole for fielding a weakened team tonight … but we lost to Leicester, 2-1, and that handed City the title.  OK, they deserve it, but … hmm!

Still no news from the holiday company on anything past the end of June.

I am sick of the weather!  One minute it’s sunny, the next it’s pouring down or hailstones are coming down.

And I am worried about the situation in Bolton.  The attitude in the national media is that the pandemic’s all over bar the shouting, and I’d love to think that, but the infection rate in Bolton has sky-rocketed to 133.5 per 100,000.  It’s very localised – the rates in neighbouring Bury, Wigan and Salford are 20.4, 24 and 31.7 respectively – and, even within Bolton, it’s only affecting certain wards, but it does show how quickly this can still spread.   It’s the Indian variant that’s doing it, which, given what happened with the Kent variant, is very concerning.

 

Wednesday, May 12th

Still no updates from the holiday company.

We have had thunder, lightning, torrential rain, hailstones and glorious sunshine today.  Yesterday was the same.  It is doing everyone’s heads in.  The only thing less predictable than the weather is my weight, which randomly goes up and down from day to day, but never keeps going down 😦 .

Infection rates in Bolton keep going up.  And those in Hyndburn are even worse – that was originally put down to an outbreak at a school in Accrington, but it’s clearly a lot more than that.  It seems pretty clear that people have travelled to and from India and Pakistan (before they were red-listed) without quarantining, which is incredibly irresponsible, but it’s done now.  There are also concerns over case rates in parts of Yorkshire.  The only good thing is that it’s mainly amongst young people, and hasn’t led to any deaths or an increase in hospitalisations.

If this were happening in London, it would be the headlines of the news.

People aged 38 and 39 are now able to book vaccinations.

And Rafa beat Sinner 7-5, 6-4, in a rather stressful match in Rome!

 

Thursday, May 13th

Lost 3-2 to Liverpool.  Not very pleased!

It was reported earlier that,  Blackburn, which has also got issues with the Indian variant, everyone over 18 was being invited to book their jabs, but apparently someone got the wrong end of the stick.  Meanwhile, the situation in Bolton is not good.   It’s only in three wards, but it’s getting worse and worse.   I hope that the irresponsible people who went to India and Pakistan and then didn’t quarantine when they got back are pleased with themselves.  Has the North West not suffered enough?   And now Glasgow seems to be having similar problems.  And there are fears that the June 21st relaxation of restrictions may have to be rethought.

I actually managed to avoid being out in the rain today, but only because I went out early due to the tennis … which ended up being a very long and stressful match in which Rafa eventually beat Shapovalov 3-6 6-4 7-6 (7-3).  Poured down again later.

The painter can paint the ceiling, but he doesn’t know when.

And there is still no news from the holiday company.

 

Friday, May 14th

Boris has said that the roadmap’ll go ahead as planned for now, but that we don’t yet know very much about this wretched Indian variant affecting Bolton, Blackburn and elsewhere, so he can’t say for sure that the June 21st changes will go ahead.  That’s fair enough.  Second doses are to be brought forward, but only for over 50s.   And testing’s to be ramped up in Bolton and Blackburn.  At the risk of sounding like Mario Balotelli, why is it always the North West?

Second doses are to be brought forward, but, unfortunately for me, only for those in the first 9 groups.

Boss was mithering about wanting people to go back to the office.  I am dreading this.  Decent firms will take into account what people want, but the operative word is decent.

Rafa beat Sascha, 6-3 6-4 🙂 .  And now plays Opelka.  But it’s raining in Rome, so everything’s a bit messed up at the moment.

The Champions League final will now be held in Porto.  It would be far more sensible to hold it at either Wembley or Villa Park, both of which were suggested, but UEFA threw a hissy fit after being told that a load of bigwigs whose presence would be totally unnecessary wouldn’t be allowed to enter from high-risk countries without quarantining.

 

Saturday, May 15th

Well, this should have been a lovely day … even though we’ve still got blue sky one second and monsoons the next.  Around 20,000 fans were allowed into Wembley for the Cup Final, I was delighted that Leicester won the Cup for the first time in their history, beating Chelsea 1-0, and I felt like a proud auntie watching Kasper Schmeichel lifting the Cup!   The players had to pick up their own medals, but Prince William was allowed to present the actual trophy.

