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

The Harrying of the North, or The Two Nations

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

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

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

And infection rates have just kept going up anyway.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Second Wave Week 3 – September 14th to 20th 2020 inclusive

Monday, September 14th

Rates here were unfortunately back up a bit yesterday, but the rate of increase has certainly slowed.  Both Liverpool and Birmingham have now got higher infection rates than Manchester.  I’m trying to make some sort of sense of the trends, but they don’t really make any sense at all.

I am annoyed with the Manchester Evening News, something which very rarely happens.  It should be appealing to everyone to pull together and stick to the rules, and, if it helps, publishing interviews with people who’ve been personally affected by the virus and want to make others understand how serious it can be.  Instead, all it seems interested in is slagging off the Westminster government.  Could we just stop all the political points-scoring, please?  This is a major crisis.  We need unity, not division.  Everyone’s very quick to moan and criticise.  No-one seems to be trying to do anything to help.

Lovely sunny day today.  The “Rule of Six” is now in force.  I did not see one group of more than six people in the park, which was hopeful … although it’s pubs and houses, not parks, where the virus spread.

And congratulations on Dominic Thiem, and commiserations to Sascha Zverev, after a crazy US Open final!  I got to bed at about half 1 this morning, but never mind.  And now it’s Rome.  In September!  Rafa plays on Wednesday.  At last …

 

Tuesday, September 15th

I’m getting very downhearted about the way that people, and especially sections of the media, are using the pandemic to try to score political points and promote division and conflict.  These are dangerous times.  There’s been a noticeable increase in hospital admissions in Bolton.  There’s also been a rise in infections and in hospital admissions nationwide – and also in deaths, although the numbers are very small.  In Bordeaux and Marseille, hospitals are beginning to struggle to cope.  The Netherlands is recording more daily infections now than it was in April, although that’s partly due to more testing.  We all need to pull together.  It is not helpful for left-wing newspapers and political points-scorers on social media to claim that different rules are being set for the upper-classes because grouse shooting is exempt from the “rule of six”.  It’s also nonsense.  It’s exempt because it’s a sport.  Whilst I don’t approve of people shooting wildlife for sport, football, netball, hockey, rugby, cricket and numerous other sports are also exempt.

Very warm today – over 80 degrees early afternoon.  Due to cool down tomorrow.

And unemployment is, inevitably, up – something that the I’m all right Jacks/Jills working from home on full pay and calling for a second lockdown might want to bear in mind.  The furlough scheme is due to finish at the end of October.  I take the point that some businesses, sadly, will never recover from this, and that it’d be better to help people to find new jobs than to carry on like this, but it’s a lot easier said than done.

 

Wednesday, September 16th

Waiting for the evening session in Rome to start.  It’s been nearly seven months since Rafa last played.  I just hope it isn’t a disaster.  But, oh, I will be so glad to see him back!

I would be glad to see him back anyway, but I need cheering up today.  I am so sick of all the grousing.  Pun intended!  This is the biggest national and international crisis since the Second World War, and the Opposition and the media are trying to score political points by mithering about grouse shooting.  All we are hearing is negativity.  Yes, there are major problems with the testing system not being able to cope.  There’s been a huge increase in the number of people wanting tests.  It’s not good.  But moaning and criticising will not help.  Has no-one got anything constructive to say?  And now the Archbishop of Canterbury’s stuck his nose in, saying that the rule of six (now also in force in the Republic of Ireland) damages family life.  Yes, we know that.  No-one likes it.  But has he got a better idea?

And I feel as if we’re being forgotten.  We’ve had these local restrictions in place for weeks, and they don’t seem to be doing any good.  Will we be put under even tighter restrictions, like Oldham, or even like Bolton?  As things stand, my sister and brother-in-law and the kids cannot visit unless they pay to stay in a hotel and meet us in the park.  And, even if they did that, they wouldn’t be allowed to see me and Mum and Dad together.  But, if we weren’t under these local restrictions, at least they’d be able to visit us separately, and I’d be able to visit my uncle and cousins.  And, if it gets worse, like it is in Oldham, Birmingham, etc then technically I’ll be breaking the rules if I pass someone I know in the street and stop to exchange pleasantries with them!   If it was London under local restrictions, it’d be the headlines of the news every day.

