Tier 3 Plus, Week 1 – December 7th to 13th 2020 inclusive

Monday, December 7th

Hooray!   Two small Christmas markets are to open in town.  I might go on Friday: I’m having the day off because they won’t let us carry our holidays forward, and, with cinemas, museums etc all closed, there’s very little else to do.

There were pictures of packed crowds outside Harrods over the weekend.  How come so many people can afford to shop at Harrods?!  Desperate cafe/restaurant owners in Tier 3 areas are demanding to know how come this is OK and yet they can’t have customers in to sit at socially distanced tables.  The government, natch, couldn’t care less.

Infection rates continue to fall across Greater Manchester, hooray!  But, worryingly, the rate of increase in our borough has slowed right down – it’s still down week on week, but actually up between mid-week and the end of the week.  We’ve now got the second-highest rate of the ten boroughs, and are really letting the side down.  It could be due to a particular factor such as an outbreak at a school, but nothing’s been said.

Prince William and Kate are touring the country on the Royal Train.  Hopefully this’ll be a morale booster.  Politicians are not welcome, but Royals are 🙂 .

Level 4 restrictions in Scotland are to end.  Lucky Scotland!  But infection rates in Wales, especially South Wales, are rising, and the situation’s also worrying in parts of Europe.  We hear next to nothing about what’s happening in Africa, Asia or South America … except for the England cricket tour of South Africa having to end early due to members of both teams, and hotel staff, testing positive.

 

Tuesday, December 8th

The vaccine roll-out’s started!   A 90-year-old lady called Margaret Keenan received her first shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine this morning, in Coventry.  Hopefully this is the beginning of the end.  (And not the end of the beginning.)

I know this is really exciting, but it’s hard to be excited when, after plunging for the last few weeks, infection rates in our borough have somehow started creeping up again.  WHY is this happening?  They’re down everywhere else, even Oldham and Rochdale which’d been struggling so badly.  Hopefully it’s just a blip, maybe a cluster at a school or something, but we aren’t being given any info.  With tier levels due to be reviewed next week, this is just the last thing we need.  It’s like we’ve been progressing along the snakes and ladders board and have now slipped right back down a snake.  Infection rates in Greater Manchester as a whole are down, and now below those in Greater London, but I’m really worried about what’s going on here.

William and Kate visited Manchester yesterday, and have now been reunited with the Queen, Charles and Camilla, Anne, and Edward and Sophie at Windsor Castle.  Sadly, whilst they were welcomed by the people they met, the tour’s been marred by the ill-mannered Nicola Sturgeon and the equally ill-mannered Vaughan Gething (the Welsh Health Minister) pretty much saying that they weren’t welcome, and Downing Street failing to give the appropriate backing.  You can’t do right for doing wrong, sometimes.

Scottish Higher exams have been cancelled.

So have trains from Switzerland to Italy.

And, following the affair of the Danish mink, we now have the Catalan lions.  Sounds like a rugby team.  But it’s not funny- four lions at a zoo in Barcelona have tested positive for coronavirus.

And I am off to finish writing my Christmas cards before watching United v Leipzig.

 

Later – oh FFS.  We made such a great start to this year’s Champions League, and now we’re out at the group stage.  Just like this year hasn’t been bad enough!

 

Wednesday, December 9th

Some statistics for infection rates per 100,000 head of population:

Coventry (Midlands) – 134
Bristol (West Country) – 141
Leeds (Yorkshire) – 144
Newcastle (North East) – 146
Greater Manchester (North West) – 159

All of these areas have been placed into Tier 3, with travel restrictions imposed and hospitality businesses forced to close.

London – 183
Luton (just outside London, airport named “London Luton”) – 287

Both of these areas have been placed into Tier 2, where travel restrictions have not been imposed and hospitality businesses are open.

Yep.  That just sums up the Westminster bubble’s attitude towards anywhere outside the London area, doesn’t it?

The issues in our borough are apparently due to a cluster in one small area – obviously not good news, but at least it’s a cluster not a general thing, so hopefully things will improve next week.  Things are levelling off in other areas too, though 😦 .  So sick of the whole bloody thing.

A Russian health official’s said that people shouldn’t drink alcohol for 56 days after receiving the Sputnik vaccine.  Other officials are panicking and saying that it’s only 3 days.  The thought of 56 days with no vodka is not going down very well.

And today is Coronation Street’s 60th anniversary.

 

Thursday, December 10th

Andy Burnham’s suggested that Greater Manchester could be split.  If I were in Trafford, Stockport or Tameside, I would certainly be very annoyed if I were kept in Tier 3 due to higher rates in Bury and Rochdale, but splitting the area would be a complete nightmare.  What about town?  And Salford?  Gah, why does there have to be this stupid bloody cluster just now?  Things were going so well until the middle of last week.  It’s not even anywhere near us!  It’s due to outbreaks in two care homes and a school in one small area: rates in every other part of the borough are falling.  Just hope things improve.  Please, please let Greater Manchester, the North East and West Yorkshire all be moved into Tier 2.   And please don’t punish us because of a cluster in one small area.

Meanwhile, London now has the highest infection rate of any region (region, not county) in England.   When Leicester had the highest rate, it was practically sealed off.  When Bolton did, its hospitality businesses were closed down.  When Blackburn did, some businesses there were not allowed to reopen when those in the same sector could everywhere else.  When Oldham did, restrictions on people meeting family and friends were tightened, and the same with Liverpool when it did.  But, in London, no additional restrictions – just extra resources chucked at it so that all secondary school pupils can be tested!   I’ve got nothing against London itself, or the people who live there, but it’s one rule for them and one rule for everyone else, and it’s just not on.

And, just to add to the gloom, it looks as if the spiteful EU is going to ban British tourists “because of Covid” once the transition period ends on January 1st.  It’s hard to believe that places like Spain, Italy, Portugal and Greece, which desperately need to get tourists back in, will stick to this, but … well, it’s not very good, is it?   Still no deal, and talks are due to end on Monday.  FFS, this has been going on for 4 1/2 years.  Even the negotiations to bring about the treaties at the end of the First World War, the Second World War and the Napoleonic Wars took nothing like this long!

Theresa May had a deal.  The stupid, stupid MPs in the last parliament rejected it.  I hope they’re pleased with themselves.

Secondary schools and further education colleges in London are to close again – online teaching only from Monday.

And Kay Burley, who more or less accused Andy Burnham of causing people’s deaths, and carried on as if Dominic Cummings committed the crime of the century by driving from London to Barnard Castle, has been taken off air for six months after going out to a restaurant with a group of friends and colleagues in London, then asking them back to hers.  Inzy Rashid and Beth Rigby, who were also there, have both been taken off air for three months.  But I bet they’re all on full pay.  What a load of hypocrites!  Having said which, it does seem a bit much, considering that people like Margaret Ferrier have done far worse and got off scot-free.

I’m doing a lot of moaning, aren’t I?!  Just so fed up.  Why does there have to be this stupid cluster just now?!

 

Friday, December 11th

We get so few days off, and I usually drive myself mad as to how best to use them.  The 2 days I’d saved for December were meant to be for a Christmas market break abroad.  Instead, I spent today at the “Christmas mini-markets” in town, and then having a quick look round the Trafford Centre.  They were very mini mini-markets, but at least we’ve got something.  The local economy’s shrunk by 15% since this nightmare began.  Every little that people can earn helps.  And it was nice to have a walk round.