And Rafa beat Opelka, 6-4 6-4, to reach the Italian Open final … although the bad news is that he’s playing Nole.

And I had a lovely morning at Nostell Priory.  Cygnets and garlic!!   And National Trust houses are reopning next week.

 

But … I could cry when I see pictures of the Army on the streets of Bolton and Blackburn, conducting mass testing.  Miserable scientists are saying that Monday’s reopening should be cancelled.  Yet again, hope has turned to concern.  There’s been an increase in hospitalisations in Bolton – thankfully, we’re only talking about a small number of people, but it’s a big increase in percentage terms.  And it’s nearly all people who are old enough to have had their first jab, but haven’t done.  So bloody irresponsible.  Over 95% of over 45s have had their first jabs, but, as we keep being told, until everyone’s safe, no-one’s safe.  Formby – why Formby, of all places? – is also affected, as are parts of Nottingham and London, and also Glasgow.  There are fears that the Indian variant could be 50% more transmissible than the Kent variant, and that’s bad enough.  Thankfully, there’s no talk yet of local restrictions, but this is very worrying indeed.

And it was all going so well …

It’s still, touch wood, OK elsewhere in the region.  Rochdale’s up a bit, but nothing concerning.  But these things do tend to spread.  And we can’t take any more.

 

Sunday, May 16th

🙂 🙂 🙂 – Rafa beat Nole, 5-7 6-1 6-3, to win the Italian Open!  Rome isn’t Paris, but Rome is still Rome!

I went into town today.  If town/city centres are to recover, the stupid Sunday trading laws have really got to go.  There were queues and crowds waiting for shops to open.  Yes, they’ll be open at 9am or 10am tomorrow, but that’s no use to most people.  Scrap the stupid Sunday trading laws, now!!   Anyway, I had a nice walk round and some pan amb oli al fresco:

However, I could not find anything to wear for my cousin’s wedding.  If it goes ahead – 3 months to go, and they don’t know whether they’ll be allowed 30 people, 50 people or as many people as they like, and whether that’ll be just for the meal or for dancing as well.  Now that Debenhams, BHS, Wallis and Dorothy Perkins have gone, the choice seems to be between M&S (clothes seem designed for Holly Hobbie – cannot believe they sell stuff like that), Selfridges etc (fine if you are in possession of a good fortune, as Jane Austen might say) or places like River Island and Next (do not seem to cater for anyone over 25 and larger than a size 10)!

Rangers fans have been causing trouble.  Some things never change.

And it seems the vaccines do work against the Indian variant.  It sounds like a 1920s thriller – The Indian Variant.   The vaccine versus the virus.  If we can just get everyone vaccinated … .  Everyone over 30 should hopefully be able to book their first jab next week.

 

The road to freedom? Week 6, May 3rd to 9th 2021 inclusive

Bank Holiday Monday, May 3rd

OK, it had to rain some time, but did it have to come down in sheets and buckets on a Bank Holiday, as if places like Blackpool and the Lakes haven’t lost enough money already?!  The only good thing was that it came in from the west, so, as I’d booked somewhere in Yorkshire (Brodsworth Hall) for today, I got a nice hour and a half walk round the gardens before it got really wet.  And I hadn’t got much planned for this afternoon anyway.  And Brodsworth was lovely.

It looks as if some holidays abroad will be possible soon.  And that most of Europe will admit people who’ve had both jabs.  But I can’t see my tour of Iceland happening.  Iceland is very reluctant to let people in, coach tours are complicated because they rely on everywhere on the itinerary being open, and the tour company need to make a final decision at least 8 weeks in advance.  And, as much as I want to go, this is an expensive trip, and I don’t really want to spend a load of money on something that’s going to be compromised by restrictions.  I can go to the Lakes for a week, and go to some different places.  But I feel like I’ve already lost a year of travel, of different places, different cultures, different experiences, and don’t want to lose another year.  But, when I go abroad on my own, it’s usually city breaks where I spend most of the time visiting historic sites, palaces, cathedrals, etc, and I’m not sure how possible that’s going to be.  Beach and pool holidays may well be on, but they’re not my thing.  I get bored, I worry that someone will nick my stuff whilst I’m in the pool, I feel like everyone’s thinking how fat I am and how weird I am for being on my own, and I can’t be doing with hordes of noisy people.  Also, this is a messy year for holidays due to evil work not letting us have time off when we want.  And I really need a break in the summer.

