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.

Lockdown III Week 6, February 8th to 14th 2021 inclusive

Monday, February 8th

Hooray, the Australian Open has started.  My sleep patterns are being disrupted and I am totally stressed out about Rafa’s injury problems.  This is normal.  Hooray – something is normal!  Cracking match between Denis Shapovalov and Jannik Sinner.  Just such a shame that they had to meet in the first round.

It’s wonderful to see crowds in … but, although it’d been agreed that 30% of tickets could be sold, the place didn’t look anything like 30% full.  That suggests that people are nervous.

Due to the Australian Open, I went to Tesco this evening (in a snow shower!), rather than going tomorrow morning.  The store has been “revamped”.  Everything has been moved round, in a completely illogical way.  Neither customers nor staff know where anything is.  Some marketing consultants in London have no doubt been paid a fortune for deciding that cordial/squash should be put at the opposite end of the shop to all the other soft drinks, and that the shelves where it used to be should now contain toilet roll instead.  Why?  Why??

The studies regarding the “South African variant” are only small-scale, but it does look as if the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine, and probably the Janssen/Johnson & Johnson and Novavax vaccines too, are less effective against it than against other strains.  They’ll still protect against serious illness, which is the main thing, but not against mild illness.  And, even if the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine’s OK against this, the horrible virus seems to be so clever that it’ll probably mutate in a way that’ll outsmart that too.  Viruses do mutate, and vaccines can be tweaked, but doom merchants are saying that the “South African variant” will take over the UK and probably the world, and that we’ll be in lockdown until the summer/2022/the end of time.  The Government’s telling everyone to stay calm, but it’s certainly worrying news.  Every time we seem to be getting towards the finishing line in this pandemic, something else happens.

City and Liverpool have both got to play their away legs against German teams in Budapest, as the German authorities won’t let any British teams in.  My holiday company have cancelled everything up to and including the end of April now.  Matt Hancock had been talking about a “Great British Summer”, but now both he and Jonathan Van-Tam are saying that it’s too soon to talk even about staycations.

Later – oh, FFS.  Not only are 7 of the 10 local boroughs now above the national average infection rate, but now there’s a Moss Side Mutant.  It’s a mutant of the Kent mutant.  Only 4 cases, but “surge testing” is starting in Moss Side and neighbouring areas.  First Liverpool and Bristol, now Manchester 😦 .  I assume that mutations are happening in other countries too, and it’s just that we’re doing extra genomic sequencing (or whatever the correct term is) here, and being honest about it?   But, just a few days ago, optimism was rising, because the vaccination rollout was going so well, and now … snakes and ladders, and we seem to have gone down another snake.

 

Tuesday, February 9th

I should be getting ready to board a crowded tram and head off to Old Trafford, to watch United v West Ham in the Cup along with 78,000 other people.  Instead, I’ll be watching it on the telly.  Oh well.

After all the stress over Rafa’s bad back, he beat Djere in straight sets 🙂 .  It’s a very tough draw, with both Tsitsipas and Medvedev looking very strong today, but one match at a time.

More snow fell overnight, but it’s gone now.

And, in virus news, people returning from “red list” countries will now have to pay £1,750 to stay in a quarantine hotel, and face fines of up to £10,000 and even a jail sentence if they break the rules.  Having said which, a woman’s told the papers how, on returning to London after visiting her mother in South Africa, she was able to walk out of Heathrow airport without being asked for either her passenger locator form or her proof of a negative virus test.  Not very good, is it?

Travelling is so, so important to me, and I’ve been fortunate enough to go to so many wonderful places.  I’ve got photos all over the house of me at the Taj Mahal, Macchu Pichu, Gettysburg, Red Square, Tiananmen Square, Table Mountain, the Pyramids, the Mount of Olives, the Venice Carnival (sadly cancelled this year, again), a glacier on the Jungfrau, etc etc.  When I got back from the Viennese Christmas markets in December 2019, I started to get excited about my planned trips to Iceland for July 2020 and Japan for October 2020, buying guidebooks and history books and historical novels, and learning some basic Icelandic words and phrases.  This is my life … and now it isn’t.  For the last four months, I haven’t even been able to go on a day trip to Blackpool.  I hate not being able to go to the Lakes.  I haven’t seen my sister and brother-in-law and nephews since August.  I haven’t been to a football match since last March.  I haven’t been to the theatre or the cinema since last February.  I haven’t even sat in a café since October.  Yet I’m chained to the office computers for the best part of five days a week, and I’ve still got all the housework to do.  I know I’m moaning, but I think we’re all entitled to moan.

Our Europa League match at Real Sociedad has been moved to Turin, and Arsenal’s at Benfica has been moved to Rome.  Italy will exempt professional sports players from quarantine.  As flights from Portugal to the UK are currently suspended, Arsenal’s “home” leg will be played in Athens.  This is getting a bit barmy.

To finish on a happy note, Princess Eugenie’s given birth to a baby boy 🙂 .  Mother and son both doing well 🙂 .

Later – hooray, we’re into the Cup QFs, after beating West Ham 1-0.  Dire match, and it went to extra time, but never mind!

 

Wednesday, February 10th

More snow today, but, thankfully, it hasn’t stuck.  Chelsea’s match at Atletico Madrid has been moved to Bucharest.  Moving football matches is one thing, but Jurgen Klopp’s been told that he can’t go to Germany to attend his mum’s funeral.  I understand that the virus doesn’t care what your reasons for travelling are, but it seems so cruel.

Having been told that by Matt Hancock and Boris that we could look forward to a “Great British Summer”, we’ve now been told by Grant Shapps and Jonathan Van-Tam that no-one should be booking anything.  One MP’s accused Shapps of killing people’s hope.  That’s exactly how it feels.  Morale is pretty low.   And there’s more and more talk about “vaccine passports” – Israel is going to let people who’ve been vaccinated back into hotels and gyms, and some countries are saying that they’ll admit tourists who’ve been vaccinated – which is very demoralising if you’re not in one of the priority groups.

Prince Charles and Camilla have had their first vaccinations.  The WHO’s backed the use of the Oxford AstraZeneca jab.  Serbia’s bought vaccines from Russia and China, and is now steaming ahead of the EU countries.

And I am fat.

 

Thursday, February 11th

Hooray, comfortable win for Rafa over Michael Mmoh.  He now plays Cam Norrie.  It does stress me out when he plays British players: I feel like I’m about to be carted off to the Tower of London for treason for wanting the Brit to lose, LOL.

Very cold today, but very sunny too.  The lake in the park looked amazing, frozen over and with yesterday’s snow still on it, and you could see Saddleworth Moor (photo on the right) and Kinder Scout (left), both covered in snow.

But, lovely as it was, it was so frustrating, because we can’t go anywhere.  Windermere must have looked glorious today.  This is dragging on and on, and tempers are fraying.  We were told that we’d get some news on the “roadmap” out of lockdown on February 22nd.  Now we’re being told “the week of February 22nd” – which could mean February 28th!  I feel very sorry for Boris.  If he doesn’t do as the scientists say, and death rates go up again, everyone will be yelling and screaming that he’s got blood on his hands and it’s all his fault for not doing as the scientists say.  But the scientists want us locked down indefinitely.  Their view seems to be that lockdown should continue until infection rates come right down.

And it’s not happening.  Rates here are plateauing.  They’re actually going up in Bolton, due to a spike in Horwich.  We’ve been told that the vaccination programme, as well as it’s going, is having no effect on infection rates as yet.  Yes, I know that it’s supposed to take three weeks before the first vaccine dose offers any protection, but a lot of infections are amongst younger people, the ones most likely to be out and about, and it’s going to be late summer before younger people get their first jab.

The scientists also say that viruses don’t go by the calendar, so giving dates for reopening is inappropriate.  And, fair point, viruses don’t go by the calendar.  But how long are we going to keep businesses shut, the state paying people’s wages, tourist resorts’ economies going down the pan, and kids out of school?  Not to mention the mental health impact.  There’s going to come a time where people start asking what the hell the point of all this is, if we’re not being given any idea of how and when we move forward.

I really do feel sorry for Boris.  It’s just an impossible situation.

 

Friday, February 12th

Chinese New Year.  Hmm.

Oh no!!   13 cases of the wretched virus have been identified in Melbourne, all linked to a quarantine hotel.  So the state of Victoria is back in lockdown.  The tennis can continue, but behind closed doors.  What a rotten shame, after 5 lovely days (crowds were allowed in today) of having fans back in.  Well, nearly 5 days – people were booted out in the middle of the Djokovic v Thiem match, because it was getting towards midnight.  Like some bizarre version of Cinderella.

The R number nationwide is now below 1, but cases are rising in Bolton, and are now starting to rise in the borough of Bury … still down week-on-week, but up on earlier this week.  Officials in Bolton say that it’s mainly amongst people of working age, which makes sense. – and the same thing’s happening in Liverpool.  Some jobs cannot be done from home, and that applies far more in the North West than in, say, London.  And some workplaces are open when they jolly well shouldn’t be.  Sometimes, however hard you try, you can’t reduce the risk entirely.  And some places just aren’t bothering about Covid safety: the authorities can hardly inspect every small workplace, and people are frightened to speak up because there’s so little job security at the moment.  And places that are open when people could be working from home are hardly likely to prioritise safety anyway.  It’s a huge problem.  Vaccination is not going to stop this until younger people have been vaccinated.  If the bloody tier system is brought back, what happens to us then?