Large swathes of the Trafford Centre car parks have been closed off, to stop it getting too busy.  This might have been a good idea if they’d announced in the local media and in signs on the motorway that they were doing it.  Instead, the first you knew about it was when you got there.  I managed to park without too much trouble in the end, but I can see it being chaos tomorrow!   It’s usually so crowded there in December that it’s hard to move, one of the reasons I much prefer town, so in one way it was nice to be able to walk round without all that, but obviously it’s not so great for the shops.

The national R rate is unfortunately going up again, because of the issues in London, Essex and Kent.  The BBC website said today that schools in the North will be “irritated” that they’ve been left struggling to try to contain infections for months, whilst every stop’s being pulled out now that infection rates in schools in London are so high.  This isn’t the Manchester Evening News, the Lancashire Telegraph or the Yorkshire Post talking.  This is the BBC saying that London’s getting preferential treatment and the government’s discriminating against the North.

Dame Barbara Windsor’s died, aged 83 😦 .

Some better news – the self-isolation period’s to be reduced from 14 days to 10 days.  Good!

 

Saturday, December 12th

What a damp squib of a derby match!  0-0, and very few chances.  It’s over 9 months since the last Old Trafford derby, the last match I went to.  When will I be back there?  Still, on current form, most people were saying City would thrash us, so a draw’s not too bad!

This morning, I went to the markets at the Lowry, or the Quayside or whatever we’re meant to call it these days.  The actual shopping centre was almost deserted – and this is less than a fortnight before Christmas!   The markets were quite good – better than the ones in town yesterday, in fact.  Unfortunately, though, it was raining.  It’s very hard when the weather’s crap and you can’t go to the cinema, the theatre, a museum or a gallery, or even sit inside a cafe.  It did dry up later, though.

I didn’t think that the Festival of Trees (to raise money for the children’s hospice) was on this year, but it was, so it was nice to see that.

I am SO fat.  I lost a lot of weight when we were in lockdown, but it’s all gone back on and I can’t seem to get any off.  Bleurgh.  I walk and walk and walk, and still it doesn’t help.

The NASUWT (the schoolteachers’ union)’s asked why all this testing in London, Essex and Kent’s never been offered to schools in the North and Midlands, which have just been left to struggle for months.  It’s also emerged that the SAGE advisory committee told the government months ago that Greater Manchester needed additional support … and that the government ignored them and hushed it up.

 

Sunday, December 13th

It has rained nearly all day.  Oh, to be able to go to the cinema or the theatre,  or even to sit inside a cafe.  I’ve got loads of books to read and things to watch, but I can’t stay in all day, so I’ve been for a walk round Hollingworth Lake, and then for a walk to one of the local takeaways for a hot chocolate.  There were a lot of people walking around despite the rain.

I’m hoping that the spike may have peaked.  That’s very poor English, but I can’t think how else to put it!  Even with the spike, our borough’s infection rate is way below the average for London, which now stands at around 240 per 100,000.  Yet cinemas, theatres, cafes, restaurants and pubs are open there, whilst they’re closed in Greater Manchester, where the average rate is now around 160.  And in Stratford-on-Avon, where it’s around 65.  I know I keep going on about this, but so does everyone else.

Germany’s going back into full lockdown, until January 10th.

The deadline for the Brexit talks has been extended.  Again.  Come on, folks, sort it!  Apart from that bloody idiot Macron, no-one wants a no-deal Brexit.  Surely it must be possible to reach some sort of compromise?

And so endeth another week!

 

 

 

 

Eating From a Box

I’m eating from a box.  I’m eating from a cardboard box.  I’m eating from a box.  (Anyone who doesn’t like ’80s music won’t get that, sorry.)   I’m eating from cardboard boxes – or paper bags – because, here in an area of the country which has been under additional restrictions since the end of July, restaurants, pubs, bars, cafes and tea rooms are not allowed to open, unless it’s to serve takeaways or food for delivery.

We’re doing our best.  We really are.  It’s quite fun, in a Spirit of the Blitz kind of way, to buy a cardboard cup of mulled wine from a local cafe which has set up a cauldron at the side of one of the busiest main roads in the country, and to drink it whilst standing on the pavement, chatting to whoever else happens to be there, over the noise of the traffic.  Or to see people cooking paella outside the Spanish cafe near the library, or holding a barbecue at the side of National Trust cafe in December when the temperature outside’s barely above freezing.   Well, as long as it’s not raining, anyway.

But it’s really not much fun for the people running these places, especially those running small independent businesses.  These businesses get not a penny more in financial support than those in Tier 1 and Tier 2, which are able to throw their doors open and welcome customers inside, or at least to have customers sitting at tables outside.   Some of them have spent a considerable amount of money in adapting their premises so that they can serve take-aways – that’s a lot of money out at a time when they’re getting very little money in.  They don’t want to close, because then their loyal customers will have no choice but to go elsewhere.   I’ve had distressed owners and staff, in cafes which would normally be packed out at this time of year, apologising for only being able to offer me a very small selection to choose from, saying that they’re no longer able to serve fresh cream cakes as the cream doesn’t keep and they aren’t selling enough in a day for it to be viable.  And that they’ve had to run down their stock of frozen goods because they can no longer afford the electricity to keep all their freezers running.

Places whose business is linked to particular events – pubs and cafes near football grounds, or people who run stalls at music events – aren’t even getting any business from takeaways and deliveries.

And yet, as I’ve said, these businesses get not a penny more in financial support than those in Tier 1 and Tier 2. This is what Andy Burnham keeps saying.  This is what Gary Neville was saying on the Sophy Ridge on Sunday yesterday, when he tore strips off both main political parties: maybe we should have footballers running the country.   We’ve already had an SOS beamed on to the side of Blackpool Tower.  Should we try beaming one on to every landmark of every area of the North and Midlands which is suffering like this?

Places are closing down already.  Some independent businesses in the hospitality sector can’t keep going much longer.   We’ve got an action group trying to promote local economic recovery.  UnitedCity.  This is Manchester, OK: we like using football terminology!   But it’s not easy, when there’s so little support available.

I’m going to keep eating from cardboard boxes.  And paper bags.  And just hope that it isn’t for much longer.  Because we can’t go on like this for much longer.  However much fun it may be to drink mulled wine by the roadside.

How can it be right than small hospitality businesses in Tier 3, which are banned from welcoming in customers, only get the same grants as those in Tier 1 and Tier 2?  Well, quite frankly, it isn’t.

 

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

Monday, November 30th

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

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

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

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

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

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

A new tumble dryer will hopefully be arriving on Thursday.

 

Tuesday, December 1st

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

Wednesday, December 2nd

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

This is obviously great news.

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

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

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

 

Thursday, December 3rd

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Friday, December 4th

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

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

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

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

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

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

The new tumble dryer is here 🙂 .

 

Saturday, December 5th

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

Sunday, December 6th

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

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

There were long queues outside Primark.

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

Goodbye Debenhams

 

Debenhams in town’s been there since before I was born.  It’s in a beautiful Art Deco building at the corner of High Street and Market Street, close to Piccadilly Gardens.  It’s one of the major landmarks of Manchester city centre.  When I was growing up, we had Debenhams on one side of Market Street and Lewis’s on the other, right opposite.  When Lewis’s sadly closed, Primark took over the building, but it’s hard to see anyone taking over that big Debenhams store, in these uncertain times.   BHS, Littlewoods, C&A and so many other of the big shops in town have already gone.  Now it looks almost certain that Debenhams’ll be going too.

