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

 

Monday, October 26th

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 27th

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 28th

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

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

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

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

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

Everyone is fed up.

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

Thursday, October 29th

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

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

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

The social club alcohol loophole’s been closed.

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 30th

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Saturday, October 31st

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So here we are.  Lockdown II.

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

 

Sunday, November 1st

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Monday, October 19th

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

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

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

 

Tuesday, October 20th

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

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

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

I am so angry.

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

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

 

Wednesday, October 21st

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

Anti-government graffiti is appearing around Manchester and Liverpool.

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

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

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

 

Thursday, October 22nd

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

It doesn’t cover pandemics.

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

Slough, Coventry and Stoke are moving into Tier 2.

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

 

Friday, October 24th

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

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

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

 

Saturday, October 25th

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

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

It’s making the government look very bad indeed.

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

Home tomorrow.

 

Sunday, October 25th

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

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

So fed up.

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

And so I’m home.  In Tier 3.

 

 

 

 

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 7 – October 12th to 18th 2020 inclusive

Monday, October 12th

Phew.  We haven’t got all the details yet, but Greater Manchester will be in Tier 2, along with the rest of Lancashire (excluding areas under Merseyside and Cumbria), some neighbouring parts of Cheshire and Derbyshire, the Birmingham and Leicester areas, Nottinghamshire, South Yorkshire (I think?) and West Yorkshire.  London, natch, gets to be in Tier 1 … which I’m glad of for my sister’s sake.  But Merseyside is in Tier 3, so my friends and cousins in Liverpool and Southport (the Wirral, Knowsley and St Helens are also affected, as in Widnes even though it isn’t even in Merseyside) are now banned from meeting anyone outside their households/bubbles, and “asked” not to travel outside the area.  Gyms will be closing, as well as pubs, bars, casinos, adult gaming centres and bookmakers.  Restaurants, cafes and tea rooms can stay open, which is something.   But what a nightmare.

Our restrictions seem to be much the same as before – and actually slightly easier, as we are now allowed to meet up in private gardens.

Some financial measures have been announced, but they won’t be enough.

Exams are to be delayed by 3 weeks.

I should therefore be able to go on holiday.  I usually start packing 2 weeks beforehand, and am now frantically trying to do everything at the last minute!

 

Tuesday, October 13th

Just when you thought you knew where you were up to … Boris has made it pretty clear that he wants to move us (and possible Newcastle and other areas too?) into Tier 3.  He can piss off.  Infection rates here are falling since they locked up the students in their halls of residence.  And Sadiq Khan’s said that London will probably be moving into Tier 2 next week.  FFS!  I thought the whole idea of this was to reduce confusion, not increase it.

One local MP’s resigned as a Junior Minister, saying he’s had enough.  I can’t say I blame him.

Meanwhile, because I thought we were going into Tier 3, on Friday I booked today off work to go to Windermere.  I am so glad I did.  It was a lovely sunny day, and I had such a lovely time.  Tighter restrictions are inevitably coming, so, as long as we are not doing anything to endanger ourselves or others, I suggest that we enjoy ourselves as much as we can, whilst we can.

To be fair to Boris & co, I do appreciate that pretty much every country in Europe is in the same mess.   And I do appreciate that this is the way pandemics go: you do get second waves.

Deaths with the virus are up.

So is unemployment.

Friends and relatives in Merseyside – and, as my grandad came from Liverpool, and NW Manchester is only about 20 miles from the Merseyside border, I’ve got plenty of them – are very, very upset about being in Tier 3.  It’s not the pubs and restaurants, it’s the being banned from seeing even your immediate relatives and closest friends, other than the people you actually live with.  Parents and children, grandparents and grandchildren, brothers and sisters, aunties and uncles and nieces and nephews, cousins, partners who don’t live together, best friends … and this is for 4 weeks at the very least.  Although apparently it’s still OK to meet up in parks – I hadn’t realised that.

 

Wednesday, October 14th

I don’t half wish I’d booked this holiday for a different time.  But how was I to know that this was going to happen?  I booked it months ago.  There was supposed to be a meeting today about Greater Manchester and Merseyside, but nothing’s been said.  The North is united – Mancunians and Scousers, Geordies and Mackems, Lancastrians and Yorkshire folk, all of us – but we’re united against Westminster. Against the government which is supposed to represent us.

Wales is banning anyone from high risk areas of England and Scotland from entering Wales.

Nicola Sturgeon is trying to blame the rise in coronavirus cases in Scotland on trips to Blackpool.

With the Ould Firm match this weekend, and pub closures in Scotland, we’re likely to see the biggest Scottish invasion of England since 1745.

Northern Ireland is going for the two week circuit breaker idea.

Keir Starmer, Ed Davey, Andy Burnham, Steve Rotheram and many others have backed the same idea here.  As have the scientists.  But Boris says that closing bars etc for two weeks would ruin the economic recovery.  Yet apparently it’s OK to close them in Merseyside indefinitely.

My bags are packed and I’m ready to go.  But I could yet be unpacking them and, if that’s on Friday, paying a penalty clause for cancelling the hotel.