The council have finally moved themselves, but only to send out a text alert telling people to book a test if they feel ill.  Everyone knows that.  So many people want tests that the system can’t cope.  What they should be doing is warning/encouraging people to keep the rules.

On a lighter note, someone got on a bus at Salford precinct, about 4 miles from here, and used a snake as a face covering!  Seriously.

 

Thursday, September 17th

Rafa’s comeback yesterday evening went really well 🙂 .  He beat Pablo 6-1 6-1.  I was worried that he’d be rusty after 6 1/2 months away.  It’s about the only thing that is going well, though.  Oh, except that the decorator’s been, and painted the outside of the house.

The French government’s said that only 5,000 fans will be allowed on Chatrier, and none on the other courts.  At least the French Open’s going ahead, though.  That’s a positive.  “Pilot” events with 1,000 fans are to go ahead here, but the prospect of 78,000 of us being allowed into old Trafford looks a very long way away.

Infection rates in our borough have shot up today, after holding steady for a few days.  It’s like the Eurovision Song Contest – one set of results can send you shooting up the scoreboard 😦 .  Tameside, which’s been struggling, is now doing better.  But Bury and Salford are doing worse.

Kearsley – an area on the Manchester/Salford side of Bolton, about 5 miles from me – is now the coronavirus capital of the country.  Why Kearsley?  Why Bolton?

Two million people in the North East are being put under local restrictions.  No mixing with other households/bubbles.  Pubs etc to close from 10pm to 5am.  Food places only to offer table service.  The authorities there say that a lot of the problems are to do with late night drinking – people get pissed and forget to observe social distancing.  This has been said about other areas too.  So why hasn’t a 10pm closing time been brought in everywhere?   FFS, why should we all have to suffer because of people getting drunk?

This is a nightmare.

 

Friday, September 18th

Restrictions have now been extended to Merseyside – i.e. St Helens, Southport etc, as well as Liverpool and the Wirral -, Warrington, Halton (Widnes) and all parts of (the post-1974 administrative area known as Lancashire even though it’s only part of the proper historic county of) Lancashire not already under restrictions, other than Blackpool.  Why is Blackpool doing better than everywhere else?  Interesting.  Plus additional parts of Leicestershire, and Wolverhampton, and the bits of West Yorkshire which were in lockdown but were then taken out of it.  Not Wigan, Stockport or Leeds.  It’s all getting very confusing – people in these areas can only meet those outside their households/bubbles in outdoor areas which aren’t private gardens, like us, but are getting the curfew/table service rules, like the North East.

It does now seem all but certain that nationwide restrictions will be coming in shortly.  Apologies for being self-centred. but I’m panicking in case this puts the kibosh on my trip to Bath in the 3rd week of October.  As we are not being allowed to carry holidays forward, I’d then end up spending my week off hanging around the local park … which is pretty crap, given how often I’ve had to say no to meeting family and friends in other parts of the country due to not having enough holiday days, or been unable to do the coach tour I wanted for the same reason.  Maybe they’ll just close pubs.  Apart from selfish reasons, I hope they don’t close hotels because this is Blackpool Illuminations season, and they can’t afford to lose that as well as all the months lost already.

I wish now that I’d taken time off in July, but, when I was booking, it seemed more sensible to wait.   At least I got my week in the Lakes in August.

I am increasingly annoyed with the political points-scoring.  The Labour health spokesman was wittering on about how it’s all the Government’s fault that you can’t visit your grandma.  He sounded like a five year old telling the teacher than another kid started it.  Not one word of any sort of helpful suggestion.   Nicola Sturgeon, rather more sensibly, has requested a COBRA meeting.  No-one knows WTF to do, though.  France, Spain, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic …

I am so sick of this!!