Lots of groups are demanding priority for vaccination.  Teachers.  Firefighters.  Shop staff.  Public transport drivers.  They’ve all got a very valid case, but it’s just not possible to prioritise everyone.  London police (it would be the London police) are now threatening legal action, like teaching unions did.  FFS, we need to be working together here, not threatening legal action.

And the economy shrank by nearly 10% last year.

Still cold and sunny.

 

Saturday, February 13th

Rafa beat Cam Norrie (I do hate it when he plays British players – I end up feeling like I’m about to be carted off to the Tower of London for high treason) 🙂 … but now plays Fabio, against whom he does tend to struggle.

I was very glad to have the tennis to watch because, otherwise, I’d have got very upset over the fact that a sunny Saturday in mid-February would have been the perfect day on which to see the snowdrops at Chirk Castle.  Boris is supposed to be coming up with this “road map” on February  22nd, but heaven knows when travel restrictions will be lifted.  If he reintroduces the bloody tier system, I’m going to stage a revolution …. if Andy Burnham doesn’t beat me to it.   I don’t feel too bad, but I know that my anxiety levels are high because I’m getting a lot of anxiety pains and I’m crying over things which wouldn’t normally get to me.  Several friends have said that they’re finding things very hard.  And there’s nothing that anyone can do.  There are all these “lockdown tips” about meditation or yoga or whatever.  I do not need to meditate.  I need to see my sister and brother-in-law and the kids, and my uncle and cousins, and I need to go to the Lake District.

I was hoping that, today, I might actually get some time to read, catch up on the TV backlog, and sort out photos … but I ended up spending ages on the phone to Sky, who’d messed up my bill for the second time in three months, and ages throwing warm water over the boiler condenser pipe. which, despite having insulation stuff on it to stop it freezing, had, er, frozen.  It was quite satisfying when a huge lump of ice shot out of it.  But it was a terrible waste of time.  And water.

Both Matt Hancock and Boris have said that we’re going to have to learn to live with Covid, but the scientists are saying that we need to eliminate it entirely.  I think they want us locked up for ever more.   The economy, people’s mental health and children’s education can’t take much more.  There’s going to be a load more moaning when tax allowances are frozen in the Budget, but the money for the furlough scheme and the small business grants has got to come from somewhere.   I actually saw one ridiculous article saying that we should just print more money!  What, like the Weimar Republic did?  What rubbish.

Tennis and football tomorrow.  The Six Nations is going on too, and the cricket.  So glad that we’ve got sport to focus on!

 

Sunday, February 14th

As hoped, 15 million people in the UK have now received their first jab.  Pretty much everyone in the top four groups has been offered a jab.   Good news!

63 Tory MPs have said that all restrictions should be lifted by May.  That’s going too far – we can’t have hordes of unvaccinated people packed into nightclubs, or 500 guests at weddings – but we really cannot go on like this.  Public opinion hasn’t turned against the lockdown yet, but we do need this “road map” out of it.   I know it’s an impossible situation, but education, employment and mental health are all becoming serious concerns.

One of our local councillors rang me today.  They are apparently concerned about how people are coping in these difficult times, and want to make sure that people are OK and ask if they need any help.  It’s eleven months since we first went into lockdown, and now, just as elections are coming up, councillors are concerned about people … funny, that!   We had quite a nice chat, though.

My weight is a disaster.  2lbs off.  Hooray!  2lbs straight back on.  WHY??!!

The Premier League is also turning into a disaster: we only managed a 1-1 draw at West Brom.  Not a great day in Melbourne either: much as I like to see Grisha (Dimitrov) doing well, I would rather he hadn’t thrashed Dominic (Thiem), because Dominic was the one with the best chance of beating Nole.  Sascha Zverev, over to you.  Rafa and Fabio have got a day match tomorrow, so I’ve set the alarm for stupid o’clock!

The WHO team in Wuhan don’t seem to be getting very far with getting information.  Will we ever find out how this nightmare started?

On a happier note, Prince Harry and Meghan are expecting another baby.

Six weeks of Lockdown III.

 

Free tea, anxious toes, Handforth headlines, BYOB and repaying Sybil

We now live in a world in which TV travel programmes feature the delights of … Weatherfield.  Seriously.  I’m not holding my breath for sojourns to exotic climes this year, but I’m hoping that, by the summer, I’ll at least be able to go a bit further than Media City.  Not that there’s anything wrong with Media City, I hasten to add.  Joanna Lumley, who was presenting the programme, was very lucky to be able to sit in the Rovers Return with Ken Barlow, because future scripts are being rewritten, so it looks as if the Rovers’ll be back to doing takeaways only.  Rather like The Coffee Sack near chez moi.  I have only recently discovered that the said Coffee Sack does the most lovely scones.  However, this morning, when I went in, disaster struck.  There were no scones.  The man said that, not expecting many customers in this awful weather, he’d only made half a dozen, and someone had come in and bought the lot.  How dare they?!

I must have looked so devastated, even behind the mask, that he said I could have a cup of tea for free.  I did offer to pay for it – it’s not as if he’s contractually obliged to provide me with a weekly scone, after all – but no, he insisted.  Free tea, to make up for the disappointment!   How nice is that?  It’s little things like that which make this very difficult time bearable.  As for the person who bought six scones, I shall assume that they were either a) very hungry or b) part of a large household, rather than that they were planning anything nefarious.  Welcome to Lockdown-land, in which buying six scones could be construed as being suspicious.  Anyway.  Three cheers for free cups of tea!

(Apologies for anyone who’s got this in WP reader and can see it three times, but the good news is that I’ve now worked out that the Facebook app wants big pictures and small titles.  It used to prefer small pictures.  So I now need to post with a big picture and small title, share it on Facebook, then change the picture to a larger one and, if necessary, add in the rest of the title.  It never used to be so difficult!!)

As for anxious toes, one of the many weird things about living with anxiety is that random bits of you start to hurt even though there isn’t very much physically wrong with them.  On Thursday night, whilst moving the furniture in the front room around so that I could hoover, I stubbed my toe on the settee.  Ouch.  Then I woke up at two o’clock in the morning, in so much pain with this toe that I had to take two ibuprofen.  I knew jolly well that it was anxiety pains and not actual pains, because stubbed toes do not still hurt eight hours later, but this is what happens.  It can be knees, backs, stomachs, whatever.  I don’t even know exactly what it was all about, and this is something else that happens.  Was it anxiety about how fat I am?  Scones aside, I am really trying hard to lose weight, but it’s not working 😦 .  Was it because my car was going in for its MOT that day?  Was it to do with phone updates (these stress me out like mad)?  Was it to do with the Australian Open?  Quite possibly: I am extremely stressed about Rafa’s bad back.  But I don’t actually know.  So, if anyone’s reading this, and knows how to read the minds of anxious toes, do please let me know.

Pretty much everyone’s a bit stressed out at the moment.  That’s why it’s so nice to be on the receiving end of an act of kindness such as the free cup of tea.  It was particularly nice because there has been quite a bit of nastiness around in recent days.  The worst of it was from the small minority of people who tried to use the death of Captain Sir Tom Moore to attack the government and score political points, and even, in the case of one vile vicar, to accuse the whole country of being racist.  What is wrong with some people?  Whatever your political views may be, don’t start dragging the death of a lovely, kind-hearted old man who lifted everyone’s spirits into them.  I just hope that the Moore family weren’t too upset by it.

Please be nice to people.  It’s upsetting to be criticised because you’ve bought something from Amazon, even though most other shops are closed and it’s none of anyone else’s business where you buy from anyway, or for trying to cheer yourself up with a nice cake which happened to be served a polystyrene box, and even more upsetting when, after congratulating someone on their work being featured in a national newspaper, someone attacks both of you because the newspaper concerned doesn’t meet with their approval.  Then there are the people slagging off anyone hoping to go on holiday this summer as being irresponsible.  These comments come from people who live in rural areas and don’t work, needless to say, not from people who are chained to office computers for five days a week and are getting rather tired of only being able to walk round housing estates and the same local parks in their little free time.   We need a break, OK.

But there are a lot of lovely people out there.  And free tea is much appreciated!

Rest in peace, Captain Sir Tom.  You were a wonderful man.  And I was also sad to hear of the death of Christopher Plummer.  I would so have married Captain von Trapp, although I’m not sure about taking on seven children.  And, yes, I do know that he got frustrated about for ever being associated with The Sound of Music, but what a wonderful film with which to be associated!  I just typed “to be associated with”, looked at it in horror, and correct it!

To go back to the MOT, hooray, my car passed without needing anything more than a new windscreen wiper blade.  Strange times at the garage, though.  No chairs for customers.  Everything to be taken out of the car.  And I was sent several e-mails asking me to drive to the garage with all the windows open, to let the air circulate, but I’m afraid that I ignored those.  The garage is only three miles away, but there are a lot of traffic lights between here and there, and sitting in a stationary car with all the windows open is really not a good idea, especially when you’re a lone female.  Sorry, garage.  But I did stick to all your other rules.

Other things happening this week have included a video of a meeting of Handforth Parish Council going viral.  You know, Handforth, where the big John Lewis is?  Remember that, from the olden days, when we used to do things like going to shops.  I met my cousin for a drink in the cafe there once.  Remember those days?  Not only could you go into shops, but you could sit down in cafes, and you could even meet your friends and relations!   I feel like I should have the Hovis advert music playing.