Zillions of people are going away.  People were partying on the streets on Liverpool yesterday.  But, being anxiety-ridden, I feel guilty.  Why do I feel guilty?  I booked this ages ago. I won’t be going anywhere busy.  I’ll be outdoors most of the time, and on my own when I’m indoors.

If I go.

At least I’ve only got another two days of this horrible, stressful uncertainty.

And the Christmas markets have been cancelled.  It had to happen, but it’s very sad.  They were started in 1996 to help our city to recover from the IRA bomb, and have become such a huge part of the city and of Christmas.

 

Thursday, October 15th

I cannot believe what is going on.  It was announced all over the media this morning that Greater Manchester would be moving into Tier 3 lockdown tomorrow, and that this would be confirmed in a statement in the House of Commons at 11:30 am.  I prepared to cancel my holiday, but couldn’t do much at that point as I had to get to the dentist’s.  By the time I got back from the dentist’s, it was being said that no agreement had been reached.  And that’s where we’re at.  It’s been made pretty clear that the Government was all set to impose Tier 3 by force, but met with such hostility from a united front of Conservative and Labour MPs that they backed down.  Andy Burnham has made a furious attack on the Government, saying that the proposed measures won’t work and the financial support offered is inadequate, and leaders in the North East have said much the same.

It’s like something out of the Middle Ages.  The North is in open revolt against the Government, and the Welsh First Minister’s said he’s putting out patrols to look for suspicious (i.e. English) people trying to enter Wales.

How the hell have we come to this?

Meanwhile, after about 35 hours in Tier 1, the whole of London, along with Barrow, York, Chesterfield, Essex and several other areas have been moved to Tier 2.

My head is spinning.  I just cannot believe what is going on.

I have decided to leave tomorrow evening, and stay overnight in the Midlands.  Just in case there’s an announcement tomorrow.  I can’t take any more.  I suppose I’d still be breaking rules if we got moved into Tier 3, but I doubt anyone would blame me for not coming home once I’d left, and I can’t cancel the hotel any later than tonight without paying £125.

And Margaret Ferrier, the MP who took a public train from London to Scotland after testing positive for the virus, has been let off without even a fine.

I want to cry.  How have we come to this?  I know she can’t, but I half-wish that the Queen could step in.

 

Friday, October 16th

Made it to the Midlands!   Charlecote, near Warwick.  It’s like a different world here.  People can actually sit in a restaurant with friends and relatives!

1974 boundaries Lancashire (I really do object to saying “Lancashire” for an area which excludes so much of real Lancashire, but anyway) is to move into Tier 3.  So most of the Blackpool half-term bookings will be cancelled.  The Illuminations are on for an extra three months, to try to make up for some of the lost business … and now this.  Oh, what a nightmare all this is.  And still no decision on Greater Manchester.

 

Saturday, October 17th 

The Government says that talks will resume tomorrow.  Andy Burnham says he doesn’t know anything about it.

Meanwhile, I am in Somerset!  Via Charlecote Park.  It’s so, so different down here.  So few people.  So few towns.  This is what is going on with the virus – it’s all about population density.  Anyway, at least I’m getting my break!

 

Sunday, October 18th

A group of snotty southern Tory MPs have written a letter urging leaders of Greater Manchester to agree to move into Tier 3.  Several Greater Manchester Tory MPs, including ours, have told them to mind their own business.  What a mess all this is.   Honestly, it’s starting to feel a bit like the beginning of an American Civil War novel, with the country split between north and south.

I’ve had a lovely day, in Bradford-on-Avon, Norton St Philip, Great Chalfield and Westbury.   But it feels as if the world’s gone mad.

So what happens now …. ?

 

What is going on?

I have tried to keep faith with this government, but enough is enough.  If this lot had been in charge during the war, the Nazis would have been marching down the Mall by the middle of 1940.  I have never known such incompetence.   The announcement on tighter rules in Scotland, unpopular as it’s been in many quarters, was made last Wednesday, so people there at least know what’s going on.  We in Northern England have been left to deal with day after day of speculation in the media, leaving people distraught and anxious about their livelihoods, holidays, prospects of seeing relatives and friends, and many other matters.  Every newspaper and TV channel says something different, and all seem convinced that they are right.

Which areas will be affected?   Definitely Liverpool.  But does that just mean Liverpool, or does it mean Merseyside, meaning that places such as Southport and St Helens would be affected too?  What about us, in Manchester?  My newspaper says we will be affected.  The BBC says we will not.  Sky News says that it hasn’t been decided yet.  And, again, does “Manchester” mean the city centre or does it also mean Bury, Bolton, Oldham, Stockport, etc?  What about Newcastle?  And Leeds?  And Nottingham?  Nottingham’s infection rate, albeit largely student-driven, is now over 800 per 100,000, yet no additional restrictions at all are in place there – even though they were imposed on Rossendale when its infection rate was 4 per 100,000 and Wigan when its infection rate was 7 per 100,000.

What about smaller towns and cities where the infection rate is equal to or higher those in larger cities?  Bradford?  Preston?  Burnley?

