Confused of Manchester … are we all with this?

  OK, folks.  From next Tuesday, beauty salons offering things like eyebrow threading, and casinos, skating rinks, bowling alleys, exhibition halls, conference centres, and indoor play areas including soft play areas will be able to reopen round here.  Unless you live in Bolton (10 miles away), in which case they won’t.  But you still won’t be able to meet people in houses or gardens, only in the park.  Unless you live in Stockport (15 miles away) or Wigan (18 miles away) in which case you can meet up in houses or gardens.  If you live in Oldham (10 miles away in another direction) or Blackburn (22 miles away), you still won’t be able to meet people anywhere, even in the park.   But you’ll be able to have your eyebrows threaded – the no threading thing only applies to Bolton.  And swimming pools and gyms in Blackburn will be able to reopen.  They’re already open everywhere else.  Except Leicester.

In Corby, the infection rate is double the rate in our borough, but they’re not under restrictions.  But we are.

In Bolton (10 miles away) and Trafford (6 miles away), restrictions were lifted at midnight on Wednesday but re-imposed by midday.   To be fair to the authorities, the infection rate in Bolton had plummeted and the council there had asked for the local lockdown to be ended.  Then it suddenly sky-rocketed and is now the highest in the country.  No-one seems to have a clue how things turned round so quickly.  In Trafford, the Labour councillors and the Conservative MP for Sale and Altrincham are busy squabbling, all apparently far more interested in scoring points off each other than in what’s best for local communities.

And does anyone know what the situation is if you live on the outskirts of Chester (where Portugal isn’t on the quarantine list) but work 10 miles away in Wrexham (where Portugal is on the quarantine list) and are flying back from the Algarve tomorrow?  Can you go to work or not?  Anyone know?  I’m sure I don’t.

I’m not really having a go at the authorities.  I understand that the idea is to keep things local – and I moaned like mad when all 10 boroughs were put under restrictions because Oldham had high infection rates.   Oh, except if we’re talking abroad, where a rise in cases in one part of a country means that the entire country’s shoved on the quarantine list.  But it’s so bloody confusing that no-one’s sure what they’re allowed to do and what they’re not.  And I object strongly to the fact that restrictions are in place here when they aren’t in Corby, Middlesbrough and various other places where the infection rates are higher.  That’s not fair.

Rates in our borough had fallen.  But they’ve gone up a bit.   Trafford, Salford and Tameside are apparently all at risk of becoming “hotspots”.  I can’t see a way out of this.  All I can think is that London, like Italy, is doing better because it was further along “the curve” when restrictions were lifted, and that nowhere else is as densely populated.

And I don’t want to get my eyebrows threaded.  Nor do I want to go to a casino, a soft play centre, a bowling alley or an ice rink.  I want to be able to meet up with my family and friends in a house or garden.  Please, everyone, wear masks, wash your hands, and, above all, don’t meet up in big groups, because that seems to be what’s causing the problem.

And the actual numbers are so small anyway.  12 cases in our entire suburb, in one week.  And, because of that, this.  How long can we go on imposing restrictions because of so few cases, and with, thankfully, hardly anyone seriously ill?

Sweden, which never went into lockdown, now has the lowest infection rate in Europe.  Spain, which probably had the strictest lockdown, has by far the highest.  I’d assumed that that was due to tourists, but apparently a lot of it’s due to itinerant fruit pickers not being provided with decent accommodation and therefore being unable to observe social distancing.  In France, the virus is apparently spreading around nudist camps.

Even in areas which aren’t under local lockdown restrictions, everyone’s lost track of what they are and aren’t allowed to do.

Is a puzzlement …

 

Moving on, or maybe not, Week 5 – August 3rd to 9th 2020 inclusive

Monday, August 3rd

  1.  People who let their horrible dogs bark all the time should be locked up.
  2.  The burglar alarm service man has been.  So much easier to sort these things when you’re working from home!
  3.  The tables outside the park cafes have reappeared, so that the cafes can qualify for the new “Eat Out To Help Out” scheme, by which food and drink is half-price on certain days, to boost the hospitality sector.  However, seeing as they hadn’t advertised the fact that they were in the scheme, no-one knew about it until they paid, so no-one ordered anything they hadn’t been going to order anyway!!
  4.  I’ve had a reply from one of my MP’s minions, claiming that the North of England was definitely not being “ostracized”.  I contemplated replying, to point out that a) “ostracise” was completely the wrong word to use in this context and b) he shouldn’t be using American spellings, but couldn’t be bothered.

I am so stressed.  I was really looking forward to this staycation, and now I’m on edge all the time, in case we’re banned from travelling or anything else happens.  Hardly anyone in the region’s actually in hospital with the virus.  Most of the cases are amongst young people who’ve hardly been affected.  I quite appreciate that they could pass it on to someone else who could have it very badly, but it’s bloody frustrating that we can’t visit our families and friends just because a few people have got a bit of a cough.  And how long can this go on?  More and more job losses are being announced every day.

It’s not just here.  Festivals planned in Malta have been cancelled.  There’s been an outbreak on a cruise in Norway.  And I am so sorry for people in Melbourne, who’re practically under lock and key.

 

Tuesday, August 4th

Headline of an internet article today – “Pub closed after worker tests positive for virus following trip to Greater Manchester”.  Where had this person travelled from?  Land’s End?  John O’Groats?  No.  St Helens!  Which is, what, five miles outside the boundaries of Greater Manchester?  So someone from St Helens has got the virus, and is making out that they must have caught it when they nipped to a shop or café in Wigan for half an hour or so.  And this is being used to make it sound as if the whole of Greater Manchester should be treated as some sort of leper colony.  I have never heard such crap in my entire life.  But it’s out there.  And people down south or in Scotland aren’t going to know exactly where St Helens is.  Meanwhile, the bloody Guardian is trying to turn this into some sort of class war, by blaming the increase in cases on people who live in big houses in Hale Barns.

None of this is helping.

It’s just getting me totally stressed out.  I am absolutely desperate for this break, and don’t know what I’m going to do if it’s ruined because of idiots in other parts of the region ignoring social distancing guidelines.

A guy refilling the shelves in Tesco this morning was wearing full Spiderman headgear.  It made me laugh!

The Madrid Open’s been cancelled 😦 .

Later – and now Rafa’s pulled out of the US Open.  I quite understand his reasons, but … bleurgh.

 

Wednesday, August 5th

I woke up at half 4 this morning and couldn’t get back to sleep, and then burst into tears because I dropped a pile of papers.  I was feeling fine before all these restrictions were imposed because of high infection rates in Oldham and Blackburn.  And Nicola Sturgeon has slapped a travel ban on Aberdeen, which has completely panicked me.

The latest statistics show that, whilst the rate of infections is still increasing – and our area is regrettably getting worse – it’s not increasing at anything like it was in the two previous weeks.  And the overall rate for the region is about 27, and Blackburn hasn’t been put under a travel ban even though the rate there is nearly 90.  So hopefully it will be OK.  But I am stressed and upset now, instead of looking forward to my long-awaited break.

Went into a café today, for a takeaway drink, and the lady in front of me wasn’t wearing a mask.  She suddenly realised that she should be wearing one, took one out of her handbag, put it on, apologised profusely to the girl behind the counter, and said that she’d just forgotten.  The girl said that it didn’t matter and she didn’t have to wear it if she didn’t want to.  I mean, FFS!

Rafa’s said that he still hopes to play in Paris.  The US Open, if it goes ahead, will be the first Grand Slam event without both Rafa and Roger since 1999.

Some places have cancelled pantomimes.  The one here hasn’t been cancelled yet, but I can’t see it happening.  I usually book in June … although that’s usually because that’s when the football fixtures come out.

Europa League resumes tonight.

 

Thursday, August 6th

The number of infections is continuing to rise.  And it looks as if the new measures could be extended to Preston soon.  Why do things seem to be so bad in our region?  The likely explanation is that, because the pandemic got going in London earlier than it did here, we were that much further behind London on the “curve” when restrictions were eased.  Nowhere else, with the possible exception of the West Midlands, has got the same level of population density.

There were only 8 deaths “with coronavirus” nationwide today, though.  The number of deaths is falling.  It seems likely that most of the new infections are amongst younger people, who are far less likely to be seriously affected.  So are we just going to have to roll with it, and accept that people are going to get the virus?  Yes, you could get it.  You could also have a heart attack or be run over by a bus.