Local elections are to go ahead, but it’ll be BYOB.  No, not bring your own bottle.  Bring your own biro.

And there’s also been talk of extending the term over which the government support loans for businesses hit by restrictions are to be repaid.  There are two different types of loans available to affected small businesses, depending on which one best suits their circumstances – the bounceback loans, and the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loans.  Due to HMRC’s obsession with acronyms, the latter are known as CBILs, pronounced “Sybils”.  We are in a severe economic crisis, thanks to this horrible virus, and it’s feared that up to 15% of small businesses may not survive.  There’s certainly nothing funny about it.  But, every time I hear someone going on about “Sybils”, I half-expect Prunella Scales to turn up and start shouting at John Cleese to repay his loan.  A small hotel would definitely need a loan.  But let’s hope that we’ll be back in small hotels, or any other accommodation of your choice, this summer.

In the meantime, here’s to tea and scones.  Oh, and I got a scone from M&S in the end.  But the ones from The Coffee Sack are nicer!  I shall be back there next week, at whatever time best fits in with the night session at the Australian Open, hoping for better luck 🙂 .

 

 

(This is here twice because I was trying to get the picture to display on Facebook!)

 

Free tea, anxious toes, Handforth headlines, BYOB and repaying Sybil

We now live in a world in which TV travel programmes feature the delights of … Weatherfield.  Seriously.  I’m not holding my breath for sojourns to exotic climes this year, but I’m hoping that, by the summer, I’ll at least be able to go a bit further than Media City.  Not that there’s anything wrong with Media City, I hasten to add.  Joanna Lumley, who was presenting the programme, was very lucky to be able to sit in the Rovers Return with Ken Barlow, because future scripts are being rewritten, so it looks as if the Rovers’ll be back to doing takeaways only.  Rather like The Coffee Sack near chez moi.  I have only recently discovered that the said Coffee Sack does the most lovely scones.  However, this morning, when I went in, disaster struck.  There were no scones.  The man said that, not expecting many customers in this awful weather, he’d only made half a dozen, and someone had come in and bought the lot.  How dare they?!

I must have looked so devastated, even behind the mask, that he said I could have a cup of tea for free.  I did offer to pay for it – it’s not as if he’s contractually obliged to provide me with a weekly scone, after all – but no, he insisted.  Free tea, to make up for the disappointment!   How nice is that?  It’s little things like that which make this very difficult time bearable.  As for the person who bought six scones, I shall assume that they were either a) very hungry or b) part of a large household, rather than that they were planning anything nefarious.  Welcome to Lockdown-land, in which buying six scones could be construed as being suspicious.  Anyway.  Three cheers for free cups of tea!

As for anxious toes, one of the many weird things about living with anxiety is that random bits of you start to hurt even though there isn’t very much physically wrong with them.  On Thursday night, whilst moving the furniture in the front room around so that I could hoover, I stubbed my toe on the settee.  Ouch.  Then I woke up at two o’clock in the morning, in so much pain with this toe that I had to take two ibuprofen.  I knew jolly well that it was anxiety pains and not actual pains, because stubbed toes do not still hurt eight hours later, but this is what happens.  It can be knees, backs, stomachs, whatever.  I don’t even know exactly what it was all about, and this is something else that happens.  Was it anxiety about how fat I am?  Scones aside, I am really trying hard to lose weight, but it’s not working 😦 .  Was it because my car was going in for its MOT that day?  Was it to do with phone updates (these stress me out like mad)?  Was it to do with the Australian Open?  Quite possibly: I am extremely stressed about Rafa’s bad back.  But I don’t actually know.  So, if anyone’s reading this, and knows how to read the minds of anxious toes, do please let me know.

Pretty much everyone’s a bit stressed out at the moment.  That’s why it’s so nice to be on the receiving end of an act of kindness such as the free cup of tea.  It was particularly nice because there has been quite a bit of nastiness around in recent days.  The worst of it was from the small minority of people who tried to use the death of Captain Sir Tom Moore to attack the government and score political points, and even, in the case of one vile vicar, to accuse the whole country of being racist.  What is wrong with some people?  Whatever your political views may be, don’t start dragging the death of a lovely, kind-hearted old man who lifted everyone’s spirits into them.  I just hope that the Moore family weren’t too upset by it.

Please be nice to people.  It’s upsetting to be criticised because you’ve bought something from Amazon, even though most other shops are closed and it’s none of anyone else’s business where you buy from anyway, or for trying to cheer yourself up with a nice cake which happened to be served a polystyrene box, and even more upsetting when, after congratulating someone on their work being featured in a national newspaper, someone attacks both of you because the newspaper concerned doesn’t meet with their approval.  Then there are the people slagging off anyone hoping to go on holiday this summer as being irresponsible.  These comments come from people who live in rural areas and don’t work, needless to say, not from people who are chained to office computers for five days a week and are getting rather tired of only being able to walk round housing estates and the same local parks in their little free time.   We need a break, OK.

But there are a lot of lovely people out there.  And free tea is much appreciated!

Rest in peace, Captain Sir Tom.  You were a wonderful man.  And I was also sad to hear of the death of Christopher Plummer.  I would so have married Captain von Trapp, although I’m not sure about taking on seven children.  And, yes, I do know that he got frustrated about for ever being associated with The Sound of Music, but what a wonderful film with which to be associated!  I just typed “to be associated with”, looked at it in horror, and correct it!

To go back to the MOT, hooray, my car passed without needing anything more than a new windscreen wiper blade.  Strange times at the garage, though.  No chairs for customers.  Everything to be taken out of the car.  And I was sent several e-mails asking me to drive to the garage with all the windows open, to let the air circulate, but I’m afraid that I ignored those.  The garage is only three miles away, but there are a lot of traffic lights between here and there, and sitting in a stationary car with all the windows open is really not a good idea, especially when you’re a lone female.  Sorry, garage.  But I did stick to all your other rules.

Other things happening this week have included a video of a meeting of Handforth Parish Council going viral.  You know, Handforth, where the big John Lewis is?  Remember that, from the olden days, when we used to do things like going to shops.  I met my cousin for a drink in the cafe there once.  Remember those days?  Not only could you go into shops, but you could sit down in cafes, and you could even meet your friends and relations!   I feel like I should have the Hovis advert music playing.

Local elections are to go ahead, but it’ll be BYOB.  No, not bring your own bottle.  Bring your own biro.

And there’s also been talk of extending the term over which the government support loans for businesses hit by restrictions are to be repaid.  There are two different types of loans available to affected small businesses, depending on which one best suits their circumstances – the bounceback loans, and the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loans.  Due to HMRC’s obsession with acronyms, the latter are known as CBILs, pronounced “Sybils”.  We are in a severe economic crisis, thanks to this horrible virus, and it’s feared that up to 15% of small businesses may not survive.  There’s certainly nothing funny about it.  But, every time I hear someone going on about “Sybils”, I half-expect Prunella Scales to turn up and start shouting at John Cleese to repay his loan.  A small hotel would definitely need a loan.  But let’s hope that we’ll be back in small hotels, or any other accommodation of your choice, this summer.

In the meantime, here’s to tea and scones.  Oh, and I got a scone from M&S in the end.  But the ones from The Coffee Sack are nicer!  I shall be back there next week, at whatever time best fits in with the night session at the Australian Open, hoping for better luck 🙂 .

 

 

(This is here more than once because I was trying to get the picture to display on Facebook.  The picture display went funny after a recent app update.  But I sorted out.  But now it transpires that the work-round only works on posts with small titles.  So I’ll now have to share long-titled posts on Facebook with abbreviated titles, then put the long titles back.  Oh well!)

 

Free tea, anxious toes, Handforth headlines, BYOB and repaying Sybil

We now live in a world in which TV travel programmes feature the delights of … Weatherfield.  Seriously.  I’m not holding my breath for sojourns to exotic climes this year, but I’m hoping that, by the summer, I’ll at least be able to go a bit further than Media City.  Not that there’s anything wrong with Media City, I hasten to add.  Joanna Lumley, who was presenting the programme, was very lucky to be able to sit in the Rovers Return with Ken Barlow, because future scripts are being rewritten, so it looks as if the Rovers’ll be back to doing takeaways only.  Rather like The Coffee Sack near chez moi.  I have only recently discovered that the said Coffee Sack does the most lovely scones.  However, this morning, when I went in, disaster struck.  There were no scones.  The man said that, not expecting many customers in this awful weather, he’d only made half a dozen, and someone had come in and bought the lot.  How dare they?!

I must have looked so devastated, even behind the mask, that he said I could have a cup of tea for free.  I did offer to pay for it – it’s not as if he’s contractually obliged to provide me with a weekly scone, after all – but no, he insisted.  Free tea, to make up for the disappointment!   How nice is that?  It’s little things like that which make this very difficult time bearable.  As for the person who bought six scones, I shall assume that they were either a) very hungry or b) part of a large household, rather than that they were planning anything nefarious.  Welcome to Lockdown-land, in which buying six scones could be construed as being suspicious.  Anyway.  Three cheers for free cups of tea!