What will it mean?  Travel restrictions?  I need to know: I’ve got a hotel booked for this weekend and next week.  Are we to banned from leaving our areas?  What does “area” mean – borough or administrative country?  Does “non-essential travel” include going to the city centre shops or to a park not within walking distance?

And which businesses will have to shut?  The initial rumour was pubs, bars, cafes and restaurants.  Now they’re saying restaurants will be able to remain open, but that gyms, casinos and bookmakers will have to shut.  One newspaper even mentioned hairdressers.  These are people’s jobs and businesses.  They need to know what’s going on.

And what about the financial support?  We’ve been told 2/3 of people’s wages, but many people working in hospitality are only on the minimum wage as it is.  What about other costs, such as rent?  What about businesses which won’t be ordered to shut, but will be severely affected, such as hotels, taxi drivers, and those in the supply chain?

There are also rumours that shielding is going to be reintroduced.

And how long for?  Four weeks initially, but some rumours say six months.  There’s due to be a complete ban on household mixing.  Are people seriously supposed to go for six months without seeing their families and friends?   There’ll be the worst mental health pandemic that’s ever been known.   And the economy will be ruined.

From what’s being said, no-one really knows, because it still hasn’t been decided, even though we’re supposed to be getting an announcement in five hours’ time.

This is beyond appalling. MPs and local council leaders, from all parties, are fuming.  There’s talk of court cases.  Everyone is anxious and distressed.

And nobody knows WTF is going on.  Meanwhile, MPs have just bagged a pay rise of over £3,000 each.  And there are no additional restrictions in any of the constituencies represented by the senior ministers.   And the fates of millions of people across the North of England hang in the balance, as we try to deal with one rumour after another and have no idea what our lives will look like by the end of this week.

Get a grip, Boris.  This is a shit situation.  But the way it’s being dealt with is inexcusable.  I’ve got two newspapers, and each one says something different, and neither of them agree with either the BBC or Sky, neither of which agree with each other.  Friends have shared rumours they’ve read elsewhere, all of which are different again.  The only thing anyone can agree on is that the government is making a mess of things.

Second Wave Week 6 – October 5th to 11th 2020 inclusive

 

 

Monday, October 5th

What a bloody fiasco.  Over 16,000 cases were missed due to this “computer glitch” – which was apparently because someone couldn’t manage to use Excel properly.  The setting they’d used didn’t pick up all the rows.  I mean, seriously?  I use Excel myself every day, and I’m hardly an IT whizz.  It’s not exactly difficult to use.  We’re now on over 12,500 cases a day.  Rates have soared over the weekend, even without the missing cases.  And most of the missing cases were in the north, so infection rates in all the local boroughs are way higher than we thought.  Manchester city centre now has the highest rate in the country – although it’s nearly all students.  Newcastle’s got a similar issue with students, but it’s not clear what’s causing the problem in Liverpool.  I could cry.  Just when I thought I could start looking forward to my holiday.

The good news is that deaths aren’t rising.  Most of the cases are in low risk groups.

Paris has closed all bars.  I wish they’d do that here.  The Czech Republic’s closed schools.  Moscow’s told elderly people to stay indoors.

Everyone’s just had enough.  We’ve been in local lockdown for over 2 months.  Most of us are keeping the rules.  But rates keep rising.  A load of jobs are going to go when the furlough system ends.  Oh, and Arsenal have made Gunnersaurus redundant.  People’s mental health is suffering, and there’s no end in sight.  Iran reckons it’s having a third wave.  And that ties in with what’s happened with previous pandemics.

Bleurgh.

 

Tuesday, October 6th

Things are not good.  Infections are up.  Hospital admissions are up.  Deaths are up.   New restrictions are to be imposed in Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.  For all the balls-up with the Excel spreadsheet, I’m not really blaming the authorities.  Most countries are in the same boat – Poland’s struggling particularly badly this week – and no-one knows what to do anywhere.

Local leaders have complained that local lockdowns are doing no good and causing harm, but it looks as if Nottingham could be the next place to have restrictions imposed on it.  Maybe Oxford too.  Universities going back has been a disaster.

Donald Trump’s back at the White House.

Mesul Ozil has said he’ll pay Gunnersaurus’s wages.

 

Wednesday, October 7th

I do appreciate that the virus is not timing things to cause issues with my holiday, but it doesn’t half feel like that. Nicola Sturgeon has imposed travel restrictions on Glasgow, Edinburgh and various other areas, and closed all the pubs and licensed restaurants there for at least two weeks.  I don’t honestly think that Boris would do that here, but things certainly aren’t very good.  Universities going back has been a huge mistake.

The Manchester Evening News has published my letter asking it to try rallying the troops – “A City United”, “We’re all in this together” type thing – rather than its current negativity.  I doubt it’ll take any notice, but I tried.

Rafa is through to the US Open SFs, and will play Schwartzman, rather than Thiem.