Skating rinks, bowling alleys and casinos are now supposed to be reopening a week on Saturday.  It seems unlikely that that will happen.  So why not bloody well say so?  It’s not fair to let places spend time and money getting ready to reopen, and then tell them the day before that they can’t, especially when it’s already been done once.

It’s not just here.  Things in Spain are bad, and France, Belgium and Luxembourg are all seeing significant increases in the numbers of cases.  Even Greece and Germany, which had been doing OK, are having more and more problems.

Went to the office this morning, to take some stuff back and collect more.  All this talk of getting people back into offices, which Boris was very keen on a couple of weeks ago, has died away.

 

Friday, August 7th

Bleurgh.  Had a nasty e-mail from the office today, saying that they were considering forcing people to go back to the office, because people are wasting part of the working day collecting files and dropping them off!  WTF?  How are people supposed to get the files?  Teleport them?  Not one word asking if people were OK.

Meanwhile, the local restrictions were supposed to be being reviewed weekly, but we’ve heard nothing.  I can’t imagine that anything’s going to be changed after a week, because it’d be way too soon for the new rules to have any effect, but at least tell us!  And tell people who run/work in casinos, bowling alleys and skating rinks whether or not they can reopen next week.  The communication is appalling.

Our MP has protested about the fact that the whole area’s been lumped in together.  At least he’s tried!

Belgium, the Bahamas and Andorra have been taken off the travel corridor list, and it looks as if France could be next.  The rules on Belgium apply from today for Wales and from tomorrow for England, presumably to give the Brussels gravy train brigade time to get back to Surrey.  Seeing as there aren’t any international airports in North or Mid Wales, anyone returning to there from Belgium today will be flying into an English airport.  How does that work?!  OK, I don’t suppose there are hordes of people from Wrexham or Bangor flying from Brussels to Ringway or Speke today, but the whole thing’s just so silly.

It’s all getting silly.  My mum and dad’ve had a mobile hairdresser round, touching their heads.  Yet, if my sister or my uncle went round, and stood 6ft away from them, in the garden, that would be breaking the law.  How does that work?!

Elena Svitolina and Kiki Bertens have both pulled out of the US Open.

 

Guidelines for meeting outdoors this sunny weekend:

England – max. 6 people from multiple households or 30 people from 2 (large!) households.
Wales – any number of people from 2 households only.
Scotland – max. 15 people from max. 5 households.
Northern Ireland – max. 30 people, no apparent limit on number of households.

Is it any wonder that people are confused?!

 

Saturday, August 8th

Nice sunny day today.  A bit too hot down south, but just nice here!  I had a lovely walk round Hollingworth Lake.  There were a lot of “We are at risk of lockdown” signs up, though.  Rochdale’s doing quite well with getting its infection rate down, but Oldham unfortunately isn’t, and, as Westminster seems intent on lumping the whole region together, it doesn’t look as if the restrictions’ll be lifted any time soon.  Well, I say “region”, but it’s done on council boundaries, which are so bloody arbitrary.  There’s no natural line between the areas covered by the councils of Stockport (included) and High Peak (excluded), Bolton (included) and Chorley (excluded), Wigan (included) and West Lancs (excluded) or Trafford (included) and Macclesfield (excluded).  The line runs right down the middle of particular streets.

It was finally confirmed yesterday evening that the restrictions will stay in place for another week, and that Preston will now also be included.  Leeds could be next.  But Swindon, Peterborough and Northampton, which have far higher rates than parts of our region, are being left alone.  It’s hard not to feel that there’s one rule for the North and another for the South.

The actual numbers are very low, though.  Our area looks bad this week, but that’s because of one cluster at one nursery.  The same for the city centre, because of one cluster at one postal sorting depot.  Headlines scream that rates in a particular area have doubled/trebled in a week, but, in these cases, there’s no real risk to the wider public.

A lot of new cases are now amongst under 30s.  This seems to be the same in other countries.  Younger people generally aren’t badly affected, and it’s usually younger people who don’t wear masks and ignore social distancing.  Yes, I know that it sounds as if we’re all looking for scapegoats.

Earlier, I had my hair cut … and was sorry to see that the café next door to the salon has had to close for a fortnight as the owner was unlucky enough to be in the Canary Islands the week when the rules were changed.  There are hardly any cases in the Canary Islands, but the whole of Spain’s been lumped together!

Sorry, I seem to be doing a lot of moaning, but it’s so frustrating. Although not as much as it is for the people in 3 Irish counties which have been put back into hard lockdown – no travel, restaurants closed, etc.

It has actually been a really nice day!   And we won the Test match.  Football, cricket, golf, rugby league … it’s all happening!  Except for tennis 😦 .

 

Sunday, August 9th

Outdoor café culture has really hit the Manchester suburbs – after all these years of it being joked about!   I’ve never seen so many outdoor tables.  Most of them are where they shouldn’t be, but who cares?  The weather’s about to change, but it’s been interesting to see in the meantime.

Boris is doing a lot of talking about prioritising schools going back and staying open.  I think nearly everyone agrees with this – apart from the teaching unions, whose priority is scoring political points rather than the welfare of children – but, if he really does shut down pubs again, there’s going to be a lot of trouble.

Stan’s pulled out of the US Open now.

Had a really lovely time at Erddig, although it was rather confusing that I *didn’t* have to wear a face mask in order to get my takeaway cream tea (although only one person was allowed into the small ordering area at a time, apart from the person serving, and they were behind a Perspex screen, so I suppose it didn’t make much difference anyway) because I was in Wales … whereas, had I been 10 miles or so nearer home, back inside England, I would have done!

It’s been a nice weekend generally.  Just hope the weather behaves for my staycation.  And also that work aren’t shitty next week and don’t try to bully us into going back.  I’m so disappointed, although not surprised, with the way they’ve behaved.

And it’s on to the next round of the Europa League tomorrow!  All go …

 

Moving On Week 4 – July 27th to August 2nd 2020 inclusive

Monday, July 27th

I’m rather upset today.  I made the decision a few weeks ago that I wasn’t going on the trip to Japan even if it went ahead, but the holiday company swore blind that trips in October would be going ahead, and we exchanged dozens of e-mails as I tried to find one that fitted in with the French Open and had direct flights from Manchester.  I provisionally booked one to Italy in October and one to France in November, and then today I got an e-mail to say that all October trips had been cancelled.  I appreciate that this is a continually moving situation, but they shouldn’t have let me do all that and then cancel it so soon afterwards: it’s not like Spain where there’s now a travel advisory warning against going.  No idea if the one to France’ll go ahead.  Horrible work will not let me carry holidays forward, so I don’t know what to do.  I really want to get abroad for a bit, but I don’t know if it’s practical, with so many attractions closed and the risk of quarantine being reintroduced at any time.  Even for somewhere domestic, it’s not like I can just turn up at NT places as and when any more.

I also feel a bit sad and vulnerable because, without coach trips, it’s difficult to go on your own.  Even within the UK, there’s only so far you want to drive on your own.  And the nice local restaurant from which many people are ordering deliveries will not deliver for orders under £30 so, unless you’re exceptionally greedy, single people are ruled out.  Neither Ullswater Steamers nor the Settle-Carlisle Railway will sell single tickets any more, due to social distancing – not wanting to leave a seat free on either side of someone.  I suspect it’ll be the same when cinemas and theatres reopen.

So I am rather sad today.

 

Tuesday, July 28th

Oh FFS.  Blackburn’s now got the highest infection rate in the country, Rochdale’s introduced restrictions, and now Oldham’s introduced restrictions as well.  This is all frighteningly close to home.  It’s not the relaxing of restrictions that’s the problem.  It’s the fact that people have been breaking them all along.

Marks & Spencer’s have got a sign up saying that people buying alcohol have to remove their masks at the till, because masks make it difficult to tell how old people are!   If you didn’t laugh, you’d cry.

I got a drink from the park café today, and nearly everyone waiting to order was wearing masks.  But, wherever you go, there’s always someone who isn’t.

Going to the frozen yoghurt shop shortly.  Just watching some of this all-British tennis event.  Goodness knows when we’ll get any normal tennis events.  Tokyo’s now off as well.  Cincy’s supposed to be going ahead, but, with all these travel restrictions in place, it’s hard to know what’ll happen.   Meanwhile, people are busily cancelling trips to Europe.

Someone was supposed to ring me about refunding my gym subs.  Still waiting.

 

Wednesday, July 29th

Interesting development today – Rafa and Nole are both on the list of confirmed entries for Cincy, and therefore presumably both intend to play in the US Open.  I think we all thought Rafa’d decided to give it a miss.  Presumably they’ll all be exempt from quarantine rules?  I hope this all works out OK.

