Freedom? Week 13, October 11th to 17th 2021 inclusive

 

Monday, October 11th

Today, I tried ringing my PMI firm to ask what the procedure was if the scan showed that I needed to be referred to a consultant.  This was even worse than trying to get through to the NHS.  Fortunately, I was WFH today, so I just put the phone down next to the laptop and at least didn’t have to worry about being interrupted, but it took 55 minutes for someone to answer.  The person who answered was very apologetic, and I got the distinct impression that they were constantly listening to complaints about how long it took to get through, and obviously it wasn’t their fault, and, as usual, you can’t get to speak to the people in charge, but I was nearly in tears by then.  I’d tried the online service but it just kept saying “no agents are available”.  And, after all that, all I got was that I should ring back when I’d got the scan results … which was fair enough, but, by the time I’d waited 55 minutes for someone to answer, then gone through all the rigmarole security questions, then explained the situation, it took an hour and a quarter just to be told to ring back.

FFS.

There’s been a large and rather violent demo in Rome against vaccine passports.  Italy’s rules are pretty draconian.  And Sydney’s lockdown’s ended, after 107 days.

 

Tuesday, October 12th

The official report into the UK’s response to Covid has said that things were handled very badly at first, but that the vaccine rollout was a great success.  A few salient points:

  1. We should have locked down earlier, although the Government did follow scientific advice on aiming for herd immunity.  I still think that herd immunity’s a thing, because the highest rates now are in areas which previously had low rates, and vice-versa, but the virus went for the most vulnerable people and that resulted in a tragic loss of many lives.
  2. Releasing people from hospitals into care homes was a tragic mistake, as was the lack of testing for care home staff.  At the time, the idea was to free up hospital beds, and I get that, but the death toll in care homes was terrible.
  3. There were failings over PPE.
  4. Some interesting comments about borders.  I’ve got no idea how they’ve worked this out, but the report says that 33% of cases during the first wave came from Spain and 29% from France.  At the time, the focus was all on the Far East, and then on Iran and Italy.
  5. The whole local lockdown was a shambles.  That’s putting it mildly.
  6. There should have been more testing early on.
  7. The pandemic response was based on plans for a flu pandemic, which weren’t appropriate in this case.
  8. There’s a lot of talk about “group-think”

People are busily using this to try to score political points, which isn’t helpful.  And what’s done is done.  All we can do is try to learn from it, although hopefully nothing like this will happen again any time soon.

Oh, and George Freeman, the “Science Minister”, has said that the UK’s had a high Covid death toll because we’re all too fat.

 

Wednesday, October 13th

The Covid app went down today.  It’s working again now, but apparently there was chaos at airports.  I don’t understand why people don’t print stuff out in case something like this happens!

Trafford’s infection rates are still sky high and getting higher.  Very odd how one borough is so much worse than the others.

 

Thursday, October 14th

Sajid Javid’s announced extra funding for GPs, but said that they’ve got to see more people face to face.  Good.   I wish he’d also tell them to bring back online booking and online triage so you don’t have to spend an hour trying to get through on the phone – although, to be fair, I think most surgeries are doing that anyway.  I just wish ours was.

 

Friday, October 15th

Due to holidays being cancelled because of you-know-what, I had a spare holiday day and, not having been to either Shugborough or Trentham Gardens this year,  I decided to find somewhere to stay in Staffordshire, and booking.com found me The Upper House, which used to belong to one of the Wedgwoods and is just off the Wedgwood Estate, and very close to Trentham Gardens.  I went to the Monkey Forest first, then the gardens, then the Wedgwood tea room (sorry, had to be done), and then came to the hotel.  How cute are these monkeys?!

Plus it’s kind of distracted me from this horrendously stressful situation of waiting for more medical tests and imagining all sorts.  It really is very, very, difficult.

Some awful, awful news, though – MP Sir David Amess has been stabbed to death during a constituency surgery.  What has the world come to?   Two MPs have been murdered in 5 1/2 years.  It would have been unthinkable a decade ago.  So much hatred.  What is wrong with the world?  That poor, poor man, and his poor family and friends.

 

Saturday, October 16th

FFS.  We lost 3-2 at Leicester.  This cannot go on.  On a happier note, Cam Norrie’s reached the Indian Wells final.

It now seems that the man who murdered Sir David Amess was an Islamic fundamentalist … only days after an Islamic fundamentalist murdered five people in Norway.  Awful.

Today, I went to Boscobel House and White Ladies Priory, where Charles II hid after the Battle of Worcester.  And this is the Royal Oak in which he hid!  OK, it isn’t, because the original was wrecked by 17th century souvenir hunters, but it *is* grown from one of the original oak’s acorns.  And then I had afternoon tea at the hotel.

 

Sunday, October 17th

Shugborough today, then home.

Freedom? Week 8, September 6th to 12th 2021 inclusive

Monday, September 6th

What a to-do last night!  Brazil has put the UK on its quarantine list – possibly as a tit-for-tat thing because they’re on ours.  UK-based Brazilian players did not travel for the World Cup qualifier between Brazil and Argentina.  UK-based Argentinian players did, and the Brazilian authorities apparently told the Argentinian FA that they couldn’t play as they hadn’t gone into quarantine for 2 weeks (although they were due to fly out of Brazil straight after the match).  Argentina fielded 3 (out of 4) of them anyway, and, about 11 minutes after KO, Brazilian police and health officials invaded the pitch and the match was abandoned!

And Emma Raducanu’s into the QFs of the US Open!   Absolutely amazing.  Dan Evans lost to Daniil Medvedev, but that’s hardly a disgrace.

Those schools which didn’t go back last week have pretty much all gone back today.

And I’ve had an e-mail from Old Trafford to say that there will be spot checks on vaccine passports on Saturday.  As there’s not yet a legal requirement to show them, you will not be refused admission to the stadium without one, but I suppose they want to check that the system works.  Just hope it doesn’t cause long delays like it’s done at the US Open.

 

Tuesday, September 7th

The Christmas puddings, mince pies, chocolate Father Christmases etc are out on the shelves in Tesco.  This didn’t surprise me, because it happens every year, but … how ridiculous!   In the first week of September!

Anti-vaxxers have thrown gravel at Canadian PM Justin Trudeau and protested at public transport sites in parts of Europe.

Boris has announced plans for a new 1.25% tax to cover health and social care costs.  I think we all accept that there is a huge problem with social care, and also issues with the NHS, and that the money for increased funding has to come from somewhere.  However, that’s a huge chunk out of people’s income, and you can guarantee that horrible bosses will not be giving private sector workers a pay rise to cover it.  I suspect that “the pandemic” will be used as an excuse to freeze private sector pay – i.e. cut it in real terms – for years to come, whilst public sector workers get rises but moan that they want more.   And, of course, self-employed people can’t just put up their own income.  But I do accept that the money has to come from somewhere.

The i newspaper has seen fit to report that there are plans for some sort of lockdown in late October or early November.  The Government’s denied it – although not ruled it out if hospitals are becoming overwhelmed.  Do newspapers have to do this?  Now, anyone who’s due to get married, go on holiday etc around then is going to be stressing, and hotels and entertainment venues are going to be stressing about losing half term bookings.

And it’s suddenly gone really hot.  Like, 80 degrees hot.  And I’m stuck in an office.  Bah!!

 

Wednesday, September 8th

Oh no!!   The boiler packed up last night.  I suppose at least it didn’t pick the middle of winter.  You used to be able to speak to a human being at British Gas even if you rang at midnight: now, even if you ring at a normal sort of time, you only get an automated voice prompt.  However, I was able to book an engineer for this morning.  To be fair, he turned up at 9 o’clock, for a “between 8 and 1” appointment.  But he seemed rather clueless, kept looking for answers on his tablet (hopefully a technical website and not Google), kept muttering to himself, rang his mate, and then said that it was “pointing towards the circuit board”.  But they don’t carry circuit boards.  So he will have to come back tomorrow.  Again “between 8 and 1”.  Let’s just hope that this sorts it.  And that it stays sorted – on numerous occasions, British Gas have claimed to have sorted a problem and then it’s gone again days or even hours later.

And this is what happens.  I appreciate that they cannot give an exact time.  I appreciate that they do not carry expensive parts with them.  But imagine if this had happened pre-Covid, when I wasn’t set up to WFH?  Mum and Dad are in London for a few days, visiting my sister, so I couldn’t have asked them to wait in.  What on earth would I have done?   Rung in sick and felt guilty about lying?   And then had 2 days knocked off my paid sick leave allowance, so that I wouldn’t have got paid if I genuinely *had* been ill later in the year?   I am so, so glad that WFH is now a “thing”, but so sorry for those people for whom it isn’t.

But, OMG, Emma Raducanu is into the semis of the US Open!   She’s beaten Belinda Bencic, whom I thought had such a chance here, in straight sets.  I’m lost for words.  A million times well done, Emma!

 

In Covid-related news, hopes are rising that the infernal travel system may soon be overhauled.   And Fred and various other players are going to be suspended because the Brazilian FA have complained that clubs wouldn’t release them.  Releasing them would have meant them having to go to quarantine hotels when they got back.  Talk about a no-win situation!

And official figures have shown that people in northern England were 17% more likely to die with Covid than those in the rest of the country, and that northerners had a 26% higher mortality rate in care homes than elsewhere in England, due to existing levels of deprivation.  I’m very angry and very upset about this.

