The road to freedom? Week 2, April 5th to 11th 2021 inclusive

Easter Monday, April 5th

At last!!   After 7 months, I’ve seen my sister and brother-in-law and nephews.  Please, please, no more travel restrictions.  It is so hard being separated from families and friends.  At least the two boys (aged 12 and 9) are old enough to know what’s going on: I’ve heard some upsetting stories of babies getting distressed with grandparents and aunts and uncles whom they don’t recognise after the long separation.  It was a long, long day, driving down to London and back in the day, but, hooray, we’ve been reunited at last!

Water still dripping.  Fingers crossed that I can get a plumber tomorrow.

Boris has confirmed that we’ll be moving on to Stage 2 on April 12th – non-essential shops, hairdressers, outdoor attractions, self-contained overnight accommodation, gyms, outdoor hospitality, etc to reopen.  No Covid passports at this stage.  But he isn’t saying anything yet about overseas travel, or the possibility of using Covid passports in the future.  There will also be two free Covid tests for everyone in England from Friday onwards, but I doubt people’ll take them if they’re asymptomatic: people can’t afford the time off work, and horrible employers won’t pay people.

Oh, please never let us have to be separated from our families and friends again.

 

Tuesday, April 6th

Today has been an utter nightmare.  I haven’t even managed to get out for a walk – which I would have done, even in the snow which bizarrely decided to fall in April.  The first three plumbers I tried said they were too busy/working too far away to come.  The fourth one came 3 1/2 hours after I rang.  Then he said that the problem was not a leak from the bath but a corroded pipe, caused by someone not doing something properly when the house was built, and that he’d have to cut a hole in the ceiling to get at it.  So there is now a hole in the kitchen ceiling.

He sorted the leak out, but the shower got an airlock whilst the water had been off, and he couldn’t sort it out.  The shower is now working again, but he was here for over 4 hours, I am exhausted and stressed, and there is a hole in the kitchen ceiling to go with the stain, the smashed light fitting and my bruised knee.

I have had better days.

Collected two boxes of Covid lateral flow tests from the testing centre, because someone told me you could just go and get them.

All adults in the US are to be eligible for vaccination from a week on Monday.  Sadly, the same is not true here.  The number of jabs being given has plummeted worryingly.

 

Wednesday, April 7th

Northern Ireland is now offering jabs to anyone aged 45-49.  Sadly, England is not – although maybe things will improve once the Moderna rollout starts, which should be within the next few days.

The AstraZeneca vaccine isn’t going to be given to under 30s (not that anything’s being offered to under 30s ATM) because of these concerns about blood clots.

I spent ages on the phone to the insurance this morning.  They spent very hard trying to get out of paying anything at all, then told me that they’d have to send a surveyor round!  FFS.  If I was claiming tens of thousands of pounds, OK, but the surveyor’s fees’ll probably be more than the cost of the repairs.  I now have to wait for the surveyor to ring me, which he will no doubt do at a time when I can’t get to the phone.  Honestly, why is everything such hard work?!

 

Thursday, April 8th

Gah!!

  1.  The man from the insurance came, asked a load of questions, took a lot of pictures, and climbed up a ladder to look at the replacement bit of pipe (despite the fact that it was perfectly obvious which bit it was, because it’s a different colour).  However, apparently it is their policy to check all artexed ceilings for asbestos.  So I have now got an asbestos assessor coming next Monday.  FFS.
  2.  Northern Ireland is now vaccinating anyone over 40.  England, Scotland and Wales are still on anyone over 50.
  3.  The French Open has been postponed by a week, in the hope that Paris will be out of lockdown by then and fans will be allowed in.  This mucks up everyone’s preparations both for the French Open and Wimbledon, and the organisers of the grass court events which now overlap with the second week of the French Open must be hysterically upset!
  4.  I have piled weight on over Easter weekend.  A few days of eating a bit extra, and weight piles on.  Weeks of trying really hard … and weight does not come off.

I understand that the risks of fatal blood clots from the Astra Zeneca vaccine are very low, but it’s so sad to hear about the small number of people who’ve been unlucky.  One of them was from Newton-le-Willows.  As his sister said, you just think why did it have to be my loved one, out of all the tens of millions of people who’ve had that vaccination.  Very sad.

