Lockdown III Week 8, February 22nd to 28th inclusive

Monday, February 22nd

Boris’s roadmap out of lockdown has been announced … subject to levels of hospitalisations (rather than infections, which makes sense now that most infections should be amongst lower risk groups) not rising, the vaccination programme continuing to go well, and no nasty new variants appearing.  The Evil Tier System has been scrapped, hooray!!!  Unless any nasty new variants appear in particular areas.  Please, please, do not let this happen.  We can’t take much more.

March 8th – schools to reopen to all pupils, 2 people to be able to meet outdoors to chat/have a drink/have a picnic rather than exercise (which, TBH, people are doing anyway).

March 29th – STAY AT HOME ORDER LIFTED!!  Still a recommendation to “minimise” travel, but enough’s enough – those of us in much of the North and Midlands have been confined to our local areas since October.  Six people/two households to be able to meet outdoors.  Outdoor sports activities to resume.  Still seems to be the idea to WFH is possible – good.

April 12th – hairdressers to reopen.  Bloody hell, another 7 weeks of no hairdressers.  Non-essential shops, gyms, zoos, theme parks and outdoor hospitality to reopen.  Presumably this includes Lake District boats?  Watch the weather be vile all through April!  Weddings to be allowed, with a maximum of 15 guests.  Campsites and self-catering accommodation to reopen.

May 17th – hotels to reopen.  I was hoping for May Day weekend 😦 .  Indoor hospitality to reopen.  Foreign travel may possibly resume.  Up to 10,000 people to be allowed into sports stadia.  Cinemas and theatres to reopen.  Two households to be able to meet indoors.

June 21st – everything else to reopen.  Restrictions on social contact lifted – although mask-wearing and social distancing may well remain for a while yet.

We’ve been here before, and … well, not got there.  But fingers crossed.  I really can’t take much more.

 

Tuesday, February 23rd

Just as if things aren’t stressful enough, I had the police round earlier, to tell me that one of the neighbours had had a break-in.  All the doors and windows were locked, but the burglars managed to break one of the locks.  Thankfully, no-one was hurt, but they found the car keys and stole the car.

That’s really frightening.

The official US virus death toll passed 500,000 yesterday.  500,000.

Here, most people are feeling more hopeful after yesterday’s announcement.  However, I think the scientists want us locked down permanently, and, at the other end of the spectrum, the owners and staff of businesses which won’t be able to reopen until May or June at the earliest are very disappointed.

 

Wednesday, February 24th

Whilst people are generally feeling more hopeful, the local situation is worrying.  Lockdowns just don’t seem to work here.  Also, there’s now a spike in cases in some areas, pretty close by.  Last July, when the first local restrictions (other than those in Leicester) were announced, which eventually led to the Evil Tier System, it was the day before Eid, and everyone knew jolly well that it was because rates were exceptionally high in areas with large Islamic communities.  This time, it’s in areas with large ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities.  It’s very awkward, because no-one wants to seem to be having a go at any one group of people, but the infection rates are what they are – three times the average for the area.

The Leeds and Reading Festivals are apparently going ahead.  Someone’s optimistic!

A lot of talk’s going on about helping kids to catch up at school.  Teaching unions, needless to say, are moaning!

 

Thursday, February 25th

Happy birthday to me 🙂 .  After a wet day on Tuesday and a windy day on Wednesday, we got blue sky and sunshine today!  It was hard not to think what a lovely day it would have been to spend at Windermere, but had we not been in lockdown, I’d have spent the day trapped in a depressing office, having spent time and money getting cakes and other stuff for everyone else in the office (sorry for sounding grumpy about that!) and being barked at if I opened Facebook to answer birthday wishes sent by kind friends and relatives.  As it was, I was able to do myself a nice afternoon tea in the garden.   I ordered a Slattery’s “treat box”, which I collected yesterday.  But, unbeknownst to me, Mum and Dad and my sister and brother-in-law had arranged to have food delivered to me!   So I ended up with the most enormous amount of stuff!   I’ve eaten some of it: I’ll have to sort the rest out later.  And I was able to have a nice long walk in the park during a somewhat extended dinner hour.  Lots of crocuses out, and some daffodils out now too.  And I could answer the Facebook messages, WhatsApp messages and texts as and when they arrived – very kind of people.