Also, today’s a reminder that it would be nice to go somewhere with guaranteed good weather.  Hmm.

The Oktoberfest’s already been cancelled.  Not that I want to go and drink Bavarian beer, but it doesn’t suggest much optimism for how things are going to go.

Restrictions on numbers of mourners at funerals are to be lifted on May 17th.  Social distancing may or may not end on June 21st.

And I could swing for the minority of idiots who caused trouble at yesterday’s protests.  Two police officers were hurt – one suffering quite a nasty facial wound.

Not a word have the Glazers uttered.  I didn’t expect them to ride out on horses to meet the protesters, like Richard II at the Peasants’ Revolt (not least because they’re 3,000 miles away, which is part of the bloody problem), but say something, for crying out loud.

 

Tuesday, May 4th

Weather horrible again, although not as bad as yesterday.  The wind’s blown the blossom off the trees in the park, where I took my WP profile photo last year.  It looks rather pretty.

The plasterer can come on Saturday morning … which is rather a pain, as it messes up my free day, but it’s that or wait indefinitely!

Not a lot else to report.

 

Wednesday, May 5th

The weather has gone completely berserk.  Last night, we had hail and sleet.  We’ve now got blue sky and sunshine.

Rafa beat Alcaraz, 6-1 6-2, in Madrid.  One of the Amazon Prime commentators called the young lad “Alcatraz”.  Unfortunately, that might stick!

It’s being reported that traffic is back to pre-pandemic levels.  If you ask me, it’s worse!   There are more supermarket delivery lorries because people have got used to doing online shopping, and I think people are either nervous about using public transport or else have got used to commuting/doing the school run by car rather than by bus/train/tram, because there certainly seem to be a lot more cars on the road at busy times.  Bleurgh!

Canada’s become the first country to OK vaccines for 12 to 15 year olds.

And it’s being reported that large numbers of people flying back to the UK from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, all of which are on the red list, are dodging quarantine by stopping off in Turkey.

 

Thursday, May 6th

Europa League Final, here we come … even if we did make a meal of it by losing 3-2 at Roma!  Sadly, Arsenal weren’t able to make it 4 out of 4 for English teams (it’s City v Chelsea in the Champions League Final): instead, we’ll play Villareal.

Covid Election Day.  A lot of people ordered postal votes, but I rather like going to the polling station, thinking about the suffragettes, the Chartists and Peterloo as I walk down there.  I can’t get excited about local elections – whichever party wins, the council will still make the traffic situation worse rather than better – and the mayoral election result’s a given, but still. BYOB – bring your own biro.

Meanwhile, stupid French fishermen are trying to start a war with Jersey, and the weather is still crazy.

Rafa beat Popyrin, 6-3 6-3 – and has been named Laureus World Sportsman of the Year 🙂 .  Naomi Osaka’s been named World Sportswoman of the Year.

My payment deadline for the Iceland tour which I’m 99% sure won’t be happening is now under two weeks ago.  I’ve e-mailed the holiday company to ask what’s going on, and am waiting for a reply.  I know this is a nightmare situation for them, but they need to let people know.  And the Government need to let people know about this “green list”, which it seems likely will initially just be Israel, Gibraltar, Portugal, Malta and some of the Spanish and Greek islands.  They also need to confirm that the May 17th reopening is going ahead.  Hotels, cinemas, restaurants etc haven’t had the official go-ahead yet.  It’s getting ridiculous.