I was the only person waiting to order in the park café today who was actually wearing a mask.  And, at the frozen yoghurt shop yesterday, I was wearing a mask and the guy told me that I didn’t need to wear one, because the rules only applied to big supermarkets!  WTF?  And then you start wondering why you’re even bothering, and then people don’t bother because no-one else is bothering …

Nice weather today.  Please, please be like this for my week in the Lakes!!

 

Thursday, July 30th

All that talk about things being back to normal doesn’t half look like pie in the sky now.  The latest is that people with symptoms are supposed to self-isolate for 10 days rather than 7 days.  None of this is enforceable, and this seems to be the problem in Australia: people aren’t sticking to the rules because they’re worried that they won’t got paid, or may even lose their jobs, if they stay off work.

Gloomy news is coming in from all over the world: cases seem to be on the increase everywhere.

Ash Barty’s said that she won’t be playing at the US Open.  Everyone else is being vague.

My new masks came today.  Two United masks and one Manchester bee mask!

And my holiday to Japan has officially been cancelled.  I’d long since accepted that it wasn’t going to happen, and really it was a relief to get the e-mail and know that I won’t have to chase them for the credit note, but it’s another blow … I booked it long before any of this happened, and was so looking forward to it.  Travelling is such a big thing for me, and it’s completely off the menu at the moment.

 

Later – WTF??  It’s just been announced that separate households have been banned from meeting indoors in Greater Manchester, east Lancashire and parts of West Yorkshire.  I don’t believe this.  There isn’t a problem in our area.  Why the hell are we being punished because there’s been an increase in cases in Oldham and Rochdale?  I am really, really pissed off about this.  So the whole area – Manchester, Salford, Stockport, Wigan, Tameside, Bury, et al – gets punished because there’s an increase in cases in Oldham and Rochdale?  I am fuming.  It better bloody well hadn’t get any worse.  TBH, I haven’t been doing a lot of meeting people indoors anyway, except Mum and Dad and I assume I can still see them indoors because we’re in a bubble, but WTF?  I know I should be saying that it’s my civic duty and I’ll do whatever it takes, but that it’s not how I feel.  It’s not our area.  Why have all 10 boroughs been lumped in together?

 

Friday, July 31st

Ugh.  This is a total nightmare.  It’s not just in people’s houses, it’s also indoors at cafes etc, and in private gardens.  If the rate of infections in our area was high, I’d get it, but it’s not.  It’s 16 per 100,000 people, which is far lower than in many other parts of the country.  In Bacup, Rawtenstall, etc, the rate’s falling.  But we’ve all been lumped in with Oldham and Rochdale, where the rate’s 3 1/2 times higher than it is here.  This is bloody ridiculous.  And it was announced, on social media, at around half 9 last night, to come into force at midnight.  What were people whose parents were meant to be looking after their kids whilst they were at work meant to do?

Support bubbles are excluded.  And you can still go on holiday as long as it’s not with members of another household.  I don’t know what I’ll do if I can’t have my break in the Lakes.  Please, please don’t let anything else happen within the next 2 weeks.  But my sister & co will now probably not be visiting, because they can’t see any of us unless it’s in a park.  I haven’t seen them since February.  First the Spanish quarantine, and now this.  I feel like we’re jinxed.  I’m very upset.

Everyone, including TV channels and newspapers, is saying openly that this has been done because it’s Eid al Adha today.  Even politicians from both main parties – Labour Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham, and a local Conservative MP – are saying openly that the issue is largely within the South Asian community.  This isn’t racism: it’s what the statistics show.  I’m bothered that there are going to be community tensions if this continues.  People are very upset.  However, it’s also an issue about young people, from all ethnic backgrounds – the kind interpretation is that young people are more likely to have returned to their workplaces, but there are a lot of concerns about young people socialising without observing social distancing.

Nationwide, bowling alleys, casinos and skating rinks will now not be able to open tomorrow as planned.  I can’t say that this bothers me, but it will bother a lot of people, especially the owners of those businesses.  And couples were supposed to be have up to 30 people at wedding receptions from tomorrow, but that’s now off, which is going to devastate those affected.  Also, face masks have to be worn in places of worship, museums, galleries etc … and, at the park café today, there were about 20 people in the queue and hardly any of them were wearing masks.

I accept the stuff about casinos etc, but I bloody object to my area, where the rate of infection is not high, being subject to additional restrictions because it’s high in other boroughs in the area.  People are not happy.

 

Saturday, August 1st

I’ve had a big rant here – big rant – about how angry I am that a) we’ve been lumped in with areas where the rate of infection is over 5 times higher (Blackburn) than it is here and b) people are blatantly breaking the rules.   Also, the tabloids have gone full on Armageddon.  We are going back into full lockdown, there will be riots, the Army will be called out, the end of the world is nigh, etc etc.  On top of this, the Spanish health authorities want the Madrid Open cancelled.

On a happier note, the Cup Final went ahead, even if it was rather odd having it in August, with no fans present, and without a proper trophy presentation by Prince William.  But at least we got a Cup Final.  Arsenal 2-1 Chelsea.  The county cricket season’s started, and the rugby league season resumes tomorrow.

Shielding ends today, except in Wales, Leicester, Bradford and Blackburn-with-Darwen.  All the people who moaned that shielding was imposed in the first place are now moaning that shielding’s ended.  I don’t mean people who actually are shielding, for whose concerns I have the deepest sympathy:  I mean people who just moan about everything to try to score political points.

It’s actually been quite a nice day, apart from the stress over what might happen next.  I had a lovely morning at Biddulph Grange.   There was quite a complicated one way system, because of the narrow paths and tunnels, but everyone stuck to it.  I should have been there four months ago, to see the daffodils.  Instead, I was there to see the woodland walk full of early blackberries!   Time marcheth on …

 

Sunday, August 2nd

I’ve just sent a stroppy e-mail to my MP.  I appreciate that he’s only been in Parliament since December and that Boris Johnson and Matt Hancock probably don’t even know his name, but one of the Stockport MPs has spoken out, so why can’t ours?  Sandwell in the West Midlands has got an infection rate of 40 per 100,000.  Ours is 16 per 100,000.  Why have restrictions been imposed here but not there?  A load of sarcastic memes are doing the rounds.  They don’t help.  There are also a load of wild rumours in the media.  The whole of London is going to be locked down.  All over 50s are going to be banned from going out … which would include the Prime Minister, the Chief Medical Officer, the Deputy Chief Medical Officer and half the Cabinet, so would certainly be interesting!   This doesn’t help either.

It poured down early on, but then the sun came out and it turned into a really nice day.  I had a lovely time at Tatton Park.

 

But I’m on edge because I’m desperate for this break in the Lake District and am frightened now that something’ll happen to stop it.

 

Moving On Week 3 – July 20th to 26th 2020 inclusive

Monday, July 20th

Some quite hopeful news today – the tests on the vaccine being developed in Oxford have shown very encouraging results.  It’s early days, but fingers crossed.

However, even Beefeaters are being made redundant now.  More job losses are coming every day :-(.

The overall situation’s improving, but things in Blackburn are getting worse, which is worrying.  France and Spain are also seeing some worrying local clusters.

Dry day today, and it was nice in the park.

I went into the office today, and handled things badly by blanking the bosses.  I was hoping to get in and out whilst they weren’t there, but they both turned up before I’d sorted all my stuff out!   I know I handled it badly, but I’m just so fed up about the way we’ve been treated.

 

Tuesday, July 21st

We have now been working from home for 18 weeks.  In that time, we have not once had so much as a three word e-mail saying “Is everyone OK?”.  Other firms have been checking on people regularly, and organising on-line activities so that people feel supported.  OK, it’s less of an issue now that lockdown’s over and people can see their families and friends again, but the fact that they never even asked if we were OK during the full lockdown was appalling.  It’s been eating away at me, so I decided that I would say, politely, that I realised that it was a difficult time but that it was disappointing, and then try to move on.

I was not expecting a grovelling apology, and for a big bouquet of flowers to be delivered to every team member.  I was kind of hoping for something along the lines of OK, point taken.  Instead, the response I got was that that they had not once, in 18 weeks, bothered to ask how anyone was because it would be “intrusive”.  These are the people who rang someone whilst she was in hospital, to hassle her about an unimportant work issue.  What a pathetic … it’s not even an excuse so much as a lie.  I’m even more annoyed now!