I’m not really a birthday person.  Once you’re past 21, birthdays are a bit miserable – another year older, still fat, still not successful etc!   But, hey, it’s an excuse to eat cake!!  And it’s been a really nice day …

… except that Rafa’s pulled out of Rotterdam, with the back problem.  Please tell me that this isn’t going to be another long-running injury saga.

It’s been confirmed that exam grades will be awarded purely on the basis of teacher assessment.  A lot of moaning is going on about this – why does everything involving schools involve so much moaning?!  I’m very, very sorry for the kids concerned.  Exam conditions worked for me and I’d have been devastated if my exams had been cancelled, and there will always be a feeling that 2020 and 2021’s results might not quite compare to other years’, but there’s just no alternative, in these rotten circumstances.  On a more positive note, the country’s been moved from level 5 alert to level 4 alert.

2nd leg of the Europa League match tonight – we only managed a 0-0 draw, but we’re through on aggregate.

 

Friday, February 26th

Hooray – the next phase of the vaccination will be by age, so I’m in Group 10, 40-49 year olds, and will be next in line once the current phase has been completing.  Teaching unions, needless to say, are moaning, but the NHS hasn’t got records of people’s jobs, so it’d be an admin nightmare to do it by occupation.

The Queen’s spoken out about people needing to consider others rather than just themselves, when deciding whether or not to be vaccinated.

One in five health areas are now seeing an increase in infection rates.  I have to admit that, when I first read this, on the MEN website, my immediate reaction was “At least it’s not just us”.  But it’s very worrying – and, in both the maps shown by the MEN and the maps in tonight’s Downing Street press conference, it’s clear that, infections in many areas having sky-rocketed in December and then fallen again, it’s now as you were – rates are far higher in densely-populated, urban parts of the North and Midlands than elsewhere.  All sorts of reasons have been suggested for this, from the sensible (a lower proportion of people being able to work from home) to the plain silly (people in the North spending more time indoors because of the weather).  But no-one seems to be sure, no-one seems to be trying very hard to get to the bottom of it, and Jonathan Van-Tam seemed to be suggesting that it was due to people breaking the rules.  I object to that.

Another nice sunny day.

We play AC Milan in the next round of the Europa League.  Erk!

 

Saturday, February 27th

What a gorgeous day.  Very warm for February, and clear blue sky.  Very frustrating that I couldn’t spend it at Windermere, but I’d booked Styal, where (despite part of the gardens being closed off due to flood damage, and there being no scones!) it really was lovely – lots of snowdrops, and some early daffodils.  I’m a bit (actually, rather a lot) obsessive about daffodils 🙂 .   Oh, please let things go ahead as planned, and please let the weather behave over Easter weekend, and please let me be able to go to the Lakes.

Captain Sir Tom Moore’s funeral took place today.

And we’re nearing the 20 million mark for first jabs.

And Rafa has now pulled out of Acapulco as well.  Bleurgh..

 

Sunday, February 28th

“Vaccinometer”- another new word introduced by the pandemic.  Over 20 million people in the UK have now had their first jabs!

Another lovely sunny day today.  Very frustrated about not being able to go to the Lakes (especially as I gather that loads of people went outside their local areas to go to the seaside, and probably to the Lakes too, and the police did nothing about it), but at least I was able to go to the park.  Glorious weather.

Loads of people were in groups which were obviously more than one household/bubble.  A lot were kids with grandparents as well as parents, and others were mostly teenagers and people in their 20s.  Everyone’s just had enough.

Then I cleared all the weeds and dead leaves out of the garden, ready to put some new plants in once it stops being frosty overnight.

Drew 0-0 at Chelsea.  City are stupidly far ahead.

There are daffodil shoots everywhere.  Waiting for them to flower is like a metaphor for waiting to be able to go out and about and see our relatives and friends again.

Tier 4, Week 1 – December 31st 2020 to January 3rd 2021, inclusive

New Year’s Eve, Thursday, December 31st

Starting on a new post on New Year’s Eve is very weird, but here we are, day 1 in Tier 4.  Why are electronics/IT/communications shops classed as “non-essential”?  Surely they’re absolutely essential, especially at the moment!