 

Saturday, September 19th

Apologies for being self-centred, but work have said we can’t carry holidays forward, so I have limited rebooking options, and I am now panicking over rumours of a two week lockdown to include the week of school half term.  I’m due to go the week before half term, so I don’t know if it’d affect me or not, so I don’t know what to do.  And it may be OK … it could just be closing pubs and restaurants, so, assuming that the hotel stayed open (which it might or might not … presumably they could offer room service/packed meals?), I’d be OK.  But … I mean, what does closing pubs have to do with school half term?  No-one knows what the hell’s going to happen.  But, meanwhile, I’m panicking.

When our borough went into local lockdown, the infection rate was around 16 per 100,000.  It’s now almost 120 per 100,000.  Well, that’s really working, isn’t it?  Where are people getting the virus?  I appreciate that some people may genuinely have no idea, but some must.  And a Bolton councillor’s confirmed the reports that someone got the virus on holiday, didn’t quarantine when they got back, went on a pub crawl, and spread it all round.  They want locking up.  But then it shouldn’t have spread so easily – what is going on in pubs?

And we lost our first match of the season, 3-1 to Palace.  And then Rafa lost to Schwartzman in the Italian Open QFs.  In both cases, great performances from opponents, but that didn’t excuse the very disappointing performances …. bleurgh!

Until this evening, I’d had the most lovely day!  I went to Bakewell and Matlock Bath.  Both were quite busy – bearing out what’s been said about small town centres recovering more quickly than larger ones.  Buxton also looked busy, as I drove through it on the way back, but Stockport didn’t, and the infamous Trafford Centre traffic just wasn’t there at all … although I suppose people don’t tend to go to shopping centres on nice, warn, sunny Indian Summer days.  I had such a nice time! The weather was gorgeous, and the scenery was glorious … such a lovely, lovely day.  But now all this stress 😦 .

 

Sunday, September 20th

Another lovely sunny day, after a bit of rain this morning.  I went to Skipton and Grassington.  I hadn’t been to Grassington for ages, but everyone’s talking about it because the new All Creatures Great and Small‘s been filmed there!  Same story in the Dales as in the Peaks – everywhere’s quite busy.  However, the cafes/tea rooms were all, as they were in the Peaks, trying so hard – tables moved well apart, everything being cleaned after each party left.  But then there’ve been reports of mayhem in Blackpool.

Fines are to be brought in for people who don’t self-isolate when required to do so.  Why is this only happening now?  And it won’t work anyway.  People who can afford to pay won’t care, and people who can’t afford to pay won’t pay.

Cheddar Gorge and Caves are closing down, saying that they can’t see things getting better any time soon.  Some caves are letting people in on a limited numbers basis, but others either don’t feel it’s worth it or can’t set up a “Covid-safe” system due to the layout of the caves.  It’s the first well-known tourist attraction to go.

There’ve been major protests in Madrid over travel restrictions and other measures there.  People have had enough.  And, yes, I know that my grandparents’ generation lived through six years of war.  There was more sense of unity then.  Why can’t people keep the bloody rules?  I don’t mean people having a few relatives or friends round: I mean people having house parties, or some of the stories about crowding in bars.

Oh, when will this ever end?

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

Monday, September 7th

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Tuesday, September 8th

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

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

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

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

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

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

And Ash Barty has pulled out of the French Open.

 

Wednesday, September 9th

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

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

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

Everyone is getting rather despondent 😦 .

 

Thursday, September 10th

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Friday, September 11th

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

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

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

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

Finally got my refund from the gym.

And Vika has knocked Serena out of the US Open.

 

Saturday, September 12th

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Sunday, September 13th

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Trying to smile behind the mask

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Bank Holiday Monday, August 31st

Back home.

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

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

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

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

 

Tuesday, September 1st

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

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

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

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

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

 

Wednesday, September 2nd

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

 

Thursday, September 3rd

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

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

 

Friday, September 4th

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

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

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

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

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

Who knows how all this will pan out?

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

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

 

Saturday, September 5th

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

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

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

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

And there have been anti-restriction protests in Edinburgh.

 

Sunday, September 6th

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

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

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

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

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

 

Moving On Week 8 – August 24th to 30th 2020 inclusive

Monday, August 24th

Typical – first day back and it’s sunny!  A storm’s on the way, though.