The Washington tennis event’s been cancelled.  I can’t honestly see the US Open going ahead.  Things in New York aren’t too bad, but, with the overall situation in America, quarantine requirements for players returning home afterwards are just going to be make it impossible.

I am off to the frozen yoghurt shop!

 

Wednesday, July 22nd

Today, we got an e-mail from work saying that unused holidays couldn’t be carried forward until next year because it wasn’t their problem that everyone’s plans had been cancelled.

The Government has tried to protect people from this by saying that holidays can be carried forward if people can’t take them, but, unfortunately, there’s a loophole allowing employers to get out of this if people are working from home rather than being furloughed.

So people who’ve been furloughed have been getting 80% of their pay for doing nothing for 4 months, and can carry their holidays forward, whereas people who’ve been working from home have been working full time through it all, and, unless their employers treat them decent, can’t carry days forward for holidays which were cancelled.  It’s hard not to feel bitter about this.  I don’t for one second mean to have a go at people who cannot work because their workplaces are closed and they can’t work from home, but it’s difficult not to feel hard done by.

Meanwhile, there are clusters in some very unlikely places, such as Carlisle.

Last home match of the season tonight.  In July, and without being able to go in person!  Strange times.

 

Thursday, July 23rd

We had an e-mail from work today, saying, no, not that they’d like to thank us for our efforts throughout this difficult time and that they hope we and our loved ones are OK, but that, whilst they “appreciate your desire to be in the office” (I did wonder if this was meant sarcastically, but I think they’re just delusional), it appears that safety requirements won’t be met if more than so many people are there at once.  So we have each been allocated two days a week on which we may work at the office.  May, not must.  I’ve said that I’ll stay at home for now.  Hooray!!  The wording was so rude and patronising, about how they’re happy with the fact that we are actually doing some work whilst we’re at home, like we’re a bunch of naughty schoolkids who might just have been throwing paper aeroplanes around as soon as the teacher’s back was turned.  And still not even “Hope you are all keeping well”.

My sister and brother-in-law and the kids are at an apartment in Spain.  It is hot and sunny.  I am very jealous.  I suppose there’s nothing to stop me from going to Spain, but sitting by the pool is a bit crap on your own!

We only managed to draw with West Ham last night, so still need at least a point on Sunday.  So stressful!

 

Friday, July 24th

From today, it is compulsory in England to wear masks in shops, shopping centres and takeaway food places.  I’ve been to:

  1. Sainsburys Local – most people wearing masks, some not.
  2. The Swatch Shop (watch needed a new strap) – I was the only person in the actual shop, but most people in the Arndale were wearing masks … but there are staff on the doors there.
  3. The café in the park – hardly anyone was wearing a mask.

Today has been a nightmare.  At 10 o’clock this morning, the doorbell rang.  I thought it was the postman.  No – it was a man saying that he’d come to cut down a tree in next door’s garden, and please would I move my car.  How bloody rude of next door not even to mention it.  What would they have done if I’d been out but the car had been in?  It’s now nearly 5 o’clock and the tree brigade (there are 5 of them) are still here.  And, when I got back from my walk in the park, they’d not only dumped a load of soil and twigs all over my path but had dug up one of the flags!   I didn’t want a row but I was fuming.  Anyway, they’ve now finally got the tree root out and are clearing up, but it’s all been pretty stressful.

 

Saturday, July 25th

Oh no!!  I haven’t seen my sister and brother-in-law and the kids since February.  I was meant to be seeing them as soon as they got back from Spain.  But, because of the upsurge of cases in Catalunya (which is 650 bloody miles from where they are), quarantine restrictions on people returning from Spain are being brought back in as of tomorrow.  I don’t believe this.

I’m rather put out, to say the least.  It’s been so long already.

I should think that a lot of people who were considering booking a last minute summer holiday abroad are now rethinking.

Is there no end to this?  It’s already nearly August.  There’s talk of the Christmas markets being cancelled – it’d be a huge emotional and economic blow, but I can’t see how they can go ahead, given how crowded they get.  Some Christmas events have already been cancelled.  A lot of people have rebooked holidays, not to mention weddings, for next year, but it’s looking increasingly likely that this could go on for months yet.  And, daft as this may sound, wasp season starts in a couple of months, and all this al fresco dining will not be much fun then.

It had been a nice day until this happened.   The forecast was for rain, which had upset me, but the forecast was wrong.  A full day’s play at the Test match.  And I had a lovely time at Speke Hall.  Quite a few areas were cordoned off, but the main gardens and woodlands were open, and I had a takeaway cream tea at a picnic table by an apple tree 🙂 .  It was so nice.  It actually felt like summer!

Gyms and indoor pools can reopen from today.  I don’t even know whether my gym’s reopened or not: I might ring and ask.  We are not currently getting coronavirus death statistics, as the figures are apparently crap.  Seriously.  And coronavirus has now hit Coronation Street.

 

Sunday, July 26th

Well, I should have been coming back from Iceland today, after Wimbledon and Euro 2020, and ready for the Olympics.  Instead, I’m here, and it’s been the last day of the Premier League season … and we did it!   Not sure how, given how badly we played, but we’ve made the Champions League!  And we won’t even qualify: we finished 3rd.

Whew!  That is a big boost, after the first the news about Spain (which has left a lot of people in a mess, and is the headlines of the news) and then the news, today, that my gym won’t be reopening until January.  This is bloody ridiculous. Gyms can open now.  OK, it’s quite a small gym, but it’s never that busy, so I can’t see the problem.  It’d just take a bit of effort – but they evidently don’t want to make that.  There was some muttering about refurbishment.  They’ll probably try to whack the price up.  I’ve asked for my money back (it’s an annual subscription) and someone’s supposed to be contacting me.

I don’t know what to do now.  A lot of people’ll go to other gyms, but this one’s just so convenient.  I’m getting exercise for now, because, as long as I’m not trapped in an office, I can go for a long walk every day, but this won’t go on for ever.  Another problem!!

Some rain today, but dry spells too.  I went to Wycoller Country Park – where the now-ruined Hall’s supposed to have been the inspiration for Ferndean Manor in Jane Eyre – this morning, just for somewhere different to go, and then to the park before the match.  The toilets at Wycoller are locked, “due to coronavirus” (i.e. the council, who’ve already tried to close them down once, can’t be bothered cleaning them), but the cafe’s open for takeaways 🙂 .

Our council’s said that they’re planning for this to go on until next summer.  There seems to be no end to it.  But at least we’ve got that Champions League spot!

 

Moving on Week 2 – July 13th to 19th 2020 inclusive

Monday, July 13th

Been much more productive today.  Must be the power of Windermere!  Rather wet and miserable out: the park was quiet.

Amongst other things, I watched a webinar about the updates to the furlough scheme.  What the hell are the idiots at HMRC playing at?  Capturing your orphan periods and establishing your high water mark.  WTF?  And the formulae are worse than the jargon.  It’s not even as if people can rely on software to help them out, because all this is so new that there is no software for it.   This is ridiculous.  The scheme’s supposed to protect jobs, not confuse and stress people.   And as for the crap being spouted by some people who are only interested in political points-scoring (this was on social media, not the webinar) – example, no-one should have to go back to work because it might lead to exploitation, businesses should be able to cope with being shut down, and it’s the government’s fault if they can’t.  I don’t know what planet some people are on!!

United v Southampton tonight.

 

Tuesday, July 14th

Oh dear: there’s now talk of imposing restrictions in Blackburn, only about 20 miles away.  Thankfully, the authorities have finally accepted that they need to acknowledge that the issues are mainly within particular communities, which everyone has been saying for months, and have spoken out about it, and got the Lancashire Council of Mosques involved to try to improve the situation.  I understand that no-one wants to risk looking like they’re stoking racial tensions, but controlling the virus has to be the main concern here.

Wearing masks in shops is to be compulsory from July 24th.  I wore one to Tesco this morning, and I don’t know why I bothered!  Hardly anyone else was wearing one.  And shop staff are going to be exempt.  I quite understand that no-one can wear a mask for hours on end, but what’s the point in customers wearing them if there are loads of staff on the shop floor who aren’t?   And there’s a lot of moaning going on, and fears that people will pretend to be asthmatic to get out of wearing them.  Heigh-ho!

And the tables at the farm centre café in the park have all been removed, because the stupid council said that the café hadn’t asked for permission.  Oh FFS.  We’re trying to rebuild the hospitality sector – the economy shrank by 19% in the last 3 months – and all the stupid council can do is put obstacles in people’s way!   I understand that they can’t have cafes on high streets putting tables out on the pavement, but these weren’t in anyone’s way.  Gah!