On a more positive note, there were 712 deaths involving Covid-19 in the week to 19th March (why are these figures 3 weeks behind?) in England and Wales.  Whilst that’s obviously still not good, the number was 8,945 at the peak of the second wave, so that’s a 92% drop.

And we won the first leg of our Europa League QF 2-0 – the away leg, at Granada.

 

Friday, April 9th

I’ve written a separate post here about the death of Prince Philip.  I still can’t quite take it in.

What else has happened today?  I hate to sound like a grumpy old bag, but I’ll be so glad when schools go back and I can get a drink at the park without having to wait in a stupidly long queue!  And it’s been confirmed that we will have this “traffic light” system for overseas travel, and that the  Government’s no longer advising against booking foreign travel – but, with PCR tests at £140 a time required for each person on both departure and arrival, and the red/amber/green list liable to change at any time, I’m not sure how many people’ll be going as yet.

Oh, what a strange day.  We’ve got protocols and precedents for pretty much everything, but not the death of a prince consort during a pandemic. RIP, Prince Philip.  You will be sadly missed.

 

Saturday, April 10th

The funeral – a ceremonial funeral – will be a week today, at 3pm, at Windsor.  People are trying to work out who the 30 people attending will be, which is a bit odd.  Prince Charles has spoken briefly, to pay tribute to his father and to thank people for their support.  I hope the Queen’s coping as well as can be expected.

The Grand National and other sporting events went ahead.  Real horses this year!  Sadly, I didn’t win a penny – bad choices! – but it was great to see a female jockey win for the first time in history – Rachael Blackmore, riding Minella Times.

And I’ve been to Blackpool!  I’ve seen the sea, for the first time in six months.  It being so soon after, I saw an awful lot of the sea – the tide didn’t start to go out until after midday.  I’m afraid that I sinned and had both ice cream and fish and chips, like I’m not fat enough, but … well, first time at the seaside in six months!

 

Sunday, April 11th

In the middle of April, and a day before outdoor seating at pubs, cafes and restaurants reopens, we woke up to over an inch of snow!  Snow in March isn’t unusual, but it’s the second weekend in April!  Thankfully, the roads were clear, but it took me a while to clear my car, and I don’t suppose being snowed on has done my plants an awful lot of good.

Having removed the snow, I went to Speke Hall.  No snow in Liverpool!  It disappeared somewhere between Salford and Warrington.  The Hall itself is closed, and some parts of the estate are closed off, but most of it’s open.  It’s the first time I’ve been to Liverpool in ages!

The daffodils at Speke always come early, and some are dying off now.  But the bluebells are out.  And so the year goes on.

Later, I found some bluebells in the Flower Park.

I’ll have a look in the woods at Heaton Park next week.  Between the plumbing traumas and the long queues at the cafes due to school holidays (sorry for being a grumpy old biddy, but I’ll be glad when schools go back tomorrow!!), I haven’t had chance this week.

Prince Andrew’s said that the Queen’s spoken of “a huge void in her life”.   It’s always sad when someone goes, but Prince Philip had lived a long and full life, and, thankfully, didn’t have to suffer a painful illness or the loss of his faculties.   It’s more the people who are left behind … my heart goes out to the Queen.

Back with pandemic news, over half a million jabs a day are being given, but around 80% of them are second doses, and nothing at all’s been said about when England might move on to over 40s.  So frustrating.  But the infection rate across Greater Manchester is down to around 50 per 100,000, and the average across England is around 30 per 100,000.  When you think that, three months ago, some areas were recording rates of over 1,500 per 100,000, we’ve come a long way.

And, after going behind at Spurs, we won 3-1!

 

Lockdown III Week 7, February 15th to 21st 2021 inclusive

Monday, February 15th

Hooray, Rafa beat Fabio, and in straight sets 🙂 .  A very tough looking QF against Stef Tsitsipas now awaits.

Depending on what you read, eating places will be reopening in March/May/not until August, hotels will be reopening in time for Easter weekend/in time for Whit Bank Holiday weekend/not until August, and all schoolkids/some schoolkids will be going back to school on March 8th.  Very little is being said about these bloody travel restrictions.