The council are turning one of the two extremely busy lanes on the main road which runs past my estate into a cycle lane, so that everyone can cycle to school/work. So the very heavy traffic which crawls for miles at the best of times will be forced into one lane, leaving the other lane free for the two or three people who want to cycle in autumn and winter, when it’s usually pouring with rain and will be dark at rush hour.   FFS.  Talk about stupid!

Most of the talk ATM is about schools going back.  Teaching unions are trying desperately to stir up trouble, but everyone agrees that kids need to get back to school.  They’ve missed so much time already.  Schools in Northern Ireland went back today.

 

Tuesday, August 25th

What an awful day.  Heavy rain nearly all day … and I’ve got a horrible feeling that one of the grids outside needs unblocking, and I can’t ask anyone to come in the morning because I’ve got a blood donation appointment and don’t know exactly when I’ll be back.

There is now a row going on over whether or not kids should wear masks at school.  Just when you thought there couldn’t be any more rows over schools.

 

Wednesday, August 26th

Now masks do have to be worn in corridors etc at school in “local lockdown” areas, i.e. here.  I’m not sure how hygienic a mask’s going to be after it’s been shoved in a teenage boy’s grubby pocket or schoolbag all day, but whatever.   This is in England.  Masks have to be worn in corridors etc in Scotland and in Northern Ireland, and in schools in Wales “where social distancing is not possible” … er, and if head teachers say so.  Confused?  So is everyone.

This is just in secondary schools.

My elder nephew starts secondary school this year.  He’s not supposed to wear his blazer, because blazers are a virus risk.  No, me neither!

More job cuts have been announced.

And I’m stressed because the latest Facebook app update is causing a load of problems.  I’ve got my phone set to no auto updates, but the Facebook app does them anyway.

 

Thursday, August 27th

I just cried because my printer was playing up, but hopefully it’s OK now.  And the Facebook app seems to have been fixed.  But Word Press photos have suddenly decided not to display properly on Facebook, which is annoying.

WHY are infection rates in our borough going up, when rates elsewhere in the area are going down?  I don’t understand it – and it’s a big worry.   Having said that I don’t understand it, I still keep seeing people not wearing masks where they should be.  It’s really becoming a big concern now: we’ve got the 13th highest infection rate in the country.  Meanwhile, the Czech Republic and Switzerland are amongst the latest countries taken off the safe travel list.  And Paul Pogba has tested positive for the virus.

In other news, the Cincy tennis, which is actually being played in New York, has been suspended as part of some US sports thing over racism, and Hurricane Laura is battering Louisiana and Texas.  2020, the year that just keeps on giving!  Oh, and I finally plucked up the courage to weigh myself today, and a load of the weight I’ve lost from trying so hard for the last 5 months has gone back on in one week’s holiday.  Always happens, but never gets any less upsetting.

Heigh-ho.  Maybe tomorrow will be better!

 

Friday, August 28th

Restrictions have been lifted in Bolton, Stockport and Trafford.  Trafford council has got in a strop and said it didn’t want restrictions lifted.  No change here and in the other 5 boroughs, but rates in our borough have gone down in the last few days, so hopefully things are starting to move in the right direction.  Hyndburn, Burnley and parts of West Yorkshire are also having restrictions lifted.  I do wish reporters would learn how to pronounce “Keighley” properly.

The government’s also (just in England) trying to encourage people to go back to offices.  Oh, shut up!  I appreciate that there are concerns about sandwich shops etc in city centres suffering, but I don’t buy sandwiches!  The thought of being trapped in that depressing office for 5 days a week, when I’ve got used to being at home and going for a nice walk in the park every day … bleurgh.  I do accept that it’s coming, but I’d rather put it off as long as possible.  I do genuinely think it’s inappropriate to encourage people to return to work, with infection rates likely to rise once a) schools go back and b) the colder, darker months mean that people will be spending less time outdoors.

My elder nephew starts secondary school next week.  Although they are not in a lockdown area, the school has said that kids should wear masks outside the classroom.  My young cousin started secondary school today, and her school’s talking about taking kids’ temperatures.  In Spain, even primary school kids are having to wear masks, and people in Paris are now having to wear masks even when outdoors.  Infection rates in India are horrendous.  What a nightmare all this is!  But death rates and even hospital admission rates remain pretty low.