 

Thursday, September 9th

Hooray.  The boiler is working again.  Touch wood!   Let’s hope that it stays that way!

Having my hair cut tonight.

All the Parklife crap is up in the park … including signs saying “Please have your Covid NHS pass ready”.  I’ve never actually seen signs like that in person before.

And my elder nephew only went back to school on Monday (the younger one is still at primary school so not affected by testing) but two of his friends have already tested positive for Covid.  The first kid will now miss a close friend’s bar mitzvah, at which he was due to be giving a speech.  The second kid tested positive after he started coughing *at* school … so could already have spread it all round the class and all round the bus.  Will this nightmare ever end?!

 

Friday, September 10th

OMG, the US Open final will be Emma Raducanu v Leylah Fernandez.  I can’t believe what I’ve just written.  Very, very, well done, ladies – and come on Emma!  What an unbelievable achievement.

I am less impressed with the Indian cricket team.  A few members of the backroom team have tested positive.  Not one of the players has.  But they’ve used this as an excuse to call off the 5th and deciding Test match at Old Trafford.  At 9am, just 2 hours before the first day’s play was due to start.  A lot of fans were already on their way to the ground.  OK, they’ll get the cost of their tickets back, but they won’t get their travel and accommodation costs back, nor the day off work.  And the insurance will cover some of Lancashire’s costs, but not all, and it won’t cover the losses suffered by local businesses.  There’s a very strong feeling that the Indian players are prioritising the megabucks IPL over the Test series, and to hell with the fans and the Manchester businesses affected.   It’s not on.

 

Saturday, September 11th

Ronaldo is back!!   We beat Newcastle 4-1, we’re top of the league (for now), and he scored the first two goals!   Brilliant, brilliant afternoon!

And Brazilian players will now not be suspended.

And no-one asked me for my vaccine passport.  But presumably some people got spot checked.

Now for the U.S. Open final …

… although, on the 20th anniversary of “9/11”, the mood in New York must be fairly sombre.

In Covid news, Boris will be announcing the “Winter Plan” on Tuesday.  This is likely to include:

  1.  An announcement on exactly who’ll be getting booster jabs this autumn.  Israel’s giving them to everyone.  That’s unlikely to happen here.  But we don’t know whether it’ll be everyone in the initial nine priority groups, or just the immunocompromised, frontline workers and the elderly.
  2. Presumably, a decision about vaccinating 12 to 15-year olds.
  3. Contingency plans to reintroduce some restrictions if the NHS starts to struggle under the combined weight of increasing Covid cases and the usual winter pressures.  Hopefully, this won’t be needed, but I’d rather hear Boris spell out the plans than have the press speculating and panicking everyone.  I really do feel sorry for people planning weddings or other big events: instead of getting excited about the big day, they’re going to be stressing in case they have to change their plans at the last minute.

 

Later – OMG, Emma Raducanu is the US Open champion!!!  6-4 6-3.  Disappointing for Leylah Fernandez, after beating three top 10 players, but I’m sure her time will come.  But Emma – WOW!   Over many years of watching tennis, I’ve seen plenty of teenagers win Grand Slam titles.  Rafa in 2005, for one!   The Steffi/Monica/Arantxa generation, and then the Venus/Serena/Martina Hingis generation.  And others.  But this!   For someone to win a Grand Slam title in only her second main tour event.  As a qualifier.  Unbelievable.  What an incredible achievement.

 

 

Sunday, September 12th

Oh, for heaven’s sake!  After everything I said yesterday, it now appears that we will not be getting used to vaccine passports, because the idea of using them even for big events has been scrapped.    This sort of thing really annoys people.  There are arguments for and against them, but don’t say that they’re being brought in and then change your mind!  It was only last week that Nadhim Zahawi was saying that the end of September was the right time to start using them.  Now Sajid Javid’s saying that the idea’s been scrapped.  Make your minds up!

I went to Tatton Park today, for the harvest festival – I always like to go if I’m here, and was sad when it was cancelled last year.  It rained in the afternoon, but it was all right earlier.

 

And come on Daniil … yes, I know that it’s really mean of me to be hoping Nole doesn’t win the calendar year Grand Slam …

I always say that the end of the US Open marks the end of summer.  Without wishing to sound like a doom merchant, I think we have to accept that things may well get worse over the autumn and winter months.  At best, they’ll stay stable.  We can’t really hope for any improvement until … well, you have to say late March/early April, so almost 7 months away.   It’s not the most cheerful of thoughts!    But fingers crossed …

 

 

 

Freedom? Week 7, August 30th to September 5th 2021 inclusive

Bank Holiday Monday, August 30th

This is the last Bank Holiday until Christmas.  That is frightening!   And, although sadly without Rafa, it’s the first day of the US Open.  Full house allowed, but spectators (apart from young children) have to show a vaccination certificate.  However, players don’t.  Rafa, Roger, Andy, Simona and various others have spoken out in support of vaccination, but many others, led by Nole and Stef, aren’t keen.  I don’t know why they aren’t keen, but they aren’t.

I went to Chester today, for the first time in years.  Cooler and cloudier today, but dry.  Like here, the city centre was busy, but most people seemed to be eating rather than shopping!   There are so few department stores left.  But it was certainly busy.  And I went on a boat trip!

One trend which I do not like, and which the pandemic seems to have exacerbated, is people taking their dogs everywhere, even into city centres.  It’s bad enough listening to barking, snarling and yapping in parks and gardens, without having to put up with it in cafes and shopping streets as well 😦 .

Right, I am off to watch the tennis!

 

Tuesday, August 31st

I feel full of woe today.  Mainly because, having been off diet for 3 days, I have someone put on 5lbs.  5lbs.  In 3 days.  I mean, it’s not like I ate 10 boxes of chocolates or anything.  I just ate a bit more than normal.  It could take months to lose 5lbs.  And I was already upset because I look so horrendously fat on the photos from the wedding.  This has been the story of my life.  This is why I struggle with both depression and eating disorders.  The one time I tried to get professional help, a well-meaning doctor gave me anti-depressants.  Which caused weight gain.  So I ended up feeling worse than I’d done to start with.  Also, the weather forecast for September is vile – and SW Wales, where I’m going, is usually right in the firing line for Atlantic storms.  And there’s talk of restrictions being reimposed in Scotland.

And I’m overtired because I was up late at the wedding on Sunday, then up stupidly late last night because the Andy v Stef match went to 5 sets.  And then Stef lost.  And then I had to get up early this morning to go to Tesco before work.  And work is crap because I’ve been landed with sorting out a mess made by someone who takes no responsibility for their actions.

Some days are just crap.  Today is one of them!

In other news:

  1. Fully vaccinated visitors from the UK no longer need to quarantine on arrival on Italy.  But we still have to have the stupid tests.  And there are still far fewer flights than usual.
  2. A number of people in America have been hospitalised after taking horse de-worming tablets to cure/prevent against Covid.  I am not making this up.
  3.  Someone’s set up a small memorial to local Covid victims, outside Tesco.  Very poignant.

Wednesday, September 1st

2 of the 5lbs have come off.  I feel a bit better now.  And it was 20 years ago today that I moved into my house.  20 years!  That is frightening.

However:

  1. One of my colleagues, who refused to be vaccinated, has tested positive.  This was on Friday, but I was WFH on Friday and Tuesday, and no-one bothered to tell me.  The firm initially refused to pay to have the office deep cleaned, but, after an outcry, changed their minds.  However, by the time they’d done this, and because of the Bank Holiday weekend, it’s not being done until tomorrow night, so it’s basically pointless.
  2. My elder nephew’s friend, whom he was with yesterday, has had a PCR test as he came back from Spain on Monday … and it’s positive.  And another friend, whom both my nephews have seen, has been tested prior to returning to school and he’s positive as well.

Covid passports are being introduced in Scotland, for big events.  The infection rate in Scotland’s currently double the rate in England.

Eeh, I am sick of all this!

 

Thursday, September 2nd

Most schools are now back.  Let’s see what happens.

Meanwhile, in the middle of everything else, Hurricane/Storm Ida has caused mayhem at the US Open.  And mayhem generally – very distressing scenes, with 14 people killed across New York and New Jersey.

And there is a huge row going on over Toiletgate.  Much as I like Stef Tsitsipas, no-one needs to spend that long in the toilet unless they’ve got a medical problem!

Sarah Storey is now Britain’s most decorated Paralympic athlete.

And we beat Hungary 4-0 in our first World Cup qualifier … but there was some unpleasantness, with the Hungarian “fans” shouting racist abuse and throwing things at our players.  UEFA need to do something about this.

 

Friday, September 3rd

The JCVI are saying that kids aged between 12 and 15 should only be vaccinated if they’re clinically vulnerable.  So now the politicians and medics have either got to go against JCVI advice or else let the virus spread through schools  – as it’s doing in Scotland – and possibly spread into the wider community, not to mention cause issues if we eventually get back to any sort of travel normality and other countries want proof of vaccination from over 12s.  To be fair to the JCVI, their brief is to look at things from a purely medical viewpoint, but would it not have been better to have had them working alongside people looking at things from other viewpoints?   Tomorrow’s papers are full of headlines about how the politicians are going to override what they’ve said, which isn’t a very fair angle to take because surely the wider benefits of vaccinating kids are pretty obvious.