As for anxious toes, one of the many weird things about living with anxiety is that random bits of you start to hurt even though there isn’t very much physically wrong with them.  On Thursday night, whilst moving the furniture in the front room around so that I could hoover, I stubbed my toe on the settee.  Ouch.  Then I woke up at two o’clock in the morning, in so much pain with this toe that I had to take two ibuprofen.  I knew jolly well that it was anxiety pains and not actual pains, because stubbed toes do not still hurt eight hours later, but this is what happens.  It can be knees, backs, stomachs, whatever.  I don’t even know exactly what it was all about, and this is something else that happens.  Was it anxiety about how fat I am?  Scones aside, I am really trying hard to lose weight, but it’s not working 😦 .  Was it because my car was going in for its MOT that day?  Was it to do with phone updates (these stress me out like mad)?  Was it to do with the Australian Open?  Quite possibly: I am extremely stressed about Rafa’s bad back.  But I don’t actually know.  So, if anyone’s reading this, and knows how to read the minds of anxious toes, do please let me know.

Pretty much everyone’s a bit stressed out at the moment.  That’s why it’s so nice to be on the receiving end of an act of kindness such as the free cup of tea.  It was particularly nice because there has been quite a bit of nastiness around in recent days.  The worst of it was from the small minority of people who tried to use the death of Captain Sir Tom Moore to attack the government and score political points, and even, in the case of one vile vicar, to accuse the whole country of being racist.  What is wrong with some people?  Whatever your political views may be, don’t start dragging the death of a lovely, kind-hearted old man who lifted everyone’s spirits into them.  I just hope that the Moore family weren’t too upset by it.

Please be nice to people.  It’s upsetting to be criticised because you’ve bought something from Amazon, even though most other shops are closed and it’s none of anyone else’s business where you buy from anyway, or for trying to cheer yourself up with a nice cake which happened to be served a polystyrene box, and even more upsetting when, after congratulating someone on their work being featured in a national newspaper, someone attacks both of you because the newspaper concerned doesn’t meet with their approval.  Then there are the people slagging off anyone hoping to go on holiday this summer as being irresponsible.  These comments come from people who live in rural areas and don’t work, needless to say, not from people who are chained to office computers for five days a week and are getting rather tired of only being able to walk round housing estates and the same local parks in their little free time.   We need a break, OK.

But there are a lot of lovely people out there.  And free tea is much appreciated!

Rest in peace, Captain Sir Tom.  You were a wonderful man.  And I was also sad to hear of the death of Christopher Plummer.  I would so have married Captain von Trapp, although I’m not sure about taking on seven children.  And, yes, I do know that he got frustrated about for ever being associated with The Sound of Music, but what a wonderful film with which to be associated!  I just typed “to be associated with”, looked at it in horror, and correct it!

To go back to the MOT, hooray, my car passed without needing anything more than a new windscreen wiper blade.  Strange times at the garage, though.  No chairs for customers.  Everything to be taken out of the car.  And I was sent several e-mails asking me to drive to the garage with all the windows open, to let the air circulate, but I’m afraid that I ignored those.  The garage is only three miles away, but there are a lot of traffic lights between here and there, and sitting in a stationary car with all the windows open is really not a good idea, especially when you’re a lone female.  Sorry, garage.  But I did stick to all your other rules.

Other things happening this week have included a video of a meeting of Handforth Parish Council going viral.  You know, Handforth, where the big John Lewis is?  Remember that, from the olden days, when we used to do things like going to shops.  I met my cousin for a drink in the cafe there once.  Remember those days?  Not only could you go into shops, but you could sit down in cafes, and you could even meet your friends and relations!   I feel like I should have the Hovis advert music playing.

Local elections are to go ahead, but it’ll be BYOB.  No, not bring your own bottle.  Bring your own biro.

And there’s also been talk of extending the term over which the government support loans for businesses hit by restrictions are to be repaid.  There are two different types of loans available to affected small businesses, depending on which one best suits their circumstances – the bounceback loans, and the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loans.  Due to HMRC’s obsession with acronyms, the latter are known as CBILs, pronounced “Sybils”.  We are in a severe economic crisis, thanks to this horrible virus, and it’s feared that up to 15% of small businesses may not survive.  There’s certainly nothing funny about it.  But, every time I hear someone going on about “Sybils”, I half-expect Prunella Scales to turn up and start shouting at John Cleese to repay his loan.  A small hotel would definitely need a loan.  But let’s hope that we’ll be back in small hotels, or any other accommodation of your choice, this summer.

In the meantime, here’s to tea and scones.  Oh, and I got a scone from M&S in the end.  But the ones from The Coffee Sack are nicer!  I shall be back there next week, at whatever time best fits in with the night session at the Australian Open, hoping for better luck 🙂 .

 

 

(This is here more than once because I was trying to get the picture to display on Facebook.  The picture display went funny after a recent app update.  But I sorted out.  But now it transpires that the work-round only works on posts with small titles.  So I’ll now have to share long-titled posts on Facebook with abbreviated titles, then put the long titles back.  Oh well!)

 

Lockdown III Week 4, January 25th to 31st 2021 inclusive

 

Monday, January 25th

Boris says that all adults in the UK will have been offered a first dose of the vaccine “by the autumn”.  What does that mean?  The beginning of September?  Or later?

Pressure’s growing for answers on when schools might reopen, but the Government just can’t answer that.  Data out today shows that teachers haven’t been affected any more than the population in general, but I doubt that that’ll stop the teaching unions from moaning.  Male factory workers are, sadly, most likely to have died from the virus.

Israel’s banning all international flights for a fortnight.  There’s talk of doing that here, or of using quarantine hotels like Australia’s doing.  I don’t understand why so many people are travelling.  There’ve been pictures of long queues at Heathrow.  The people in them weren’t in uniform, so they clearly weren’t airline crew staffing cargo flights.  And don’t tell me that they were all travelling for “essential work” purposes.  Some of them were kids!   Some people are being fined for driving 20 miles from Preston to Bolton and yet others are jetting off on holiday.  It’s not on.  How do they get away with it.

All Debenhams shops are to close permanently, although the “brand” has been taken over and will continue online.

On a happier note, more mass vaccination centres have opened, including one at the Blackpool Winter Gardens and one on Lancaster Cathedral.

More snow overnight.   Luckily, most of it’s melted now.  It looked very pretty under the blue sky, but I need to get to Tesco and M&S tomorrow!

And we really are terribly well-behaved in this country 🙂 .  There’ve been riots in the Netherlands, after the Dutch government announced new restrictions!

 

Tuesday, January 26th

The UK death toll from the pandemic passed 100,000 today.  We’ll never know the real death toll.  There’ll be people in the “official” figures who died of other things but had tested positive for the virus within 28 days.  There’ll be people who died of the virus but hadn’t had a test within 28 days, or (in the early days) at all.  There’ll be deaths caused indirectly by the virus – treatment for other conditions delayed, or, especially amongst elderly people in care homes, not allowed visitors, mental deterioration leading to physical deterioration.  But, comparing the expected/average death figures since the pandemic started with the actual death figures, 100,000’s probably about right.  A hundred thousand people.  All leaving behind devastated relatives and friends.

To put it into additional perspective, around 40,000 people were killed in the Blitz.

I actually cried when Sky News said 100,000.  We knew it’d be today, but the number just hit me.  A hundred thousand people.

I’m never sure how reliable the various figures are (I don’t believe any of the statistics that’ve come out of Russia, China or Iran), and I know that every country’s recording virus deaths differently, but some figures for deaths per million people, on what seems to be a reliable website, are – Belgium 1812, Slovenia 1618, UK 1474, Czech Republic 1448, Italy 1424, Bosnia-Herzegovina 1391, USA 1277, Peru 1218, Spain 1194, France 1082, Sweden 1070, Brazil 1031, the Netherlands 777, Germany 639, Rep of Ireland 602, India 112, Australia 25, New Zealand 5.

The political points-scorers are busily blaming Boris.  And, yes, mistakes have been made.  We should have closed our borders last February.  We should have locked down earlier.  But we weren’t that far after a lot of other countries.  Maybe we reopened too early.  But then so did a lot of other countries.  The second wave hit Spain long before it hit us.  And Sweden never really locked down at all.  Lockdown issues have certainly played a part.  But there has to be other stuff going on too.  The obvious answer is that it’s to do with population density, and concentration of population in urban centres.  Other demographic issues may also be involved – age, ethnicity.  Could occupations be a factor?  And travel? –  a lot of people pass through London, in particular, and a lot of people use crowded public transport to get to work.  Other health issues? – to do with demographics, climate, diet? I don’t know.  But someone needs to find out.

We need to know why the UK has been so badly hit.  And we, in the North, and especially in the North West, need to know why our region has been so badly hit.

Further to the Snapfish saga, they have, at the third attempt, managed to print the order correctly.  However, they sent it in two different envelopes (they often do this, I know not why) and only one has arrived.  They do occasionally get separated in the post and arrive on different days, so I’m just hoping that the rest turn up tomorrow.

The car was iced up so badly when I went out (to go to Tesco and M&S) this morning that I couldn’t even open the doors until I’d cleared the ice.  Later, it warmed up a bit, but poured down.  No-one is feeling great at the moment.  Cold rain does not help.

And, on a happier note, my brother-in-law’s mum and dad (in the 70-74 age group) both had their first doses of the vaccine today.

 

Wednesday, January 27th

Oh FFS.  City won last night, to take top spot ahead of us.  Tonight, we were playing Sheffield United who, with all due respect to them, had only won one match all season … until tonight, when they beat us 2-1.  Bloody hellfire 😦 .

No update on any sort of plan even to begin easing restrictions until the end of February.  And schools won’t reopen until March 8th at the earliest.  And then it’ll be, hey, a few rural areas, off you go, and to hell with other areas.  What is to be done to help kids in the worst-affected areas?   There’s been some talk of cancelling the summer holidays, but there’s no way teachers’ll agree to that.  And WHEN will we be able to travel even within the UK?