 

Thursday, October 8th

Bleurgh.  It does now look as if there will be restrictions on travel, or certainly on overnight stays.  Coming in on Wednesday, and I was due to go on Saturday.  I’m SO upset.  I was going now because this was the time I’d booked off for my Japan holiday.  Then that was cancelled but they were supposed to be doing trips to France or Italy, so they were cancelled too.  Work won’t let us carry the time forward, so my holidays, of which I get so few and which I try so hard to make the most of, are … well, I don’t even know what I’ll be able to do at home.  I’ve spent hours working out where to go and how to get there.  I’ve booked tickets for things and, as they’ll still be open, I won’t be able to get the money back.  So, so near … and yet so far.   And, as it’ll run into half term loads of families with young kids will be in the same boat.

I am sick of the virus.

I am sick of our area being one of the worst hit by it.  I don’t understand why.

I am sick of the Government.  They have completely lost the North now.  Details have been leaked to the papers before they were discussed with local council leaders, and the exact details are still unclear.  People don’t know whether to cancel holidays.  Businesses don’t know whether or not they’ll have to close, and what compensation there’ll be if they do.  People don’t know whether or not they’re about to lose their jobs.  N

Cases, hospital admissions and deaths are going up and up, so I accept that something has to be done, but I don’t see why I would be a danger to anyone in a hotel room on my own – especially as it’s apparently OK for me to be in an office with other people.

I know this sounds really self-pitying, but I am feeling very sorry for myself 😦 .

 

Friday, October 9th

This is absolutely f***ing ridiculous.  Scotland had its announcement on Wednesday.  We are just being left in suspense, with people panicking about jobs, holidays and other things.

  1.  Which areas will be affected?   Most of the papers are saying Manchester, Liverpool and Newcastle.  But will that include the suburbs and satellite towns?  Sadly, the answer is probably yes, which is bloody ridiculous because it means it’ll affect us and other places like Stockport, yet Bradford, Burnley, Preston and various other places where the rates are no lower than, and in many cases higher than, here will not be affected.
  2.  Is this a “circuit breaker” like in Glasgow and Edinburgh, or will it go on indefinitely?   Given that Rishi Sunak’s just announced a SIX MONTH plan to support businesses affected … well, it doesn’t sound good, does it?
  3.  What will it mean?  Will it include a ban on holidays?  It seems all but certain that eating and drinking places will have to close, but where else?  Golf clubs?  Gyms?  Cinemas?  Maybe even shops?
  4.  Are we seriously supposed to go for 6 months with no contact with other households?
  5.  The rumours in the press, which are upsetting everyone, also include a return to shielding.  Is this being planned?

WTF is going on?  This is just ridiculous.  And the support for business is something, but won’t go anywhere near saving many businesses from collapse, if they have to close for months.

Meanwhile, Nottingham, which now has the highest infection rate in the country, at well over 600 – thanks yet again to an outbreak at a university, the latest place to be affected by which is Bristol – isn’t in local lockdown at all!  Nor are places like York and Barrow, where infections are soaring.

I’ve sent an angry e-mail to my MP about all the uncertainty, but he was only elected in December.  It’s like asking a first year to stop the prefects from bullying people.

I have had enough.

The only good thing is that Rafa’s into the French Open final 🙂 .  Although I’m not sure I can cope with yet another defeat by Nole.  The second semi has just started. Come on, Stef!

 

Saturday, October 10th

In news not related to the pandemic, Rafa will have to play Nole in the French Open men’s final, Iga Swiatek won the ladies’ final, and Marcus Rashford has been awarded the MBE.  And I have had my hair cut.  The hairdresser said that they were managing, but things were nowhere near back to pre-lockdown levels, partly because some elderly people are nervous about going out and partly because some people are trying to reduce their spending due to worried about redundancy.

I still have no idea whether or not I will be getting my week’s holiday or spending my few days’ annual leave hanging around.  Every newspaper and every TV channel has its own version of the restrictions coming in next week.

Andy Burnham, the Mayor of Greater Manchester, has threatened to sue the Government.  OK, it’s easy to criticise when you’re not the one at the sharp end, but he’s quite right about the inadequate financial package.  Most people who work in pubs, bars and restaurants do not earn much anyway.  How are they meant to cope on 2/3 of that, indefinitely?  And, if the whole industry’s closed down, their chances of finding other work is going to be minimal.   And many places may never reopen.  Liverpool’s said that half its council tax comes from hospitality places, and I’d assume the figure is similar for Manchester.  The Government says that local leaders are being consulted, but they say they’re not.  Even within Boris Johnson’s own party, people have had enough of the appalling contempt being shown towards Northern England.  MPs for northern constituencies have formed a pressure group.

I am very disappointed in Boris.  And I could wallop bloody Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary.  If he says one more word about “hard work”, I shall scream.  What does he think people in Manchester, Liverpool, Newcastle, Preston, Burnley, Bradford etc are doing?  Going out raving every night?   Hospitality workers in Scotland have dumped a load of ice outside the parliament building in Edinburgh.  I wish someone’d dump a load over Matt Hancock’s stupid head.

Back in April, when the Queen made that wonderful speech, there was a genuine “Spirit of the Blitz” feeling of togetherness.  Now, people in urban areas of the North are angry and bitter.  What a mess.