It looks like most of the Arcadia Group shops could go as well.  Topshop and Miss Selfridge were two of the in places for teenage girls to buy clothes in the ’80s and early ’90s … not so much for weird fat girls like me, but for cool girls.   Dorothy Perkins had some lovely stuff in the ’90s, and I’ve bought stuff from Evans over the years as well.    We’ll draw a veil over the time I got stuck in a dress in the Wallis changing rooms because I was too vain to admit that I was too fat for the size I’d decided to try on.  I did get out of it eventually!

Burton’s a famous old northern name … even if it is a famous Leeds name.  It was a great example of how someone could start off with nothing and achieve so much.  The Burtons were the sort of people Barbara Taylor Bradford meant when she talked about people like the fictional Emma Harte and David Kallinski in A Woman of Substance giving rise to the greatness of a northern city.  They even made the suits for the England 1966 World Cup winning team.

There used to be some great stuff in Debenhams, especially in the days of the Dash concessions.  And in Dorothy Perkins, as I’ve said.  But they just went bang off.  The clothes were ridiculously expensive for what they were: people who spend a lot of money on clothes go to designer places, not High Street shops, and the rest of us just can’t be spending that much money on everyday clothes.  A lot of it wasn’t even nice.  It used to be.

There used to be something quite romantic about department stores.  There’ve been TV series about them.  OK, Are You Being Served wasn’t exactly romantic, but The Paradise and Mr Selfridge were.  There’ve been books about them too – A Woman of Substance is the one that immediately springs to mind, but there’ve been others.  In the days when a lot of people left school without taking any public exams, they provided good opportunities for young girls.

If they all go, 25,000 jobs’ll go.  25,000 people out of work.  Plus the knock-on effect on suppliers, landlords, the councils, etc etc.

And they attract people into town.  It’s not just the city centre: it’s everywhere else round and about.  The big Debenhams in Bury is the flagship store of The Rock shopping area, which is still fairly new.  The big Debenhams in the Trafford Centre’s one of the “bookend” shops: it’s at one end of the centre, with John Lewis at the other.   And, of course, there are all the branches of Dorothy Perkins, Evans, et al.   Town and city centres are struggling enough at the moment.  “Non-essential shops” have had to close for 17 weeks of this year.  A lot of office staff are working from home.  People aren’t going out shopping because of concerns about being out in crowds, about using public transport, about long queues, and about not being able to try clothes on.  It’s certainly not just the pandemic that’s done for Debenhams and the Arcadia Group, but it’s a big factor, the straw that broke the camel’s back at the very least.  And so we go into a circle of decline, especially with cafes and restaurants only allowed to open for take-aways as long as we remain in Tier 3 – despite Greater Manchester, like many other Tier 3 areas, having lower infection rates than many parts of London which are in Tier 2.

If you go into town to do some shopping, and you travel by Metrolink, you get off the tram right outside Debenhams.  It’s going to be very strange doing that and Debenhams not being there.  It’s always been there.

 

Lockdown II Week 4, November 23rd to 29th 2020 inclusive

Monday, November 23rd

Feeling very disheartened.  Assuming we’re put back into Tier 3, it’s going to be even worse than it was before:

  1. Hotels and restaurants will be banned from reopening.  As we’re not being allowed to carry holidays forward, I’d booked a spa day.  Leisure centres and beauty treatments will be able to go ahead, but it’s at a hotel and included afternoon tea, so I don’t see how it can go ahead.
  2. Indoor entertainment centres will be banned from reopening.  I’d booked the pantomime – it’s limited numbers, with social distancing, but even that won’t be happening now.
  3. Some fans will be allowed back into stadia, but not in Tier 3 areas.  Another kick in the teeth.

We’ve been under additional restrictions since the end of July.  No other part of the country has been penalised as much as we have.  Sorry to whinge, but I’m feeling pretty fed up.  And nothing’s been said about areas moving into lower tiers.  And, as fed up as I’m feeling, it’s far worse for the people who work in sports/hospitality/entertainment.

On a happier note, the AstraZeneca Oxford vaccine’s 70% effective, or 90% effective if a lower dose is given first (I’m a bit confused about why the figures say 70% rather than 90%).  But that’s not much help just now this minute.

Bleurgh.

 

Tuesday, November 24th

Christmas is on!  From the 23rd to the 27th … which makes no sense, as the 28th is a Bank Holiday because Boxing Day falls on a Saturday, but whatever.  Three households (with a support bubble classing as one household) can meet up.  So we can’t have my uncle and my cousins round like we usually would, but my sister and brother-in-law and the kids can come, and my brother-in-law’s mum and dad can join us.

Er … and I thought it wouldn’t happen, and had all the presents sent to them!!

In other news, that stupid git Grant Shapps (the Transport Secretary) had a right dig at Andy Burnham on Sky News, saying that infection rates in Merseyside had come down more than those in areas which delayed going into Tier 3 (i.e. Greater Manchester),  What crap.  The areas of Greater Manchester where rates are still high are Oldham and Rochdale where, as in Blackburn and Bradford, it’s due to the prevalence of multi-generational terraced housing.  There aren’t any comparable areas in Merseyside.  Kay Burley, who loves stirring up trouble because she thinks it makes her look tough, then more or less accused Andy Burnham of being responsible for people’s deaths, which was just awful.  And we’ve had Boris saying that areas will have no right of appeal/negotiation over which tier they’re put into.  Is it really necessary for the Cabinet to behave like a bunch of playground bullies?

And then Matt Hancock (the Health Secretary) said that British people need to stop going into work when they’re ill, and that it’s “peculiar” and we do it because we feel we ought to soldier on.  OK, like a lot of people of my generation, and certainly my parents’ generation, I was brought up to think that you went to school or work unless you were so ill that you couldn’t get out of bed, and that to do otherwise was skiving, but it’s not just that.  Unless people work in the public sector, with unlimited paid sick leave, they go into work when they’re ill because they don’t get paid otherwise.  OK, there’s Statutory Sick Pay, but it’s sod all, and there’s a three day waiting period for it, and self-employed people don’t even get that.  I’ve known people go into work when they’ve actually been given a sick note by a doctor, and sign an employers’ liability insurance disclaimer, because they just can’t afford not to.  And number of sick days taken is often used as a criterion in selecting people for redundancy.  If Hancock seriously thinks that the reason people go into work when they’re ill, spreading germs around, is because they’re “soldiering on”, he’s even stupider than I thought he was!

The traffic coming back from Tesco this morning was utterly horrendous, far worse than usual rush hour traffic.  I assume that people going to work (the “work from home” thing isn’t really happening in a lot of cases) are driving rather than getting the tram or bus: the trams in particular are packed to the rafters at rush hour, in normal times.

Anyway.  Christmas is on!   Just not sure what else will be – the tier announcements are on Thursday.  The Cabinet seems to hate Greater Manchester so much that I dread to think what they’ll do 😦 .

And United beat Istanbul Basaksehir

 

Wednesday, November 25th

The average infection rate for Greater Manchester is now below 300, which was originally the main category for Tier 3, but a) the government seems determined to be shitty with us (and Andy Burnham’s fired another salvo in the war of words today), b) rates are quite a bit higher than that in Oldham and Rochdale and c) hospital admissions haven’t dropped by as much as infections had.  So I’m not hopeful.  I just hope it doesn’t go on beyond January.

Trafford’s got the lowest rate of infection of the 10 boroughs, although it’s unlikely that that’ll make a difference.  However, I do wonder if it was in the minds of the people who sent out the survey I received today from Old Trafford, asking various questions about a possible return to attending matches.  One of the questions asked was which borough you live in.