Infection rates across England and Wales are fairly stable – and the average across Greater Manchester is below the average for England.  Rates in Northern Ireland, whilst higher, are now falling.  But rates in Scotland are way up.  Is this because of schools, or is something else going on?

 

Saturday, September 4th

Like I’m not stressed enough about going to South Wales in my own, the infection rate in Carmarthenshire is 425, whereas it’s hovering in the 280s/290s here!

A decision on vaccinating healthy 12 to 15-year-olds will probably be made next week.

Carlos Alcaraz beat Stef Tsitsipas.  Not sure whether or not Stef was put off by the crowd getting on his back over Toiletgate, but what a great performance from young Alcaraz.  I feel so old!

And I met a friend at The Vienna Coffee House this morning.  Such a normal thing to do – meet a friend at a cafe in town.  But, for much of the last 18 months, it hasn’t been possible!   Some weird-looking statues have appeared outside Central Library: this is the “Gratitude” exhibition, to thank the NHS.   Photo below (just of one statue, because there were quite a few people there so I couldn’t get a photo of the whole lot without people in it, and I don’t know how to edit them out!).

 

Sunday, September 5th

Some thoughts on herd immunity.

Infection rates across “Greater Manchester” as a whole, whilst not low, are around the average for England – some boroughs a bit higher, some a bit lower.  You would expect rates in such a densely-populated area to be well above the average.  That’s certainly how it was last autumn and in the spring.  Not any more.  The highest rates nationwide are now mainly in the East and the South West, which had low rates throughout last year and the early part of this year.  That’s partly due to rates being high in some tourist areas, but it was happening even before then.  London, another very densely-populated area, was the first part of the country hit by Covid, and a lot of people there probably had it unknowingly before the first lockdown.  Apart from when the Alpha variant first hit, it’s generally, since the early days, had rates well below average.

Coming back to “Greater Manchester”, Bolton was the area first hit and worst hit, not just locally but nationally, by the Delta variant.  It had much the highest rate in the country for weeks.  But, for months now, it’s had the lowest infection rate of the 10 boroughs.  If we look at smaller areas, one of the worst-hit areas last year and early this year was Broughton Park, the ultra-Orthodox Jewish area of Manchester/Salford.  People there typically have very large families, and, without wishing to cast aspersions, everyone knows that in-person religious services and big wedding parties were going on there when they were banned.  Now, it’s got the lowest infection rate in the whole of any area within the 10 boroughs – and that’s despite having relatively low vaccination rates.

The health authorities insist that none of this is due to herd immunity, and that any reduction in infection rates is due to the vaccination programme.  The vaccination programme is hugely important and no-one is denying that.  But it’s hard to ignore what these figures are telling us, and they’re all pointing in the same direction.

Anyway!   Vaccine passports are coming in from next month … not a surprise.  England 4-0 Andorra.  Paralympics GB have finished second in the medals table in Tokyo.  Emma Raducanu has reached the last 16 at the US Open … and, rather than playing Ash Barty as expected, is playing Shelby Rogers.  And we’ve had really nice weather today.  I did think about going to Windermere, but I’ve had a lot of late nights with the US Open and wasn’t sure that a big day out was a very sensible idea, so I went to Speke Hall instead.

 

And such sad news about the death of Sarah Harding, aged just 39.  Bloody, bloody cancer.

Freedom? Week 5, August 16th to 22nd 2021 inclusive

Monday, August 16th

Dad’s coughing less and, thankfully, is OK otherwise.  And, thankfully, no-one else has got any symptoms.   The rules change today – any earlier and I, Mum, my uncle, my brother-in-law’s dad and several friends would all have had to self-isolate for ten days.  I’ve been in the office today, but I was in a room on my own – my colleague is on long-term sick leave – and haven’t been near anyone else.

“My” entrance to Heaton Park is going to be closed for FIVE WEEKS because of bloody Parklife!  I mean, WTF?   It’s a two day festival.  How can that possibly justify closing a main area of a busy public park for FIVE WEEKS?  I can get in a different way, but it’s a bit far for a dinner hour walk, plus it’d mean walking a long way along the side of a busy main road rather than actually in the park.  Bleurgh.

Roger’s having another knee op and will be out at least until next year.  No news yet on Rafa and the US Open.

In the middle of everything else, the Taliban have retaken control of Afghanistan and over 1,200 people have been killed in an earthquake in Haiti.

So much for being fully vaccinated giving you “protection”.  Dad is only one of several people I know/know of who’ve tested positive despite having had both jabs.  Hopefully the vaccines will at least stop you from becoming seriously ill, unless you’re extremely unlucky, but I think we were all rather over-optimistic about how effective the vaccines’d be.

 

Tuesday, August 17th

Oh, this is just the gift that keeps giving!   Mum started coughing last night.  She did a lateral flow test and it was negative, but apparently the line was very faint, and she thinks she must have it too.  So now they are both self-isolating.

I’m going to WFH for the rest of the week.

On the downsides, so much for the vaccines stopping you from getting infected,  On the upside, apart from the coughs, thankfully they are both OK.   18 months ago, if someone had coughed for a few days, you wouldn’t have thought anything of it.  In most cases, the vaccines are stopping serious illness.

So do we carry on with the testing and the isolation and the daily statistics announcements indefinitely, or do we get to a point where we treat Covid like flu?

Dad’s PCR test came back positive.  They asked him to fill in some test and trace stuff online, but he couldn’t work out how to do it!  Then he got a phone call from someone who sounded like he was in a call centre abroad, and didn’t speak English very well.  Excellent.

And my colleague who has been on sick leave for month has passed away.  It wasn’t a big surprise, but it’s still very sad.

Finally, they are apparently closing the Sheepfoot Lane entrance to the park, as well as the Grand Lodge entrance.  It is as clear as mud.  I rang the office to check, but no-one there was sure either.  Nor were they sure how it could possibly be necessary to close off parts of a public park for 5 weeks because of a 3 day festival.  They’re putting up a few temporary sets, not building a palace!

 

Wednesday, August 18th

It gets worse.  My brother-in-law’s dad started coughing and sniffling last night, and now he’s tested positive too.

Again, thankfully it’s nothing worse than a cough and a bit of the sniffles.  But the Delta variant is clearly incredibly easy to catch, even for people who’ve been fully vaccinated, and that’s really frightening.  All the uncertainty which the vaccines were supposed to eliminate is still there.  If you want to travel abroad, you’re taking a huge chance – however careful you try to be, you could still test positive before travel and lose the holiday, or test positive before return and be stranded abroad.  Or you could suddenly be faced with ten days’ isolation just as you’re supposed to be getting married or doing something else really important.   Or, if you can’t WFH, find yourself having to take ten days off work – and a lot of employers will not pay any more than the legal minimum statutory sick pay, and self-employed people get even less than that.  I’m really feeling quite downbeat about things.

And Dominic Thiem will be out for the rest of the year with a wrist injury 😦 .  Who exactly will be playing at Flushing Meadows?!

 

Thursday, August 19th

Thankfully, no-one else has shown any symptoms.  I am going round to Plague Towers tomorrow, to drop some groceries off outside the door, like people leaving butter on the Prestwich butterstile during the time of the bubonic plague.  Mum and bro-in-law’s dad have both had positive PCR tests.

The average infection rate across Greater Manchester is just below 300 per 100,000, which in turn is just below the national average for England.  The East Midlands, East Yorkshire, parts of the West Country and seaside towns (including Blackpool)  have got the highest rates.

Sajid Javid’s confirmed that a booster vaccination programme will be starting some time in September.

It looks as if my brother-in-law will be able to continue WFH full time until October.  Lucky him!   It’s very difficult in London – most people commute by Tube, the Tube trains are usually horrendously crowded, and it’s not even as if you can open the windows like you can on a bus or a tram.

And some friends had decided to take a chance, and booked a last minute holiday abroad.  Had the pre departure PCR tests.  And one of their kids tested positive.   Thankfully, the kid is fine, just a bit sniffly, but the holiday is obviously now off.   So sorry for them.  And this is exactly the sort of thing I meant yesterday.

 

Friday, August 20th

Just like this week wasn’t crap enough already, Rafa’s announced that he will not only miss the US Open but will miss the rest of the season as well.  He never plays well indoors anyway, so it makes sense, but … please tell me that this isn’t the end   He’s been written off before and come back, but he was younger then.  Both Rafa and Roger out for the rest of the season.  Dominic too, but he’ll be back … will they?   I hope so, but I feel very sad and very worried.

Went round to Mum and Dad’s to leave the shopping on the plague stone (i.e. outside the front door).  They are OK, just bored.  Dad is so bored that he’s walking laps of the garden (weather has been better today).

My bro-in-law’s dad has taken part in some weird test to find out whether or not Covid can be detected through sound.  He had to say “I’d love an afternoon tea, please”, then breathe heavily three times, then cough three times.  I am not making this up, honestly!

The lockdown in Sydney’s been extended yet again, until at least the end of September.  Like that’s going to make Covid magically go away.  And the whole of New Zealand is also in lockdown.  And some people I vaguely know have had the holiday nightmare I’m dreading – went abroad, had the PCR tests before coming home, one of them tested positive despite being fully vaccinated.  They’re in a relative’s holiday home, so at least they’re not having to pay for a quarantine hotel, but they’re now stuck there, missing at least 10 days’ work, and panicking in case one of the others gets it and they’re stuck there even longer.  This situation is just a nightmare.