And there are problems in Bolton again .  Hyndburn’s got the highest infection rate in the country, which isn’t very good, but apparently that’s due to an outbreak at a school in Accrington so can be contained.  But Bolton’s got the next highest, and that’s due to clusters of the Indian and South African variants.  FFS.  Why have people been allowed to travel to high-risk countries?   It does seem to be very localised, with rates in neighbouring boroughs close to the national average, but I still haven’t got over the whole area being penalised for high rates in Rochdale last July.

 

Friday, May 7th

Iceland is on the green list.  I still can’t see the trip running, but I cannot get a straight answer from the holiday company, who just say to assume it’s running until advised otherwise.  Even with the green list, there’ll be queues at airports, and Iceland wants you to be vaccinated, and … oh, this is all very frustrating.  If it’s cancelled, it’s cancelled, but I need to know, and they won’t tell me!   You can’t get to speak to the bigwigs, and the people who answer the phone don’t know any more than I do.  I could just cancel it myself, but … I’m not sure that I’m ready to make that decision.  But the payment deadline is fast approaching.   Portugal, Gibraltar and Israel are also on.  And Australia and New Zealand, which won’t let us in!   Turkey is now red-listed, making the idea of playing the Champions League final in Istanbul even sillier.  For heaven’s sake, play it at Villa Park.  Villa have said they’re happy to stage it.

Rafa lost to Sascha in the Madrid QFs.  Bah.

The Glazers have issued a statement.  About United, I mean, not about Rafa or holidays!  It doesn’t say very much.

“The Conservatives have taken Hartlepool” – now there’s something I never thought I’d say!  The by-election was held under unfortunate circumstances, the previous MP having to resign due to allegations of inappropriate behaviour, but it’s been positive in that it’s focused attention on the old industrial heartlands of the North.  For far too long, politicians have only been interested in what the metropolitan elite want, and that has to change.  Last autumn, with all the Tier 3 business going on, it looked as if nothing had changed at all, but we seem to have moved on from that quite quickly.  And it won’t be forgotten that it was Andy Burnham, other northern mayors, and northern MPs from all parties standing up for us – it wasn’t Keir Starmer.  I feel a bit sorry for Starmer, trying to clear up Corbyn’s mess, and during a pandemic, but his idea of campaigning in Manchester was to pose by some rolls of wallpaper in the Trafford Centre.  No-one cares about Boris’s wallpaper.  We want jabs, jobs and travel.   And it has all got very personality-based, and Boris is certainly not lacking in charisma.

It now seems that the Astra Zeneca vaccine will not be offered to most under 40s.  I hope this doesn’t hold the vaccination programme up.  Hopefully not, now we’ve got supplies of the Moderna vaccine as well as the Pfizer.

 

Saturday, May 8th

In the least surprising of all the election results, Andy Burnham was re-elected Mayor of Greater Manchester, with 67% of the vote.  The mayoral elections have been very interesting – both there and elsewhere, they’ve been far more about the person than the party, and Andy’s said that he wants to take a “place first not party first” approach.  I have to admit that I wasn’t initially convinced about this regional mayor idea, but it does seem to be working out well.  As I keep saying, we’ve had enough of politics being all about London.  Mixed picture with the council elections, but the overall picture is gains for the Conservatives, losses for Labour.  Not impressed with the low turnout.  Labour have retained control of the Welsh Senedd.  The SNP have won the largest number of seats in the Scottish Parliament, and are whingeing about wanting another referendum.

It has rained for most of the day.  So frustrating, when you’ve been trapped with work all week.  However, I couldn’t have gone out first thing anyway, because the plasterer was coming to sort out the hole in the kitchen ceiling (from the Easter pipe disaster).  It is now a brown splodge rather than a hole.  Next job is to try to get the decorator to come and paint it white.  And I did get out to Hollingworth Lake for a bit, when the rain eased up.

Really fed up with the holiday company.  As much I want to go on this trip to Iceland, I don’t want to spend all that money if it’s going to be spoilt by restrictions.  I’m also stressed because my second jab will be pretty close to when I’m due to go, and I gather that the NHS app is a nightmare.  Then there are the issues of long queues at airports and PCR tests.  At the moment, my thinking is that a summer staycation may be better, and then a trip abroad in the autumn, if one can be sorted.  But I can’t do anything until the holiday company give me a straight answer – and, this close to the payment deadline, I’m entitled to expect one.