Also went to the office, and going to the frozen yoghurt shop now.  And we’ll draw a veil over last night’s disastrous injury time equaliser!

 

Wednesday, July 15th

Rain on St Swithin’s Day.  That just about sums up 2020!!  I keep forgetting that it’s the middle of July, because it feels more like November.

The update Sage put on for the new hospitality sector VAT rate has upset the office computers!

I need to stop buying drinks in the park.  It’s a waste of money – once a week is fine, but not every day.

Armenia and Azerbaijan seem to have decided that now is a good time to renew the conflict from the 1980s.  No, it really isn’t.

And I’ve ordered two new masks, one with a United crest on it and one with a Manchester bee on it!

 

Thursday, July 16th

Erk.  There was a power cut.  The power was back on in about 3/4 hour, but I’d decided to go for my walk in the park to try to calm my nerves down, checked the website, saw it was on again, and panicked all the way home about whether or not everything would be working OK.  Fortunately, it all seems to be all right.

Having issues with both binge-eating and anxiety at the moment.  I need a break … I wish I was going to the Lakes sooner, but I had to make a decision to book the hotel, and, at the time, I just didn’t know where we’d be up to.

There is now a row going on over Russia allegedly stealing other countries’ coronavirus research info. FFS, can’t all countries co-operate on this?  It’s a pandemic, not a James Bond film!

A memorial service for coronavirus victims  took place at Manchester Cathedral today.

 

Friday, July 17th

Boris wants people to go back to working at offices, despite the fact that the Chief Medical Officer’s said otherwise.  I assume he’s thinking that it’ll help places like Pret A Manger, which rely on office staff, but … well, there’s no way I’m going back to the office before I’ve been to the Lake District.  I do not EVER want to go back to that office … I just want to put it off as long as possible!

Rain is forecast for tomorrow, when I’m going to Chirk, and sun for Sunday, when I’m not.  Typical!   This is the problem with having to book in advance.  And, of course, it has to rain just as England are in a good position at the Old Trafford Test match!

I went to the dentist this morning.  What a palaver!  You have to put your bag in a plastic box, and then a nurse carries the box for you, in case you contaminate it!   All of which was rather pointless, as I had to get my bag out of the box so that a) I could get my purse to pay and b) I could get my diary to make my next appointment!

Today was the last day at primary school for my elder nephew and my little cousin.  Strange circumstances in which to be changing schools.

Captain Tom Moore was knighted by the Queen at Windsor today.  Such lovely, lovely photos of them – he aged 100, she aged 94, both such inspirations to all of us.  And, also at Windsor, Princess Beatrice married Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi.  I hope it was a lovely day for them, after all the hassle they’ve had with this wedding, and it’s so lovely that the Queen and Prince Philip were able to be there.

 

Saturday, July 18th

Today, I actually left England for the first time since February!   Considering that Chirk Castle in North Wales, one of my favourite National Trust sites, is so near that my car radio still picks up the Manchester stations there, it’s been rather strange not being able to go there earlier!   In some ways this was full circle … I  love the daffodils at Chirk, and I was all set to go there on Sunday, March 22nd, having rung up on Friday 20th to ask that they were open, and checked the website in the afternoon of Saturday 21st to confirm that they were open, only for them to change it (good job I checked) at about 8pm, to say that they were closing for the duration.  Four months later, I finally got there.  Much too late for the daffodils, sadly, but it was good to be back!

It rained nearly all the way there.  That’s the trouble with this pre-booking thing!  However, it dried up at around half 9, and stayed dry till 12, so that wasn’t too bad.

Later, I went to Sports Direct, because I needed some new trainers.  They were hardly letting anyone in at once, so a lot of annoyed people were waiting outside in the rain.  I know they don’t want shops to be crowded, but it’s a big shop and then could have got at least five times as many people in there without anyone getting within 6 feet of anyone else.   I nearly walked off, I really did need some new trainers.  I got them eventually, but it’s no wonder people aren’t going shopping, when you’re made to stand out in the rain for the best part of half an hour before going in.  To be fair, it’s only a few places which’ve got long queues, but still.

And it’s emerged that the death statistics for England have been messed up.  FFS!  They’re including the deaths of anyone who’s ever tested positive for the virus!  So someone could have had it in March, fully recovered by early April, and died of a heart attack in July, and their death is being put down as “died with coronavirus”.  I don’t believe this.  It certainly explains why the figures are so high, and not coming down like those in France, Spain, Italy etc are, but the level of incompetence beggars belief.

Local councils are to be given the power to introduce local restrictions.  There’s now an issue in Rochdale, which is only about 10 miles away and is a neighbouring borough.   97 of 114 new cases in Blackburn are in the South Asian community, and it’s the same situation in Rochdale, Pendle and Bradford.  At least the issue’s now being acknowledged by the authorities.  I know it’s very awkward to single out one community, but resources need to be directed to where the problem is, to help those most at risk.

Due to be sunny tomorrow.  Hooray!  And grass roots football can start again.

 

Sunday, July 19th

We lost the Cup semi-final 😦 .   Chelsea beat us 3-0.  It was just a disaster from start to finish.  I’m so disappointed.  We may still finish in the top 4, but to have won the Cup would have meant so, so much.  I don’t know what happened today: it was just awful.

And I should be in Iceland now.

But I’m not.

I am jealous of people who are jetting off on holiday.  No coach tours at the moment.  I could go on my own, but, whilst I’ve been on several city breaks on my own, it’s just not really the time for it – the castles, cathedrals etc which I’d normally spend my time seeing aren’t open as normal.

I’ve had a nice day, though.  Well, until the Cup disaster.  It’s been warm and sunny, and I went to Beeston Castle, and then to the ice cream farm in Great Budworth, and then to the park.  The A49 was busy – mainly due to horse boxes, caravans and cyclists holding everyone else up – but it was quiet on the other roads.  I like driving round country roads when it’s quiet!   Then, later, I went to the park.

Back on the virus front, it is unbelievable how selfish some people are. Over 250 people attended a funeral at a mosque in Blackburn, which has one of the highest rates of infection in the country. The legal limit for religious ceremonies is currently 30 – even the Queen’s granddaughter has to stick to that, so why can’t everyone else?  And over 3,000 people attended an illegal music festival near Bath. The noise was so loud that people over 20 miles away complained, but the police said that they couldn’t do anything about it.  WTF?  I hate to sound ranty and authoritarian, but these are not normal times.  Use bloody tear gas if necessary.   The vast majority of people are more or less sticking to the rules, but it only takes a few to set off a cluster of cases in one area, and then everyone suffers.  It’s very frustrating.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moving On Week 1 – July 6th to 12th 2020 inclusive

Monday, July 6th

What a difference it makes when the sun’s out!  It was lovely in the park when I went for my walk.  The cafes were busy, and people were sitting at the tables.  And the boats on the lake are running again.  Please, weather, stay nice!  The economy needs it.  And it makes people feel better.

Dad managed to knock his hearing aid out whilst putting his mask on before going into the bank!  Fortunately, some kind passers-by stopped to help him look for it, and one of them found it.  People with glasses are having trouble with mask loops as well.

Financial assistance for the arts sector’s been announced, but who knows when theatres will be able to reopen?  And now Pret A Manger’s announced branch closures and job cuts.  And the virus news from America, India, Serbia and Israel’s grim.  When will this ever end?!

 

Tuesday, July 7th

Today has not been a good day.

  1. It has rained all day.  Next week will probably be glorious, because it’s the week I’m not going away (having decided to wait until August, when it’s bound to rain!).
  2. The café I went to on Sunday’s sent me a thank you message, which is lovely, but does suggest that they got very few customers.  There are so many eating places and so many hotels in town – how can they all survive under these circumstances?  And a few pubs which only reopened on Saturday have already had to close after customers tested positive for the bloody virus.
  3. I couldn’t get going today – went to Tesco, M&S and Iceland, and to the park, and going to the frozen yoghurt shop soon (in the rain), but have eaten way too much and done very little work!
  4. Can’t make any progress with the holiday company as the person I’ve been dealing with – who is very nice – is off until Thursday.
  5. A very nice local restaurant is now doing deliveries.  So I thought I’d try it.  But they won’t take orders under £30.  That’s the cost of two average main courses.  So a person living on their own is effectively excluded, unless they’re exceptionally greedy.
  6.  Millions of people in Melbourne have been put back into lockdown for 6 weeks.  6 weeks!!
  7.  Rafa’s said he’ll play Madrid, which strongly suggests that he doesn’t plan to play the US Open.  Given both the coronavirus situation and the problems of switching from hard courts to clay courts so quickly, it’s quite understandable, but … bleurgh.