 

Saturday, August 29th

Hooray!!!!  Reunion Day!   I have finally seen my sister, brother-in-law and nephews again!  I haven’t been apart from my sister for this long since she was born.  Come to that, I haven’t been apart from either of my nephews for this long since they were born.   I am so, so sorry for people who’ve got loved ones in countries which we cannot visit at the moment: at least we can go to London.

However, due to local lockdown rules in Manchester, Mum, Dad and I are staying at a hotel.  Unlike the one in the Lakes, rooms at this one aren’t made up except by special request (there were seals on the doors!) and the restaurant isn’t open (you can order room service, but it’s a very limited and rather poor choice).

And I’ve been to my first live sports event since United v City in March … er, younger nephew’s under 9s football match!  To be followed on Monday by elder nephew’s under 12s cricket match!

We have been hearing all about the arrangements for school.  Kids cannot share any sort of stationery: they have to have their own.  If they’ve got PE, they are supposed to stay in their PE kit all day – how awful for the more self-conscious kids, especially girls.  Younger nephew, at primary school, will have dinner in his classroom.  Elder nephew, at secondary school, will get pre-packed airline-type meals if having school dinners.  Primary school kids generally stay in their own form rooms anyway, but now secondary school kids will too, unless they need to go to e.g. the art room or the science lab.  They won’t even be allowed to go back to their lockers, and will therefore have to lug around all their books for the entire day.  What a palaver!   It’s going to be very strange.

Oh, I am so glad that we’re all back together again!

 

Sunday, August 30th 

A full day in London – watching elder nephew’s cricket training, and then doing a sort of treasure hunt thing, basically a walk round Barnet but with clues for the kids to look for.  I think I was actually more excited than they were, because we got to see the site of the Battle of Barnet!

Infection rates in our borough are now falling, which is excellent news.  However, they’re back up in Bolton and Trafford, which is worrying – for them, and also for us because they might delay unlocking us now.

Benoit Paire has pulled out of the US Open after testing positive for the virus.

 

Moving On Weeks 6 and 7 – August 10th to 23rd 2020 inclusive

Monday, August 10th

I am now stressed about the weather.  Partly because storms are forecast, and I’m now terrified of lightning, and partly because, after a fortnight of decent weather, it’ll probably rain whilst I’m in the Lakes.  I’m also stressed about traffic, parking, queues in cafes and putting on weight.  But it makes a change from stressing about lockdown.

Schools went back in Scotland today, and I assume that they go back in Italy (where the infection rate’s remained low – could that be because they were further along in things when borders were reopened?), Spain, France, Portugal etc after Assumption Day.   It’ll be interesting to see what happens.

 

Tuesday, August 11th

We had storms overnight, but it’s been so hot today – really humid and horrible.  More storms are forecast.  Please let them all have gone away before Saturday!

We won our Europa League QF last night, in extra time against Copenhagen in Cologne.  We play either Wolves or Sevilla.

Scottish Higher results, which were “moderated” so that some kids got lower grades than their teachers gave them, have been un-moderated.  So now the grades are 14% higher than they were last year.  It’s all a bit of a muddle, and the same thing’s going to happen when A-level results came out.  It’s no-one’s fault: this has never happened before.

A Sky News report has found that most pubs aren’t even bothering to ask people for their details for contact tracing.  Following an outbreak of the virus in Aberdeen, linked to a number of pubs in the area, there’s been talk of giving councils increased power to close pubs down, but how can either council officials or the police check every pub in an area?  And I was the only person wearing a mask whilst ordering in both the park café and the frozen yogurt shop today.

Went to the office today, to collect some stuff.  Thankfully, things seem to have gone quiet.  Meanwhile, the latest unemployment statistics show that 730,000 people in the UK have … well, it’s all a bit confusing due to the furlough scheme, but there are 730,000 fewer people on payrolls than there were in March.  And this is with the furlough scheme.  This is just a nightmare.  There’s been a march through town this evening to draw attention to the plight of the live music industry, but I don’t know what can be done about it: how can we have tens of thousands of people inside the Arena, or even at an outdoor venue, with all this going on?