Bolton have been promoted to League 1 … as Rochdale go the other way, ironically.

 

Sunday, May 9th

We came from behind to win 3-1 at Villa.  So we just need one more point to secure a top 4 finish.  And City still aren’t champions.

The weather brightened up today, and I went to Erddig, which was lovely.  So nice to be able to walk somewhere with no crowds and (in the gardens) no dogs!  And to drive without traffic jams and traffic lights.

My weight is a disaster.  Every time I lose a couple of pounds, they go back on.  What am I supposed to do?  Starve?

Still no news from the holiday company.

And, finally, it looks like we will get confirmation tomorrow that the May 17th reopenings can go ahead.  And it sounds as if we’ll be given permission to hug our relatives and friends, as long as we’ve made “informed personal decisions” to do so.  If you didn’t laugh, you’d cry!  Did you ever think you’d be living in a world in which you couldn’t hug your loved ones without politicians giving you the go-ahead to do so, and making “informed personal decisions”?!  Not even George Orwell came up with that one.  I’m not criticising the restrictions, just thinking how far we’ve come from the world we lived in all our lives until 14 months ago.  Covid World!

The road to freedom? Week 1 , March 29th to April 4th 2021 inclusive

Lockdown

Monday, March 29th

Well, this is day on on The Roadmap To Freedom, but I feel a bit out of things.  Mum and Dad have been to London to be reunited with my sister and brother-in-law and the kids, and other people have been meeting family and friends or playing outdoor sport, and I’ve just been chained to the office laptop or going for a walk in the park!   Roll on Good Friday!   The powers that be have said it’s OK to travel around the country to see family and friends, so I don’t see why I shouldn’t have a day out, as long as I stay outdoors.

The Novavax vaccine will hopefully be available by June.

Well, let’s just hope there are no more lockdowns.  Enough is enough.

 

Tuesday, March 30th

Another warm, sunny day. Loads of people in the park. And the lowest weekly death toll since October.

The situation in Europe is worrying, though.

Oh, roll on Good Friday, when I’ll be able to get a taste of this freedom, all being well!! It can’t come soon enough!!

 

Wednesday, March 31st

Second jabs outnumbered first jabs for the first time today.  I feel a bit like a third class citizen now – full vaccinated people, first jab people, and the rest of us!!

Another warm, sunny day, with loads of people in the park.  Please, please stay dry for the Easter weekend.

It looks as if France could be heading back into lockdown, and things in the Netherlands aren’t too clever either.   Thankfully, we’re doing OK – touch wood.  Well, over 50 deaths a day, which is hardly “OK”, but compared to over 1,000 a day, at the peak of the second wave, things have improved very significantly.

 

April Fools’ Day/Maundy Thursday, April 1st

Typical, just as we get towards the Bank Holiday weekend, it goes cold again!  But it’s dry, touch wood.

Shielding ends today.

France is indeed back in lockdown.  But we’re remaining steady, at around 4,500 to 5,000 new infections and 40 to 50 deaths per day.  And we should be allowed back into Wales soon, hooray!  And we beat Poland 2-1 last night, so fingers crossed for World Cup qualification.

Hooray, at last I feel like I can join the roadmap to freedom, four days after everyone who wasn’t trapped with work crap!!

But … we’re now being told that, when cafes etc reopen on April 12th, everyone’s got to sign in, and have their details kept for 21 days.  What, even for sitting outside?   That’s just put me right off!!    Oh well, let’s not worry about that just now …

 

Good Friday, April 2nd

Hooray!   I have finally made it back to Windermere!   It’s been so long.   I drove up to Bowness this morning, and had a bit of time there.  And the weather was glorious!