I had a mince pie in the park today.  It’s a month till Christmas.  An 8-year-old kid wrote to Boris to ask about Father Christmas coming down chimneys.  Boris said it was OK 🙂 .

Kids today watch too much American TV, though!  “Santa” and “cookies”?!  Glad to see that Boris put “Father Christmas”!!  Brilliant handwriting for an 8-year-old, though.  I wish mine was that neat!

696 deaths “with the virus” recorded today.  Pretty horrendous.  Worse figures (per head of population) are being recorded in a lot of other countries, so it’s not just here, but … bloody helll.

And the government spending review’s shown horrendous economic figures.  I feel rather sorry for Rishi Sunak.  He’d only been Chancellor for five minutes when this nightmare started.  And, like the rest of us, every time he makes any plans, more restrictions mess them up.

In non-virus news, Diego Maradona’s died.  Due to the events of 1986, he was hardly a hero of mine, but what a player.  I remember being told, when I went to Buenos Aires, that, when he died, he’d have the biggest funeral Argentina had seen since the death of Eva Peron.  Presumably that won’t be able to happen now, but it’ll hit both Argentina and Naples hard.

 

Thursday, November 26th

Tier 3 it is.  Despite the fact that infection rates here are falling at a rate of knots, and that the average for the area is now below 300.  If it was the old Tier 3, it wouldn’t be so bad, but this is shit.  From a personal viewpoint, the pantomime will be off (I’ve already had an e-mail from ATG), my spa day will probably be off, and, because horrible work won’t let us carry days forward, it’s not like I can rebook it, and it means 2 more holiday days wasted, and my annual Twixmas overnight break may well also be off.  Tiers are to be reviewed after a fortnight.  Andy Burnham’s said he hopes we’ll be moved into Tier 2 then – but, as Downing Street seems to consider him Public Enemy No 1, I doubt that’ll help.  And what a nightmare for the hospitality industry.  And also for football and rugby league clubs – there are already rows going on about the fact that now some clubs will be able to admit fans but others won’t.

And what a utter, utter nightmare for Blackpool Illuminations.  The whole of 1974-borders Lancashire also stays in Tier 3, even Lancaster where rates are low.  Also in Tier 3 – the whole of the North East/Teesside, West, South and East Yorkshire, most of the East Midlands (Derbys, Notts, Leics, Lincs), much of the West Midlands (Birmingham, Wolverhampton and the rest of Warks and Staffs), Slough, Kent, Medway, Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucs.  Merseyside and Warrington move into Tier 2.  It’s vaguely amusing that Liverpool is now the Blue Eyed City of a Tory government: you really couldn’t make that up.  Cheshire stays in Tier 2.

Everywhere else is in Tier 2, other than Cornwall, the Isle of Wight and the Scilly Isles.

14 London boroughs have got infection rates higher than the average for Greater Manchester.  Havering has got an infection rate which is double Trafford’s.  But they get to be in Tier 2, whilst Greater Manchester gets put in Tier 3.  Quelle surprise.  Let’s hammer the North and Midlands, but heaven forfend that London and the Home Counties should be affected!

In other news, I have made my first purchase from Amazon Prime Wardrobe – new walking boots.  Mine are starting to fall apart.  This proves how much walking I’m doing.  So why am I putting weight on, not losing it 😦 ?  I feel a bit awful for buying them from Amazon: I would have gone to Sports Direct when it reopens next week but, last time I went, they were only letting a few people in at a time, and I had to queue for over 1/2 hour, and that wasn’t in peak shopping season.  I can’t go at a quiet time because of work, and I just haven’t got the time to spend in long queues.

Mongolia and East Timor have been added to the travel corridor list.  Well, that really helps.  I’m sure zillions of people are planning to take festive breaks in Mongolia and East Timor.  In fact, even if you were, you can’t, because they’re not letting people in!   So why put them on the list?

 

Friday, November 27th – Lancashire Day

On the plus side, the R rate is now below 1, and my spa day is on although I will be getting the afternoon tea in a cardboard box, rather than in an elegant hotel restaurant.

However, people are fuming over the tiers.  There are so many places in Tier 3 where rates are the same as or lower than those of places in Tier 2.  And there are places in Tier 2 where the rate is as low as 67 per 100,000, and which feel that they should be in Tier 1.  And now they’re saying that, for all the talk of a review in mid-December, there’ll be no changes until January.  In Greater Manchester and Nottingham, in particular, there’s a strong feeling that we did everything we were asked to, rates have come right down, and yet we’re still under even tighter restrictions than before.  People are angry and resentful – especially as there’s a strong feeling that London’s been given preferential treatment.  When areas of London with rates of 340 are in Tier 2, and areas of Greater Manchester with rates of 170 are in Tier 3, it’s hard to feel otherwise.   There’s also anger that businesses in Tier 3 are not being given additional support.

If Boris says “Alas” just once more, I shall scream.

A local journalist – who went to the same school as me – told Sky News that she gets the impression that Matt Hancock’s actually enjoying having the spotlight on him.  That might be a bit unfair, but he is certainly very irritating.

And now it looks as if the Arcadia Group could go bust.

Back with the Mutant Mink, apparently the millions of mutant mink which were massacred were buried near a source of drinking water and a lake used for swimming.  It has now been pointed out to the Danish government that this wasn’t really the best of ideas.

 

Saturday, November 28th

I’m seriously starting to think I’ve displeased some vengeful god of household appliances.  Now the tumble dryer has packed up.  Admittedly it’s 19 years old and hasn’t worked brilliantly for months, but it did work until today.  Did it have to choose just now?  When I’ve just had to pay hundreds of pounds for the emergency plumber and then a new oven, and will have to pay hundreds of pounds more to have the kitchen ceiling repainted?  I am really, really pissed off.

I had a load of wet towels and bedding.  It has rained nearly all day.  The wet towels and bedding are now in Mum’s tumble dryer.

Despite the rain, I went to Dunham Massey.  Their Christmas tree is up.  So is the one in the precinct here.  I’m putting mine up tomorrow.  I also got my first Christmas card today.

We’re being told that restrictions could be in place until Easter.  OK if you’re in Tier 2, but do they seriously expect people not to leave their local areas in Tier 3 until Easter?  And how many restaurants, cafes, bars, pubs, hotels, cinemas, theatres and sports clubs can survive until then?   The sense of discrimination makes it worse.  Rural areas of Warwickshire and Northumberland, which have hardly had any cases of the virus, have been put into Tier 3, whilst parts of London where infection rates are 340 per 100,000 are in Tier 2.  There are reports that the scientific advisory committee said that London should go into Tier 3, but that Boris said that London wasn’t to be put under tighter restrictions.  It may or may not be true, but such is the mood that people are inclined to believe it.

I feel awful for saying this, because obviously education is important, and, having been the sort of kid who got hysterical if I got less than an A for any piece of academic work and would have been beyond devastated if my exam studies had been put at risk, but I’m getting a bit fed up with this argument that everything else should be sacrificed so that schools can stay open.  Other than, bien sur, in London, and now in Merseyside, most of the most deprived parts of the country have been put into Tier 3.  Businesses are going to fold and jobs are going to go, not to mention the impact on people’s mental health.   We’re being pushed down and down.  Does anyone in the Westminster bubble care?

 

Sunday, November 29th

My Christmas tree is up!   And a bar/cafe within a short walking distance is doing takeaway mulled wine.  Hooray!