Maybe tomorrow will be better!!

 

Wednesday, July 8th

Today should have been men’s QF day.  And it’s the 30th anniversary of the glorious 1990 final.

It’s actually been dry today, hooray!!  Although it’s rained down south instead, delaying the start of play in the Test match at Southampton.

And the boats and cafes in the park were quite busy, hopefully bringing in money.  The Chancellor’s announced cuts in VAT for accommodation, attractions and eating out, and even a 50% discount for eating out during August, but, unfortunately, I don’t know what can be done about the fact that people are nervous of going out.  And, whilst I get the whole test and trace thing, I think it could damage the economy more than the virus has done.  I got an e-mail from the big garden centre today, informing me that, should I go there, my details will be taken from my loyalty card for test and trace!  If you’re sat next to someone in a café, fair enough, but the garden centre’s enormous: the chances that two people who were in there at the same time were anywhere near each other are remote.  At this rate, people won’t want to risk going anywhere.

 

Thursday, July 9th

Grey and miserable today, but at least it stayed dry.  I actually went to the park without my umbrella!

Watched some of the cricket, and also some of the tennis from Kitzbuhel.

Tesco have scrapped the one-way system, which seems very odd.

Gyms are going to be allowed to reopen from the end of July … although I’m not sure if I’ll be going back, even if mine reopens, because of test and trace.

I feel totally detached from work.  I am doing some work at home, but we get no contact from the office, other than the odd bit of nastiness.  I am past caring!

And the holiday company say they can’t do direct flights because they no longer deal with Jet2.com and EasyJet only go on certain days, and, on the days that work with Easyjet, they can’t book anything because the tours aren’t guaranteed to go!

 

Friday, July 10th

TGI Friday!   I am obviously not comparing myself to someone who works in healthcare, or to people doing other essential jobs, but I am struggling with the fact that I’ve been chained to the office laptop throughout this, with absolutely no support from the office.  And, whilst I appreciate that people can’t help the fact that their workplaces have been closed, some people have been off work on 80% pay for nearly 4 months, whilst many of us haven’t had any sort of break.  The lack of a break really is getting me down.  I should have been going to Iceland next week.  And, of course, the weather will be glorious next week, because it’s the week I decided not to go to the Lakes because it seemed too soon.

Moan over!

It has been dry for most of today, hooray … although the park is very muddy.

But I really do need a break …

 

Saturday, July 11th

Hooray, I have been to Windermere!   First time in four months.  I have missed it so much.   There should, of course, have been clear blue sky.  Instead, there was a lot of grey cloud, and a breeze which messed my hair up, but, hey, at least it didn’t rain!

I did my “socially distanced” steamer cruise, complete with mask.  It’s a pain that you can’t get off at Ambleside and then get a later boat back to Bowness, but it was just great to be back out on the water at all.

It was pretty busy.  I dread to think what the traffic and parking situation’ll be like by the time I go in August, but I’m glad for all the businesses there, which have been so badly hit.  I was amazed by how busy all the cafes and bars were … and they’re quite busy here, too.  I stuck to takeaways … not because I think there’s much chance of getting the virus in a café, but because of bloody track and trace.   Having said which, I wouldn’t usually sit inside on a dry day in Bowness anyway.  But everywhere was doing takeaways, and trying really hard to be careful – there were perspex screens up, a lot of places were only taking payment by card, everywhere had sanitiser at the doors, and there were one way systems in some places.

The public toilets didn’t open until 10am. FFS!  It’s July!  People are out and about well before 10 o’clock.

It was a lovely day.  I’ve missed it so much, and I feel so much better for being there.  Then I called at Sizergh Castle (pre-booked!) on the way home.

I kind of wish I was going now, rather than in 5 weeks’ time, but I had to make a decision and, at the time, I didn’t know when the hotels or the boats would be reopening.  And maybe castles will have reopened by mid-August?

I was feeling great until I got home and there was a depressing article in the paper about how rates are rising in our region, the rate’ll probably rise everywhere once summer’s over, and we’ll probably all be put back into lockdown.  Why do newspapers print articles like that?!  I’m trying to forget that I read it!

And this is the first day since lockdown started that I haven’t been to the park.  I didn’t get home till half 5, and, although part of me OCD-ishly wanted to go, it was too late, and I’d done plenty of walking already.  So glad to have been back to Windermere <3.

 

Sunday, July 12th

Of course, today, when I was supposed to be catching up on boring stuff, was warm and sunny!   So I went to Hollingworth Lake this morning, and the park this afternoon … and tried not to get upset over the fact that it should have been Wimbledon final day.

Hollingworth Lake was fine, but a group of 4 rude people in the park refused to get into single file so that I and other people could get past safely, which was annoying, and the kids’ playground was absolutely heaving.  Dozens of kids were absolutely crammed into the small square where you wait to go down the slide.  I don’t wish to be a killjoy, but it’s not on.   Michael Gove’s said that he trusts people’s courtesy and common sense.  Unfortunately, some people haven’t got any of either!!

What a strange year this has been.   I had some strawberries and cream in honour of the day, but … no Wimbledon, and I don’t know what’s going to happen with the US Open.  Apart from anything else, any non-American player who goes is going to have to self-isolate for a fortnight when they get back, ruling them out of the French Open warm-up events.  And, whilst New York isn’t too bad now, America had 66,000 new cases yesterday alone.

Strange times.  Strange times!!

 

 

 

 

 

Cafe culture reaches the North Manchester suburbs … due to the virus

There’s been talk for years about wanting to get a “Mediterranean-style café culture” going round here.  Maybe it goes back to when Mick Hucknall opened the Barca bar in 1996.  It’s tended to be met more with amusement than enthusiasm.  Manchester and Barcelona might share a love of football, but we haven’t exactly got the same climate.

Having said which, it’s taken off to some extent in town, and in “trendy” suburbs like Didsbury and Chorlton.  Not so much everywhere else, though.  In fact, pretty much everyone in my area hit the roof when the council decided to widen the pavements along the side of the main road, in order to “encourage café culture”.  It meant that one of the busiest roads in the country was reduced from two lanes to one lane, creating a horrendous bottleneck and all sorts of traffic problems.  I’m still furious that they did it.  And, no, it didn’t “encourage café culture”.  But, thanks to people being nervous about dining inside cafes and restaurants, and also the current restrictions on meeting up indoors, café culture has finally taken off, since eating places were allowed to reopen in July!  There are tables and chairs out all over the place.  I suspect that most of them shouldn’t actually be there, but, for once, the council have shown a bit of sense and turned a blind eye.  The downpours forecast for later this week will probably put paid to it, but it’s certainly been fun whilst it’s lasted –  a rare positive effect of this very strange situation in which we’re all caught up.

I love the “café culture” thing.  Sitting out along the banks of Lago Maggiore on a warm summer’s evening, with a cappuccino and an ice cream.  Sitting in the main square of a small resort near Taormina with a drink and plate of Sicilian cannoli.  Then there was the time that I decided it would be a great idea to go to the café across the road from the hotel in Seville for a coffee (I usually drink tea, but the tea in Spain and Italy isn’t great) and a piece of cake at 1/4 to 11 at night, which might be normal for Sevillanos but definitely isn’t for Mancunians.  I’d had no energy for the previous few months after having a horrendously bad reaction to anti-depressants, and decided that I could prove that I was getting my mojo back by going out for a piece of calorie-laden cake at bedtime.  It made sense at the time, OK!   Those little pasteis de nata that you get in cafés in Portugal … mmm.  And I’ve always rather wanted to go “strolling down the River Seine, having [we had] a drink in each café” … which I’ve never done, because I’ve always been too busy stressing about queues and crowds and getting back to the group meeting place in time.

One of my favourite “café culture” memories is of Sparta, of all places.  They don’t abandon babies in the woods or do naked athletics training any more.  And they seem to have got over their rivalry with Athens, because, on this particular evening, everyone was out in Sparta’s main square, watching a Champions League qualifier between Panathanaikos and Club Brugge (for the record, Club Brugge won the tie, and were then drawn alongside United in the group stage).  TV screens from inside bars and cafés had been carefully moved to the doors, so that everyone could sit out, on a very warm night, with their food and drink, and watch the football at the same time.