 

Saturday, August 21st

Dad and bro-in-law’s dad are OK, but Mum is feeling very tired.  Just hoping that this passes in a few days’ time.

It has poured down nearly all day today.  So miserable, especially in August and when so many people are on staycation.  I went – in my cagoule and wellies – to do the new sunflower walk at the fruit farm.  The sunflowers looked lovely, even if I didn’t!

Then I went to the garden centre, but I haven’t done much else … although I’ve got some boring admin jobs done.  Watching the tennis from Cincy now, but feeling rather morose about it.

Thousands of people have protested in Sydney and Melbourne about the ongoing lockdowns, and clashed with police.  There was also a peaceful protest in Brisbane.

The news headlines here are mostly about the awful mess in Afghanistan … and the way in which people are more interesting in trying to score political points at home than in actually trying to do anything useful.

 

Sunday, August 22nd

Well, our great start to the season didn’t last very long, did it?   Drew 1-1 at Southampton this afternoon.

The weather was better today, at least.  I went to Bakewell, where I went to the Tiroler Stuberl, where scones come with lots of Continental whipped cream instead of clotted cream … wouldn’t do as an ongoing thing, but it does for a change!  Then to Matlock Bath.

I love the Derbyshire Dales, but it’s such a nightmare journey!  It takes me longer to get to Bakewell, which is 45 miles away, than it does to get to Windermere, which is 80 miles away.

Not much to say about Covid.  Locally, cases are slightly below the national average, some boroughs a bit lower, some higher, figures fluctuating a bit day by day and week by week but no major changes.  Nationally, I’d hoped deaths would be falling by now, but they aren’t – but they’re not rising either.   If this is as good as it gets, how can we go on like this?  How can anyone plan holidays, weddings or anything else when they could be forced into ten days’ isolation at any second?  How long do we keep being given daily stats for deaths?  We don’t get them for any other disease.   I just don’t know where we go from here.

 

Freedom? Week 3, August 2nd to 8th 2021 inclusive

Monday, August 2nd

Hooray, gold in the eventing, and two more silvers as well!

Some lovely scenes today, as families were reunited following to changes to quarantine rules for people coming from EU countries and the US.  There’s talk of more countries being moved to the green list, but you still need to have these bloody PCR tests and there’ve been some horror stories of people testing positive whilst abroad and then not being able to get home, being stuck in quarantine hotels abroad, paying a fortune and getting a load of hassle from their employers.  And there’s the risk of testing positive before you’ve even gone, and losing your holiday, your money and your time off work.  How long is this going to go on for?  I’ve lost two years’ travel already, which is a hell of a lot, and I really don’t want to lose any more, but how can you take those chances?

And the app’s to be “tweaked” so that it only pings people who’ve been in contact with an asymptomatic case within two days, not five.

 

Tuesday, August 3rd

And the medals keep coming!  Golds in the sailing for Stuart Bithell (who comes from Rochdale and learnt to sail on Hollingworth Lake) and Dylan Fletcher, and for Giles Scott.  Silvers in the men’s and women’s cycling this time – making Jason Kenny from Bolton Britain’s most decorated Olympian.  And more besides.  Great stuff!

I’ve not established my new routine yet.  I need a routine.  I am like Ma Ingalls, doing everything on a set day!  I should go back to going to the gym twice a week after work, but I can’t face it at the moment.  And last week I went to Tesco after work on Friday, like I used to pre-pandemic, but a) it was quite busy and b) some of the shelves were empty.  So today I went back to going on Tuesday morning, but I had to go very early so as to give myself time to get home, unpack the shopping and get to the office by 9 o’clock.  There were no proper tills open.  This sometimes happened pre-pandemic, if I was going early due to the French Open or Wimbledon, but they always used to open a till for me.  Today, they said that they couldn’t because there was no-one available.  The new scan tills were inexplicably cordoned off, so I had to put a whole weekly shop through one of the self service tills, dumping everything on top of other stuff so I didn’t “remove an item from the bagging area” and taking ages.  Bah!!  Also, because I’d had my breakfast so early, I was so hungry by dinnertime that I felt ill.

Hmm.

Also, seeing as it now looks highly unlikely that I’ll be going on a Christmas market trip abroad for the last week of November as planned, I’d bought a ticket for the rugby league World Cup final.  But it now looks almost certain that the rugby league World Cup will be postponed until 2022, as Australia and New Zealand have said they aren’t coming.  Great 😦 .  And I bet they now offer you the option of holding on to the ticket for next year, which I can’t really do when I don’t know the dates or what else might be on!

 

Wednesday August 4th

All 16 and 17 year olds are to be offered vaccines.  No decision yet on 12 to 15 year olds, but I can see that coming

Golds for Ben Maher in the showjumping and Hannah Mills and Eilidh McIntyre in the sailing today!  And medals in the boxing and skateboarding too.  We’re not having much luck in the athletics, though – a superb silver for Keely Hodgkinson from Atherton in the 800m yesterday, but Dina Asher Smith, Adam Gemili and Katarina Johnson Thompson have all had to pull out injured.

And I am not doing well with being trapped in the office, and am very glad that it’s only for 3 days a week at present.  It saps your physical and mental energy in a way that doing the same work at home just doesn’t.

 

Thursday, August 5th

France is back on the main amber list.  Germany, Austria, Latvia, Slovenia, Slovakia, Norway and Romania have been moved to the green list,  India, the UAE, Bahrain and Qatar have been moved from red to amber, and Mexico, Georgia, Reunion and Martinique have been moved from amber to red.   It’s good news about the green list, but you’ve still got to have these bloody tests, and there’s that fear that, however careful you’ve been, you could test positive before you go, when you’ve already paid for and planned the holiday and taken the time off work, or test positive whilst you’re there, and be stuck in an expensive quarantine hotel, getting grief from work.  And how are you even meant to get the PCR tests done when you’re trapped at work?!  I’m desperate to start travelling again, but I’m not really seeing a way forward ATM 😦 .

More medals!  Including gold for Matt Walls from Shaw in the cycling, and bronze for Holly Bradshaw from Chorley in the pole vault.  Well done, everyone!

Rafa won his comeback match, against Jack Sock in Washington, but was clearly and very worryingly still struggling with the foot injury :-(.

The rugby league World Cup’s officially been postponed.  Bah!

Off to have my hair cut and dyed now!

 

Friday, August 6th

The good news:
More medals for Team GB, including golds for Laura Kenny and Katie Archibald in the madison cycling, and for Kate French in the modern pentathlon.

The R number is probably now below 1.  There’s been no noticeable increase in infections since “Freedom Day”.

The bad news:
Rafa lost to Lloyd Harris.

We are being told that levels of the virus in people infected with the Delta variant despite being fully vaccinated are the same as those in people infected but unvaccinated, so they’re probably just as infectious as unvaccinated people.

Concerns are growing over the number of people, especially men, in the younger age groups who haven’t taken up the offer of a vaccine.

 

Saturday, August 7th

Hooray!   I actually went to a live professional football match today!   The Premier League starts back next week, but the lower leagues started today, and we went to Salford City v Orient.  1-1 draw.  It didn’t half feel good to be back at a live sports event.  (And it was so easy …. no messing about with these awful new digital tickets that both United and City have introduced.)  Please, please, don’t ever ban fans from football grounds again!

Another great day in Tokyo, including golds for Joe Choong in the modern pentathlon and Galal Yafai in the boxing!

But the weather is awful.  So sorry for people who’re on staycation.  I was going to go to Haworth tomorrow, but there’s a thunderstorm warning and I don’t desperately want to be driving across the moors in a thunderstorm … a bit *too* Wuthering Heights!

 

Sunday, August 8th

Hooray!   A 7th gold medal, a record 9th medal overall, for Jason Kenny from Farnworth.  Sir Jason Kenny and Dame Laura Kenny come New Year, surely?  Gold for Lauren Price in the boxing, too.  We finished with 65 medals, the same total as in 2012, and 4th in the medals table.  Well done to everyone – and thank you to Tokyo for putting on these Olympics under extremely difficult circumstances

The weather has been utterly vile today.  It wrecked the cricket, and meant that I did not go to Haworth.  Instead, I went to see Jungle Cruise at the Vue Printworks.   This was my first visit to the pictures since before the first lockdown.  I thought it might feel a bit weird, but, TBH, it didn’t feel weird at all.  A few people came in wearing masks, but I don’t think anyone kept them on.  It was early on a wet morning, so it wasn’t particularly busy and no-one had to sit next to anyone they weren’t with.  Maybe it would’ve felt different if the place’d been packed out.  I don’t know.  I don’t usually go to the pictures at busy times anyway.   I was a bit narked that they’d put the price up from £4.99 to £5.99, and then tried to make out that you’d still only pay £4.99 if you booked online.  No.  If you book online, you get charged a 79p booking fee.  OK, I understand that they need to try to recoup some of their losses, but at least be honest about it!  Anyway, the film was very good.

Infection rates locally are now below, around or only just above the national average, except in Salford which seems to be having a few issues but still isn’t that bad.  The highest rates now seem to be in Yorkshire.

And, needless to say, it is going to be sunny tomorrow!