Went to Hollingworth Lake this morning.  Again.  I’d normally be doing Christmas stuff – the markets should be open by now, and all the Christmas events at the National Trust houses should be on, and the Festival of Trees at the Lowry.  Great to see The Olive and Pickle so busy with takeaways, though.

Boris is trying to stave off a rebellion by angry Tory MPs by saying that the tier system’ll end at the beginning of February.  What, like we were told that lockdown’d end at the beginning of December, and then we were told that most of the North and Midlands would effectively be staying in lockdown, at a crucial time of year for businesses, whilst parts of London with far higher infection rates wouldn’t?

The infection rate in London, in Tier 2,  has risen by 13% over the past fortnight.  It has fallen by 39% across the North West, most of which is in Tier 3. The press are now reporting that Michael Gove said that London should be in Tier 3, but that Boris refused on the grounds that it could cost 550,000 jobs in London.  But to hell with all the jobs that it’ll cost in Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham, Nottingham, Sheffield, Bradford, Hull, Newcastle, Sunderland, Leicester, Derby, Blackpool, Preston and everywhere else affected – and businesses in Tier 3 areas are getting no more support than businesses in Tier 1.   Practically all of the most deprived areas in the country are in Tier 3.   I’ve got nothing against London, but I have got an awful lot against the North and Midlands being treated like this, whilst London gets preferential treatment.

There’s a rumour that Andy Burnham’s been told that Greater Manchester will be being moved into Tier 2 on December 17th, although he’s denied it.  Fingers crossed …

And United came from behind to win 3-2 at Southampton

Lockdown II Week 2 – November 9th to 15th 2020 inclusive

Monday, November 9th

Big news today – Pfizer and BioNTech have got a virus which preliminary analysis shows is 90% effective in preventing infection.  It’s early days, but it’s certainly sounding hopeful.

Unfortunately, in a press conference tonight, in which Boris and Chief Medical Officer Jonathan Van-Tam went on about bugle toots, arrows in quivers and penalty shoot-outs, Boris went on about the evil “Tier” approach, so it looks like we’re going to be stuck with these vile travel restrictions for some time yet.  So sick of it.  Wales isn’t doing this any more.  Why are England and Scotland?

A relation of mine has contracted the virus whilst in hospital.  This seems to be happening with a lot of people.  I understand that the virus is incredibly infectious, but surely, after all these months, hospitals should have better procedures in place.

And it looks as if we may lose a place in the Nations League finals due to the Danish mutant mink virus!   England are due to play Iceland.  A few days earlier, Iceland are due to play Denmark, in Denmark.  No-one is allowed to enter the UK that soon after being in Denmark.  UEFA say that the match in Denmark can go ahead.  Mink 1 – 0 England.   There are also issues over Danish players based in England, and also Swedish players based in England, as Denmark are also due to play Sweden.  And Liverpool are due to play Midtjylland away in December, but then any non-UK players wouldn’t be able to come back, and any British players would have to quarantine for 14 days!

Still stressed about the kitchen ceiling.

On a happier note, a) the park wasn’t busy today and b) Dunham lights has been extended into January and they’ve rebooked people who were booked for the lockdown period.

 

Tuesday, November 10th

GCSEs and A-levels in Wales have been cancelled for next year.  I wonder if England and Northern Ireland will follow suit.  I would have been completely hysterical if my exams had been cancelled, and am so sorry for the kids concerned, but, as the Welsh authorities have said, and Andy Burnham’s said, going ahead with exams is very unfair on kids who’ve had to miss time in school due to self-isolating.

Mass testing is to be carried out in more areas, although Greater Manchester hasn’t been mentioned.  And it looks as if the idea is to the roll out the vaccine ASAP.

I went to Tesco first thing, and then walked to the park just after 1 o’clock.  There was loads of traffic around.  OK, first thing, it was probably mostly people going to work or returning from collecting kids from school, but what were all those “essential journeys” at 1 o’clock?  I feel less guilty about going to Dunham Massey now.  Also, whilst there’ve been reports about supermarkets cordoning off “non-essential” stuff, ours hadn’t.  Cordoning stuff off is stupid.  It doesn’t protect small shops, because people just buy stuff from Amazon.

Matt Hancock has been drivelling on about how great it’ll be to get out of lockdown and back into the tiered system.  Yes, because that’s so great for everyone in Tier 3.  Talk about “I’m all right, Jack”!!

 

Armistice Day, Wednesday, November 11th

A grim milestone today – over 50,000 people in the UK have now died “with coronavirus”.  That’s the official figure, anyway.  We’ll never know the real one.  How many people died in the early days without being tested?  How many of the 50,000 people had serious health conditions and would sadly not have survived this year anyway?  But it’s pretty grim.   595 deaths today – and 53 of those were in Greater Manchester.  Why, oh why, are we being hit so badly?  One of those Stating the Bleeding Obvious official reports has come out today, saying that Northern England’s been particularly badly hit.  Yes.  We know that.  Rates are falling here, though – although, annoyingly, not by very much in our borough.

Northern Ireland’s supposed to be coming out of lockdown after tomorrow, but no-one knows if it is or not because the politicians still haven’t decided.  FFS.

Students are to be allowed home for Christmas – but will be given timeslots in which to leave.

And I am on holiday.  My nasty employers only give us the legal minimum number of days’ holiday, and make us take some of that on days not of our choosing, so holiday days are sacred and I tie myself in knots planning them.  So, so many times I’ve had to miss things I wanted to do as a result.  But, this year, I’ve got a week (3 days in Nov, 2 in Dec which I was saving for a Christmas market trip abroad – hah!!) with nothing to do, which is crazy.  I was supposed to be having 2 weeks in Japan in October.  That got cancelled.  But November trips were still on, so I was going to go to France.  That got cancelled.  Then I thought I’d go to Wales.  Until the local lockdowns in Wales came in.  Forget Wales.  Shropshire, then.  I’d made a list of places to visit there.  Then the Tier 3 crap came in.  So I thought I could go for a spa day, and go to some of the local attractions like the East Lancs Railway.  No.  Can’t even do that.  And they won’t let us carry our holidays forward.

Er, so I went to Dunham Massey.  Which is a non-essential journey.  Across town.  And I felt a bit guilty – but there were loads of people there, all in cars.  And I didn’t go near anyone else, and I was outside.  And it was nice.  Although, FFS, they are now letting dogs in the garden.  Bloody hellfire!  There are horrible dogs everywhere.  One couple were letting their odious dog bark so loudly that you could hear it across the entire Dunham Massey estate.  People were giving this couple funny looks, and some people even remarked about it, but they clearly didn’t give a shit that they were disturbing everyone else.  I’ve actually e-mailed to complain about dogs being allowed in the gardens.  I don’t normally do things like that, but enough’s enough.  NT gardens are amongst the few outdoor places which aren’t plagued with dogs.

Er, apart from the dog thing, it was very nice.

I was there at 11 o’clock – quite appropriate, as the house was a military hospital during the First World War – and most people did stop and observe the two minutes’ silence, which was nice.

Then I went to see the Christmas display at the garden centre.  Which was breaking Tier 3 bounds, as it’s a few hundred yards outside Greater Manchester.  Judging from the accents of other people, most of them were breaking Tier 3 bounds.  I’d stupidly thought it’d be quiet on a weekday, but I had to queue to get in, which was annoying.  Shops are going to go under if this carries on: people haven’t got time to keep waiting in queues, and what if it’d been pouring down?  The fact that there was a long queue  says a lot: no-one “has” to go to a garden centre.  But it’s better that people go there, where visitor numbers are restricted and you can’t sit around, than go to each other’s houses.