The quarantine hotel system began today.  People using it have to fly into either London Heathrow, London Gatwick, London City, Farnborough or Birmingham.  Yes, you did see “London” three times in the list of five.  No, you did not see any mention of Manchester, the biggest international travel hub in the country after Heathrow, nor, indeed, of anywhere else in the entire North of England.  And how many international flights go into Farnborough?!   FFS.

The issue of people from certain ethnic minorities not taking up the offer of the vaccine is getting really problematic.  Leicester Hospital Trust’s said that only 36.9% of black staff members, and only 43.2% of staff members with Pakistani or Bangladeshi heritage, have taken up the offer of the vaccine.  The numbers of white staff members and staff members with Indian heritage who’ve been vaccinated are way, way higher.  And this is amongst healthcare workers, who are presumably very well educated about the virus and the vaccine.  I don’t think anyone foresaw this problem, but it could throw quite a spanner in the works.  Big efforts are being made to convince people from ethnic minority groups to be vaccinated, but they don’t seem to be working.

And the weather has perked up.  And this is the first week in months that it’ll be light enough for me to sit in the flower park with my weekly frozen yoghurt.  I normally go on Tuesdays, but tomorrow’s Pancake Day and I’m fat enough without having frozen yoghurt (even if it is fat free) and pancakes on the same day.

 

Tuesday, February 16th

My sister had her first jab today, which is good news! She’s only 43, but classes as clinically vulnerable because she’s borderline diabetic.  Goodness only knows when I’ll get done.  Obviously I don’t expect to be given priority over clinically vulnerable people or frontline workers, but the waiting’s very frustrating.

The latest polls show that 89% of people intend to be vaccinated, but there is this concern over the low take-up amongst some ethnic minority groups.  It’s been announced that a character in Emmerdale is going to be vaccinated, and I would assume other soap operas will do the same: it’s only a soap storyline, but a cast member who is from an ethnic minority group’s criticised the scriptwriters for “pushing” the vaccine and said that no-one should be forced to have something that’s “experimental”.  I don’t think anyone foresaw this issue arising, and it’s worrying.

Also, there’s another mutant version of the virus on the loose.  And the mutant of the Kent mutant has now appeared in Moston and Harpurhey, which is very close to home.

The Pancake Day football match in Atherstone, Warwickshire, which dates back 821 years, 15 years before the signing of the Magna Carta, has had to be cancelled, for the first time ever.  It carried on through plague, failed harvests, the Civil War, Cromwell’s repression and both World Wars, but was cancelled by bloody Covid-19.  That really upset me, for some reason.

However, it’s been a lovely, sunny, springlike day, and there was quite a holiday atmosphere in the park, with kids off school for half term.  The youngest age groups in Scotland are to go back to school next week.

Awful day at the tennis, though!  Sascha had so many chances … he should have won every set, but Nole won 3 of 4 … and now plays Karatsev, who beat Grisha, who was injured.  I’d love to think that Karatsev could beat Nole, but it so isn’t happening.   Meanwhile, Rafa’s got to play Stef, and, if he beats him, probably Medvedev.

Finally, another 1.7 million people are to be told to shield.  I quite appreciate that, when the pandemic started, no-one knew that certain conditions/factors made people more vulnerable, but it seems a bit late now.  Anyone in this group will be prioritised for vaccination … although a lot of them are in the groups vaccinated already, so they’re going from the hope of getting their lives back to some sort of normal to being told not to go out.

I have these moments of joy, because spring’s coming, and it’s so precious … my favourite season, daffodils and lambs and trips to the Lakes, to Chirk, to Bolton Abbey, to Biddulph Grange, etc.  Then it hits me, all over again, that, because of the bloody travel restrictions, it won’t be happening.  For a second year in a row.

 

Wednesday, February 17th

Why does the Australian Open always break my heart?  Well, practically always.  I wasn’t expecting miracles, after Rafa had so little match practice beforehand, but he was 2 sets to love up on Stef, came so close to winning it in 3 … and lost it in 5.  I am very sad 😦 .

Nice weather again.  The park’s been very busy all week, because of school half term.  This is the problem – in densely-populated urban areas, there are very few places to go during lockdown, so everyone ends up in the same place.  Some crocuses are coming through, but no daffodils yet.