The Road to Freedom? Week 15, July 5th to 11th 2021 inclusive

Monday, July 5th

Boris has said that we’ve got to open up some time, and that now, with schools about to break up for the summer and before the winter increase in other illnesses, is probably the best time to do it.  Fair point.  From July 19th, social distancing goes, WFH goes (boo, hiss), nightclubs etc can reopen and all limits on how many people can meet up or how many people can attend sports events, music events or anything else go.   S0, hooray, football is back on, and my cousin’s wedding should be able to go ahead as planned.

But the three things which most concern the majority of people stay.  No change, yet, regarding overseas travel – they may remove the need for fully vaccinated people to quarantine after returning from amber list countries, but nothing’s definite yet, and the bloody tests stay.  This godforsaken test, trace and isolate system – currently causing the Duchess of Cambridge to self-isolate – stays.  And the school bubble system stays, although surely, surely, they’ll have to do away with that before the new academic year.

Compulsory mask-wearing goes, to be replaced by “guidance”.  There are quite a lot of concerns about this.  Shop staff are worried, and a lot of people, especially those in vulnerable groups, are anxious about using public transport if people aren’t wearing masks.  It’s all very well saying that you should try to avoid travelling at busy times, but, if you need to get to work or to a place of education, you haven’t got much choice.

Hmm.

Scotland and North East England have overtaken North West England at the top of the infection rate charts.  Not that I wish high infection rates on anyone, and I wish to goodness that the rates would come down everywhere, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I was thinking “At least it’s not us for a change”.  Some random hotspots too – Oxford, Tamworth and N E Lincolnshire.

And the NHS, on its 73rd anniversary, has been awarded the George Cross by the Queen.

In other news, it has rained a lot today.  And Emma Raducanu had to retire from her match with breathing problems, which was a huge shame – not got tour level fitness levels yet, but that’s something that she can work on.

 

Tuesday, July 6th

More rain.

But, finally, some common sense.   From 16th August, self-isolation for fully-vaccinated adults will end, except for people who have actually tested positive themselves.   And, for the new academic year, this ridiculous “bubble” system at schools, which has seen 640,000 kids sent home in the last week, will end: under 18s will not have to self-isolate unless they themselves have tested positive.

There’s been a mixed reaction to yesterday’s announcements.  I’m trying not to get involved in arguments, because I think there’s a lot of “I’m all right, Jack”-ism going on.  It’s all very well to say that restrictions should continue indefinitely if you are in a secure public sector job, working from home on full pay, or retired, but what about a self-employed person whose business cannot operate properly until social distancing ends?   And it’s all very well to say that masks shouldn’t be worn on public transport if you’re young and in perfect health, but less so for someone who’s clinically vulnerable.

The changes only apply to England.  I hope Sturgeon isn’t going to get stroppy over travel again.  Speaking of travel, Merkel has agreed to change the rules on arrival into Germany from the UK and Portugal: fully vaccinated people will no longer need to quarantine.

Sajid Javid’s said that we could be seeing 100,000 cases a day by some point in August.  Marks for honesty, but I didn’t really want to hear that!

Whilst we’re being told that vaccine passports won’t be needed domestically, things are certainly moving in a direction in which people are split between the vaccinated and the unvaccinated.  I’m very sorry for the small number of people who can’t be vaccinated for genuine medical reasons, and hope that some arrangements can be made for them.

And Medvedev lost.  Is everyone trying to get out of Nole’s way?!

 

Wednesday, July 7th

It’s stopped raining.  I’m hoping that this is a good omen.  Trying to find a good time to have a bath before the match, but there’s too much going on!  Denis has won.  Nole has won.  Matteo is a set up on Felix.  Roger is a set down.

Italy beat Spain on penalties last night – such a shame for what was a really good match to end that way.  Please, please not penalties tonight.  Come on England!!

Meanwhile, there’s a lot of moaning going on.  Most of it’s political points-scoring – the same people who are moaning that restrictions shouldn’t be eased at all are moaning that the self-isolation system should be changed now rather than in August.  If we do see 100,000 cases a day (and we’re now recording over 30,000 a day, the highest number since January), that could mean an awful lot of people self-isolating.   Travel changes look set to be announced tomorrow, but I’m quite looking forward to this trip to Scotland now – if it happens.  Sturgeon has lifted the ban on people from Blackburn now, incidentally!

Come on England!!

Later – WE WON!!  WE’RE IN THE FINAL!!!    We went behind, but equalised.  It went to extra time, and I was thinking, please, please, not penalties.  Then we got a penalty … but Kasper Schmeichel (such a chip off the old block!) saved it, but Harry Kane scored from the rebound.  I have never known time pass as slowly as it did from then until the final whistle, but the whistle went, and we’re in the final!!   OMG!!

Matteo beat Felix.  And Hurkacz beat Roger in straight sets, bagelling him in the final set, which was a bit awful to watch.

 

Thursday, July 8th

I might actually get to bed at a reasonable time tonight, with no football and no late night finishes at Wimbledon!

It’s been confirmed that, from July 19th, fully vaccinated people (although only those vaccinated by the NHS, so this won’t apply to anyone living abroad and wanting to visit the UK, even British citizens) and under 18s won’t need to quarantine on returning from an amber list country.  I felt like I needed to rush off and book myself a trip abroad … but a) the PCR tests will still be needed, b) there may be chaos at airports and c) as I’ve already found out, an awful lot of flights aren’t operating, unless you want to go to a seaside resort.  So, for now, I’m sticking to my trip to Scotland, if it goes.

Japan’s said that no spectators will be allowed at the Olympics.

And the Queen’s been in Manchester today!   She’s been to the Coronation Street set 🙂 , and to meet representatives of community groups at the cathedral.  Wonderful to see her looking so well.

And the ladies’ final’ll be Ash Barty v Karolina Pliskova.

 

Friday, July 9th

The final’ll be Djokovic v Berrettini.  Come on Matteo!   Denis ran Nole so close, but he just couldn’t get over the line in either of the first two sets, and he wasn’t coming back from two sets to love down.

Sad to see the Olympic flame arriving in Tokyo with nowhere there to see it.  I remember going to see the torch relay going past Heaton Park in 2012.  Loads of people were there, and everyone was cheering, and it was such a lovely atmosphere.  That was repeated all over the country, and it’s so sad that it’s not happening this time.

A trade union representing airport staff’s moaning that there’ll be long queues if more people are travelling and everyone’s vaccination certificates and test results have to be checked.  Before the new rules were announced, they were moaning that a load of jobs would be lost unless more people could travel.  If the authorities said that results and certificates didn’t have to be checked, they’d be moaning that the country was being put at risk.

Malta’s banned all visitors unless fully vaccinated.  Tunisia says that its healthcare system’s on the verge of collapse.  Indonesia’s having problems.  Is there no end to this?   Cases are on the up and up across the UK, 99% of them now the Delta variant.

Two days till The Final of the Euros!

 

Saturday, July 10th

Tomorrow night’s the night!   Is it coming home, or will it end in tears?   Please, please, don’t let it end on penalties!  Whatever happens, it’s been a wonderful tournament and a real morale booster.  Thank you so much to Gareth Southgate and the lads; and I’m sure that Italians feel the same about “Bobby Manc” and their lads.

Ash Barty is the Wimbledon ladies’ singles champion!   It looked as if she was going to run away with it, but Karolina Pliskova came back, and it ended up being a really good three set match.

I really miss Rafa.

It wasn’t supposed to rain until 11am, so I went to Hollingworth Lake at half 9.  And it rained.  It’s dry now.

And, in Covid news, it looks like we might need vaccination passports to go to entertainment venues, come the autumn.  I really don’t like this idea of having to show papers: it smacks of totalitarian regimes.  But I think we’ll have to accept that these are exceptional times, and that it’s like people having to carry ID cards during the Second World War.

 

Sunday, July 11th, before the final

This is weird.  This could be a day which we remember for the rest of our lives, and which people talk about for decades to come.  Or it could all end in tears.  2 hours to kick off.

Please, please, not penalties.

Matteo won the first set of the Wimbledon final, but Nole came back to take it in four.  The BBC cameras bizarrely switched away from him during his speech to show a randon shot of the 1988/90 champion, which made me feel better!   Grand Slam?  Golden Slam?  Oh, I do miss Rafa!

I went to Dunham Massey this morning.  The giant lilies, which only flower for 10 days a year, which is usually during Wimbledon, were out.  And the house was flying the flag.

OK, just because I’m not fat enough – I weighed the same yesterday as I did on the first Saturday in January 😦 – I now need to go and make more strawberry and cream meringues.   Well, they were lucky for the semis.

Come on England!!

 

Sunday, July 11th, after the final

Oh no.  And so it all ends in tears, again.  The ultimate nightmare was losing on penalties.  And, TBH, the ultimate, ultimate nightmare was for a United player to miss.   “It was nearly complete, it was nearly so sweet.”  In just the second minute, Luke Shaw put us ahead.  We led for over an hour.  But Bonetti equalised – deservedly so, it has to be said.   It went to extra time.  It went to penalties.  We led 2-1 after the first four penalties: Pickford saved their 2nd.  But then Marcus Rashford missed.  And Jadon Sancho’s was saved.  Match point Italy.  But Pickford saved their 5th.  Would it go to sudden death?  No.  Bukayo Saka – poor young kid, why was he sent into the lions’ den rather than someone more experienced? – had his penalty saved.  And it was all over.  Congratulations to “Bobby Manc” and his players, congratulations to our Italian friends who’ve been fighting this horrible virus for longer than anyone else in Europe and need a pick-me-up as much as we do, but … oh, it hurts.  To lose on bloody penalties, again.   We’re so proud of our players and of Gareth Southgate, but I feel absolutely crushed.   55 years of hurt.   This really hurts.