 

Sunday, October 11th

Bizarrely, just as the world’s about to fall apart again, this has been one of the best days of the year.  I always go to Blackpool on the morning of the French Open, so, being superstitious – and because the weather was glorious – I went today, even if it was October rather than June.  It was a lovely morning.  And then Rafa beat Nole, 6-0 6-2 7-5!   I can’t believe it.  I wasn’t optimistic, and I thought that, even if he could do it, it’d be a long and tough battle, especially with the roof being closed.  But he was just incredible.  Absolutely wonderful.  It also means he and Roger have got the same number of Grand Slam titles, but I’m not so fussed about that – Rafa, Roger and Nole are all great, and I can live without all this “Who’s the GOAT?” stuff.  But I was definitely fussed about today, and … oh wow.  Wonderful.  Just wonderful.

Now we’ve got to see what tomorrow brings.  Five Manchester MPs have said that they won’t support Tier 3 restrictions, but Matt Hancock and Boris don’t give a damn what anyone else thinks.  If the travel ban’s advisory rather than mandatory, do I still go?  I won’t be going near anyone else, and I haven’t been in close contact with anyone except Mum and Dad, but … I’m kind of bothered people will think badly of me, which I know is an awful way of looking at things.  But I heard loads of Scottish accents in Blackpool today, even though people in Scotland are “advised” not to visit parts of England in local lockdown.

This whole situation is ridiculous.

But today’s about Rafa ❤ 🙂 .

Second Wave Week 5 – September 28th to October 4th 2020

Monday, September 28th

People are busy blaming the government, the rules, the scientists, etc etc, but the fact of the matter is that the problems are due to people who do whatever the hell they want.  Police across the country have broken up hundreds of large parties, many of them at venues rather than private homes, over the weekend, and it’s being reported that fewer than 80% of people who should be self-isolating are actually doing so.  However, the 10pm curfew, which worked in Belgium, isn’t working so well here, with everyone pouring out on to the streets, and into supermarkets to buy more booze, at the same time.  Fines of up to £10,000 can now be imposed, but how many of the rule breakers, most of them people in their 20s, have got £10,000?

Cases are way down today, but that’s probably the weekend effect.  However, apart from the disaster at the hall of residence, cases locally do seem to be calming down a bit.  However, there are major problems in Liverpool/Knowsley, and also in the Burnley/Accrington/Colne area.

The way the political points-scorers carry on, you’d think it was just here.  It isn’t.

On a more cheerful note, Rafa won his first round match at the French Open pretty comfortably.  And, having been off work today, I went to Tatton Park this morning.  I found 25 conkers by the big conker tree there!

Tuesday, September 29th

71 deaths reported today, which is scary … although Tuesdays have always been bad, because of the catch-up from the weekend.

The rules in the NE have been changed again.   It’s now illegal to meet anyone outside your household/bubble indoors.  I thought it already was, but apparently the previous rules were just “advisory”.   What’s the point of “advisory” rules?  And it’s now “advisory” for people there not to meet up in beer gardens etc.  But it’s OK to do so here.  Everyone is completely confused.  Including Boris, who, much to the delight of the points-scorers, got the NE rules wrong when asked about them.  This is getting very silly.

Andy Burnham, having spent July calling for tighter restrictions, is now complaining that the restrictions are killing the hospitality sector.  This was in a joint statement with Liverpool and Leeds.  Manchester, Liverpool and Leeds join forces- now there’s a first!

What the hell is the answer?  Other than for people to keep the rules.  Tesco staff are now wearing masks, but most of them have only got masks over their mouths, not their noses.  And I keep seeing people on buses with masks round their chins.  They must put them on so that the driver doesn’t say anything when they board, then take them off as soon as they’re out of his/her sight.  And things are not being helped by idiots spreading false rumours on social media.  No, the app is not bloody spyware.

The Czech Republic’s declaring a state of emergency.  And Brussels has banned prostitution. I’m not sure what it says about Brussels that prostitution is considered such a big factor, but whatever.

Wednesday, September 30th

Cases and deaths today are as bad as yesterday.  Boris has issued a plea for people to follow the rules.  Angela Merkel did the same in the German parliament this morning.  And yet we continue to hear about large gatherings having to be broken up.

There are rows going on in Parliament over the lack of discussion about restrictions.

Two friends (i.e. two separate people, not a couple) have had their holidays in Wales messed up by the restrictions there.

A teacher at my elder nephew’s school has got the virus, and some of the kids have been sent home, but thankfully his “bubble” isn’t affected.

Still no definite decision on the Christmas markets, but the Christmas lights switch-on and the New Year fireworks have been cancelled.

At least Rafa had a comfortable win today.

Thursday, October 1st

I’m not sleeping very well, because of the stress of all the uncertainty.   People in Liverpool, Warrington, Hartlepool and Middlesbrough have been asked to avoid non-essential travel.  No change for us, and some positive news in that pubs and restaurants in Bolton are to reopen, but I’m more stressed than ever now.  It’s all so illogical.  Rates in Burnley are double those in Hartlepool and Warrington.  And why Liverpool and Warrington but not Knowsley?  The mayor of Middlesbrough’s hit the roof, and said he tried to contact the Westminster government but couldn’t even get a reply.  Council leaders in Newcastle etc have said that they weren’t even told before the announcement on Monday that rules there were changing.  No financial support has been offered for businesses affected by local lockdowns.  The South would never be treated like this.  I’ve tried not to join the ranks of those criticising the government, but the way they’re treating the North and Midlands is not on.