Then I got the steamer across to Waterhead/Ambleside.  I thought the steamers’d be busy, but they weren’t.  They only restarted yesterday, in the end, and they said that yesterday was just dead.  I think a lot of people are confused about these “minimise travel” rules, and, also, people possibly didn’t realise that anything at Windermere would be open.  But it got busier later.  Fingers crossed for a good spring and summer.  As bad as things here have been, it’s been far, far worse for tourist areas.  The cafes here have been busy doing takeaways, but most of those at Windermere only reopened today.  In fact, I got the Waterhead Coffee Shop’s first blueberry scone since they had to close due to lockdown!

The daffodils at Borrans Park were out!  And then I came back on the Swift, the new steamer which was only launched last year – my first trip on her.

Then I had more time in Bowness … oh, my lovely, beloved Bowness, how I have missed you!

And then I went to Sizergh Castle on the way home.  I love daffodil season at Sizergh!

And there were lambs!  Well, there were also loads of lambs in the fields off the M6 and the A591, but I couldn’t very well take photos whilst I was driving!  Sizergh lambs:

Oh, how I needed that.   It’s frustrating not being able to go abroad, but not being able to travel within the country’s been far, far worse.  Let’s hope we don’t ever go back there.

In other news, I’m sorry to hear that Sachin Tendulkar’s in hospital with Covid, and there’s a row going on here over vaccine passports.  If they try to introduce vaccine passports for football grounds, theatres etc now, when most under 50s are unable to get vaccinated, it will be incredibly unfair and cause a lot of trouble.  Once everyone’s been offered a vaccination … I don’t know.  The idea of having to show papers, and denying certain people access … it does smack a bit of Nazi Germany, and that’s what people are uncomfortable about.  We’ll see.

Anyway.  Gold star for the weather, and, oh, how I have missed Windermere!! 

 

Saturday, April 3rd

This morning was cloudy, and then we had glorious sunshine by late afternoon.  The other way round would have been better, but never mind!  I went for a walk round town this morning.  It’s April, and it was the first time I’d been into town this year – how crazy is that?!  Very quiet.  I don’t know what else I expected, given that non-essential shops, theatres, cinemas, museums etc are all closed, but it was weird.

However, all being well, non-essential shops will be reopening a week on Monday, as will hairdressers and outdoor seating at cafes/pubs/restaurants.  Boris is due to give a press conference on Monday night, confirming whether or not it’ll go ahead, but I don’t see why it shouldn’t.  We “only” recorded 10 Covid deaths yesterday, although obviously it was a Bank Holiday.  We may also get some news on the vexed question of vaccine passports.  Boris is the last person you’d expect to back something like that, but apparently he does.  And there’s also talk of a “traffic light” system for foreign travel – meaning the same palaver as last year, with things being moved on and off lists at the last minute.  But it seems very unlikely that the April 12th easing won’t go ahead.  Roll on haircuts!   

 

Easter Sunday, April 4th

It looks as if both the “traffic light” system for foreign travel and the vaccine passport system will be going ahead, with the passport system to be trialled at the Carabao Cup final and various other events.  Ugh.  But, by the time the new football season starts, everyone should have had at least their first jab.

Meanwhile … just as life seemed to be looking up at last, I came downstairs this morning to find water coming through the kitchen ceiling for the THIRD time in a year.  I slipped on it, and whacked my knee and arm on the wooden floor.  Then I took the cover off the light fitting, to try to see what was going on, and, in my agitated state, dropped it, whereupon it smashed to smithereens.  So I have now got no cover for the light, water coming through the ceiling, a ceiling that needs repainting again, and a bruised knee.  I think it’s the bath this time, not the shower.  I was going to ring the emergency plumber – of course, it just had to happen on Easter Day, when hardly anyone’s working – but they charge a fortune, and last time the guy made a mess of the job and I had to get him to come back.  So I’m hoping to get the ordinary plumbers next week. and am hoping fervently that the dripping gets no worse.

After all this, I had complete hysterics and rang my poor mum and dad in floods of tears.

Bleurgh.