The road to freedom? Week 14, June 28th to July 4th 2021 inclusive

Monday, June 28th

The good news is that Wimbledon’s started.  The bad news is that Stef lost in the first round (OK, he had a tough draw, against Frances Tiafoe, but FFS!), it rained for much of the day (in London, not here) and Jo Konta had to pull out after a member of her team tested positive.

Sajid Javid’s said that restrictions’ll be ending on July 19th and we can get back to normal, but how can we when we’re all being held hostage by this bloody test, trace and isolate thing?   Freddie Nielsen’s also had to pull out after a member of his team tested positive.  My elder nephew was pulled out of class today and told that he’d have to go home from school and self-isolate for 10 days because he was a “close contact” of someone in his French group who’d tested positive.  He doesn’t even do French!  He does Spanish instead.  It turned out that they’d mixed him up with another kid with the same first name.  So he’s OK, but the other kid has joined the thousands of others across the country who are missing school even though they themselves have tested negative.

Meanwhile, case numbers are soaring.  It looked as if Salford had turned a corner, but, sadly, the rate there is on the up again.  And it’s horrendous in the city centre, because there are so many students there.   We’re ahead of most places in terms of the Delta variant.   It’s rife in the Moscow area, and also in South Africa (just as the Lions tour starts), but is only just gathering pace across most of Western and Central Europe.  And, as they’re also behind us in terms of vaccinations, they’re imposing restrictions.   Malta’s now said that it’s only open to British tourists who’ve been fully vaccinated – and the restriction applies to anyone 12 and over, but kids under 18 can’t get vaccinated ATM.  Portugal’s said that British visitors who aren’t fully vaccinated will have to quarantine for a fortnight.

And, after all Merkel’s pontificating about the EU having common rules, Germany’s said that anyone entering Germany from Portugal will have to quarantine.  What a hypocrite.  Cue an exodus of Germans from the Algarve.

The whole thing is chaos.

But … deaths and hospitalisations are NOT really going up.

 

Tuesday, June 29th

Wa-hey!   We beat Germany!   At last, we beat Germany!  2-0.  Into the QFs, against either Sweden or Ukraine.  And what a night last night, with Switzerland beating France on penalties and Andy Murray’s match and … ooh, it was all happening.   England have beaten Germany.

And Sturgeon has had to back down!  The travel ban on Manchester, Salford and Bolton (although unfortunately not Blackburn with Darwen) has been lifted.  I rang my travel insurance, and they said that, if I book something tomorrow (the ban is lifted at midnight) then they will cover the cost if Sturgeon reimposes a ban.   Hopefully she won’t, but who knows with that one.

 

Wednesday, June 30th

The holiday company has said it will give me a refund if Sturgeon imposes a ban.  So I’ve booked.  Fingers crossed!!

Meanwhile, there’s a hoo-ha going on over the QF, which will be against Ukraine in Rome, because Italy’s currently imposing a 5 day quarantine on arrivals from the UK.

A study’s shown that Greater Manchester suffered 25% higher mortality from Covid than England as a whole.  This is just Greater Manchester: I don’t know if similar studies are being done for other areas – and we’re talking about urban, northern areas here.  When this nightmare started, I never expected our region to end up being the centre of it.   It’s pretty shocking and upsetting.

On a happier note, it’s all eyes on Wimbledon!

 

Thursday, July 1st

It is hot.  I just hope it doesn’t all end in a deluge just when I’m in the Lakes!

Every night seems to end in either extra time at the football or a late match at Wimbledon at the moment.   Not complaining: it’s wonderful!   But I am so far behind with my soap operas 🙂 !   Five set thriller involving Andy Murray (who won in the end) last night.  Amazing stuff.

The Germans, not content with trying to bully Portugal into banning British tourists, are now trying to bully UEFA into moving matches away from Wembley.  WTF?  It hasn’t even got anything to do with them: they aren’t in the tournament any more!   I can’t work out whether it’s sour grapes over Brexit, an attempt to divert attention away from how slow their vaccination rollout’s been, or both.

Case numbers are soaring, though, it has to be admitted.  But hospitalisations and deaths, thankfully, aren’t.  The highest numbers are in Scotland.  Please tell me that Sturgeon isn’t going to reintroduce restrictions just as I’ve booked my coach tour!   People from Blackburn are still banned from Scotland.  People from Hyndburn (Accrington etc), where rates are higher than they are in Blackburn, are not.  Newcastle now has higher rates than central Manchester or Salford, and Liverpool has higher rates than 7 out of 10 Greater Manchester boroughs.  Bury has thankfully stabilised, for now, but Wigan’s rates are way up.  And there’s no sign of an end to it.   It still looks as if restrictions will be lifted on July 19th, though.

And our first home match of the season has been moved to 12:30 … meaning that, short of causing a huge family row, Dad and I cannot go because it clashes with my cousin’s pre-wedding party.  We are so annoyed.  We could have sloped off early and got there for 3, and 5:15 or any time on Sunday would have been fine, but … bleurgh.  2 away matches and an international break after that, so it’ll be mid-September before we get to go.  So, so fed up!!

 

Friday, July 2nd

It’s hard work trying to keep up with the football and all the tennis at the same time!

We really need to lose this nightmare self-isolation system.  It’s not even like it bloody works – case numbers are sky-rocketing everywhere.  Don’t ask me what happened to the “extra support” we were offered.  We never got it, and nor did Liverpool.   Anyway, a load of trains were cancelled today, because a few people at Northern Rail tested positive so all their colleagues are self-isolating.  And some kids at my elder nephew’s school were sent home after one kid had a positive lateral flow test result, only to be told to come back in when the kid had a negative PCR test result!   Parents don’t know whether they’re coming or going, and teachers are trying to teach some kids in person and some kids online at the same time.

And the press unhelpfully decided to panic people by saying that anyone who’d had an AZ vaccine from a batch made in India would be banned from going to an EU country because the Indian vaccine wasn’t recognised by the EU!   Technically, it isn’t at the moment, but it’s exactly the same as the AZ vaccine made here and it’s just a case of sorting out some paperwork.

OK, I am going to try to forget about all the Covid stress for the rest of this evening, and enjoy the tennis and the football!

 

Saturday, July 3rd

Tonight’s the night!   8pm, Rome, England v Ukraine.   The tension is mounting!!

My plan for today was to go out early, before play started at Wimbledon.  But it was absolutely pouring down, and didn’t clear up until later, so I ended up just going out for two short walks in between matches.   Can Daniil, Sascha or Matteo beat Nole?  Or could Roger, who beat Cam Norrie today, really win it again?  Andy lost to Denis Shapovalov last night: I really like Denis, but it was a shame to see Andy go out.  Dan Evans also lost, to Seb Korda, son of Petr, which made me feel old.  But well done to Emma Raducanu, into the last 16 on a wild card – amazing.

Angela Merkel has been whining at Boris about the number of fans allowed into Wembley.  Can that woman not mind her own business?!

 

Later – it’s coming home!   Well we’re certainly coming home from Rome to Wembley!  England 4-0 Ukraine, wa-hey!   And all the other QFs went the way I wanted too, so it’s England v Denmark and Spain v Italy.   Wednesday night, semi-final …

 

Sunday, July 4th

I was actually lucky with the weather today!   I think North Yorkshire had heavy rain yesterday, but it was glorious at Fountains Abbey this morning … whilst it was wet in Manchester.  It started throwing it down whilst I was halfway home, and I don’t like driving in heavy rain, but it was better than walking in heavy rain!

I do know that stressing about what the weather will do in a fortnight’s time is not helpful …

Meanwhile, there’s a lot of talk going on about lifting restrictions.  I really don’t know what to think.  We cannot live under restrictions indefinitely.  And, thankfully, hospitalisations and deaths are not going up.  But, when infection rates in Bolton dropped sharply, it looked as if the problems caused by the Delta variant would last for a few weeks, peak, and decline.  But that’s not happening.  They’re going up again everywhere.  And showing absolutely no sign of peaking, never mind declining.  If we decide that we’ll just have to live with this, we can’t keep the self-isolation system.  Every flaming train on the Cumbrian Coast Line was cancelled yesterday, because of people self-isolating.  And the situation in schools is chaos.   At this rate, it’s going to be like some Solomon Grundy thing – everyone back in the office on Monday, two people at home due to kids self-isolating on Tuesday, Joe in HR got pinged by the Test and Trace app on Wednesday, tested positive on Thursday, everyone off work for 10 days from Friday!

Heigh-ho …

Wimbledon is back

Well, it was all gloriously chaotic in my house this evening, as I tried to keep up with Spain v Croatia going to extra time at the same time as I was watching Andy v Basilashvili, and my Sky Planner got completely confused when the BBC decided that Andy’s match should be moved to BBC 1 and EastEnders and Holby City should be moved to BBC 2.   And then it somehow went to a 4th set and so it clashed with the whole of France v Switzerland, and everything got even more complicated, and now that’s going to extra time as well, after Switzerland equalised in the last minute, just as Andy was serving for the match for the fourth time … as if the first couple of days of a Grand Slam event aren’t complicated enough as it is, with so many matches going on at once.   Pass the Pimm’s.  And the vodka!