There are all sorts of rumours about which restrictions will and won’t be lifted when.  I’m trying to ignore them.  We just don’t know, and getting upset over speculation doesn’t help.

On and on and on … when will this nightmare ever end?

 

Thursday, February 18th

United won 4-0 away to Real Sociedad … in Turin. 4-0!   Good start to the Europa League 🙂 .

The National League North and South seasons’ve been declared null and void 😦 .

Serena just can’t get this 24th Grand Slam title … she lost to Naomi, who now plays Jennifer Brady in the final.  Karatsev put up a decent fight, but was never going to beat Nole.  Fans back in today.

Northern Ireland’s lockdown’s been extended until April 1st.  But schools are to reopen for some academic years on March 8th.  There hasn’t even been an announcement about schools reopening in England yet, but whingeing teaching unions are already objecting to everything.  All this talk about reopening, but when will these evil travel restrictions be lifted?  People in Northern Ireland are to be allowed to meet up outdoors in groups of 10 from March 8th, but that’s not a lot of use unless all your relatives and friends live nearby.    There are now clear signs of infections falling in the older age groups, and over 30% of the population’s now had their first jab, so progress is being made, but we cannot carry on with these restrictions indefinitely.

 

Friday, February 19th

Bleurgh, I am totally fed up.  WHY are infection rates not dropping here as quickly as they are everywhere else?  After the Kent variant took off, we had rates well below average, but now they’re dropping rapidly in most places, especially the south, but not here.  WHY?  We have been under extra restrictions since bloody July.  There are various theories:

  1. Population density.  This makes some sense.  Obviously it should apply to London too, but it seems likely that a lot of people in London contracted the virus in early 2020, before either lockdown or mass testing, and therefore had antibodies, and also that London was further along on the “curve” when things reopened in July.
  2. More people at work … not necessarily essential workers, but people who can’t work from home.  There are a lot more blue collar workers in the North and Midlands than in the South.  Also, a lot of offices are open when they shouldn’t be.
  3.  Multi-generational housing/overcrowding … this may well be an issue, but the areas currently worst affected aren’t those where the occurrence of this is highest.  Having said which, it’s noticeable that the area least affected is Trafford, which includes the wealthiest parts of the conurbation.
  4.  Linked to point 1 ), a “reservoir of infection” … sounds vague, but kind of makes sense.
  5.  Issues related to particular ethnic/religious groups, who have been particularly badly hit.

If the f***ing tier system’s brought back, we’re knackered.  And it doesn’t work, anyway.  Nothing seems to work.  The Mayor of Preston’s suggested that the worst-hit areas should be prioritised for vaccination.  It’s a very sensible suggestion.

Nothing seems to bring my weight down, either.

There’s some talk of everyone in their 40s being vaccinated as soon as people in their 50s have been done.  The JCVI want to keep going down by age brackets.  But selfish teaching unions may pressurise the authorities into taking a different route.

The lockdown in Wales has been extended for another 3 weeks.

I hope Prince Philip’s OK.  He’s to remain in hospital until next week.

The second Aussie Open SF was, sadly, a bit of a damp squib … so frustrating that Stef, having beaten Rafa, lost rather tamely to Daniil.

Weather cold and windy.

I really am fed up.   We’ve had 11 months of this.  I want to see my sister and bro-in-law and the kids.  I want to go to the Lake District.  I want to go on holiday.  I want to go to Old Trafford.   I’d quite like just to go into town.  Some days, I can Keep Calm and Carry On.  Some days, I just want to kick and scream!

 

Saturday, February 20th

Thoroughly fed up.  The borough of Bury now has the 20th highest rate in the country.  Bolton’s got the 10th highest rate in the country, but at least rates there are coming down.  Tameside’s seen the biggest week-on-week increase in the country.  WHY is our area being hit so hard by this?  Nearly all the areas down south which had rates way above ours in late December have now got rates well below ours.  Why won’t ours come down?

Also, every time I lose a few pounds, they go straight back on.  What am I meant to do, starve?  I look like a Great Fat Hair Monster.

And I’d intended to go to Hollingworth Lake after the Aussie Open ladies’ singles final – which saw Naomi Osaka beat Jennifer Brady – but, due to miserable weather, just went to the park, again.