Having said all this, rates in our borough are falling, and they’re falling or stable in most other Greater Manchester boroughs too.  Rates in the city centre are rising, but that’s because of the cases in student accommodation.  And it’s been reported that the national R rate is falling.

On a different note, our Champions League group is vile.

Friday, October 2nd

Rates in the city centre are sky-rocketing.  I just hope that a) the government realise that it’s due to student accommodation and don’t punish everyone and b) other boroughs are not punished.  It’s a never-ending nightmare.

Donald and Melania Trump have both got the virus now.  Both asymptomatic at present.

Weather forecast for pumpkin picking tomorrow is vile, but that’s the least of my worries!

Saturday, October 3rd

Thanks to Storm Alex, it’s rained all day.  Bad weather forcing people indoors is the last thing we need, but there’s not much to be done about it.  Despite the rain, I went to pick my pumpkin 🙂 .  I think the fruit farm’s had a decent year, despite everything.  I’m so pleased.

The outbreak at Manchester Met is distorting local figures, and the same thing’s happening in Newcastle.  Very few of the hundreds of students who’ve tested positive have got any symptoms, but there are concerns about the virus spreading to vulnerable people in the community.

Donald Trump was taken to hospital last night.  We’re being told that he’s fine and it’s just precautionary, but that was what we were told about Boris just before he ended up in intensive care.  People are not airlifted to hospital if they’ve just got a bit of a cough.  It sounds quite worrying.

Sunday, October 4th

FFS.  Just as it looked as if things were calming down, a huge increase in infections was announced yesterday – apparently including cases going back over a week due to a “glitch” in the system.  So the figures for the past few days were wrong.  What “glitch”?  Can’t they get things working properly?  Gah!

Donald Trump seems to be doing better, but it’s hard to know how much of what we’re being told is accurate.

The release of the new James Bond film, to which I was looking forward, has been put back to April 2021.  As a result, Cineworld’ve mothballed all their UK cinemas, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Vue and Odeon follow suit.  Does it not occur to the distributors that audiences won’t return whilst there’s nothing decent on, virus or no virus?  It’s a very sad state of affairs.  Cinemas were so important during the war.  In the ’80s, we kept being told that video shops would kill off cinemas.  They didn’t.  Then we were told that subscription film channels would kill off cinemas.  They didn’t.  But now this.  I love going to the pictures and hope that this is a temporary thing, but April 2021’s a long way off, and there’s not much else coming.

As for today’s disastrous match between United and Spurs, the least said, the better.   What a total humiliation.  At least Rafa had a comfortable win, although things get very tough from now on.

Went to Styal (Quarry Bank Mill) this morning.  The garden café is now up and running.  And a lot of apples had fallen in a pond, looking like some bizarre giant apple bobbing game.  It was a distraction from all the stress and uncertainty.

 

It is better to light a candle …

Every year, I say that we really ought to “do” autumn better in the UK.  I usually say it on the day of the Tatton Park harvest festival, because that’s always lovely and I wish that there were more events like it.  But it was cancelled this year.  And the Heaton Park bonfire’s been cancelled as well.  I’m quite keen on Bonfire Night, because we’ve lost so many traditions and that’s one that’s still going.  Also, it gives me an excuse to lecture people on Stuart era history 🙂 .  But the idea of autumn bonfires goes right back to Celtic Samhain celebrations, we think.  And autumn *should* be celebrated, rather than the supermarkets putting the mince pies and Christmas puddings out in the first week of September!  I love seeing the autumnal displays you get in the US at this time of year.  OK, putting a load of pumpkins outside probably works better in Texas or South Carolina, where it’s still hot in October – I once went to a “harvest home” celebration in South Carolina in mid-October, and I was wearing a T-shirt and thin cotton trousers –  than it does here, where the rain’s liable to turn them to mush, but we can use pinecones and conkers and so on!

I love conkers.  So bright and shiny!  I love pumpkins too, because they’re nice and bright and orange.  OK, I know that, if we’re talking about making lanterns from hollowed out fruit or vegetables, it’s traditional to use turnips, and I’m usually a great advocate of tradition, but pumpkins are so pretty!   Today, I went to the pumpkin festival at Kenyon Hall Farm: it’s been going for a few years now, and is becoming a bit of a tradition in itself.  Yes, I know you can buy pumpkins at Tesco, but it’s far more fun to pick your own.  I love seeing things growing.  The virus can’t stop that.

So, a big thank you to everyone involved in bringing in the harvest.  Here’s to pumpkins.  Here’s to bonfires.  Here’s to parkin buns and apple bobbing and Bonfire toffee, and hot drinks with whipped cream on the top.  Here’s to poems by Keats, and harvest hymns … and I would say songs by Justin Hayward, but that song’s actually pretty miserable!   There’s a Van Morrison song about autumn, which is more cheerful, so here’s to that one instead.   And to rustling through piles of leaves, which you probably shouldn’t do because it makes a mess, but the rustling noise they make is very satisfying, somehow.