It snowed this morning.  However, most of the snow had melted by 10 o’clock.  I went for a walk in the park, and there were some rather disappointed-looking kids with sledges.  We get so little time off work that I usually try so hard to do something exciting on every day off, but there just isn’t anything exciting to do at the moment!  Oh well, at least, for once, I won’t be feeling like a saddo for spending New Year’s Eve sat in on my own, watching Jools Holland, whilst everyone else is out partying … because everyone else will be stuck in with Jools Holland as well!

Tommy Docherty’s died.  He was 92 and’d been ill for a while, but it’s a sad end to the year.

Andy Burnham says that 25% of virus cases in Greater Manchester are now due to the mutant strain.  That’s not good.

But, on a happier note, Dunham lights is going ahead … which surprises me, but is good news!

Well, goodbye 2020, and here’s to 2021.  Let’s just hope it’s a better year than this one’s been!

 

New Year’s Day, Friday, January 1st

Happy New Year!   A bit of snow fell overnight, but not much.  However, the south side of town is still pretty snowy from the snow that fell earlier in the week, and Dunham Massey was like a winter wonderland this morning – it really was pretty.

Later, I went for another walk, just locally.  Everyone is so bored.  You go for a walk.  You waste money on a takeaway drink and a fattening cake.  You come home.   At least United and Villa are on TV tonight.

I would give a great deal to go for a walk somewhere devoid of horrible barking dogs.  Does it not occur to people that letting their odious mutts disturb everyone for miles around – the volume at which some dogs bark really is astounding – isn’t very fair?  I don’t know what I’m more sick of, barking dogs, or people who, after 4 1/2 years, still refuse to accept the result of the Brexit referendum.  But at least you can scroll down or change channels to get away from the “Ooh, I’ve changed my Facebook profile photo to one of the EU flag” brigade.  There is no escape from the dogs!!  OK, moan over.

It’s been decided to focus on giving as many people as possible one dose of vaccine, rather than vulnerable groups two doses.

Opinion is split as to whether or not schools should be closed.   Some people are questioning why London, again, is being treated differently to other areas, but the situation in London and parts of the Home Counties really is far worse than it is here.  A frightening number of people in my sister’s community have got the virus, and that’s not even one of the worst-affected areas of London.  And I get the sense that people there are panicking: two friends have said that they’re thinking of cancelling mammogram appointments because they’re nervous of going near hospitals.  It’s not like that here.  People are concerned, but not panicking.

There’s also serious concern about businesses.  The whole thing’s such a nightmare.  “Experts” are saying that we need to vaccinate two million people a week, but the vaccine just can’t be produced that quickly.   If only it could!

Later – hooray!!  We beat Villa 2-1, and are now level on points with Liverpool at the top of the table!!

And Last Christmas is number 1!   After 36 years.  I gave up following the charts about 25 years ago, but that’s made me smile.

All primary schools in London will now stay closed, not just those in certain boroughs.  Make your mind up.  Why not say that in the first place?

 

Saturday, January 2nd

It was minus 3 C this morning, but bright and sunny.  I decided to walk round some different parts of Heaton Park for a change, and that was really nice.  However, it snowed heavily for about an hour in the afternoon, and the wretched stuff is all over the road and not likely to melt tonight.  It’s OK once you get to the main road, but, especially if you’re a nervous driver and have inconsiderate neighbours who park on the road, that’s easier said than done!

City’ve had no more positive virus tests, and their match against Chelsea tomorrow is going ahead, but Fulham had to call off their match at Burnley, and several lower league matches are also off.

Ryanair are running a “Jab and Go” advertising campaign.  “Covid vaccines are coming.”  Lots of pictures of grinning people on the beach or diving into swimming pools.  “So you can just Jab and Go!”  I cannot wait to go on holiday, but those adverts are in such poor taste that you just have to laugh!

I’ve put in a claim for tax relief for working from home.  It’s £1.20 per week, which just about covers the cost of milk and teabags, and doesn’t touch the cost of heating, lighting, phone calls, water etc, but, hey, owt’s better than nowt.  I’d love to know how many employers have offered to reimburse people and how many are just pocketing the amount they’ve saved.

I do wish people would work together and stop trying to score political points.   Teaching unions were a nightmare earlier in the year, and are at it again.  The National Association of Head Teachers is taking legal action against the Department of Education, and the main teachers’ union is threatening to advise its members to refuse to go to work.  As for that idiot Sadiq Khan, all he cares about is having a go at the Government.  There’s certainly a growing feeling that schools need to close – admittedly very easy for me to say when I’m neither a teenager at a crucial stage in their education nor a working parent with young children – but this hostile attitude isn’t helping anyone.