A few examples of infection rates (which I know aren’t the only factors involved, but we don’t get breakdowns by area of the other stats:

Knowsley 882, Sandwell 808, Slough 753, Brent 677, Birmingham 597

Hyndburn 568, Carlisle 544, Norwich 465, Southampton 404

Manchester central 356, Bristol 331, Bury 316, Leeds 294, Sheffield 240, Newcastle 238

… and then right down to NE Lincs on 100, and Torridge (Devon) 51

 

There are all sorts of rows going on over vaccine supplies.  Pfizer/BioNTech and AstraZeneca are both struggling to meet existing orders.  I’m sure they’re doing their best, but Germany’s threatening to stop Pfizer exports and Italy’s threatening to sue.  The EU is trying to control all member states by imposing some sort of joint vaccine supply programme, although Hungary (good for Hungary!) has gone its own way and ordered supplies from Russia.  The EU also seems to think that its orders should be prioritised over everyone else’s.  Their deal with Astra Zeneca wasn’t made until three months after the UK’s, but, a bit like Verruca Salt in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, they are stamping their feet and screaming “I want it now” (well, not quite, but not far off).  Talk about selfish and petulant.  And vaccine supplies to North West England, and other parts of the North, are to be reduced by a third, and supplies diverted to London, which is running behind.

Quarantine hotels are to be brought in, but only for people entering from certain countries.  Oh FFS.  It takes weeks and weeks before mutant strains are identified.  For all we know, mutant strains could currently be on the loose in France or Germany or Outer Mongolia or anywhere.  And why are so many people travelling anyway?

On the positive side, the rest of my Snapfish order has arrived.  And one of the park cafes has said that they’re introducing a 20% discount for regulars, which I class as!  And it’s been dry, and a lot warmer than usual.

Theoretically, things should feel better once we get more daylight and warmer weather.  And yet then it’ll hurt even more, because then I’ll be missing things.  I should be going to Rode Hall for the snowdrop walks next week.  Then to see the snowdrops at Chirk Castle, my pre-birthday treat.  And maybe to Rufford Old Hall and Arley Hall.  Then to Bettys in Ilkley, to see the Easter eggs and cakes.  Then into daffodil season – first Chirk, then Biddulph Grange, and then, most importantly of all, the Lakes.  Then the lambs, at Tatton Park and Bolton Abbey.  Then into bluebell season, Capesthorne Hall and Erddig and the Windermere west shore.  Will I get to do any of that?  The virtue signallers make you feel guilty for saying things like that, but more and more people are saying that they’re struggling.

 

Thursday, January 28th

Infection rates in our borough dropped below 300 yesterday.  5 of the 10 Greater Manchester boroughs are now below 300.  But we’re being told that the peak of hospital admissions is likely to come this weekend, and last for a while.

According to reports in the papers, non-essential shops (including hair salons?) aren’t likely to reopen until April.  And is that early April or late April?  And cafes and restaurants not until May.  Travel hasn’t been mentioned.  Nor have cinemas, theatres etc.  And heaven only knows when we’ll be able to go back to football matches, concerts etc.

The picture’s grim across most of Europe too.  France could be heading back into lockdown.  Madrid and Barcelona are running short of vaccine supplies.  Germany has said it’ll have vaccine supply issues until Easter.  Hospitals in Lisbon are running short of beds.  Over in the US, there are reports that a new variant may have emerged in California.   And Canada’s got concerns over vaccine supplies.  We don’t hear much from the rest of the world, but I gather that things are particularly bad in Mexico, and that parts of Peru are going back into lockdown.   And Lebanon’s in full lockdown: you’re not even allowed to go food shopping, but have to rely on deliveries.

Also, will someone please tell Nicola Sturgeon to STFU?  Seriously, is this the time to be mithering about an independence referendum?  She is so annoying.

Meanwhile, there are concerns about low take-up of the vaccine amongst some ethnic minority groups.  But, on a happier note, it looks as if the Novavax vaccine, being manufactured in Teesside, is pretty effective.

I am not finding it easy being chained to the office computer during the day, with virtually no contact from work (I’m not sure what I expect them to do, to be fair, but they could try to offer a bit of support) and doing housework, without having anything nice to look forward to at weekends … or for months ahead.

 

Friday, January 29th

I can’t believe what’s going on over the vaccines.  The European Commission has long been a deeply unpleasant organisation, but this just takes the biscuit.  If it weren’t for the companies who’ve developed the vaccines, we’d all be facing a future of either permanent lockdown or else millions more deaths, and many more people left with long term health problems, until herd immunity was reached.  Instead of thanking and praising these heroes, the European Commission has done nothing but issue them with threats and demands.  And insist that it should get first dibs on any vaccine produced, and to hell with the rest of the world, and never mind the fact that the UK order with Astra Zeneca was placed three months before its order was.   We’re all frustrated about the delays and production problems, but they’re pharmaceutical companies, not miracle workers.  There were bound to hiccups with operations on this scale.  And, now, export controls are being put on any supplies being exported from the EU – which is going to endanger anyone in non-EU countries who’s had the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine and is waiting for the second, not to mention going against every trade deal going, as it would block the fulfilment of longstanding contracts.  Talk about I’m all right, Jack.

Meanwhile, Janssen, which is owned by Johnson & Johnson (I got confused by this and thought that two separate companies had both produced vaccines, but no!) have got a vaccine which is 66% effective, so not as good as the others, but only needs one dose.

In other news, Eurosport kindly televised the exhibition matches from Adelaide, so I got to see Rafa beat Dominic 🙂 .  And in front of a crowd!  So, so wonderful to see crowds back at matches.  When will it happen here?

And I had actually lost a few pounds from Saturday to Wednesday,  But half of them have suddenly gone back on on Wednesday and Thursday,  I just do not understand this.  One day could have been a blip, but two?  I haven’t done anything different.  I am very demoralised 😦 .

 

Saturday, January 30th

I am so, so disgusted with the European Commission.   They have totally screwed things up for 27 countries in terms of the vaccine roll-out, and are trying to divert attention from their incompetence by acting like arrogant, petulant bullies … which just makes them look even more incompetent.  Last night, an almighty row broke out when they decided to try to use Northern Ireland as a political football, saying that, in violation of the Brexit deal, they would impose border controls between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, to stop the UK from getting any vaccine supplies (yes, those vaccine supplies which will save people’s lives, and which the UK has quite legitimately ordered) from within the EU.   Without even bothering to consult the Republic of Ireland.  Or any other member states.  Everyone hit the roof – in London, in Belfast, in Dublin and elsewhere – and they had to back down.  I’m tempted to say “Hah”, but this really, really isn’t funny.  It’s left a very bad taste in everyone’s mouths.  And they’re still saying that they’ll block vaccine exports, although Michael Gove’s said that the UK’s vaccination programme won’t be affected.

It’s hard not to see this as the European Commission throwing its toys out of the pram because it can’t bear the fact that the UK vaccination programme’s going so much better than its own (Le Figaro‘s headline yesterday was “Vaccination: Brexit 1, Brussels 0”), but it won’t just affect the UK: it’ll affect Canada, Australia, Japan and many other countries too.

The WHO has condemned the European Commission’s vile attitude and behaviour.

Politicians and newspapers in various EU countries are extremely peed off with the European Commission.

Meanwhile, many highly vulnerable people in 27 countries, who could have been vaccinated by now had their governments made their own arrangements, are still waiting.

OK, enough about the vaccine row.   Two more points dropped today, in a 0-0 draw at Arsenal, whilst City won again.  Bah.  And I’m going to have to start using the spray on hair dye again: my grey roots are really showing.  Bah again.

On a happier note, I had such a nice time at Dunham Massey!  I’m disappointed about missing the snowdrops and early daffodils at Rode Hall and Chirk, but the Dunham Winter Garden, which I don’t normally go to at this time of year – I’m usually busy with the Australian Open during the second half of January, and then I prioritise Rode and Chirk in February – has got some beautiful, beautiful carpets of snowdrops, and quite a few early daffodils too.  I was so pleased that I went round the gardens, then round the deer park, and then back to the gardens for a second look!   Gorgeous 🙂 .

 

Sunday, January 31st

I found some snowdrops in the park today!  It was a bit of the park which I don’t normally go to, but I was trying to find a quiet area without any dogs … having been jumped up at my a horrible dog with filthy muddy paws.  Most of the mud brushed off, but the owner didn’t even apologise – just said “It’s a dog, what d’you expect?”.  I am so, so sick of dogs.  They are everywhere.  And the noise they make carries such a long way, especially with yappy little dogs with high-pitched barks.

Dogs apart, it was very nice in the park.

 

Scone courtesy of The Coffee Sack 🙂 .

Infection rates in Greater Manchester are still falling, but not as quickly as the national average, and the rate for the city centre is now above the average.  I really cannot face a return to the Evil Tier System and being told that other people can travel around the country, reopen their businesses and send their kids back to school, but we can’t, after everything we’ve been through already.  The situation nationwide seems to be stabilising, but we’re being told that it’ll be at least a fortnight before the impact of the vaccination programme starts to have any effect.  609,010 doses were given yesterday!  That’s the highest number yet.   Almost 9 million people have now received their first dose.

A WHO team’s in Wuhan, trying to get to the bottom of how this nightmare started, but I don’t think China will ever let us know.