Bleurgh.

Bleurgh indeed.

Why is our area being so badly affected?

Also very concerned about Prince Philip.  Prince Charles went to visit him today, and visitors aren’t generally being allowed.

 

Sunday, February 21st

Boris says that all adults in the UK should have been offered a vaccination by the end of July.  Let’s hope so!  Vaccinations are the only way out of this – we thought last summer that maybe we could live with it, but then it came roaring back with a vengeance.

Israel’s reopened hotels, gyms, zoos, museums, etc … but only to people who’ve been vaccinated.  To be fair, I think most adults there have now been offered a vaccination, but it’s incredibly hard on those who want to be vaccinated but haven’t been called yet.

The Aussie Open final was a damp squib.  Bah.  Daniil put up a fight in the first set, but Nole took it 7-5, and then broke back after Daniil had led in the 2nd set, and it was one way traffic after that.  Better news with United beating Newcastle, 3-1, but City are running away with it.

Today has been a better day.  The weather was better, and I went to Hollingworth Lake and it really helped just to get a little way away from home.  I love the park and the local takeaway cafes, but I really am feeling trapped.  And I had a terrible day yesterday.  Everyone’s having bad days, and all you can say to people is to try to move on and hope that the next day will be better, but that doesn’t work for me because of The Scales.  The main reason I was so upset was because, after my weight had stayed the same for a few days, I’d somehow put on 3lbs between Friday and my official weigh day on Saturday.  That on top of everything else triggered the worst compulsive eating binge I’d had in ages, and, because The Scales love to kick you when you’re down, of course I’d put on another lb today.  So I can’t move on.  It’s hard enough to lose 1lb, never mind 4.  I’m struggling with OCD issues as well … it’s hard to control anything when you’re trapped like this, and all the things you normally do to cope are banned.   And it’s hard to feel positive when rates are rising here even though they’re falling practically everywhere else.  You feel bad for moaning, but a lot of people are struggling.

Boris is making his big announcement tomorrow.  I feel sorry for him: whatever he says, people will moan.  But we can’t go on like this.

No daffodils at Hollingworth Lake yet, but there were crocuses.

We know that the risk of transmission outdoors is low.  Lift these horrible travel restrictions.  Please.

Lockdown III Week 6, February 8th to 14th 2021 inclusive

Monday, February 8th

Hooray, the Australian Open has started.  My sleep patterns are being disrupted and I am totally stressed out about Rafa’s injury problems.  This is normal.  Hooray – something is normal!  Cracking match between Denis Shapovalov and Jannik Sinner.  Just such a shame that they had to meet in the first round.

It’s wonderful to see crowds in … but, although it’d been agreed that 30% of tickets could be sold, the place didn’t look anything like 30% full.  That suggests that people are nervous.

Due to the Australian Open, I went to Tesco this evening (in a snow shower!), rather than going tomorrow morning.  The store has been “revamped”.  Everything has been moved round, in a completely illogical way.  Neither customers nor staff know where anything is.  Some marketing consultants in London have no doubt been paid a fortune for deciding that cordial/squash should be put at the opposite end of the shop to all the other soft drinks, and that the shelves where it used to be should now contain toilet roll instead.  Why?  Why??

The studies regarding the “South African variant” are only small-scale, but it does look as if the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine, and probably the Janssen/Johnson & Johnson and Novavax vaccines too, are less effective against it than against other strains.  They’ll still protect against serious illness, which is the main thing, but not against mild illness.  And, even if the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine’s OK against this, the horrible virus seems to be so clever that it’ll probably mutate in a way that’ll outsmart that too.  Viruses do mutate, and vaccines can be tweaked, but doom merchants are saying that the “South African variant” will take over the UK and probably the world, and that we’ll be in lockdown until the summer/2022/the end of time.  The Government’s telling everyone to stay calm, but it’s certainly worrying news.  Every time we seem to be getting towards the finishing line in this pandemic, something else happens.

City and Liverpool have both got to play their away legs against German teams in Budapest, as the German authorities won’t let any British teams in.  My holiday company have cancelled everything up to and including the end of April now.  Matt Hancock had been talking about a “Great British Summer”, but now both he and Jonathan Van-Tam are saying that it’s too soon to talk even about staycations.