Excellent episode of Casualty tonight – a “coronavirus special”, set during the first lockdown.  Some of it, admittedly, was the BBC trying to score political points, but most of it was very powerful, and I actually ended up in tears when a longstanding character died of the virus at the end.  Yes, I know that it’s only a TV programme, and that the actor is alive and well although probably rather fed up about losing his job, but he represents real people.

 

Moan coming up:

As bad as the first lockdown was, after 10 weeks of it I was able to go to Blackpool and eat fish and chips and ice cream on the beach.  It’s now around the same length of time since we were put under travel restrictions in October, and things are only getting worse.  And are expected to get worse yet.  A few sanctimonious people are saying that they’re prepared to do whatever it takes, for as long as it takes, but most people, whilst genuinely concerned about the very serious situation, are fed up and whingeing and moaning.  It’s the feeling of being trapped.  It’s the horrendous boredom.  Weirdly, it’s the guilt – I’ve got a very Victorian mentality that says that I should be doing something all the time, but there’s nothing to do.   Yeah, I know, I could try to learn Japanese, but I haven’t got the heart for it when I’ve got no idea whether my rearranged holiday will go ahead or not.  I’d volunteer to do something to help in the community, but I can’t because I’ll be chained to the office laptop again from Monday.

And we want to see our relatives and friends.  People with long-term partners with whom they don’t live aren’t supposed to see them unless it’s for a walk in the park.  Parents and children, grandparents and grandchildren, siblings, aunts and uncles and nieces and nephews, cousins and close friends aren’t supposed to see each other at all if they don’t live in the same area.

Those sanctimonious people may be very virtuous, but they’re also rather annoying!   This is crap.  In 20 years’ time, maybe we’ll all say what jolly good fun it was, like people did about spending the night in air raid shelters but, right now, sanctimonious people are annoying!

 

Sunday, January 3rd

The political points-scoring going on over the schools issue is sickening.  This is a time of severe national and international crisis – how is all this spite and venom and divisiveness helping anyone, least of all children?  How exactly are social media posts saying things like “Tory incompetence is killing teachers” supposed to help?   Good job these vile groups weren’t around during the war, isn’t it?  Do any of them actually care about what’s best for children, parents, teachers and local communities?  No, they do not.  Unfortunately, these groups dominate teaching unions, which isn’t very good for anyone.  Interesting article in today’s MEN about a woman from Bolton who lost her job due to school closures.  I fear that a lot more people will be in the same position if schools close indefinitely but workplaces don’t.  But I don’t see how we’re to get infection rates down if schools stay open.

The infection rate across Greater Manchester as a whole is now 278, up 36% on last week.  The rate, and the rate of increase, varies quite a bit between boroughs, but the general picture is very worrying.  Cases are increasing more rapidly than the national average for the first time since October – although still well below the national average rate of 509.  Some parts of the SE are well over 1,000.   And parts of Merseyside are higher than any part of Greater Manchester, but remain in Tier 3.  And Burnley is 562.  Is there some sort of overspill from Burnley and Rossendale into Bury?  Probably not, actually, because then it’d be affecting Rochdale too, and Rochdale isn’t as bad.  Carlisle’s over 500, as well.

The acting mayor of Liverpool (the mayor being off due to corruption investigations) has called for a lockdown.  So, now, has Keir Starmer.  Could people please define “lockdown”?  Because if they mean saying that you can’t go out for a walk but you can go and spend all day in a non-essential office or factory with a load of other people, then it’ll do more harm than good.  If they mean closing workplaces but ensuring that anyone who cannot work from home gets furloughed rather than laid off, it may well be an idea.

I broke bounds by about a mile today, and went to Styal.  There isn’t even a sign to say that you’ve crossed from Manchester into Wilmslow: if you didn’t know, you wouldn’t.  I am not saying that this was a good thing to do, but everyone is breaking bits of rules – lots of groups which were clearly two households or more – and I’d pre-booked it before we all got moved into Tier 4, and I was in the open air, away from other people, and the boundaries don’t make much sense anyway.  It was really lovely there.  Strangely, though, the tea rooms both there and at Dunham were very quiet, even though there were plenty of people around.  Nice for me, because they can be horrendously slow and I don’t like waiting in long queues, but very strange.  Takeaway places in Heaton Park and Hollingworth Lake are always busy.  Is this some kind of north-south divide thing?!  There were scones there, hooray!