Worrying news from Portugal, where patients are having to be sent abroad as there are hardly any intensive care beds left.  And also some worrying news here – Captain Sir Tom Moore’s in hospital with pneumonia and coronavirus.  Oh, what horrendous irony that one of the biggest heroes of this nightmare should contract the virus.  He’s not in intensive care, and hopefully he’ll be OK, but I was very upset to hear that he was ill.

And, despite a drop in temperature, it’s definitely feeling a bit springlike, but snow’s forecast for Tuesday.  Please, please do not cause any problems on Friday, when I need to take my car in for its MOT!

Tier 3 Plus, Week 3, December 21st to 27th 2020 inclusive

Monday, December 21st

Ring Out Ye Solstice Bells … well, let’s hope that the light returns soon, because things are pretty grim at the moment.  I just cannot take in what is happening.  Over 40 countries have now imposed travel bans on us – some for 48 hours, some for a month, some indefinitely.  So much for thinking that I might get a long weekend in Italy over Easter!   But the big problem we’ve got is that this also applies to freight.  The Port of Dover is currently closed.  Yes, closed.  In peacetime.  There are lorries backed up all over Kent.  Sainsbury’s unhelpfully tweeted that they were going to run out of lettuce, cauliflower and broccoli if this went on much longer.  Whilst I’m sure we can all manage without lettuce, cauliflower and broccoli for a few days, this has sparked a bit of panic-buying.  I haven’t bought any more than I would have done anyway, but I did decide to go to Tesco and M&S today rather than tomorrow, and it was certainly far busier than it normally is at 8 o’clock in the morning.  OK, it’s Christmas week, but even so.

I can’t believe I’ve been sad enough to type all this out, but I thought that a sample of regional infection rates per 100,000, from last week to this week, would be interesting.  Incidentally, anyone visiting Greater Manchester or the West Midlands Conurbation from Tier 4 (which they shouldn’t be doing anyway) or Wales has been told to self-isolate for 10 days.  So, let’s have a look:

Thurrock, Essex – up from 387 to 1,056.
Havering, London – up from 514 to 1,022.
Rochford, Essex – up from 267 to 864.
Hastings, Sussex – up from 371 to 799.
Canterbury, Kent- up from 475 to 615.
Barnet, London – up from 197 to 417.
Lincoln – down from 491 to 417.
Stoke, Staffs – up from 298 to 339.
Hyndburn (the Accrington area), Lancs – up from 170 to 283.  Burnley, worryingly, is up to 412.
Rotherham, South Yorks- up from 207 to 249 – but Sheffield is only 157.
Birmingham – up from 202 to 247.
Eden, Cumbria – up from 77 to 229.  That’s not good.  And South Lakeland’s up to 175.
Hull, E Yorks – up from 190 to 217.
Bury – down from 213 to 190.
Manchester centre – down from 178 to 171.
Blackpool – up from 154 to 158.
Leeds – up from 137 to 142.
Liverpool – up from 92 to 125.
Stockport- up from 112 to 113.
Bath/N E Somerset – up from 96 to 103.
Dorset – up from 45 to 67.

Sadly, I think that this new version of the virus is probably already spreading across the country and probably across Europe too, but we can certainly see a big regional divide at the moment.  I’m concerned about East Lancs, though, especially Burnley.

Just look how much the rates have gone up by a week in parts of the South East.  Hospitals are coping at the moment, but … well, it’s a very worrying situation. What’s going to happen with schools, with businesses, with everything?  Earlier this year, one of the newspapers was talking about snakes and ladders – well, we have gone right down a very big snake.  These bloody restrictions could be in place for months – and we could all be in Tier 4 before long.  I just can’t quite take it all in.

Why did the bloody virus have to mutate in Kent (and it does seem to’ve happened in Kent)?

“Britain stands alone.”

I really am struggling to take this in.

 

Tuesday, December 22nd

Oh no!  A kid in my younger nephew’s class has tested positive for the virus.  Let’s hope that none of the other kids have got it – he’s not one of my younger nephew’s particular friends, so they haven’t had much contact.  But the whole class has now got to self-isolate.   The Christmas visit to Manchester’s already off, and now the poor kid isn’t even supposed to leave the house.  Talk about “The Worst Noel”, “I’m dreaming of a shite Christmas” and all the other bad puns going round.

Rates in our borough are actually falling, now that these outbreaks in care homes thankfully seem to be under control, but rates across Greater Manchester as a whole were up by 5% in the week to yesterday.  That’s not much compared to an increase of 62% across England as a whole, and far more than that in parts of the SE, but it’s obviously not good.  And, with rates having almost trebled in a week in the Northern Lake District, there are fears that the mutant strain’s on the loose there.

And don’t tell me that the mutant strain’s only in the UK.  Infection rates in the Netherlands have risen by 42% in a week.   If that isn’t due to the mutant strain, then … well, I’m a Dutchman.   Meanwhile, over 50 countries have now imposed travel bans on us.  But America hasn’t.

The situation in Dover is appalling.  Surely some sort of solution can be found?  These poor lorry drivers have spent two nights sleeping in their vehicles.  Toilet facilities and washing facilities are limited.  No-one even seems to be doing much to make sure that they’ve got enough to eat and drink.  And these drivers are from all over Europe, wanting to get home for Christmas.  It’s like a very bad Hollywood film.   Not to mention the fact that good food’s going to go off, at a time when a lot of people are relying on food banks anyway.

The whole of mainland Scotland’s going into Tier 4 level restrictions from Boxing Day, and restaurants and hairdressing salons in the Republic of Ireland are to close from Christmas Eve.

And Tesco have introduced limits on toilet roll purchases.  FFS!  Toilet roll does not come from France.  A lot of French toilets don’t even provide paper (don’t get me started on that subject).  30% of the UK’s toilet rolls come from Trafford Park!

Bloody hellfire.  I just don’t know what to say.

 

Wednesday, December 23rd

Bloody hell.  Little more than a fortnight ago, we thought that the worst was over.  Infection rates in Greater Manchester were plummeting, and we were pretty sure that we’d be in Tier 2 by Christmas.  Now, it looks as if the whole country could be heading into lockdown.  Infection rates across the 10 boroughs were up by 8% in the week to yesterday.  That’s not alarming, but they were still falling three days ago, so it’s a big change.  Just north of here, rates are up by 89% in Hyndburn (89%!), 46% in Burnley and 42% in Pendle.  These places are only 20 to 30 miles away.  Short of blocking up the M66, you have to fear the worst.

The whole of Cheshire’s going into Tier 3 on Boxing Day, as is Warrington.  But not Merseyside, where Hancock’s family live.  Bristol’s going back into Tier 3 after a week!  In fact, the whole of Gloucestershire and Somerset, other than Bath/NE Somerset,’ll be in Tier 3, as will Northants, Swindon, the Isle of Wight, and the New Forest.  The rest of Hants goes into Tier 4, along with the rest of Sussex, Essex and Cambs, plus Norfolk and Suffolk.   Cumbria remains in Tier 2, and Lincs remains in Tier 3.

Herefordshire goes back into Tier 2, after a week.  Cornwall also goes into Tier 2.

Swiss ski resorts are hunting down British tourists.  Or are supposed to be.

As if all this wasn’t bad enough, there’s another strain on the loose, and this one’s even worse.  This one comes from South Africa, but two cases have been found in the UK from people who’ve recently returned from South Africa.

France, Belgium and the Netherlands have agreed to let travel to and from the UK resume, but anyone entering those countries from the UK has to provide a negative Covid test first.  There are around 3,800 lorry drivers stuck in Dover, maybe more, – sleeping in their lorries, without adequate food, drink, washing facilities or toilets, and desperate to get home for Christmas.  Local charities and community groups are doing what they can, but the situation’s horrendous.

You know how it was all going to be over by July?  Then by Christmas?  Then by Easter?  Hancock’s just said that we hope to have things back to normal by 2022!  OK, obviously it’s not his fault that the virus has mutated, but …. bleurgh.  Nine months after we went into lockdown, it genuinely looks as if the worst may yet lie ahead.

I just can’t quite process what’s happened in the last few days.

 

Later – hooray, something good!  We beat Everton 2-0 in the Carabao Cup QF.  Unfortunately, we’ve been drawn against City in the semis, but at least we’re in the semis!

 

Christmas Eve, Thursday, December 24th

Cold, but bright and sunny.  And, hooray, we have a Brexit deal!   We haven’t got all the details yet.  I don’t suppose it’s perfect, but deals never are, and I don’t suppose that Boris would have agreed to anything too bad.   At last!

Someone’s letting fireworks off.  It’s a bit annoying.  It’s not Bonfire Night!

I have now finished work until the New Year.  I wasn’t exactly expecting work to send me a Fortnum and Mason hamper or a pair of diamond earrings, but a card would have been nice.  Or even an e-mail, thanking everyone for all their efforts during a very difficult year, and for keeping the firm going, using their own phones, broadband and electricity.  Nada.  Absolutely nothing.

But, after work, I went to get a takeaway cardboard cup of mulled wine from Cuckoo, and quite a few people were stood (in small groups, not crowds!) in the street outside Cuckoo and The Grape & Grain, in the freezing cold, drinking mulled wine or hot chocolate out of cardboard cups.  It didn’t make up for the fact that my sister, brother-in-law and nephews are 200 miles away, and that I won’t be seeing my uncle and cousins on Christmas Day ever, but it was rather nice in a weird 2020 Tier 3 kind of way.