I seem to be writing an essay every day.  And this is nearly 8 months in!

 

Thursday, November 12th

Business Secretary Alok Sharma, “leading” a Downing Street press briefing this evening, was asked by a lady from Sheffield if everywhere’d be going back into its pre-lockdown tier on December 2nd, or whether the tiering’d be reassessed.  He completely sidestepped the question and just said, twice, that national restrictions’d be ending on December 2nd.  So annoying.  And rude.

Meanwhile, Northern Ireland’s government thought that the lockdown there ended tonight, but it actually ends tomorrow night, because they got confused by their own definition of “midnight on Friday”.  Seriously.  And then, just as places were getting ready to reopen, they said that they were extending it for another week.

The number of new infections, which has remained at 20,000-23,000-ish for days, has somehow jumped from 22,950 yesterday to 33,470 today.  How the hell has that happened?  How can there be an increase of nearly 50% one day, when it’d been stable for the last week or so?

Holiday day 2 today, and back to Hollingworth Lake.  The Olive and Pickle had scones today, hooray!  Nice sunny day, too.

I then went to Healey Dell, a nature reserve not far from there.  It was absolutely beautiful, with waterfalls and all the autumnal colours, but there were very few people around and I felt a bit nervous, so I didn’t walk far.

Also, there were loads of signs up saying that the tea room was open from Thursdays to Sundays, but, when I got there, ready for another cuppa, there was a sign saying that it was only open on Saturday and Sunday this week!    After that, I decided to book Styal for tomorrow.  I’m not sure whether or not I’m meant to cross into Cheshire East, but I’m getting a bit past caring: I’m only going for a walk.  If the tier thing does apply this month, I crossed from one Tier 3 area to another today, because I genuinely hadn’t realised that Healey Dell, despite having a Rochdale address and being listed on Visit Rochdale, Trip Advisor and even Rochdale Council’s own website as being in Rochdale, is a few hundred years into the borough of Rossendale.  Well, part of it is, anyway.  Whereas Middleton, which is in Manchester, comes under the borough of Rochdale.  And we, also in Manchester, come under the borough of Bury.  And Failsworth, also in Manchester, comes under the borough of Oldham.  And we’re all Lancastrians anyway!!  Er, anyway, I’m going to Styal tomorrow.

The powers that be have agreed that the Icelandic football squad are to be granted exemption from the Danish travel ban, so the Nations League match can go ahead.  There’d been some talk of playing it in Albania!   But it can now be played at Wembley.

 

Friday, November 13th

I was going to get ten billion things done during these three days off.  How many of them have I got done?  Hmm.  I’ve done two shoeboxes for the Manchester Christmas Shoebox Appeal, though.  They’ve got to be in early this year, so that they can be quarantined for a fortnight.

Some people have put their Christmas trees up already, and supermarket websites are struggling to cope with advance bookings for Christmas week deliveries.

Lovely weather today, after heavy rain from about 5am to 7am.  The autumnal colours at Styal were absolutely beautiful.  I had a really nice time there.

I’m doing so much walking at the moment, but my weight is still a complete disaster 😦 .

Today’s figures, whilst still grim, are much better than yesterday’s – 27,301 cases, and 376 deaths.  The highest rate of positive tests by age groups is amongst secondary school kids.  Hmm.

And rates in the north west are definitely falling, touch wood, and the R rate could be below 1 here.

 

Saturday, November 14th

Hooray, week-on-week infection rates in Greater Manchester are down by 18%!   Although our borough annoyingly now has the 3rd highest rate of the 10.  But rates are down in every borough.  Unfortunately, rates nationwide are still rising, and another 462 deaths were recorded today.  And it’s worse across much of Europe.  Italy had over 40,000 new cases yesterday, and France had over 80,000 one day, both with lower populations than us.  Austria, with a population less than 1/7 of ours, had over 9,500 cases yesterday, and is going back into lockdown.  And the rates in America are awful.

Rishi Sunak lit oil lamps on the steps of 11 Downing Street today, to mark the start of Diwali.  It’s lovely that we’re now at a point where it’s totally cool for the Chancellor of the Exchequer to be a practising Hindu, but sad that here’s yet another festival which people will be unable to spend with family and friends.  Plenty of fireworks have been going off nearby, though!

There was an anti-lockdown protest in Bristol today, but only a few hundred people went.  Most people do accept that something needed doing, but we’re all so fed up, and there’s a lot of resentment over the fact that bookshops, toy shops, clothes shops etc have had to close when you can buy books, toys and clothes readily in supermarkets and garden centres.

The media are making a huge big deal over the fact that Dominic Cummings and Lee Cain have been given the heave-ho.  We’re getting a load of melodramatic stuff about “power struggles” and “right hand men” and “factions”.  They’re making it sound as if Henry VIII’s about to execute Thomas Cromwell or there’s been a rerun of the Bedchamber Crisis. Advisors do come and go.  I just hope that Dominic from Durham and Lee from Ormskirk are not replaced by Home Counties public schoolboys.

I found a 3 mile walk through Worsley, only 10 minutes away, on Google, so I did that today.  It was dry at that point: it rained later.   After the Healey Dell thing, I decided to save this for a weekend, when there’d be more people about.  Part of it was along the historic Bridgewater Canal and through woodland, which was very pretty, but then it brought you back through a housing estate!  Oh well, it was somewhere different to walk.  I must sound as if I go out all the time, but I really don’t – I just don’t write about all the time I spend doing housework, which is more than usual at the moment as I’m doing my annual year end house clearout (which largely consists of taking things out of drawers/cupboards, cleaning the drawers/cupboards, then putting things back in, even though I never use half of them).

 

Sunday, November 15th

Haven’t been far today, just to the park, but I’ve made progress with the Year End House Clearout, and sorted out some photos whilst watching the tennis.  Rafa’s first match of the World Tour Finals is later this evening.  Fingers crossed!

One of the inventors of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine’s said that hopefully things will be back to normal by next winter.  Next winter?!  OK, OK, I’m sure we all know it won’t be a magic bullet, and there are already plans for next summer’s big sporting events to take place behind closed doors, but … just hearing it said out loud was scary.  Another YEAR of this.  “Non-essential” shops have already been shut for 15 weeks this year and, even when they were open, weren’t doing anything like as much business as normal.  The travel and tourism industries are in a mess, as is the live music industry, as are theatres.  Another year of weddings etc being cancelled?  Of not being able to go to football matches?  And I cannot take much more of these evil travel restrictions imposed on Greater Manchester and other areas.  And, most of all, FFS, we need to see our families and friends.  Yes, I know that my grandparents’ generation lived through six years of war.  But … bleurgh.

If we could just get back to where we were in July, I’d take that for now.

The Evening News has printed charts showing the rates of infection in each of the 10 boroughs since the start of August.  In every one, it started rising at the end of August, and sky-rocketing at the start of September.  Easy for people to blame “Eat out to help out” but, as rates have sky-rocketed right across Europe, it can’t be that.  So was it schools going back?  But it seems to have started before schools went back.  Or just people moving around over the summer?  It’s done now, but we could do with knowing.  Or was it just the way pandemics go?  There are always second waves.

But they do end.  Don’t they?

And, after all the fuss over the Danish mink, the Iceland match is now irrelevant, because we lost to Belgium and now cannot qualify for the Nations League finals.  Bleurgh.