 

 

Back to being chained to the office computer tomorrow … which I wouldn’t mind if they’d so much as bothered to send round an e-mail wishing people all the best for Christmas and the New Year.  Bah.  The next Bank Holiday is Good Friday, which is April 2nd.  Where will things be at by then?

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

Monday, November 9th

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

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

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

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

Still stressed about the kitchen ceiling.

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

 

Tuesday, November 10th

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

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

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

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

 

Armistice Day, Wednesday, November 11th

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Thursday, November 12th

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Friday, November 13th

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Saturday, November 14th

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

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

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

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

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

 

Sunday, November 15th

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

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

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

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

But they do end.  Don’t they?

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

 

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.

 

Lockdown Week 12 – June 8th to 14th 2020 inclusive

Monday, June 8th

We’ve now had daily death tolls below 100 for two days in a row, but we do keep getting low figures on Sundays and Mondays, so let’s see what happens tomorrow.

Getting rather upset over my hair.  Please, please, let hairdressers reopen!

And how typical is this?  Rain on Saturday, rain on Sunday, sunshine today.  So annoying!  I had a nice walk in the park, though.  And Beeston Castle and Brodsworth Hall are amongst the first six English Heritage properties reopening!   Like with the NT, you have to book, but still.  I’m getting quite booked up now!

 

Tuesday, June 9th

Death toll back up today.

Tesco and M&S this morning, then called into the office.  Went to the park later.

I feel like the world’s gone stark, raving mad.  Is it this bad everywhere else?   Our dentists are refusing to reopen the surgery. Waterstones are saying that, if you pick up a book and then decide you don’t fancy it, it’ll have to be put into quarantine and then not put back on the shelf for 3 days.  A lot of shops are saying that customers won’t be allowed to use the toilets.  And the left-wing teaching unions seem hell bent on making sure that schools won’t reopen fully until 2021.  In the middle of all this madness, Sadiq Khan’s said that he’s going to review all the statues in London in case any of them are associated with slavery, like statues are anyone’s priority at the moment!   And I don’t feel that anyone’s in charge.  I do understand that Boris has been extremely ill and is probably nowhere near 100% yet, but the daily press conferences are like Play School – guess who’s going to be presenting them today!

In the real world, away from teaching unions and people harping on about statues, café owners are forking out a fortune on having takeaway hatches put into their premises, and desperate people are writing to the local papers to say that they’re going to lose their jobs because they can’t work from home and their children can’t go back to school.  When are hairdressers reopening?  When are hotels reopening?

As Tears for Fears said, it’s a very very mad world!!

 

Wednesday, June 10th

I am trying to ignore the Cultural Revolution brigade.  They clearly know not the first thing about history.  I am also trying to ignore my ill-mannered bosses.

Boris has decided that people living alone need company, so I can now “form a support bubble with another household”.  In English, this means that I can go to Mum and Dad’s for tea.  Also, zoos and safari parks can reopen.  This is all good, but we need hairdressers, hotels, flights without quarantine, and public toilets!  Not to mention schools.

I seem to be losing my way a bit … I had a few bad diet days, and I put on weight so easily that a few bad days equals weight piling on, and then I get demoralised and go off on a downward spiral. And the weather’s miserable, although I managed to get to the park and the frozen yoghurt shop without getting wet,  Sun, come back, please!

 

Thursday, June 11th

I was booked on a webinar from 1pm till 4pm – I mean, what a stupid time?! – so I went to the park early … which made the afternoon drag.  I suppose I could have gone back out later, but a) the weather was miserable and b) I had to clean the kitchen!   I had a grand tidy-up of work stuff whilst “watching” the webinar, so everything looks a lot tidier now.  There are so many half-done jobs which I can’t get the info to finish, and they’re cluttering up the front room!

There was a thing on the BBC website about all the things which workplaces are doing to make team members feel supported etc.  OK, I really do not need to do online yoga sessions with my colleagues, or Great Office Bake Off things, but, in almost 12 weeks, we have not so much as had an e-mail saying “Hope everyone is OK”.  Colleagues and I are asking each other if we are OK, but the bosses just do not give a shit.  It’s not very nice.