Enya:

Nice sunny day today, after heavy rain overnight.  I decided to walk round some different parts of town – first the “Northern Quarter”, then Castlefield/Deansgate Locks.   It was really nice, and blessedly devoid of a) dogs and b) kids on scooters.
There were plenty of places open for takeaway food and drink in the main shopping areas – but, worryingly, a lot of the independents were shut.  There were queues outside some shops, notably Primark and JD Sports, but other places weren’t busy, bearing in mind that the post-Christmas sales are on.  However, it appears to have got a bit chaotic at the Trafford Centre yesterday.  People are accusing both shoppers and the Centre managers of being irresponsible, but I don’t think it was really anyone’s fault: it’s just very difficult to organise things in a “Covid-secure” way when you’ve got a large number of different shops inside a big enclosed shopping centre.  I don’t know what the answer is.
Takeaway places in residential areas and parks are very busy.  I’m spending a stupid amount of money on cups of tea and cakes, when I could have a drink at home and I most certainly don’t need to stuff my already fat face with cakes/scones/mince pies, but it’s just something to do.I don’t know what to think.  I’m hearing worrying reports from people in London about the number of cases in their communities.  Can we act now, to try to reduce the chances of that happening here?  Given that it seems to be spreading quickly amongst kids of all ages, the best bet would be to close schools, but there are so many arguments against doing that.

On a more positive note, I’m also hearing about people I know who’ve had the vaccination.  But it could take a year to vaccinate everyone (and that’s if everyone wants to be vaccinated).  What do we do in the meantime?
Heigh-ho.  I’m usually really OCD-ish in late December, as if a bit of dust on the table or a bit of dirt on a carpet will somehow jinx the new year.  In any other year, the awful mess on the kitchen ceiling from the leak (which will cost even more money to sort, sigh) would be totally stressing me out.  But, this year, we know that it’ll be a rotten start to the new year!  The questions are how bad will it get, and how long will it be before things, hopefully, improve.

Tier 3 Plus, Week 2, December 14th to 20th 2020 inclusive

Monday, December 14th

Oh great.  A new variant of the virus has been identified in the South East.  Like everyone hasn’t got enough problems.

The tier review wasn’t due until Wednesday, and we still don’t know if any areas will be moved from Tier 3 to Tier 2, but Greater London, most of Essex and parts of Hertfordshire are to be moved into Tier 3 from midnight tomorrow night.  Tier reviews will now be once a week rather than once a fortnight … er, even though we haven’t even had the first one yet.

Two councils in London have told schools to close early for Christmas.  Well, move to online learning.  The government is not happy.

Back into full lockdown for the Netherlands.  Until January 19th!

We have been drawn against Real Sociedad in the Europa League.  They’re currently top of La Liga!  That’s the worst draw we could have got!

And my old headmistress died this morning.  She was 88, so she had a good innings, but it’s quite sad that, because of the virus restrictions, only 30 people will be able to attend the funeral.

At least it’s stopped raining!

 

Tuesday, December 15th

We’ll find out tomorrow whether or not we’re being moved into Tier 2, but, after all the optimism a fortnight ago, hopes are fading.  This wretched spike in one small area’s set our borough back, although rates are thankfully now falling again, and rates are actually edging up a bit in Salford and Trafford.   More than that, there are concerns that rates are going to go right up after Christmas, as they did in the US after Thanksgiving.  There’s even talk that the Christmas amnesty could be scrapped, although I don’t think the government’d dare, and I don’t think people’d take any notice if they did.  And some business owners are worried about the prospect of spending a lot of time and money on reopening, only to be shut down again a couple of weeks later, as has happened to businesses in London.

Having said all of that, I’m desperately hoping for Tier 2.  I can stand a lot of things, but not being told that I can’t stay away overnight and am not even supposed to leave the area, even to go to neighbouring areas.  I’ve still got my booking at the Chester spa hotel I go to every year during “Twixmas”, but am prepared to have to cancel it 😦 .

The London boroughs which were going to close schools have agreed to keep them open.

It has been pointed out numerous times that the scientific advisory committee and several senior Cabinet ministers wanted to put London into Tier 3 straight after lockdown, and that it was Boris who said no.

No-one is impressed with all the messing about.

819,000 jobs were lost in the UK between the start of the pandemic and the end of October, 297,000 of them in the hospitality sector.  And that’s before Lockdown II.

Meanwhile, the gym has finally reopened … but it’s limited hours only, so I’m going to leave it for now.

 

Wednesday, December 16th

The “review” of the tierings has been carried out, but we aren’t allowed to know the results until tomorrow.  I’m sure Matt Hancock’s getting a kick out of this.  He’s like that bossy woman at a cafe, who made me go out and come back in because I’d inadvertently walked in through the “exit” door, even though I was already in by then, and there was no-one else there so it didn’t matter anyway.  “I have the power!”  Meanwhile, the infection rate in our borough aren’t dropping much, because of an outbreak at another care home!  I don’t believe this.  However, the rate is below the national average.  Ditto every other borough in Greater Manchester, other than Rochdale and that’s only fractionally above.  North of here, the rates in Rossendale, Burnley and Pendle are higher than they are here, but less than half what they are in parts of Kent.  I don’t know why Kent’s suddenly got so bad, but I don’t understand anything about this mad virus.

The government doesn’t want to cancel Christmas, a) because there’ll be a backlash (almost 3 3/4  centuries on, people still go on about Oliver Cromwell cancelling Christmas) and b) no-one will take any notice because people have already made their plans, but the Scottish and Welsh authorities have told people to make their bubbles 2 households rather than 3, and the Scottish government’s said that people should only meet up for a day and not stay overnight.  What if you’ve got a long journey?  Not everyone’s nearest and dearest live nearby.  And are people really going to ring Uncle John or Auntie Mary and tell them that they’re uninvited and will have to spend Christmas on their tod?  Oh, what a muddle.  There’s just no answer.  People are getting very down about being separated from their loved ones.  But infection rates are going up in most areas, even those under the highest level of restrictions.

300 people spent the night on a ferry in the Mersey (as opposed to a ferry ‘cross the Mersey), after several crew members on the Birkenhead to Belfast ferry tested positive for the virus.

Wales is going back into lockdown after Christmas.  There’s talk that the Republic of Ireland may do the same.  Italy is suffering badly.  Even in South Korea, where they’ve done so well, Seoul is running short of hospital beds.  It’s just a nightmare.

I’m hearing one tale of woe after another about kids being sent home from school to self-isolate – which. at this stage, messes up their plans and their families’ plans for the Christmas holidays.  The nursery and reception classes at my younger nephew’s school were sent home today.  These are little kids of just 3, 4 or 5 years old.   I really think that schools need to close.  I can’t believe I’m saying this: I would have had complete hysterics if my education had been disrupted and put my chances of getting top exam results at risk, plus there are the problems faced by parents who can’t work from home.  But nothing else is working.

And we are being advised to keep the windows open during Christmas dinner.  I don’t think even Victorians stressing about TB did that.

 

Thursday, December 17th

Oh FFS.  Bristol and North Somerset get moved down from Tier 3 to Tier 2.  (And Herefordshire gets moved down from Tier 2 to Tier 1.)  But Greater Manchester, West Yorkshire, Birmingham/Warwickshire and the North East all get left in Tier 3.  Even though infection rates have plummeted.  Even though infection rates here are now way below what they were in much of the South East, and indeed parts of Merseyside, when they got put in Tier 2.  If they’d said that they didn’t want to reduce restrictions anywhere until they saw what happened after Christmas, I could have understood that.  But, as ever, it’s one rule for the South and one rule for the North.  Bristol gets moved down.  Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham, Newcastle, etc, do not.  Even areas where the infection rate is below 100 per 100,000 do not.

I am SO fed up and pissed off.

The furlough scheme’s been extended until April.

Secondary school kids, other than those doing exams, are to work online for the first week of the new term.

Berkshire, Bedfordshire, the rest of Hertfordshire, most of Surrey (how come it’s OK to split counties in the South, but not in the North or the Midlands?), and parts of Sussex, Cambridgeshire and Hampshire move into Tier 3.

I could slap Matt Hancock’s irritating face.  He harps on and on about how everyone needs to “work hard” and “pull together” to bring infection rates down, like it’s everyone’s personal fault if rates are high.  Then, when rates do come down, nothing changes.

Sacha Lord, the Greater Manchester “night time economy advisor” (who was the year above me at our brother school) was on Sky News this morning, asking why it’s OK to walk round the Trafford Centre but not to sit in a socially distanced café.  You may well ask, Sacha.  You may well ask.

Andy Burnham’s comment:

“It isn’t equal treatment. It’s as simple as that. When we had higher cases and cases rising, we were left on our own. When London and the South East have them it looks like everyone has to have them.”

The leaders of Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield councils have all spoken out about the unfair treatment of the North.

Emmanuel Macron’s tested positive for the virus.   So the head of the European Council, the French PM, the Spanish PM, the Portuguese PM and the Taoiseach are all having to self-isolate.  Obviously, this is not funny …

Northern Ireland’s going into a 6 week lockdown.  Straight after Boxing Day.

The Aussie Open’s been postponed by 3 weeks.  At least we know where we’re up to, but it’s usually the one thing that makes January bearable, even in a normal year.  Bleurgh.  And the socially distanced pantomime, planned when we were told that it was OK for theatres to open, has been cancelled.