Later – oh, FFS.  Not only are 7 of the 10 local boroughs now above the national average infection rate, but now there’s a Moss Side Mutant.  It’s a mutant of the Kent mutant.  Only 4 cases, but “surge testing” is starting in Moss Side and neighbouring areas.  First Liverpool and Bristol, now Manchester 😦 .  I assume that mutations are happening in other countries too, and it’s just that we’re doing extra genomic sequencing (or whatever the correct term is) here, and being honest about it?   But, just a few days ago, optimism was rising, because the vaccination rollout was going so well, and now … snakes and ladders, and we seem to have gone down another snake.

 

Tuesday, February 9th

I should be getting ready to board a crowded tram and head off to Old Trafford, to watch United v West Ham in the Cup along with 78,000 other people.  Instead, I’ll be watching it on the telly.  Oh well.

After all the stress over Rafa’s bad back, he beat Djere in straight sets 🙂 .  It’s a very tough draw, with both Tsitsipas and Medvedev looking very strong today, but one match at a time.

More snow fell overnight, but it’s gone now.

And, in virus news, people returning from “red list” countries will now have to pay £1,750 to stay in a quarantine hotel, and face fines of up to £10,000 and even a jail sentence if they break the rules.  Having said which, a woman’s told the papers how, on returning to London after visiting her mother in South Africa, she was able to walk out of Heathrow airport without being asked for either her passenger locator form or her proof of a negative virus test.  Not very good, is it?

Travelling is so, so important to me, and I’ve been fortunate enough to go to so many wonderful places.  I’ve got photos all over the house of me at the Taj Mahal, Macchu Pichu, Gettysburg, Red Square, Tiananmen Square, Table Mountain, the Pyramids, the Mount of Olives, the Venice Carnival (sadly cancelled this year, again), a glacier on the Jungfrau, etc etc.  When I got back from the Viennese Christmas markets in December 2019, I started to get excited about my planned trips to Iceland for July 2020 and Japan for October 2020, buying guidebooks and history books and historical novels, and learning some basic Icelandic words and phrases.  This is my life … and now it isn’t.  For the last four months, I haven’t even been able to go on a day trip to Blackpool.  I hate not being able to go to the Lakes.  I haven’t seen my sister and brother-in-law and nephews since August.  I haven’t been to a football match since last March.  I haven’t been to the theatre or the cinema since last February.  I haven’t even sat in a café since October.  Yet I’m chained to the office computers for the best part of five days a week, and I’ve still got all the housework to do.  I know I’m moaning, but I think we’re all entitled to moan.

Our Europa League match at Real Sociedad has been moved to Turin, and Arsenal’s at Benfica has been moved to Rome.  Italy will exempt professional sports players from quarantine.  As flights from Portugal to the UK are currently suspended, Arsenal’s “home” leg will be played in Athens.  This is getting a bit barmy.

To finish on a happy note, Princess Eugenie’s given birth to a baby boy 🙂 .  Mother and son both doing well 🙂 .

Later – hooray, we’re into the Cup QFs, after beating West Ham 1-0.  Dire match, and it went to extra time, but never mind!

 

Wednesday, February 10th

More snow today, but, thankfully, it hasn’t stuck.  Chelsea’s match at Atletico Madrid has been moved to Bucharest.  Moving football matches is one thing, but Jurgen Klopp’s been told that he can’t go to Germany to attend his mum’s funeral.  I understand that the virus doesn’t care what your reasons for travelling are, but it seems so cruel.

Having been told that by Matt Hancock and Boris that we could look forward to a “Great British Summer”, we’ve now been told by Grant Shapps and Jonathan Van-Tam that no-one should be booking anything.  One MP’s accused Shapps of killing people’s hope.  That’s exactly how it feels.  Morale is pretty low.   And there’s more and more talk about “vaccine passports” – Israel is going to let people who’ve been vaccinated back into hotels and gyms, and some countries are saying that they’ll admit tourists who’ve been vaccinated – which is very demoralising if you’re not in one of the priority groups.

Prince Charles and Camilla have had their first vaccinations.  The WHO’s backed the use of the Oxford AstraZeneca jab.  Serbia’s bought vaccines from Russia and China, and is now steaming ahead of the EU countries.