On a happier note, La Liga resumes tonight, with the Seville derby.   Leagues 1 and 2 here are being decided on points per game.

 

Friday, June 12th

The UK economy shrank by 20% in April.  We have got to get things open again.  Much more of this and millions of people will be out of work, with the resultant social, physical health and mental health problems, kids’ education will be severely damaged, and communities dependent on tourism will be struggling for years to recover.  But then it’s likely that cases of the virus will spread, as is happening in parts of the US.  It’s just a nightmare.

I got an e-mail from Greater Manchester Transport, saying that there’d be more trams, buses and trains from next week, but that people should try to avoid travelling at rush hour.  What a senseless thing to say!  Before lockdown, getting the tram at rush hour meant paying rip-off peak time fares so that you could stand up all the way into town, clinging for dear life to a strap, with your face squashed into someone’s armpit, watching as people at later stops struggled to board because every square inch of room was taken.  Nobody would have travelled at rush hour if they could possibly have avoided it.  People travel at rush hour because they’ve got no choice.   You might as well send an e-mail saying that people should try to avoid it raining today.

We all need to work together, but, instead, politicians are squabbling, and we’ve now got these ridiculous culture wars being waged again.  Would someone please tell me how removing the “Don’t mention the war” episode of Fawlty Towers from the BBC Archives solves the problem of racism?  And, on top of that, there’s now a row going on over comments made by J K Rowling about transgender women using female-only spaces.

Gah!!

On a happier note, the weather forecast for the weekend has improved.  Walked to Sainsbury’s Local and back earlier, and then to the park later.  I wouldn’t mind nipping out again, maybe for a drink to have in one of the smaller parks, but I’m not sure if I can face the queues!

 

Saturday, June 13th

I have had hugs!  For the first time in nearly three months.  From Mum and Dad.  We are now in a “support bubble”!

Went to Styal/Quarry Bank Mill today.  As with Lyme, I walked round parts of the woods I never usually visit, but, hooray, we were actually allowed in the gardens at Styal.  So lovely to be amongst the flowers.  So beautiful and colourful.  So peaceful and timeless.

It was lovely to be somewhere like that.  Everything’s turned so ugly.  How does removing episodes of Fawlty Towers solve anything, much less vandalising statues of Winston Churchill and Queen Victoria?  What has any of this got to do with dealing with racism?  It’s just the woke brigade virtue-signalling.  And it’s created deep divisions just when we most need unity.  It’s just awful.

Driving past the airport, which is very close to Styal, was upsetting, though.  And it’s really, really hit me today, on this long summer’s day, that this is The Year Without Wimbledon.  I accepted that Indian Wells and Miami weren’t happening.  I accepted that the clay court season wasn’t happening – and that was really hard, when it’s been Rafa’s time from 2005 onwards.  But the thought of a summer without Wimbledon is very sad.

What else?  Went to the park later.  A small ceremony took place at Windsor today, to mark the Queen’s Official Birthday.  There was something very comforting about it.

And it’s so light.  We’re only 8 days off the Longest Day now.

 

Sunday, June 14th

A-ha!  With all due respect to the National Trust, Tatton Park is doing things much better … although, to be fair, it’s an enormous estate, and The Stables tearoom (The Gardener’s Cottage tearoom sadly remains closed)’s got that big outdoor seating area anyway, and they’ve moved some stuff around in the courtyard to make room for more tables and chairs.  Entry to the gardens was by timed ticket only, and you weren’t allowed in the Rose Garden, but it was lovely to walk round.  The weather behaved again, hooray.  We did have two heavy showers later afternoon – whilst I was in the park, typical! – but it was warm, dry and sunny otherwise.

Anyway, to get back to Tatton Park, the estate’s now open to anyone, subject to paying the car parking fee.  So much better than having big estates closed whilst everyone crams into public parks.  And The Stables tearoom’s open for takeaways.  I know I had a scone yesterday, but I couldn’t resist the prospect of my first tea and scone “out” since the middle of March.  It wasn’t particularly fresh, and the choice was very limited, but it was a start.  The NT need to do this too.  And the café in the park should reopen – they’d make a fortune.

So, all in all, it was a lovely visit.

Meanwhile, 6,000 idiots attended “quarantine raves” at Daisy Nook Country Park and Carrington.  FFS.