 

Welcome to Lockdown II – the lights go out, the facilities stay open

  Lockdown II started on November 5th.  At least the date’s easy to remember, remember.  Blackpool Illuminations have been switched off mid-season for the first time since 1939.  The Army have occupied Pontins in Southport.  Parts of Fallowfield have been turned into a prison camp.  Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is probably wishing he’d been furloughed.  Andy Burnham has given a speech about Hilda Ogden’s muriel.  Memes are going round about the House of Commons Nativity Play being cancelled because no-one can find three wise men.  Denmark has been taken off the travel corridor list because the virus is mutating in mink.  And the US presidential election is about to be decided by Clayton County.  “Take a good look, my dear.  It’s a historic moment.”

It really isn’t funny, even though it sometimes sounds it.

Infection rates are still going up.  The North West continues to be the worst-affected part of the country.  Some hospitals are starting to struggle.  More and more jobs and businesses are going, despite the furlough scheme and the other support being made available.  And there’s no end in sight.  It was bad enough in the spring, when the days were longer, summer was coming, and people weren’t mentally exhausted from months and months of restrictions.  “Super Saturday” was on July 4th.  Greater Manchester was put under additional restrictions on July 31st.  Didn’t get much of a respite from it all, did we?  And the doom merchants are claiming that the lockdown will be extended until March.  Like Narnia under the White Witch – always winter, never Christmas.

It won’t go on until March.  The economy wouldn’t take it.  But the bloody Tier 3 restrictions might well go on till March – the Welsh authorities are abandoning local lockdowns, but the English authorities seem dead set on pursuing them.  Like last time, the weather’s turned nice just as we aren’t supposed to be going anywhere.  I’d booked to go round Blackpool Illuminations on a heritage tram tomorrow.  It would have been lovely, in this weather.  And Blackpool’s desperate for tourism business.  But Greater Manchester and 1974-admin-borders Lancashire class as separate areas for Tier 3 travel restrictions purposes, so that was messed up a few weeks ago.  And now, with Lockdown II, the Illuminations have been switched off.  For the first time since 1939, when they had to be switched off so that they wouldn’t shine through the blackout.

The Tower remains lit, so that it can be a symbol of hope.

United’s terrible start to the season is not the fault of the virus, to be fair.   And it was really rather sweet of Andy Burnham to take a few minutes out to congratulate Coronation Street on its forthcoming 60th anniversary.   But what on earth were the idiots in charge of the University of Manchester thinking of when they decided to put metal fences round halls of residence in Fallowfield, as a “Covid security measure”?  I’m sure we’re all well aware that there’ve been issues with the virus spreading at universities, but you can’t just put fences around people’s accommodation, like a prison camp.  Most of the people living in halls are 18 or 19-year-old kids who’d never lived away from home until the middle of September.  Use a bit of sense, please.  Following an outcry by students and the general public, the fences are being removed a day after they were put up.

That particular cunning plan was so ridiculous that even Baldrick wouldn’t have come up with it.  However, two other cunning plans are supposed to offer more hope.  And, like everything else seems to do at the moment, they centre on the North West.  One is a “lateral flow” virus test which gives results in half an hour, and is being trialled in Blackburn.  The other is mass testing in Liverpool.   Mass testing was supposed to be being trialled in Salford earlier in the year, but it didn’t seem to get very far.  Maybe this’ll work better.  It’s being carried out by soldiers.  Who are being accommodated at Pontins in Southport.

It’s no better anywhere else.  And at least we aren’t about to massacre 17 million mink, which Denmark is having to do.

This won’t go on for ever.  Pandemics never do.  But it would be nice to be able to see some light at the end of the tunnel.  In the meantime, at least there are still lights on Blackpool Tower.  And, hey, at least public toilets are staying open during Lockdown II, so we haven’t got to cope with all that again.  And, if anyone’s actually read all that, thank you for reading, and please look after your physical and mental health x.

Lockdown II.  Here we go again …

Second Wave Week 9 – October 26th to November 1st 2020 inclusive

 

Monday, October 26th

Feeling rather glum today.  Now that the clocks have gone back, it’s going dark by the time I’ve finished work.  It’s also getting colder, and I can guarantee that the office will not pay a penny towards our heating bills.  And it’s rained for much of the day.  Warrington is moving into Tier 3 earlier than originally announced, and Nottingham and some areas close to it are also moving into Tier 3.  There are threats of even tighter restrictions.  It’s no better in France, Spain, Belgium etc, which are weeks ahead of us – in fact, it’s getting worse.  Everyone is so fed up.

Meanwhile, the row over what does and doesn’t count as “essential” during the Welsh lockdown is getting increasingly silly.  One man went shopping in nothing but his pants, as a protest over clothes being classed as non-essential.  And one woman was told that she wasn’t allowed to buy sanitary products!

I’m trying to be cheerful, but it really is difficult.  Things just seem to be getting worse and worse.

Tuesday, October 27th

367 deaths today, the highest daily figure since June.  OK, Tuesday’s always the worst day because of the catch-up from the weekend, but even so.  And infection rates keep rising.  The Manchester Evening News published a list of hotspots by ward, rather than by borough, and there was just no pattern or logic to it.  It all just seems to be random.

Protests in Milan and Turin last night turned violent, as Ultras infiltrated what were meant to be peaceful protests over restrictions.

Andy Burnham’s launched a “one GM fund” to try to help local businesses.  Gary Neville appears to be very involved with it.   And over 50 Northern Tory MPs have asked the government for answers on how we move forward.  They haven’t got any.

Wednesday, October 28th

Germany is going into “lockdown lite”.  Sounds as if France could be going into lockdown heavy.

The whole of Nottinghamshire is now going into Tier 3 on Friday.  Why didn’t they just say that to start with?  Why say it would be some areas but not others, and then change their minds five minutes later?  Shops there won’t be allowed to sell alcohol after 9pm.  Er, why is this a rule in Nottinghamshire but nowhere else?!   And all parts of Staffordshire still in Tier 1 will be going into Tier 2.  Meanwhile, social clubs in some Tier 3 areas have been told that it’s OK for them to sell alcohol without substantial meals, because the ban’s only for pubs.  Does anyone understand any of this?!

Bristol has created its own personal tier!  “Tier 1 Plus”.  Hey, let’s all create our own tiers.

An increasing number of matches are being called off due to virus outbreaks.  Football clubs are being allowed to postpone matches, but rugby league clubs are being made to forfeit them, which seems rather mean.

Marcus Rashford’s meal vouchers petition has now got over 1 million signatures.

Everyone is fed up.

But, on a happier note, we beat Leipzig 5-0 tonight!!  And Marcus Rashford scored a hat trick.   The club are calling for fans, albeit a reduced number of fans, to be allowed back into stadia, but I can’t see it happening ATM … but at least we’ve made a great start to the Champions League.

Thursday, October 29th

It has rained ALL day.  OK, that’s not the virus’s fault, but it hasn’t exactly made anyone feel any better.

West Yorkshire’s being pushed into Tier 3 from Monday, and it looks as if the West Midlands may follow.  Infection rates sadly remain highest here in the North West, but are now rising fastest in the Midlands and parts of the South.

Various areas are moving into Tier 2 – Telford and the Wrekin, the city of Oxford, East Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire, parts of Derbyshire, and Luton

The social club alcohol loophole’s been closed.

The G-Mex Nightingale Hospital’s now taking (non-virus) patients.

The new Scottish tiers have been announced.  Nowhere’s going into Tier 4 yet, but the Tier 3 rules are worse than they are here.

Bobby Ball’s died after testing positive for the virus.  Very sad news.  Such a lovely man.