I thought how lovely it would be to do that here, on a night when United or City had a big match.  For all the jokes about the weather, big screens have often been put up in town, if not in the suburbs, when there’ve been big events on.  Maybe there were plans to do it this summer, when we should have been enjoying Euro 2020 and the Tokyo Olympics.  It wasn’t to be, and who knows if it’ll happen next year – when will we stand excitedly in a big crowd again?  But these days when a “Mediterranean-style café culture” finally took over our North Manchester suburb will be one of the happier memories of this very strange year.  Cheers!

 

Lockdown Week 15 – June 29th to July 5th 2020 inclusive

Monday, June 29th

Today should have been the first day of Wimbledon.  But there is no tennis, it has poured down nearly all day – I went out to the park, and later for a short walk, and both times it started pouring down whilst I was out, and was so windy that it was hard to keep my brolly up – and the temperature’s more suited to November than June.  Bah!  And I’m fed up of not knowing when online booking for things will open, and worrying that I’ll miss it.  And it looks as if poor Leicester will have to keep stricter regulations for another couple of weeks.

On a happier note, my favourite café is reopening this weekend!  And my elder nephew went back to school today – mornings only, reams of paperwork, and there are only three weeks of the academic year left anyway, but it’s a start!

 

Tuesday, June 30th

Another cold, wet day.  I’ve decided that I need to cancel my booking for Japan … I’m sad about it, but, even if the trip goes ahead, it’s not the time for long-distance travel.  I made a list of European trips as an alternative, but they all say that they’re only going with Lufthansa so I’d have to change in Germany, which is ridiculous because Jet2.com will be flying from Manchester to Rome and Venice by then, and the tour company’s always used them before.  I sent an e-mail asking about all this, but the person I’ve been dealing with is off this week, so I re-sent it to the general address, and no-one’s answered (yet).  My sister is stressed out trying to cancel a holiday to America.

Off to the frozen yoghurt shop, then it’s United v Brighton.

Getting very little contact from work, and I don’t think clients are checking work e-mails.

 

Wednesday, July 1st

The holiday company have not got back to me.  The weight I somehow put on overnight last week has not come off.  Booking for something I wanted to book is opening on Friday … when I can’t watch the website because I’ve got the chiropodist.  And I went into the office this morning and felt really uncomfortable being there.  And there is no Wimbledon.  And Wigan Athletic have gone into administration.

On the plus side, we beat Brighton last night, the dental surgery has finally reopened, and it has stopped raining.

I just can’t see an end to this.  Leicester’s back in lockdown.  We’re still registering nearly 200 deaths a day.  WHY?  Nowhere else is.  Death rates are supposed to be back to normal, so it doesn’t make any sense.  Melbourne’s also back in lockdown, the situation in the US is bad, it’s bad in India too, and the US has bought up practically the entire global supply of remdesivir.  When is this nightmare ever, ever going to end?

 

Thursday, July 2nd

The French Open is apparently going to have stadia 60% full!  Which will be the same as usual, as the prawn croissant brigade only ever take their seats for Rafa, Roger, Jo or Gael!!  I’d assumed it’d be behind closed doors.

The holiday company have sent me an e-mail saying they’ll get back to me.  They haven’t done.  And the office laptop had a huge strop this morning and lost the IP address for the remote connection, although it’s working now.

And it managed to stay dry whilst I was in the park today, which was good.

I feel as if there should be an air of excitement ahead of pubs etc reopening, but the Leicester lockdown and the situation in America have really cast a wet blanket over everything.  And cases are quite high in several other places, many of which are local.  The authorities will not do anything about community transmission because they’re more afraid of being accused of racism than they are of the danger to public health.  So everyone’s feeling a bit despondent … and it’s all so political, with so many people more concerned about criticising the government than about trying to find solutions.

And, as much as I accept that it’s a nightmare, every solution raises new problems.  For example, it’s been suggested that schools should vary starting times, so that there aren’t hordes of kids all streaming in through the doors and hanging around in the cloakroom/locker areas at once.  That makes sense.  But it won’t fit in with transport timetables, especially for private schools where a lot of kids get school buses, or in rural areas where buses only run once an hour.  And what about primary schools, where most kids are dropped off by parents, who may have 2 or 3 kids in different academic years?  But school attendance will be mandatory again from September, unless there are very good medical reasons.

 

Friday, July 3rd

I don’t know what I’m more sick of, this horrible depressing rain or being chained to the office computer.  But, on the positive side, I’ve got a place on a Windermere Lake Cruise steamer for next Saturday!   They actually open tomorrow, but a) the forecast’s vile and b) I’d already booked Fountains Abbey.  I’ve waited nearly 4 months: I suppose I can wait another week.

The air bridges have been announced, but the holiday company have not got back to me.

I went to the chiropodist this morning.  The magazines in reception have been replaced by pictures of feet!  And the chiropodist was wearing a mask and gown.  And I had to leave by a side door!

 

Super Saturday, July 4th

This is so-called “Super Saturday”, when hairdressers, pubs, cafes, restaurants and hotels can reopen.  The doom merchants are insisting that zillions of people will be falling down drunk all over the country and the virus will spread like wildfire, but I can’t see it.  Observed en route to Fountains Abbey – a lot of caravans heading for the coast, and a long queue outside a barber’s shop.  I left here in torrential rain, but it was dry in Ripon, and I had a really nice time.  And, hooray, the visitor centre tea room (although sadly not the lakeside tea room) was open (for takeaways), and they had lovely National Trust scones, straight out of the oven!

It was pouring down when I got home, but dried up later, when I went for a late walk in the park.  The farm centre cafe’s now reopened, the ice cream vans are back, and, hooray, some of the toilets have reopened!!

This was after United v Bournemouth.  We won 5-2!   Really exciting, eventful match … such a shame that we couldn’t be there in person to watch it, but still.  We’ve restarted well … but it’s no good unless someone else slips up.

I am due at the hairdresser’s at 8am tomorrow.  I don’t think I’ve ever been so glad to be going anywhere!

 

Sunday, July 5th

Hooray, I have had my hair cut and coloured!  I actually look like me again!  It was a bit weird with me in a mask and my hairdresser in a visor, and not being able to have a cup of tea, but it was the usual nice friendly atmosphere.  I’ve been going to the same hairdresser for nearly 20 years.  The salon’s opening 7 days a week, and extra hours each day, for now, and anyone who’s too nervous to go in the main salon can have their hair done in a room upstairs which isn’t usually used.

Later, I went into town, to my favourite café, The Vienna Coffee House, which reopened yesterday.

It was quiet … which was nice for me, because my main issue with going to cafes/pubs/restaurants is the fear of being caught by “test and trace”, and I certainly won’t be going into one during the three weeks before my “staycation”, but not so for them.  It’s early days, though, and town was certainly much busier than it was the last time I went.  You do have to fear for businesses, though, and for the transport networks too, with theatres still closed, no live music, and no crowds at football matches.  This rotten weather isn’t helping – London’s been busier, because it’s been nice there, but it’s been very windy here, and now it’s raining again.  It rained whilst I was on my way back from the park, too.  Bah!

Oh well.  We do need to try to stay positive.  I don’t watch BBC News any more, because of its negative attitude and the way it criticises the Government’s every move, but now Sky News is getting as bad!   Negativity won’t help.

I still can’t quite believe that all this is happening.  My admiration for the generations who lived through the world wars, especially, because of the Blitz,  the Second World War, was always high, but it’s now higher than ever.   Our lives have been turned upside down.

But, hey, hairdressers are open, and cafes are open!  Some places of worship have reopened, and some weddings have taken place.  It’s just all so far from normal.  I want normal back.

 

 

 

 

 

The coronavirus era arrives in Coronation Street and Emmerdale

Are you allowed to remove your mask in a hospital setting, whilst talking to your ex-fiancé, who’s just been run over whilst pushing you out of the way of a car, about the fact that he murdered a loan shark and buried him in the woods?  Sarah Barlow, formerly Platt, nee Tilsley, did.  I don’t understand why she’s even bothering with Gary, when she’s married to Adam, but never mind.  Meanwhile, the Rovers Return, Roy’s Rolls, Speed Daal and, presumably, the Bistro – there are a lot of food outlets in Coronation Street! – are now only doing take-aways.  Does this include Betty’s hotpot?  The factory is making PPE for the NHS, nurse Aggie Bailey was unable to celebrate her 30th wedding anniversary due to having to self-isolate, Maria is desperately trying to keep up with the demand for haircuts after the salon was finally able to reopen, and Gemma regretted that social distancing meant that she couldn’t hug Abi after inadvertently upsetting her.  Over in Emmerdale, now back to proper episodes after the lockdown specials (some of which were OK, some of which were dire), it’s also take-aways only, and two characters played by high-risk actresses (Claire King, who’s got rheumatoid arthritis, and Michelle Hardwick, who’s pregnant) have disappeared, one on a business trip and one to stay with relatives.