It’s been a nice weekend.  And the Premier League’s back next week!

And that’s 12 weeks in lockdown … well, semi-lockdown now.

 

Support bubbles, scones and snapdragons

I am now in a “support bubble”.    This means that I can go round to my mum and dad’s and actually go inside, that they can come to mine and actually come inside, and that I have actually had a hug for the first time in 12 weeks.  I have also had a cream tea of sorts (tea in a takeaway cup, scone in a wrapper) somewhere other than my own garden for the first time since the middle of March.  And I have been round the gardens at Quarry Bank Mill and Tatton Park.   And, hooray, the Premier League resumes next week.   Now, if I could just have my hair cut and coloured, so that I could a) stop having to clean spray-on wash-in hair dye out of the bath and b) look rather less like I’m about to start singing an ’80s power ballad … .  OK, I’m always singing ’80s power ballads, but the look doesn’t really work in 2020.  But hooray for support bubbles, scones and snapdragons.

Has anyone else wondered if somehow they’ve fallen down a rabbit hole into a world where everything’s completely mad?   I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the Cheshire Cat, the March Hare and the (Mad) Hatter all turned up on my doorstep.

I cannot think of any other time in history, or even in myth or legend, where you haven’t been allowed to hug your own family and friends.    It really is strange.  But, hey, thanks to the support bubble, we’re getting somewhere!   A “support bubble” is an arrangement between a single adult household and one other household to form a “bubble” within which social distancing need not be observed.  Fortunately, our situation’s straightforward.  Mum and Dad are together, so I didn’t have to choose between them.  My sister isn’t a single adult household, so they didn’t have to choose between her and me.

And, hooray, unlike Dunham Massey and Lyme Park, Quarry Bank Mill (Styal) and Tatton Park are letting people into the gardens.  Even better, the weather has actually behaved this weekend.  Blue sky!  It feels like … well, it feels like the grass court season should be here, but it isn’t.  Oh well.  But at least there are flowers.  It’s so lovely to see big gardens, full of flowers, again.

And so peaceful.  The public parks, especially at weekends, are full of kids on bikes, adults on bikes, kids on scooters, dogs … it’s like playing some sort of computer game in which you have to try to steer a path (at a 6 foot distance!) between all the hazards.  That’s why I’ve kept saying how ridiculous it was that big estates like Tatton Park were closed.  With so few places open, it was inevitable that we’d all be crowding into public parks.

Tatton Park, although National Trust members don’t have to pay to go into the house (which isn’t open ATM) or gardens, isn’t run by the NT, and, with all due respect to the NT, its management have shown a lot more sense, by getting the tearoom open.  The nice Gardener’s Cottage is shut, but The Stables tearoom is open for takeaways.  There’s a big outdoor seating area in the courtyard anyway, and more space has been made so that more tables and chairs can go out there.  They must have made a lot of money today.  Good for them.  It made me think of Mrs Merriwether in Gone With The Wind, pulling herself together and selling her pies, instead of bemoaning the collapse of her world.  A lot of local cafes and restaurants are doing takeaways now.  Good for all of them.  I very much hope that they all survive this horrible time.

And I really needed those peaceful gardens this week, because there seems to be so much anger and hatred everywhere.   What happened to all that talk, in April, about community spirit, when Captain Tom Moore was inspiring us all?  This week’s been awful.  Say you’re upset because someone vandalised a statue of the man who saved Britain from the Nazis, and someone accuses you of being a racist.  Point out that most policemen would are neither racist nor violent, and someone accuses you of “white privilege”. How did the peaceful Black Lives Matter protests become twisted like this?  The Guardian newspaper prints a cartoon depicting Priti Patel as a bull with a ring through her nose.  Whilst you don’t expect decency from what the Guardian‘s become, overt racism, and in a way that’s also religiously offensive, from a well-known newspaper is very shocking, particularly so at a time when so many people have been speaking out about the damage done by racism.   A woman who’s been a victim of sexual violence says that she thinks there’s a need for single sex spaces, and she’s threatened with rape.  What is going on here?   These are very difficult times.  We need to be working together, not hurling vile abuse at each other.

And as for the fact that, after 12 weeks of working from home, we still haven’t had so much as one e-mail asking if we’re OK …

But we have support bubbles.  And we have scones.  And we have gardens.  And we have each other.  And, this weekend, we also have sunshine!