Isn’t it absolutely brilliant to be doing this again?   Yes, we’ve had the other 3 Grand Slam events, even if the 2020 French Open was bizarrely played in October and the Aussie Open was moved to February, and we’ve had plenty of other tournaments too, but having a year without Wimbledon was tough.

I really wanted today to be a perfect day, but … well, Rafa had already pulled out injured, it rained, Jo Konta had to pull out because of the infernal virus rules, and Stef lost in the first round.  Oh well, maybe perfection was asking a bit too much.   But it’s back!

In 1989, I read a magazine article which described Wimbledon as “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”.  32 years later, that still sticks in my mind.

If you ignore the Shakespearean connection, it sounds so gloriously romantic.  And Wimbledon is.  The grass courts.  The white clothes.  The Royal Box.   There’s no other tournament like it.  I’ve even got a Wimbledon song.  Eternal Flame, by The Bangles.  No, there’s no connection between that song and Wimbledon for anyone else.  It’s just me.  But it’s my Wimbledon song.

There’ve been a lot of “Wimbledon moments” in my life.  There’ve been a lot of tennis moments generally.  The US Open moments have often come in the wee small hours of the morning, and I never get much sleep during the Australian Open either.  And I’ve got this weird tradition of going to Blackpool on the morning of the French Open men’s singles title.  I once rushed back from London on a Sunday morning to watch the Monte Carlo final.  I once sat in a hotel room in America watching Indian Wells.  In fact, I once spent an entire afternoon sat in a hotel room in Blackpool watching Wimbledon, apart from the bit when I walked out in tears before it was going wrong.  I went back in a few minutes later.  The match turned round.  It all ended happily.  I did tell Mum and Dad that it was a stupid choice of date for a weekend away.  And I even nearly missed a flight home from Tel Aviv because I was watching Rafa v Roger in my hotel room (Rafa won).

I do things like this all the time.   But Wimbledon is special.  And the fact that the evil virus forced Wimbledon to be cancelled for the first time since the Second World War really seemed to say a lot about last year.   It’s … well, I think it’s the most important part of the British summer.  And we’re going to be missing a lot of things about summer for a second year in a row, thanks to the evil virus.  Holidays abroad are pretty much off the cards.   Music festivals won’t be happening.  A lot of people’s wedding plans have been mucked up.  But Wimbledon’s back.   And if, please, we could have a wonderful, wonderful tournament, to cheer us all up … ?  Sascha, Daniil, one of you … come on, could this be your year?   Oh, and if England could win Euro 2020 …

2020 was The Year Without Wimbledon.  Let’s hope that there’s never another.  One year without Wimbledon was quite enough.

The road to freedom? Week 12, June 14th to 20th 2021 inclusive

Monday, June 14th

Boris has confirmed what’d pretty much been said already, i.e. that “Freedom Day” is being postponed from June 21st to July 19th.

The limit on the number of guests for weddings will, however, be lifted as long as “social distancing is observed”.  What on earth is that supposed to mean?!

I don’t think there was any choice about this, but I’m extremely sorry for people whose jobs/businesses are affected.

At least nothing was said about local lockdowns.  However, “the Liverpool City Region”, Cheshire. Warrington and Birmingham have been added to the naughty list.  Where is this “extra support” we’re all meant to be getting, anyway?  I wasn’t exactly expecting to see a regiment of soldiers marching down the street, but I was expecting something.

On a different note, it’s so nice to be watching grass court tennis again, at last … although Rafa’s being a bit vague about Wimbledon.

 

Tuesday, June 15th

Hooray!   Completely unexpectedly – I’d been waiting almost a week for an answer – I received an e-mail to say that people can work from home 2 days a week for at least the next 6 months, and hopefully indefinitely.  I still haven’t had an answer as to whether we remain WFH full time until July 19th, but I’m (optimistically) assuming so.

I didn’t expect that at all.  If this can go on long term, it really will make things a lot better.

 

Wednesday, June 16th

My October holiday to Japan’s been cancelled.  The holiday company’s pulled its entire Far Eastern programme for the rest of the year, because a lot of those booked on it are from Australia and New Zealand and therefore unlikely to be allowed out until 2022.  I wasn’t really expecting it to go, and I suppose at least now the uncertainty’s been removed, but I’m very sad at losing a second year of travel, am not sure what to do instead, and didn’t really expect to have to process this just now.

France has started vaccinating children, but we’re being told that that’s unlikely to happen here.  I take the point that the risk to kids is very low, but kids are being sent home from school because another kid in their class has tested positive, and other family members have to isolate if their kid/sibling tests positive, so it’s all a bit of a mess.

The 2021/22 football fixtures came out today.

Meanwhile, cases keep on rising.  Deaths, thankfully, don’t.

 

Thursday, June 17th

My brain really cannot deal with much more this week.  The latest is that Rafa isn’t playing either Wimbledon or the Olympics.  He’d kind of hinted at Wimbledon, but I’m surprised about the Olympics – although I do understand that it’s a lot of surfaces, travelling and time zones.  But I’m sad 😦 .

There’s renewed talk about vaccine passports to make foreign travel easier.  I’m still hoping to go abroad in the autumn – I don’t think it’s the year for long haul bucket list trips like Japan, but I would very much like to get to Italy.  Meanwhile, from having had far lower rates than Italy, Spain, France etc, we’ve now got higher rates, thanks to the people who travelled between Bolton/Blackburn and the Indian sub-continent at a time when millions of people didn’t even leave their local areas for over five months, then spread the variant around.  Some people were even boasting to the local press about how, after Pakistan was put on the red list, they were dodging quarantine by flying home via Turkey.  Israel and parts of the US have been able to scrap almost all restrictions now that so many people have been vaccinated, whereas we, with everyone over 18 now able to book vaccines and vaccination rates higher than anywhere in Europe (except Gibraltar, I think), recorded over 11,000 cases today.

And Stroppy Sturgeon has banned travel between Scotland and Manchester/Salford.  No consultation, no notice, no warning.

 

Friday, June 18th

England v Scotland tonight!   So nice to have everyone focused on something other than the pandemic.

Torrential rain down south, meaning that there was no tennis 😦 , but it was dry here, and I managed to book to go evening strawberry picking at the very lovely Kenyon Hall Farm.

Almost all Covid cases in the UK are now the bloody Delta variant.  Case numbers aren’t rising by nearly as much, but they’re still rising.  Stroppy Sturgeon has told Scots not to go to Manchester, although how she plans to enforce that is anyone’s guess.  And Italy has imposed a 5 day quarantine on visitors from the UK.  Bleurgh.

The water board have asked me to read my own meter and submit the reading online, “because of Covid”.  I have no problem doing this: I’ve been doing it for years with the gas and electricity.  But I am sick of organisations using “because of Covid” as an excuse to cut services.  “The bank/post office/library will only be opening limited hours, because of Covid.”  “It will take longer than usual to answer your call, because of Covid.”  “It may take longer than usual for your parcel to arrive, because of Covid.”  Gah!!

Come on England …

Later – FFS!  England 0-0 Scotland.  That is not the result we wanted!

 

Saturday, June 19th

Gold star for the weather for staying nice today … and please, please be nice for my Lakes week in July too.

I went to Bodnant Garden today – so pleased to be able to see the famous Laburnum Arch (photo on the left), which I missed last year because we weren’t allowed into Wales at the right time.   They’ve scrapped that ridiculous one way system which no-one could follow last year, so you just walked round as you pleased, which was much better!

Then I went into Llanrwst, and then stopped at Colwyn Bay on the way home.

It was nice to see some coaches around: domestic coach tours have resumed.  But it’s so frustrating that, after everything we’ve been through, and the success of the vaccination programme, we’re now stuck with the Indian variant.   So many of the cases are in schools that it’s hard to see how the vaccination programme can stop it from spreading: there are no plans to vaccinate schoolchildren.

Heigh-ho …

 

Sunday, June 20th

Andy Burnham has had a right go at Stroppy Sturgeon over the travel restrictions, and demanded compensation for anyone affected.

I’ve managed to set up the NHS app on my phone – which, believe me, was a lot easier said than done.  It’s such a nightmare that I know some people who’ve ended up giving up.  So, hooray, app set up, downloaded my vaccination certification … only to find that the certificates expire after 30 days.  WTF?   They have “barcodes”, which “refresh” every 30 days, “to protect your data”.  Excuse me?  Do passports expire after 30 days?  Do driving licences expire after 30 days?  Do you become unvaccinated after 30 days?  What if they expire whilst you’re somewhere with no internet connection?  I really am annoyed about this.  There’s already concern about the whole idea of “proving your status”, which does sound a bit like something out of Nazi Germany, and then they make it extremely difficult to set up the app in the first place and then have this 30 day business.  So stupid.

Went to Hollingworth Lake this morning.  Rained overnight, dry during the day.

I really do not like Nicola Sturgeon.

The road to freedom? Week 10, May 31st to June 6th 2021 inclusive

Bank Holiday, Monday, May 31st

So hot today!   Went to Hollingworth Lake early on.

 

And then, late afternoon, met up with my sister and brother-in-law and nephews, who are visiting for part of half term week 🙂 .  In between that, I watched a lot of tennis and stuck a lot of photos in albums.