In the middle of all this, the EHRC’s found the Labour Party guilty of anti-Semitic harassment and discrimination, and’s also found that there was political interference in complaints on the issue.  It’s absolutely the right verdict.  The likes of Harold Wilson and John Smith must be turning in their graves, and it really shames everyone that a mainstream British political party should have come to this.  The current leadership accepted the verdict and agreed to work to try to change things, but that vile anti-Semite Corbyn reacted by insisting that there wasn’t a big problem and that it was all a plot by his political opponents and the media.  Keir Starmer, quite rightly, has suspended him from the Labour Party.   So that’s giving the media something to talk about other than the virus and Donald Trump.

Friday, October 30th

Nobby Stiles died today.  Nothing to do with the virus, and he’d been ill for a while, but it’s very sad news.

I am miserable because I put on a load of weight on holiday and now weigh even more than I did before lockdown.

The number of cases in the North East seems to have stabilised.  Sadly, it’s still rising here, and elsewhere.  We’re being given no sort of info on where people are getting it.  OK, a lot of people may genuinely have no idea, but surely it must be possible to trace some sort of links/patterns within particular areas?

Traffic jams of over 430 miles have formed as people leave Paris … er, to spend lockdown elsewhere.  Where?!!  Has everyone in Paris got a holiday pad on the Riviera or something?!  And Belgium is going into lockdown.  No haircuts until mid-December.

People in Notts are being banned from going out for tea and scones/cake .  “Substantial meals” only.  FFS.

There is a growing feeling here that a national lockdown is inevitable.  Not because anyone thinks it’s a good idea, just because no-one’s got any other ideas.  It’ll be interesting to see if the Welsh and Northern Irish “firebreaks” have done any good.  Wales is giving up on local lockdowns, but the powers that be here insist that the tier system is the way to go.  Not that we see much of them.  Boris is practically invisible, and Priti Patel even more so.  Even Rishi Sunak seems to have disappeared.  Dominic Raab, Matt Hancock, Robert Jenrick and George Eustice all pop up from time to time, but where is Boris?  I’m not keen on Nicola Sturgeon, but at least she’s visible.

A Swiss study claims that a new strain of the virus appeared in Spain over the summer and then spread across Europe.  And a South African study claims that infections are dropping there because they’re approaching herd immunity.  Who knows?

 

Saturday, October 31st

We’re going into lockdown.  On Thursday.  For a MONTH.  Damn, that means I miss the Dunham lights, unless I can rebook.  My hairdresser rang to ask if I could go on Monday, which is way too early but it’s needs must.  Yes, I know that my hair and the Dunham lights are not the main issues here, but my brain’s a bit addled.

Schools, colleges, universities and nurseries will remain open.  So will workplaces if people can’t work from home.  So it’s kind of “lockdown lite”, like in Germany.  Pubs, bars, cafes and restaurants have to close apart from deliveries and take-aways.  So will “non-essential retail outlets”, and entertainment places.  We haven’t got all the details yet, but gyms and hairdressers will have to close.  So will golf clubs (poor Dad!), although it’s not clear about other amateur sporting activities?  What National Trust places?  And can we go out by car for a walk?  That sounds really stupid, but I mean are we allowed to drive a few miles to somewhere other than our local park?  And presumably garden centres can stay open?

The furlough scheme will now continue for another month, which is something.  However, could someone please tell me why a 67% of wages “support” scheme is apparently considered adequate for the North West and Yorkshire, but, when the South goes into lockdown as well, it’s decided that it should be 80%?

This has all been decided because the latest lot of statistics suggest that the virus is spreading more quickly than expected, and the NHS is in danger of running out of capacity.  It’s not a surprise, but it’s all happened so quickly.  It was all over the papers, the TV, the radio and the internet this morning, and it seems that the plans were leaked.  I’ve often wondered if all these “leaks” aren’t deliberate, to give people time to get used to the latest restrictions before they’re announced officially, but this certainly wasn’t – they wouldn’t have planned to announce it on a Saturday.  And they clearly weren’t ready: we were initially told that the press conference would be at 4, then at 5, then at half 6, and it ended up being at 1/4 to 7.  This is ridiculous – surely the secret services should be able to find out where these leaks are coming from?

Bleurgh.  Is there no end to this bloody nightmare?  And, when this month of lockdown’s over, it’s back to the bloody tier system.  I’ve had an e-mail to say that my booking for Blackpool Illuminations has been cancelled, but I’d like to rebook if we’ll be able to go in December, but, if we’re still in bloody Tier 3, it’ll be against “guidance”.  Carlisle’s going into Tier 2, not that that’s very relevant for now.  But West Yorkshire is now not going into Tier 3.  Just to confuse everyone a bit more.

Went to Dunham Massey – the only NT place actually within “Greater Manchester” – this morning.

In March, people got really into walking, cycling, jogging, and online PE lessons with Joe Wicks.  This time, everyone’s, like, bleurgh, pass the vodka/gin/wine and the chocolates/biscuits.

So here we are.  Lockdown II.

In other news, a) Sean Connery has died and b) England have won the Six Nations (nearly 8 months late).

 

Sunday, November 1st

How many domestic problems have I had during this pandemic?  The toilet flush broke.   The toilet seat broke.  The oven broke.  Then there was the nightmare lightning strike.  Last night, I noticed a wet patch on the kitchen ceiling.   I barely slept all night.  Got the plumber out this morning, and he reckoned it was the toilet again.  How can a toilet cause so much trouble?!  He replaced a valve.  But the wet patch has kept getting bigger – I understand that the water already there had to come through, but it’s panicking me, even though I’m hoping it’s pretty much stopped now.  And the kitchen ceiling looks a mess.

I did not need this, on top of Lockdown II.  Several friends have said that their mental health is suffering now.

After that, I went into town, to get a new watch battery, do some of the “Windows of Creativity” trail (including this one, showing Emmeline Pankhurst, whom I sure would never have been fazed by a leaking toilet), and go to The Vienna Coffee House before it has to close again.  It was hard not to feel sad.  We should be getting ready for the Christmas markets to open.  And, of course, we should have the Remembrance Sunday parades a week today.  Instead … well, who knows how many businesses may never reopen?

Then it rained nearly all afternoon.  And  United lost to Arsenal.  What a terrible start to the league season.

And Bobby Charlton’s been diagnosed with dementia, which I’m very sad about.

Andy Burnham and Steve Rotheram have both made it clear how narked everyone in the North is over the furlough scheme issue.  They’ve also called for schools to close.  There’s quite a debate going on about schools.  I can see both sides of it: it’s hard to know what to think.  And Michael Gove’s said that the lockdown may go on for more than a month.  He had to say that, when asked, because he couldn’t commit to its only being a month when no-one knows how things’ll go.

On a happier note, the rate of increase locally has slowed significantly.

So endeth a rather crap week.  Next week, Lockdown II.

Town before lockdown

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Monday, October 19th

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

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

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

 

Tuesday, October 20th

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

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

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

I am so angry.

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

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

 

Wednesday, October 21st

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

Anti-government graffiti is appearing around Manchester and Liverpool.

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

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

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

 

Thursday, October 22nd

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

It doesn’t cover pandemics.

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

Slough, Coventry and Stoke are moving into Tier 2.

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

 

Friday, October 24th

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

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

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

 

Saturday, October 25th

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

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

It’s making the government look very bad indeed.

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

Home tomorrow.

 

Sunday, October 25th

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

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

So fed up.

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

And so I’m home.  In Tier 3.