We’re hearing a lot at the moment about Christmas.  It’s heartbreaking to think that we won’t be able to have big get-togethers with our families and friends this year.  No definite decision on the Christmas markets yet, but I can’t see how they can go ahead: most places have already cancelled theirs.  The Christmas lights switch-on’s been cancelled, and so have all the local pantomimes.  Jokes are doing the rounds about whether or not Father Christmas and his elves will be allowed into the country without quarantining: if you didn’t laugh, you’d cry.

There’ve been worse years.  In the week leading up to Christmas 1940, a wave of Luftwaffe bombing killed 684 people in Manchester and Salford and 395 people in Liverpool.  Thousands more people were injured, and many more made homeless.  The cathedral, the Free Trade Hall, the Royal Exchange and many other of our most important buildings were damaged.  My school was blown to bits and had to be rebuilt.  There always used to be a story that German POWs were made to build the home economics room.  I’ve no idea if it’s true or not.  Why the home economics room?!   But there have been worse years.  This is going to be a pretty weird one, though.

But, as the saying goes, it’s better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.   I’ve got my pumpkin, and I’ve got my conkers.  And I’m going to rustle through piles of leaves even if it does make a bit of a mess.  Well, the wind’ll mess them up anyway!  I might even get a toffee apple.  The virus can’t take everything.  It hasn’t taken autumn.

 

Second Wave Week 4 – September 21st to 27th 2020 inclusive

Monday, September 21st

We are being moved back to “level 4”.  A briefing was held today explaining that, if cases keep increasing at this rate, we could be seeing 200 deaths a day by mid-November.  Spain, sadly, is already seeing around 250 deaths a day.

A COBRA meeting’s to be held tomorrow, and Boris will then announce what’s going to happen next.  I hope they do bring in this 10pm curfew – I’m sorry for people who own pubs and bars, but something’s got to give.  But what else?  We’ve also been told that this could go on for at least another 6 months.   OK, I think we all knew that anyway, but it’s not very nice actually hearing it 😦 .

Some Labour politicians continue to say that the whole thing’s the Government’s fault.  Other political points-scorers say that it’s all Dominic Cummings’ fault.  This is crap.  And unhelpful.

Several friends have had kids sent home from school.  In some cases, this was because another kid in their bubble has got the virus.  In others, it was just because a kid coughed or was running a slight temperature – in which case, schools are insisting that they’re tested, but there aren’t enough testing slots available.  There were loads of school-age kids in the park.  They shouldn’t really be out if they’re meant to be self-isolating … but it’s a big park and you can keep well away from anyone else.  Except that some of them were in the playground.

Four more areas of Wales have been locked down, and people in Northern Ireland may no longer mix indoors with anyone outside their household/bubble.

Everyone is getting a bit stressed and ratty.  And Nole’s just won the Italian Open.

 

Tuesday, September 22nd

New rules:

  1. Pubs and restaurants to close at 10pm, and offer table service only.
  2. Staff in shops to wear masks.  About time too.  I was in Tesco this morning, and there were loads of people stacking shelves without wearing masks, which just defeated the point of customers wearing them.
  3. Plans for fans to return to sports stadia put on hold.  This is a nightmare.   How will smaller clubs survive?
  4.  Rule of 6 extended to indoor sports.
  5.  Maximum of 15 people at weddings.
  6.  People to work from home where possible.

Scotland’s also banned all visiting between households, and the First Minister of Wales has urged people not to travel … which is not great, as I was planning to have a few days in Wales in November.  How I wish I’d used my holiday days in July, but how was I to know that this was going to happen?

I sincerely hope that this works, especially as I want my trip to Bath in mid-October.  However, as one MP for a northern constituency pointed out, the measures introduced so far haven’t worked.  Bolton is back over 200.  We’re now over 150, with the city centre and several other boroughs not far behind, and Rossendale and Hyndburn even worse.  Wigan is now over 100.  Liverpool is over 150.  South Tyneside 130.  And most people really are trying to keep the rules.  I don’t know what’s going wrong.

These restrictions are likely to be in place for six months.  Six bloody months.  It’s just a nightmare.

 

Wednesday, September 23rd

I’ve got over not being able to go to Iceland and not being able to go to Japan, so I’m sure I’ll get over not being able to go to Bath, if it comes to it, but we get so little annual leave that I hate the thought of not being able to use it properly … and, if I’d known how things were going to go, I’d have booked it for September.  But I didn’t, did I?  The uncertainty’s a nightmare.  The Budget’s been scrapped, because the Chancellor can’t make plans any more than the rest of us can.

Scientists say that the measures don’t go far enough.  Sports clubs, pubs, etc, are in despair.  It’s just a no win situation.  Cases have risen by 25% since yesterday, but … oh, who the hell knows?

One of my colleagues thinks she might have the virus.  Hopefully it’s just a bad cold or something, but we’ll have to see.

It has rained nearly all day.