Heigh-ho.  Thank goodness for football!

 

Wednesday, August 12th

I do not know what to worry about first!

  1.  WTF is going on in Oldham?  Rochdale and Blackburn are both looking much better now, but things are out of control in Oldham.  If the whole region gets punished for this, I will be fuming.  And now I’m stressed about getting to the Lakes again.
  2. I’m also stressed about the weather.  The storm warning now extends until Monday.
  3. It is SO hot

A-level pupils who aren’t happy with their results can ask to use mock exam results instead.  This is just getting silly.

And it was announced today that the UK is in the deepest recession in history.  OK, it’s hardly a surprise, but it’s not good.  Things did look up in June, but … eeh, it’s not good.

The Japan tour that was cancelled isn’t running in 2021, which is a great shame.  I’ve booked another one, though.  Goodness knows where we’ll be at by then.  I’ve got more time off to have this year, as work won’t let us carry our holidays forward, but it’s so hard to know what to do!  We get so little annual leave that I really don’t want to waste it.

 

Thursday, August 13th

It feels like that Billy Joel song, “We didn’t start the fire”.   The pandemic.  The economic effects.  The row over A-level results day.  I am so, so sorry for the kids involved – A-level results day’s stressful enough, without all this.  But I do see the sense in “moderating” the grades, when the teacher-assessed grades were so much higher than last year’s results.  What I do not get is why everyone seems to have known what their assessed grades were.  And the silly kid who’s president of the NUS is trying to prove how “woke” she is by saying that the system’s racist.  How is a computer algorithm racist?  Then there’s the Scottish rail derailment.  The tension in Belarus.  The blast in Beirut.  The American presidential election.  And this awful heat and storms, although it has cooled down today.  Oh, and I’ve been bitten by 2 insects!

The infection rate is still rising in 7 of the 10 boroughs 😦 , but the rate of increase has slowed considerably in 4 and stayed similar in 1.  Rochdale’s had a bad week, but isn’t as bad as it was.  But things in Oldham are just horrendous – its rate is almost as high as those of 5 other boroughs added together.  Andy Burnham, perhaps feeling a bit sensitive after everyone slated him for agreeing to the whole area being put in special measures, has asked the Government not to do anything else with Oldham for now.  Given the rows going on over A-levels, and the fact that the soaring rate of infections in France is being conveniently ignored, I’m hoping they’ll decide to avoid any more controversy for now.  But things in Oldham are very worrying.

 

Friday, August 14th

The good news is that local restrictions aren’t being tightened, so I haven’t got to make a mad dash for the Chorley Travelodge or Premier Inn and can hopefully leave for the Lakes tomorrow morning.  However, they aren’t being eased either.  And, as we’re in the naughty corner – unlike several areas down south, which have far higher rates than ours but are just being left to it – we are excluded from the reopening of indoor theatres, casinos, bowling alleys, skating rinks and soft play centres, and the restarting of close contact beauty treatments and, most upsettingly, wedding receptions.   There’s also talk again about letting fans into sports stadia, but I’m not holding my breath.

Nole’s playing the US Open, but Bianca Andreescu isn’t.

France, the Netherlands, Monaco, Malta, Aruba and the Turks and Caicos Islands have been taken off the travel corridor list, as of 4am tomorrow.  It’s not a surprise, but it was announced at 10 o’clock last night, 11 o’clock last night CET.  What a stupid, stupid time to announce it.  We’re now seeing a bizarre scenario – it’d be tasteless to say that it was like a scene from wartime, but in some ways it is – in which people are frantically trying to find passages back across the Channel.  Airfares have sky-rocketed, and trains and ferries are full.  Meanwhile, cases are soaring in many parts of Europe and elsewhere.  This is a nightmare.

Roll on the Lake District!!

 

I was on holiday in the Lake District from August 15th to 23rd inclusive, which I’ve written about HERE  .