On a happier note, I went to Lightopia at Heaton Park this evening, and it was brilliant!  At least that was allowed to go ahead!

 

And United won 3-2 at Sheffield United – the first time I’ve watched a United match on Amazon Prime.

 

Friday, December 18th

Just as if we haven’t got enough problems, the Greater Manchester Police Force has been placed into special measures after a report found that there were all sorts of problems.  Chief Constable Ian Hopkins has resigned.  Some people are trying to blame Andy Burnham.  Talk about it never rains but it pours!

Were I not so pissed off with Boris, Hancock & co over the way they’ve treated Greater Manchester, I could almost feel sorry for them.  If they cancelled the Christmas bubble plans, there’d be a huge backlash, and people would meet up anyway.  So they haven’t.  So people are moaning that this’ll mean a big increase in cases – and the R number’s already back above 1.  People have said that schools need to be closed for a while: some councils actually told schools to close.  So they’ve said that secondary school kids not in exam years should work online for the first week of the Easter term.  So now teachers are moaning that they haven’t been given enough time to plan lessons.

I had a blood donation appointment this morning.  I got a mince pie on the NHS!  It’s my third appointment since the pandemic started.

And I had to wait in a queue to get on the National Trust website this morning, which has never happened before.  And this was at 7 am!  I got tickets for Dunham Massey for Boxing Day and New Year’s Day, for the times I wanted, so that was fine, but zillions of people must have logged on at once, trying desperately to find something to do over the holidays.  I must cancel the spa hotel in Chester … I’m putting it off because it’ll upset me to do it.  Someone I know’s just been to a hotel in the Lakes.  They booked it months ago, and, when they rang to explain, the hotel staff said that they were so desperate for the business that they couldn’t care less if people were coming from Tier 3 areas.

Boris has been to Bolton today.  Presumably trying to convince people that he does actually know where the North West is.

It’s a week till Christmas …

 

Saturday, December 19th

Just when you thought 2020 couldn’t get any worse.  Why did the bloody virus have to mutate?  In England?  Just now?

Thanks to this mutant strain of the virus, which has appeared in the South East, Christmas has been cancelled.  Everywhere in the South East which has just gone into Tier 3 is now in Tier 4, which is pretty much the same as the lockdown which the whole country was in from early November to early December, and travel between Tier 4 areas and the rest of the country is banned.  Similar restrictions are being introduced across Wales and Scotland.  It’s initially only until December 30th in the English areas affected, but it’s hard to see that much will change in 11 days.

So my sister and brother-in-law and nephews, whom I haven’t seen since the end of August, now can’t come to us as planned.

The rest of us, Tiers 1, 2 and 3 can still form a three household bubble, but only on Christmas Day.   People in Scotland and Wales may also form “Christmas bubbles”, but, again, only on Christmas Day.

I have actually cried.  It’s no-one’s fault, but … oh, we were so close.  Just days away.

There have been worse years.  80 years ago, nearly 700 people were killed in the Manchester area, in the Christmas Blitz.

But this is still a real kick in the teeth.  Thankfully, this new strain doesn’t seem to be any more dangerous, but it does spread more quickly.  Every time you think this virus can’t throw anything else at us, it does.

In other news:

I had my hair cut and dyed this morning.  The appointment was booked weeks ago, but, with another lockdown possible (hair salons remain open here, but will have to close in Tier 4 areas), I’m glad it’s been done.

I went to Sale Water Park this afternoon, just for somewhere different to go.

Christmas is off in Italy as well.

And I cancelled my Twixmas spa break.  Given that I’ve lost my trips of a lifetime to Iceland and Japan this year, you wouldn’t think that losing a night outside Chester would have upset me, but it did.  I think it was very good of me to cancel.  Someone I know went to a hotel down south and gave a false (Merseyside, so Tier 2) address.

Bleurgh.

 

Sunday, December 20th

Could someone please wake me up from this nightmare?  We can’t take much more.  I actually feel sorry for Boris: I would have cracked up completely if I were him.  I just can’t believe how much things have escalated in the space of a couple of days.

Apart from the odd sanctimonious person who’s saying that any sensible person wouldn’t have made any plans for Christmas anyway, people are upset over the Christmas plans being changed.  And whingeing that Boris left it so late – but he didn’t have the data on the mutant strain until yesterday.

Shocking scenes from the London railway stations last night.  You’d have thought people were fleeing from an invading army.  No-one’s supposed to be travelling out of a Tier 3 area (Tier 4 rules apply from today) before Christmas, but the stations were jam packed, and trains to all four corners of Britain, plus Paris and Brussels, were also jam packed.  Why the hell did no-one stop this?

Several countries, including the Republic of Ireland, have imposed travel bans on the UK.  It’s not a surprise.  We imposed a travel ban on Denmark over the mink.  If this new strain that emerged in Spain in the summer had been identified sooner, maybe the second wave wouldn’t be as bad as it is.  TBH, I think the new strain’s probably spread already.  I sincerely hope not – rates in our borough are falling, and, although rates across Greater Manchester are rising, the week-on-week increase is only 3.4%, which isn’t too bad – but it seems likely.

So holidays are off, which is bad enough, but more of a problem is that France has banned freight traffic for 48 hours.  The Port of Dover is closed.  I just cannot believe that this is happening.  I should imagine we’re going to see panic-buying over the next couple of days … even though, at this time of year, a lot of fresh fruit and veg comes from outside Europe anyway, and, as yet, it’s only European countries and Israel imposing bans.

I wonder if the Queen’d mind her Christmas Speech being broadcast a few days early!  OK, I’m not being serious, but we urgently need to pull together, and the Queen’s the only person who can pull us together.

I just cannot believe what is happening.  Vaccinations have just started.  We’re supposed to be getting towards the end of this nightmare.  Instead, it’s just got a million times worse.  There were nearly 36,000 new infections today.  Last Sunday, there were just under 18,447.

In other news:

  1. United beat Leeds 6-2.  This is the best thing that’s happened all week.
  2. Lewis Hamilton is Sports Personality of the Year.
  3. I’ve been to Hollingworth Lake (again).
  4. My sister managed to get a turkey roll and the trimmings, so at least they’ll have a Christmas dinner … just, sadly, not with us.  My brother-in-law’s mum and dad will be joining us, though.

For a short time this morning, I put some Christmas music on, re-read some festive scenes from children’s books, as I do every year, and tried to block this nightmare out.   It’s the travel bans that get me.  We can’t even go to Liverpool at the moment, FFS.  It’s all making me feel trapped, which is my main anxiety symptom.  But there are bigger things going on here.  We are suddenly in a huge crisis.  And we’re on our own.  And we’re not even united.

I wish I could Do Something.   Instead of wasting the next 4 days on pointless work.

I know.  80 years ago – well, 80 years ago, minus a few days – we were facing the Christmas Blitz.  Nearly 700 people in the Manchester/Salford area were killed.  There have been worse times.  But this is still a pretty crap time.

 

 

Lightopia

I started writing this before, thanks to the virus deciding to throw us a curveball by mutating, Christmas was cancelled.  I may as well still post it: Lightopia was literally a bit of light in the darkness.  Tiers for Fears, eh?  “Going nowhere, going nowhere …. hide my head, I wanna drown in sorrow.”  OK, there’s an Enya Christmas song which, in this instance, works better than Tears for Fears.  “When tears are in your eyes,  it’s time to look inside, your heart can find another way.”   Hopefully, the vaccine is the light at the end of the tunnel.  I was going to say “the light that never goes out”, but I’m not sure that this is quite the time to be quoting Morrissey.  And, hey, at least it’s not 1940 and we’re not living through the Christmas Blitz.  There’ve been worse times.  There will be better times.

This has been a rotten, rotten year.  The Great Outdoors has been one of the few saving graces.  I’m eternally grateful that I was able to spend a week in the Lake District in August, and I’m very glad of the National Trust places that I’ve been able to visit.  And I’m extremely glad that I live within walking distance of Heaton Park, the biggest municipal park in Manchester: I’ve been going there since before I can remember, but I’ve never spent as much time there as I have this year.  The staff in the cafes (takeaway only, the “joys” of Tier 3) there now know me so well that they put skimmed milk in my tea without my even having to ask 🙂 .  And, at the moment, it’s hosting a Lightopia Festival, which I was fortunate enough to go to on Thursday night.

With the Christmas market and the pantomime cancelled, and not being allowed to go to football matches, it was particularly joyful that Lightopia was still able to go ahead.  It really was lovely, not just the pretty light installations and the very impressive lights show over the lake, but the whole atmosphere – Christmas music playing, stalls selling hot chocolate, (sadly, alcohol free!) mulled wine, mince pies and other treats.  Everyone  (apart from the odd yowling child) had a big smile on their face.  There is still some festive cheer out there!   And, hooray, there were no dogs!  The one thing that spoils the Great Outdoors is that there are dogs everywhere – but, thank goodness, not at Lightopia!  It was just a lovely evening.  It’s the first time for ages that I’ve actually been out in the evening, except to go to Mum and Dad’s for tea in the support bubble!

Thank you to the people who organised this event.  Thank you to the people who keep the National Trust and English Heritage sites going.  Thank you to the people running the cafes in parks and beauty spots, especially The Olive and Pickle at Hollingworth Lake.   Yes, I know that none of them are reading this, but never mind!   And let’s just hope that 2021 will be a better year.  Meanwhile, it was good to see some light in the darkness.  Literally to see some light in the darkness!

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