None of the child actors are allowed to feature at the moment, either, because children require chaperones on set and that would mean more people.  Noah and Sarah in Emmerdale have been around, but I assume that those scenes were filmed pre-lockdown.  The Coronation Street teen gang of Amy, Asha, Aadi, Summer and Kelly, who are great and who had been at the centre of two plots, are out of the picture, as are all actors aged over 70 or those who are high-risk for other reasons.

It’s easy to explain that Gemma can’t hug Abi because of social distancing, and there are social distancing signs up in the cafe and the factory, but it’s a bit more difficult to explain why characters can’t get too close to their partners, children, parents or siblings!  However, social distancing didn’t stop Amy in Emmerdale from arranging a date with Lee, even if it was only in the hope that it’d make Victoria realise that she wanted Lee back.  Come to that, it didn’t stop Sarah and Charity from breaking into Priya’s house.  However, there must have had to be a fair bit of last minute rewriting.  Yasmeen in Coronation Street has even had a heart attack to explain why her courtroom appearance couldn’t take place!

Ironically, EastEnders, the one soap which usually likes to mention current events, is off air at the moment.  But, when it’s back, presumably it’ll be the same there.  The scriptwriters had to do this: soap world might not be the real world (how many people do you know whose ex-fiances murder loan sharks and bury them in woods?) but it has to mirror it to a reasonable extent.  So our favourite characters are going through it all with us!

It is very, very weird, though, watching it and knowing that neither we, the characters, the actors nor the scriptwriters have any idea what is going to happen.  Now, over 35 years after I first read The Chalet School in Exile, I know a tiny bit – obviously the pandemic is hardly to be compared with the risk of a Nazi invasion, but the uncertainty is comparable – about how it must have felt for Elinor M Brent-Dyer to write that, and for her readers to read it.

Strange times.

Strange times indeed.

Lockdown Week 14 – June 22nd to 28th 2020 inclusive

Monday, June 22nd

Hooray, the Lakeside Café in Heaton Park has reopened!  Although that means that, for two days in a row, my diet has gone for a Burton due to “supporting local businesses”!

I’d like to book a fruit picking slot for the weekend, but they’re only releasing them one day at a time, and the ones released today for Wednesday apparently sold out within 25 minutes.  They’re not released at any particular time, so I think you just have to strike lucky and check the website at a good time!   I’m glad that the lovely fruit farm’s doing so well, but it’s rather frustrating!

Boris will be making some Big Announcements tomorrow.  These had better include confirmation that hairdressers can reopen a week on Saturday!

 

Tuesday, June 23rd

Hooray!  Hairdressers are definitely reopening!!  So, as long as it can be done safely, are hotels, pubs, restaurants, cinemas and museums!

I managed to get a fruit picking slot for 5:30pm on Thursday!  Demand’s so high that they’re now doing evening slots.  I’d rather have gone Saturday morning, but decided that a bird in the hand was worth two in the bush, plus the weather forecast’s good for Thursday.

Had a walk in the park earlier.  Going to the frozen yoghurt shop now.

I’ve been watching some of the tennis – the “Battle of the Brits”.  It’s a shame that it’s not outdoors, on grass, but I understand that they didn’t want to take a chance on the weather.  What a to-do at the Adria Tour, though – Nole, Grisha, Borna Coric, Viktor Troicki, Jelena Djokovic and several other people have all got the virus.  Players were hugging each other at the net, and they all went to a nightclub.  To be fair, they weren’t breaking any restrictions currently in force in Serbia, but it wasn’t exactly very sensible.  Not impressed.

 

Wednesday, June 24th    

Oof, it is too hot, and the pollen count is too high!!  I was going to get a drink at the park café, but the queue was so long that I just didn’t have time to wait, and I felt quite faint by the time I got home!

Went into the office earlier.  As briefly as possible.  Going to Mum and Dad’s to watch United v Sheffield United now.

I had to make a decision about the Lakes, so, as the boats aren’t running and hotels will only be opening one week before the July date I’d booked, I’ve cancelled that and am working with the August date.  Watch it be the wettest and busiest week of the year!!

 

Thursday, June 25th

So hot, again – but I did manage to get a drink in the park today!   There was a right to-do in Bournemouth: the beach got overcrowded and the council declared an emergency.

It’d cooled down by half 5, when I had my strawberry picking slot!   It was really lovely: I had such a nice time, and got plenty of strawberries.  I’ll sort them out tomorrow – by the time I’d got home, had tea, had a bath and washed and dried my too-long hair, I couldn’t be bothered.  So glad I managed to get a slot.  I normally just turn up on a Saturday or Sunday morning, but nothing’s normal this year … but I’m so glad to have been, and so glad for the lovely fruit farm that they’ve been able to open.

We won 3-0 last night.  Liverpool also won, so, if City don’t beat Chelsea, the title’ll be decided tonight.

 

Friday, June 26th

Liverpool are champions, so, go on, congratulations to them.

Today has been one of those days, though:

  1.  I somehow seem to have put on 4lbs in 2 days.  How is that even possible?  That’s WEEKS of work gone. If I’d eaten cake and chocolate for 2 days, I’d have understood, but I bloody haven’t.
  2. I was so upset that I had an ice cream in the park.  Making it worse.
  3.  I was all set to go to the Lakes tomorrow, but now the Met Office says there’s going to be a storm.  3 sunny days whilst I couldn’t go, and now storms forecast for Saturday and torrential rain for Sunday.  I want to cry.
  4.   I am scared because there’s also a risk of storms here.  Not last week again.  Please,  I can’t take it.
  5.   I feel disgusting because my hair is such a mess, and it feels even worse in the heat.

I am trying to be positive, but I can’t think of anything to be positive about.

 

Saturday, June 27th

What an awful day.  Saved only by winning the Cup QF at Norwich, in extra time, with 2 minutes to go!   But it has rained nearly all day, after being so nice during the week when I couldn’t go out.  So bloody frustrating!  I had a nice planned, but had to cancel it – I did manage to get a walk at Alderley Edge (and, hooray, the Wizard Tea Room has reopened, and so have the toilets) before the heavens opened, and to have my scone in the garden during a break between downpours, but it poured down whilst I was halfway round the park, and I am STILL putting on weight for no reason.  How the hell can anyone put on 5lbs in 3 days?  Weeks of work, gone, in 3 days.  If I’d been stuffing myself with cake, I’d get it.  But I haven’t.

There’s a lot of talk about “air bridges”, but I don’t know if coach tours’ll be running, even if I could get a place, and it might only be a few countries anyway.  My sister & co have cancelled the holiday in America they’d booked for August.

 

Sunday, June 28th

So sick of this rain!   However, at least it hasn’t rained all day as was forecast.  I went to the park this morning, then went into town.  A lot of shops are now open, but some haven’t reopened yet, and others are only opening limited hours.  There’s hand sanitiser at the entrances to the Arndale and the entrances to most shops, and some doors are now entrance only and others exit only.  The Arndale toilets are open, but some blocks have only got the ladies’ open and others have only got the gents’ open!   Costa Coffee and other places are open for takeaways, and you can now order at the counter instead of using the app.  There were some queues – people who live in town waiting to go into food shops, and also queues for technology/phone shops, Primark and TK Maxx – but, generally, it was much less busy than a normal Sunday.  But then cafes, cinemas, theatres, pubs etc are all still closed.  There were a few police and security staff on Market Street, but there sometimes are anyway.  Of the food stalls, some were making a big effort and using gloves, and others weren’t.

It was lovely to be in town, though!

Watched the Battle of the Brits final, with Dan Evans beating Kyle Edmund.  And sorted out some photos … watching my hair get worse and worse as the weeks went on.

Going to watch City’s Cup QF now.  Nothing more sure than that we get drawn together!
And there’s talk about a local lockdown being imposed in Leicester.  I do understand the concern – there’s been a spike in cases there – but I would hit the roof if that happened here, and am very sorry for the people there, who must be dreading it happening.