Whilst I was away:

  1.  The Government agreed to use teacher-assessed grades for A-levels and GCSEs.
  2.   Portugal was taken off the quarantine list, but Croatia, Austria and Trinidad & Tobago were put on it.
  3.   Wigan, Rossendale and Darwen were taken out of local lockdown, as were some parts of West Yorkshire.
  4.   We lost to Sevilla in the semi-finals of the Europa League 😦 .  Sevilla went on to win it, and Bayern Munich
    won the Champions League.
  5.  The 75th anniversary of VJ Day was marked.
  6.  Everyone got very into the Eat Out To Help Out scheme, which provided money off food and drink in participating outlets on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays … sadly only during August!
  7.  The Cincinnati Masters started.  In New York.

 

A trip into town, mayhem at the US Open, and EastEnders returns

 

 

I went into town yesterday.  It wasn’t quiet, but it was certainly nothing like as busy as it would usually be on a Sunday.  Cafes seemed a lot busier than shops, which was interesting.  OK, maybe they looked busier (in terms of having few empty tables) than they actually were, because most had fewer tables than usual due to social distancing, but they certainly *looked* quite busy.  And is the Federal Café on Deansgate now the “in” place to see and be seen?  There was a great long queue of young people outside it.  I looked at the menu and didn’t find it particularly exciting, but seemingly it’s the cool place to go. I am clearly old and out of touch!   But the shopping areas were certainly quieter than usual.  So what are the reasons why?

BTW, I took this photo because I thought the Free Trade Hall (now the Radisson) looked nice in the sunshine. Then I realised that there were skyscrapers behind it, and decided that it was deeply symbolic because it showed the history of Manchester and the modern “Manctopia” (who thought up that ridiculous expression?!) thing together!  Ooh look, you can see the Peterloo plaque (the red circle), as well!

Also, the US Open gets more bonkers every day.  And EastEnders is back tonight.  “The Paire Eleven” sounds more like something from EastEnders – maybe a list of suspects? – than something to do with a tennis tournament.

This was a Sunday, so it was nothing to do with people working from home rather than being in their offices.  A lot of people, especially older people and those with medical conditions, are obviously nervous about going out and about, especially if it means using public transport.  And people are watching the pennies, given the effect of lockdown on the economy.  I’m not sure that it’s only, or even mainly, that, though.  People go into town because they’re going to the pictures, or the theatre, or a concert, or perhaps to galleries, museums or Central Library.  A lot of people, especially away fans, go into town before football matches.  People from out of town also visit to go to concerts or musicals, or to business conferences or private functions such as weddings.  None of that’s happening at the moment.   And maybe that helps to explain why cafes are so busy.  There aren’t that many other places to go to, if you don’t want to go for a walk.

And have we all got used to buying everything on line?   I was already buying a lot of stuff online.  When you’re stuck at work 5 days a week, it doesn’t leave that much time for shopping.  And, well before all this started, most shops had reduced their staff numbers so much that it’d become very hard to find someone to ask if you couldn’t find what you wanted; and don’t get me started on the queues at checkouts.  Lockdown’s pushed even more shopping online.  It’s a big problem for shops, and obviously there are small shops which just don’t have an online presence.

Are people also being put off by the hassle of having to wear masks and follow one way systems, and maybe having to queue to get into shops.  The only place with a really long queue, incidentally, was Zara, and that was all young people.  Must all have money to burn!  I don’t know that any of that’s putting people off, but I’ve heard plenty of people say that they don’t want to go to clothes shops whilst changing rooms are closed, because they don’t want to have to waste time taking things back if they don’t fit.

There’s also the issue of toilets!   The Arndale Centre’s got ladies’ loos only open in some places, and gents’ loos only open in others, which is a bit complicated if a man and a woman are out shopping together!

I’d like to see some more research done into this.  We usually get opinion polls about anything and everything, but there seem to be very few about why people are not going into city centres as much as they did pre-pandemic.  In particular, it seems strange that cafes – and, whilst there’s a lot more outdoor seating than there used to be, most of the seating is indoor – are so much busier than shops are.