Infection rates are rising in 2/3 of areas.  Unfortunately, the ones with the highest rates are nearly all in the North West.  Why is it always us?!  Vaccinations are being ramped up, but doom merchant scientists are saying that we’re on the brink of a third wave.  Why the hell were so many people allowed to travel to and from the Indian sub-continent during lockdown?   A dangerous new variant was always going to emerge somewhere, and travel was supposed to be banned unless it was essential.  I cannot believe that tens of thousands of people all *had* to travel.  OK, it’s done now, but it’s so frustrating and worrying.

Morecambe have been promoted to League 1 🙂 .

And Naomi Osaka’s withdrawn from the French Open because of this row about not wanting to speak to the media.  I’m afraid she’s handled this rather badly.  I take her point about it being difficult to cope with press conferences after a defeat, and I really do sympathise with her issues with anxiety and depression, but the media can’t just be cut out.  Where does she think the sport would be if matches weren’t televised and there was no coverage in the papers or on social media or on the radio?   If she’d raised the issue with the WTA and the ITF, maybe something could have been worked out, but one person can’t just decide not to abide by the rules and protocols.   It’s a very unfortunate situation – no-one wins from this.

 

Tuesday, June 1st

No Covid deaths reported today!   Yes, all right, all right, I know it’s been a Bank Holiday weekend, but even so.

But infection rates are sky-rocketing – dropping in Bolton now, but still over 350, and now over 100 in Salford, Bury and central Manchester.  Up by over 200% in a week in Salford, and by nearly 300% in a week in Stockport.  Why is it always us?  Well, plenty’s been said about people travelling to and from the Indian sub-continent, and other things, but saying it won’t help.

Scotland’s been split, again – some areas move to level 1, some stay in level 2, Glasgow finally moves to level 2.  I really hope Boris doesn’t split us again.  It’s horrible, and it causes a lot of resentment.  Meanwhile, Peru’s “revised” its Covid death toll, so it’s now far higher than it was, and now the highest per capita in the world.

On a happier note:

  1. Rafa beat Popyrin, 6-2 6-3 7-6 (7-3).
  2. And, as he obligingly won in straight sets, I was able to enjoy Mum and Dad’s birthday meal out – it’s Mum’s birthday today and Dad’s tomorrow, and my sister and brother-in-law and nephews are here, and my brother-in-law’s mum and dad joined us.  As the weather was nice – hottest day of the year so far! – we were able to sit outside (well, sort of outside, but the restaurant say that being in a marquee counts) so we could all sit on the same table even though there were more than 6 of us, and it was lovely.

Wednesday, June 2nd

Considering that I’m in limbo over the holiday situation and could shortly be forced back into my depressing old life of being trapped in a horrible office five days a week, I think I’m doing very well not to be completely hysterical.  Maybe it’s too hot to be hysterical …

75% of adults in the UK have now had their first jab.  And anyone over 18 in our area can now get their first jab, as we’re apparently classed as a high-risk area … which is good news in terms of getting people vaccinated, but also a bit scary.

The BBC are scrapping Holby City 😦 .

And there’s some talk going on about helping kids to make up for lost schooling, but, whatever anyone says, people moan.  Yes, kids need to catch up.  No, kids cannot possibly spend any extra time in school.

 

Thursday, June 3rd

Way too much has happened today.

  1.  I suddenly got at an e-mail from my horrible boss (we have two bosses, but this was only from one of them) demanding everyone back in the office full time on June 22nd.  Just like that.  No discussion, nothing.  I’d actually been in the office 2 hours earlier, collecting some files, and nothing had been said.  Unfortunately, unless Boris says anything, there’s nothing I can do about it.  I will ask if I can continue working from home one or two days a week, but I suspect that all I’ll get in response will be a load of abuse.  It was always going to happen eventually, but … ugh.  My mental and physical health have been so much better for being away from that place.  The thought of being trapped in there 5 days a week, and returning to the nightmare of every little thing (boiler service, new wing mirror, etc) becoming an epic trauma is horrific.
  2. About 20 minutes after this happened, I got a text from the doctors’ surgery, saying that I was now eligible for my second dose.  My first was 8 weeks ago today.  We’d been told that people over 50 were going to be asked after 8 weeks rather than 12, but nothing’d been said about people under 50: I can only assume that our area’s “surge vaccinating” and that that includes second doses.  For some bizarre reason, the appointment I got (it only offered me certain centres, and some were only doing Pfizer vaccinations) was on Sunday morning, and not at either Prestwich, Crumpsall or Cheetham Hill but at Ramsbottom … but, whatever, let’s get it done.
  3. I checked the entry requirements for Iceland.  I should have done this weeks ago, but the holiday company just kept insisting that everything was going ahead.  I’m getting really annoyed with them – they posted something on Facebook today about resuming travel from May 17th, but their website says they’ve cancelled everything up to July 15th!   Anyway, you have to be fully vaccinated, which, all being well, I now will be … but you have to take a PCR test on arrival, and quarantine for 24 hours until you get the result.  If it was 2 weeks pool and beach, maybe, but one day out of an expensive seven day sightseeing holiday just can’t be done.  And what if you got a false positive test?   What on earth would you do?   So I just don’t see how the trip can go.  I sent yet another e-mail, and was told that someone would be contacting people soon.  TBH, I think the staff are fed up with the lack of leadership from the head office.  Anyway, even if they say the trip’s going, I can’t do that.  The stupid thing is that, up to a few weeks ago, I’d accepted that I wouldn’t be going, but then I got my hopes up and started reading some of the books I bought last year, and … bleurgh.
  4. Meanwhile, Portugal has been taken off the green list.  And, despite talk that Malta, the Greek islands and the Balearics would be added to it, nothing’s been added to it.  This is because of the Nepalese mutation of the Indian variant.  Except that we’re now supposed to call it “the Delta variant”.  And I’m not sure why a Nepalese mutation is in Portugal.  But whatever.  I’m so sorry for people who’ve already booked, and so sorry for everyone who works in the travel and tourism industry.   And I’m sorry for a load of City fans ordered to self-isolate after some people on flights back from Porto tested positive.   Oh, what a to-do.

My brain is addled.  I hope Rafa’s match isn’t stressful!

 

Friday, June 4th

Rafa beat Gasquet 6-0 7-5 6-2 in the night match yesterday, and now plays Cam Norrie.

Another nice day here, but it rained in London and spoilt the cricket 😦 .

I composed a very polite e-mail asking if I could WFH one day a week …and then it turned out that vaguely reasonable boss is on holiday until Wednesday, and there’s no point asking totally unreasonable boss when he’s on his own.  FFS.

The Pfizer vaccine has been approved for use in kids aged 12-15.

And infection rates keep rising.  They’re falling in Bolton, and the Government’s harping on about how great it is that the extra support provided by the Army etc has helped to bring rates down.  But Bury, Salford, Manchester and other boroughs have asked for the same help, and the Government won’t bloody give it.  FFS.  I am SO annoyed about this.  And why’s Andy Burnham gone quiet?  More chance of getting assistance if he kicks up a stink than if it’s only local council leaders asking.

STILL no news from the holiday company.

 

Saturday, June 5th

Rafa beat Cam Norrie, 6-3 6-3 6-3.  Sinner up next … and that will be very tough.

Meanwhile, jab jab jab!   It’s like some midsummer frenzy – jab jab jab, in the heat, in the long June days, in the sunshine, jab jab jab.  Get those jabs in arms.  Considering we were supposed to have a vaccine shortage two months ago, I don’t know how we’re managing it, but we are.  It is amazing.  Pop-up vaccination centres, many open to anyone over 18, are, well, popping up, and people are turning out in droves.  Waiting in a long queue to have a needle stuck in your arm isn’t anyone’s idea of how to spend a hot sunny Saturday, but people are doing it.  Well done, everyone!

Went to Skipton this morning.  Gorgeous in the sunshine!

 

Sunday, June 6th

I have joined the ranks of the fully vaccinated!   I couldn’t believe how many people were there, at a small centre at half 8 on a Sunday morning.  All done!

Celebratory scone at The Coffee Sack afterwards.  Shame they can’t invent a vaccination to stop people putting on weight!

Unfortunately, infection rates all over the area are sky-rocketing.  The Indian variant is 40% more transmissible than the Kent variant, which in turn was far more transmissible than the original virus.  I am so, so annoyed that so many people were allowed to travel backwards and forwards between here and the Indian subcontinent at a time when no-one was meant to be going abroad, and also that the vaccination take-up in some parts of Bolton was so low until recently, allowing the variant to spread.  But it’s done now.  However, it does seem that being fully vaccinated protects against it.  It’s now looking likely that the June 21st lifting of restrictions will be delayed until July 5th.

Roger’s pulled out of the French Open.  If he were injured, I’d be very sorry, but it seems to be because he wants to save himself for Wimbledon.  I understand why, but I don’t think it’s particularly respectful.  Meanwhile, Stef v Daniil as one of the QFs.

And Harry and Meghan’s baby girl, Lilibet “Lili” Diana’s been born.  It’s great to hear that the baby and Meghan are both well, but how completely inappropriate to use the Queen’s private nickname as a name, especially after the vile way they’ve treated her.  Lili’s quite pretty, but they should have made it either Lili/Lily or Elizabeth.  But still, it’s nice to hear that the baby’s arrived safely.

And it’s hot!