And Donald Trump is blaming China.  Which doesn’t help anyone.

 

Thursday, September 24th

Rishi Sunak has announced that there won’t be a proper Budget, but that a series of new schemes are being announced for when the current furlough scheme ends on October 31st.   More grants for self-employed people, although the amounts aren’t large.  For employed people, if someone’s working at least 1/3 of their usual hours, but not full time, the Government will pay their wages for 1/3 of the missed time, and employers have to pay the other 1/3.  He’s had extensive discussions with the CBI and the TUC, and I think we all have to accept that the state cannot pay 80% of people’s wages indefinitely.  However, people who are still off because their employers think that claiming the furlough money’s more profitable than bringing staff back (and I don’t mean that in a bad way, because I quite understand that places like sandwich shops in city centres just are not getting people through the doors, through no fault of their own), and people in sectors which can’t get going, such as event planning and live music, are out.  And, with the best will in the world, many small private sector businesses are not going to be able to pay people 55% of their wages for 33% of the work.

The much-discussed app is apparently now ready.

Infection rates continue to rise, here and in most parts of Europe.  Denmark, Iceland, and Slovakia are off the travel corridor list.  So is Curacao.  There are reports from Israel of hospitals having to turn away patients.

And the French Open draw is horrible.

 

Friday, September 25th

I had my first “autumn latte” of the year today.  I usually only drink tea, but I do quite like the spiced/gingerbread lattes which we get in autumn and in the run-up to Christmas.  This would normally be at Costa Coffee, whilst in town to go to the theatre or the pictures, but, this year, it was at the café at the park.  Just another little sign of the times!

Leeds, Wigan, Stockport and Blackpool have been put into “local lockdown”.   A load of areas in Wales have been put into strict lockdown, and support bubbles there have been banned, which I think it very harsh.  And there’ve been several outbreaks at university halls of residence.

People everywhere are getting fed up.  There’ve been big demos in Marseille against the closure of restaurants there.  An “I’m out” hashtag is being widely shared on social media in the Netherlands.  It’s very hard to try to find a balance, and I’m very sorry for the authorities.

On a happier note, Princess Eugenie and Jack Brooksbank are expecting a baby.

 

Saturday, September 26th

I’ve had a really nice day out at Hardwick Hall.  The house has finally reopened at weekends, hooray!  It’s my favourite National Trust house, and I was rather upset when it initially reopened on weekdays only.  However, as at Bodnant Garden, the signposting was awful.  I understand that some areas are closed off, but the alternative routes just aren’t signposted properly.  Oh well.

Cases continue to rise.  Household to household transmission.  It’s so hard to monitor, short of having the police or the Army marching round suburban streets, which is hardly an option.

Universities going back has turned into a nightmare.  There are outbreaks at 32 universities, one of the worst being at Manchester Met, where over 120 students have tested positive and over 1,500 more are now confined to barracks.  And here we go again with the political points-scorers, who claim that this has all happened because David Cameron and Nick Clegg privatised student accommodation.  This is crap.  Halls had to open because students need access to labs, libraries, etc, which they can’t get over Zoom.  But, from my experience of my first year in halls, shared bathrooms, shared kitchen, communal dining room, shared TV room (although I doubt they have those any more), narrow corridors, etc, social distancing in a hall of residence is well nigh impossible.  And there’ve been numerous reports of parties.  This is now a complete mess.  You can’t even say that all students should go home, because they may then carry the virus to their families and local communities.

Meanwhile, Sadiq Khan, never one to miss an opportunity to stir up trouble, is claiming that London is missing out because the authorities have actually dared to pay some attention to testing north of Watford.

And Oxford United sprayed their coach (as in vehicle, not as in manager) with alcohol-based sanitiser, in an effort to up precautions.  Unfortunately, a detector on the coach picked up the alcohol and thought the driver was drunk.  So the coach wouldn’t start.  So the players had to drive all the way to Accrington in their own cars … where, rather embarrassingly for Accrington Stanley, they won 4-1.  We just about managed to win at Brighton, 3-2.

Things are not looking good for the French Open.  Crap weather and slower-than-usual balls.  Bleurgh.

No-one can see an end to the virus nightmare.  My cousin is due to get married next August, and is now worried that wedding parties still won’t be allowed then.

 

Sunday, September 27th

The weather is gorgeous here.  I went to Dunham Massey this morning.  It was lovely.

Sadly, it is not gorgeous in Paris.  It is cold, grey and damp, which won’t suit Rafa at all.  And the new balls are horrible.  Dan Evans, after losing to Kei, said that he wouldn’t give them to a dog.  And Andy was thrashed by Stan.  It’s not going well 😦 .

I am so sorry for the students caught up in this virus nightmare.  These are 18-year-olds, away from home for the first time, and they’re practically being held under lock and key at the halls at Manchester Met.  There are police and security staff outside.  Meanwhile, there’ve been complaints that the 10pm curfew means that everyone is piling out of pubs and bars at the same time.  There are reports of splits in the government. Wales is going to close down completely if any more areas are put in local lockdown.  And does anyone know what “exponentially” actually means?

 

 

 

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?