There were plenty of people sat inside cafes with people who were clearly not part of their household.  That’s against local lockdown rules, but I’m not judging anyone for that.  We’re not talking about big rave-ups, just 2, 3 or 4 people sat together.  I’m not advocating rule-breaking, but we’re going to end up with a serious mental health pandemic if people are unable to spend time with their families and close friends.

Some people were wearing masks whilst waiting to order at the till in cafes … there seems to be a lot of confusion over this.  The vast majority of people were wearing masks inside shops and inside the corridors in the Arndale Centre. But there were still a few idiots without masks.  I accept that some people are exempt on medical grounds, but I can’t believe that they all were.  One man, on being refused admission to a shop because he wasn’t wearing a mask, asked if the shop had masks, as if it was everyone’s responsibility but his!  But we’re only talking about a small minority of people.

And, instead of the usual stalls selling mobile phone covers, football souvenirs and children’s toys on Market Street, and indeed the people trying to get you to complete surveys or sign petitions, there are now lots of street traders selling masks.  Very 2020.  But good for them, for adapting to “the new normal”.   There are signs everywhere reminding people to wear masks and observe social distancing, but there are also, on King Street, morale boosting banners saying things like “New Normal, Same Manchester”, “You’re Not Alone” and “New Chapter, Same History”.  Well done to the council for that.  Heaven knows that we could all do with some morale boosting.

As for the US Open … well, without Rafa, it’s not quite the same for me, and Roger’s missing as well.  So is Stan, and so are most of the women’s top ten.  And, of course, there are no fans.  Fans are supposed to be being allowed into Stade Roland Garros for the French Open but, given the state of affairs in Paris, I’m not sure whether or not that’ll actually happen.   But it’s been brilliant to have some live tennis, especially Grand Slam tennis, to watch at last.

However, it got off to an awkward start when Novak Djokovic decided to try to set up a rival players’ union.  There were some issues over the ATP at the start of the year, but, given what’s happened since, it’s hardly the time to be making waves.  Rafa and Roger both said as much.  The idea doesn’t seem to have got very far.  Then there was the saga of the Paire Eleven.  Benoit Paire tested positive for the virus.  He had to pull out of the tournament.  We were then told that eleven other players, who’d been in close contact with him, were now in a “bubble within a bubble”.

Then some of those players, notably Kiki Mladenovic, complained that they were being treated like prisoners and escorted everywhere.  Things got farcical when Sascha Zverev and Adrian Mannarino were told, just before their match was due to start, that they’d have to wait whilst the State of New York decided whether or not Adrian, who was one of the Paire Eleven, could play.  This was a third round match.  If they had issues with Adrian playing, why wait until the third round?!  And what about the rest of the Paire Eleven?  The match eventually went ahead, after a four hour delay!   And then Kiki was told that she wasn’t allowed to leave her hotel, meaning that she and Timea Babos, the top seeds, had to pull out of the women’s doubles.  Why wait until then?  And what about the rest of the Paire Eleven?   Does anyone know what’s going on?

On top of all this, Nole lost his rag after messing up the first set of his match against Pablo Carreno Busta, and hit a ball away in anger … and it hit a line judge in the throat.  Thankfully, the line judge seems to be OK, but a ball travelling at speeds can be dangerous.  No-one’s suggesting for one second that Nole meant to hurt anyone, but, under the rules, he had to be disqualified.  It’s not the kind of headline that the US Tennis Association was hoping for!

What it does mean is that someone is going to win their first Grand Slam men’s singles title.  Annoyingly, it will not be Stef Tsitsipas, who managed to lose to Borna Coric after being 2 sets to 1 and 5-1 up.  Dominic Thiem?  Sascha Zverev?  Denis Shapovalov (I would love him to win, but am not sure he’s mature enough yet)?  Felix A-A?  Frances Tiafoe to become the first American man in years to win the US Open?   We shall see.

And EastEnders is back.   Coronation Street and Emmerdale have managed to keep going all the way through, but EastEnders has been off for weeks.  But now it’s back. And Coronation Street and Emmerdale are going back to six episodes a week.  We’re getting there!   Could we have Casualty and Holby City back as well, though, please?