Once I’d mopped the floor, mopped up the tears and put a bucket down, I turned to chocolate. Some people have said their supermarkets are short of Easter eggs this year, but I’m pleased to say that ours isn’t.  Here is my Easter egg, with its accompanying Malt-Easter bunnies:

I then went to Biddulph Grange, as planned.  I was very sad not to see the woodland walk in daffodil season last year, but here it is in all its glory, this year:

Also, they had Easter special hot cross scones:

I then stopped at Alderley Edge on the way home:

So that was all very nice.  But I now need to get:

  1. A plumber.
  2. The decorator (again).
  3. The electrician (for the light fitting).
    And it was all fine this time yesterday.  Why does life throw you curveballs like this?  And I keep panicking about what’ll happen when I have to go back to being Trapped in the office and something like this happens.

And, on top of all this, there are fears that the French Open might be postponed.  If that idiot Macron spent a bit more time trying to deal with the virus situation in France and a bit less time making Anglophobic remarks, things might not be in this mess.  But they are. 

But we beat Brighton, 2-1.  Sadly, nothing is going to stop City from winning the league, but fingers crossed for a top four finish this year.

 

Lockdown III Week 10, March 8th to 14th 2021 inclusive

Monday, March 8th

Kids went back to school today.  And you’re now allowed to meet one other person outdoors, without going for a walk.  Let’s just hope that there are no more issues with schools.  Secondary school kids now have to be tested 9I mean for the virus, not school stuff!) twice a week.

Worrying news from Poland, where infection rates are up by around 30% in a week, and there’s talk of a “third wave”.

Some rain earlier, but sunny now.

And I’d intended to watch the Harry and Meghan interview, just out of curiosity, but we’ve heard most of what they said and I’m not sure that I want to dignify their lies by spending time watching it.  For example, they’ve claimed that Archie was denied a title.  WTF??  He was supposed to be the Earl of Dumbarton, but they said that they wanted him to be plain “Master”.  There are numerous similar examples.  It’s all deeply unpleasant, and I’m very sorry that the Queen’s having to deal with their vindictiveness at her age.

It’s also Commonwealth Day.  And International Women’s Day.

And another day of marking time.  I’m usually deep into holiday planning at this time of year.

 

Tuesday, March 9th

That miserable pair Chris Whitty and Patrick Vallance have said that there’ll probably be a third wave of the virus in the UK at some point.  I think they want us locked down until kingdom come.

Horrible weather’s forecast for the rest of the week.  Bleurgh 😦 .  Just hope it’s decent over Easter weekend.

Rates locally and nationally continue to fall, as, more importantly, do deaths and hospitalisations, but the picture in parts of Europe, including Italy, is very worrying, with cases rising again.

Japan’s said that no overseas fans will be allowed at the Olympics.  I think I can forget my October coach tour of Japan, which I was originally supposed to go on last year.  I booked it in the autumn of 2019, and I was so excited and so much looking forward to it, and the same with my summer trip to Iceland.  I’ve got a load of books on both countries in the spare room wardrobe.

 

Wednesday, March 10th

Wet and windy today.  At least it meant that there was no queue for drinks at the park café!  I hope it doesn’t do this over Easter weekend, though, just when people will be reuniting with relatives and friends.

Just watching Dan Evans v Roger Federer.

Cases are rising rapidly in Hungary and the Czech Republic, as well as Poland.

 

Thursday, March 11th

Strong winds and heavy rain overnight.  Brightened up later, although it stayed windy, but it’s raining again later.  I got drenched in the park yesterday (despite my brolly) and windswept today.  Several people have remarked on the fact that I go out walking even when the weather’s awful and hardly anyone else does.  So why am I still so fat?!!  It’s not fair 😦 .

United v AC Milan is one of those glamour ties you dream about, even if it is in the Europa League and not the Champions League.  I’m grateful that I can watch it on telly, but it’s not the same as being there.  Later … finished 1-1, conceded an away goal in injury time, bah!!

And the eternally miserable Mark Drakeford – does that man ever smile? – wants to keep a “stay local” order in force in Wales, even when the “stay at home” order’s lifted.  And I don’t think he wants to let people from England into Wales ever again.  Will I ever see Chirk Castle, Bodnant Garden, Llangollen and Erddig again?!  Will the tourist businesses in places like Llandudno, which depend on visitors from North West England, ever make any money again?!