Support bubbles, scones and snapdragons

I am now in a “support bubble”.    This means that I can go round to my mum and dad’s and actually go inside, that they can come to mine and actually come inside, and that I have actually had a hug for the first time in 12 weeks.  I have also had a cream tea of sorts (tea in a takeaway cup, scone in a wrapper) somewhere other than my own garden for the first time since the middle of March.  And I have been round the gardens at Quarry Bank Mill and Tatton Park.   And, hooray, the Premier League resumes next week.   Now, if I could just have my hair cut and coloured, so that I could a) stop having to clean spray-on wash-in hair dye out of the bath and b) look rather less like I’m about to start singing an ’80s power ballad … .  OK, I’m always singing ’80s power ballads, but the look doesn’t really work in 2020.  But hooray for support bubbles, scones and snapdragons.

Has anyone else wondered if somehow they’ve fallen down a rabbit hole into a world where everything’s completely mad?   I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the Cheshire Cat, the March Hare and the (Mad) Hatter all turned up on my doorstep.

I cannot think of any other time in history, or even in myth or legend, where you haven’t been allowed to hug your own family and friends.    It really is strange.  But, hey, thanks to the support bubble, we’re getting somewhere!   A “support bubble” is an arrangement between a single adult household and one other household to form a “bubble” within which social distancing need not be observed.  Fortunately, our situation’s straightforward.  Mum and Dad are together, so I didn’t have to choose between them.  My sister isn’t a single adult household, so they didn’t have to choose between her and me.

And, hooray, unlike Dunham Massey and Lyme Park, Quarry Bank Mill (Styal) and Tatton Park are letting people into the gardens.  Even better, the weather has actually behaved this weekend.  Blue sky!  It feels like … well, it feels like the grass court season should be here, but it isn’t.  Oh well.  But at least there are flowers.  It’s so lovely to see big gardens, full of flowers, again.

And so peaceful.  The public parks, especially at weekends, are full of kids on bikes, adults on bikes, kids on scooters, dogs … it’s like playing some sort of computer game in which you have to try to steer a path (at a 6 foot distance!) between all the hazards.  That’s why I’ve kept saying how ridiculous it was that big estates like Tatton Park were closed.  With so few places open, it was inevitable that we’d all be crowding into public parks.

Tatton Park, although National Trust members don’t have to pay to go into the house (which isn’t open ATM) or gardens, isn’t run by the NT, and, with all due respect to the NT, its management have shown a lot more sense, by getting the tearoom open.  The nice Gardener’s Cottage is shut, but The Stables tearoom is open for takeaways.  There’s a big outdoor seating area in the courtyard anyway, and more space has been made so that more tables and chairs can go out there.  They must have made a lot of money today.  Good for them.  It made me think of Mrs Merriwether in Gone With The Wind, pulling herself together and selling her pies, instead of bemoaning the collapse of her world.  A lot of local cafes and restaurants are doing takeaways now.  Good for all of them.  I very much hope that they all survive this horrible time.

And I really needed those peaceful gardens this week, because there seems to be so much anger and hatred everywhere.   What happened to all that talk, in April, about community spirit, when Captain Tom Moore was inspiring us all?  This week’s been awful.  Say you’re upset because someone vandalised a statue of the man who saved Britain from the Nazis, and someone accuses you of being a racist.  Point out that most policemen would are neither racist nor violent, and someone accuses you of “white privilege”. How did the peaceful Black Lives Matter protests become twisted like this?  The Guardian newspaper prints a cartoon depicting Priti Patel as a bull with a ring through her nose.  Whilst you don’t expect decency from what the Guardian‘s become, overt racism, and in a way that’s also religiously offensive, from a well-known newspaper is very shocking, particularly so at a time when so many people have been speaking out about the damage done by racism.   A woman who’s been a victim of sexual violence says that she thinks there’s a need for single sex spaces, and she’s threatened with rape.  What is going on here?   These are very difficult times.  We need to be working together, not hurling vile abuse at each other.

And as for the fact that, after 12 weeks of working from home, we still haven’t had so much as one e-mail asking if we’re OK …

But we have support bubbles.  And we have scones.  And we have gardens.  And we have each other.  And, this weekend, we also have sunshine!

 

(I know this is in twice – Facebook had a strop and wouldn’t share the first one, so I had to repost it!)