On a happier note, some daffodils are out in Heaton Park.

 

Friday, March 12th

Hmm.  Mark Drakeford may be miserable, but he’s said that hairdressers in Wales can reopen on Monday, four weeks before they’re reopening in England.  I’m sorely tempted to nip over to Wrexham – the state of my hair must surely class an emergency!!  He’s also said that self-catering holiday accommodation in Wales can reopen at the end of March … but not to people from other parts of the UK.  I’m not very comfortable about this.  Not that I want to go to a holiday cottage in Wales in March, but just the whole thing.

Very windy again today.

Italy’s going back into lockdown.

I feel like I’m just waiting.  Waiting to be allowed out.  Waiting until it’s my turn to be vaccinated.  Just waiting.  But rates in our borough are right down to 77 now (touch wood).  Above the national average, which is around 52, but the lowest they’ve been since … it must be September, if not August.

 

Saturday, March 13th

Hooray!!  There are usually plenty of daffodils out at Dunham Massey by mid-March, so I’d booked to go today, but was rather upset when the forecast was for rain and wind.  However, although there’ve been a few bad spells, it was fine whilst I was there, and there were indeed lots of lovely daffodils.  I was so excited!  I’m a bit obsessive about daffodils 🙂 .  *And* they had scones.

We’re supposed to be “staying local as much as possible” after the “stay home” rule’s lifted on March 29th, but I really have had enough – and people who are trapped in offices need to make the most of Easter weekend.  Anyway, we’ll see how it goes.  Please, weather, just behave …

Salford’ve won the 2020 EFL Trophy.  The 2021 final’s tomorrow!

Most of the daffodils in Prestwich Flower Park are out too.  They weren’t on Monday, so that’s quick!

Two friends who are both in my age group have had their vaccinations today.  It varies across the country, depending on demographics, and plenty of friends in their early 50s, i.e. the group before mine, are still waiting,  but I’m getting a bit impatient now.

Cases in the Netherlands are now on the up, as well as Italy and East/Central Europe.  This isn’t good.  But, this morning, my heart with pleasure fills (“filled” doesn’t rhyme) and danced with the daffodils.

 

Sunday, March 14th

Went to the park this morning.  Some of the daffodils in the woods are out.

Unfortunately, it then absolutely poured down from about 1 o’clock to half 4.  Yes, there are books, newspapers, magazines, TV programmes and films, but I feel so trapped by work stuff during the week (although not nearly as much as I do when I’m trapped in an office) and am really not good at sitting in the house at weekends.  Just hope it doesn’t do this over Easter weekend.  On a happier note, United 1-0 West Ham!

There’ve been big anti-lockdown protests in the Netherlands.

Everyone is really, really fed up.  This has gone on and on and on.  The good news is that around 45% of the population’ve now had their first vaccinations, and I’m just desperately hoping that this is our way out of it.  People are really struggling.  And it’s Mother’s Day/Mothering Sunday today, when a lot of families like to hold get-togethers.

Murray Walker died.  I hadn’t realised he was 97.  Seems like only yesterday that he was still doing Formula 1 commentary.

In the middle of it all, a huge row’s broken out after the Met Police rather badly mishandled a vigil-cum-protest on Clapham Common, following the abduction and murder of a woman there last week.  The suspect’s a serving police officer.  People were told not to attend the vigil/protest, because of the lockdown restrictions, but many did anyway, and it somehow all went wrong and there’ve been some very unpleasant pictures of policemen removing women quite aggressively.   They didn’t try to stop Black Lives Matter protests, or try to stop those idiots from Extinction Rebellion from blocking the streets, and it’s also been pointed out that no-one tried to stop crowds of Rangers fans from celebrating their SPL title victory last week.

Ten weeks of lockdown.  And weeks of Tier 3/Tier 4/Lockdown II before that.  And it’s almost a year since we went into the first lockdown.   I see things sometimes, pictures of huge crowds at football matches, or at concerts, or cheering at parades, or even crowds of people on public transport, and wonder when we’ll ever get back to any sort of normality.   Sometimes, even now, it still feels unreal that this is happening.