And I am fat.

 

Thursday, February 11th

Hooray, comfortable win for Rafa over Michael Mmoh.  He now plays Cam Norrie.  It does stress me out when he plays British players: I feel like I’m about to be carted off to the Tower of London for treason for wanting the Brit to lose, LOL.

Very cold today, but very sunny too.  The lake in the park looked amazing, frozen over and with yesterday’s snow still on it, and you could see Saddleworth Moor (photo on the right) and Kinder Scout (left), both covered in snow.

But, lovely as it was, it was so frustrating, because we can’t go anywhere.  Windermere must have looked glorious today.  This is dragging on and on, and tempers are fraying.  We were told that we’d get some news on the “roadmap” out of lockdown on February 22nd.  Now we’re being told “the week of February 22nd” – which could mean February 28th!  I feel very sorry for Boris.  If he doesn’t do as the scientists say, and death rates go up again, everyone will be yelling and screaming that he’s got blood on his hands and it’s all his fault for not doing as the scientists say.  But the scientists want us locked down indefinitely.  Their view seems to be that lockdown should continue until infection rates come right down.

And it’s not happening.  Rates here are plateauing.  They’re actually going up in Bolton, due to a spike in Horwich.  We’ve been told that the vaccination programme, as well as it’s going, is having no effect on infection rates as yet.  Yes, I know that it’s supposed to take three weeks before the first vaccine dose offers any protection, but a lot of infections are amongst younger people, the ones most likely to be out and about, and it’s going to be late summer before younger people get their first jab.

The scientists also say that viruses don’t go by the calendar, so giving dates for reopening is inappropriate.  And, fair point, viruses don’t go by the calendar.  But how long are we going to keep businesses shut, the state paying people’s wages, tourist resorts’ economies going down the pan, and kids out of school?  Not to mention the mental health impact.  There’s going to come a time where people start asking what the hell the point of all this is, if we’re not being given any idea of how and when we move forward.

I really do feel sorry for Boris.  It’s just an impossible situation.

 

Friday, February 12th

Chinese New Year.  Hmm.

Oh no!!   13 cases of the wretched virus have been identified in Melbourne, all linked to a quarantine hotel.  So the state of Victoria is back in lockdown.  The tennis can continue, but behind closed doors.  What a rotten shame, after 5 lovely days (crowds were allowed in today) of having fans back in.  Well, nearly 5 days – people were booted out in the middle of the Djokovic v Thiem match, because it was getting towards midnight.  Like some bizarre version of Cinderella.

The R number nationwide is now below 1, but cases are rising in Bolton, and are now starting to rise in the borough of Bury … still down week-on-week, but up on earlier this week.  Officials in Bolton say that it’s mainly amongst people of working age, which makes sense. – and the same thing’s happening in Liverpool.  Some jobs cannot be done from home, and that applies far more in the North West than in, say, London.  And some workplaces are open when they jolly well shouldn’t be.  Sometimes, however hard you try, you can’t reduce the risk entirely.  And some places just aren’t bothering about Covid safety: the authorities can hardly inspect every small workplace, and people are frightened to speak up because there’s so little job security at the moment.  And places that are open when people could be working from home are hardly likely to prioritise safety anyway.  It’s a huge problem.  Vaccination is not going to stop this until younger people have been vaccinated.  If the bloody tier system is brought back, what happens to us then?

Lots of groups are demanding priority for vaccination.  Teachers.  Firefighters.  Shop staff.  Public transport drivers.  They’ve all got a very valid case, but it’s just not possible to prioritise everyone.  London police (it would be the London police) are now threatening legal action, like teaching unions did.  FFS, we need to be working together here, not threatening legal action.

And the economy shrank by nearly 10% last year.

Still cold and sunny.

 

Saturday, February 13th

Rafa beat Cam Norrie (I do hate it when he plays British players – I end up feeling like I’m about to be carted off to the Tower of London for high treason) 🙂 … but now plays Fabio, against whom he does tend to struggle.

I was very glad to have the tennis to watch because, otherwise, I’d have got very upset over the fact that a sunny Saturday in mid-February would have been the perfect day on which to see the snowdrops at Chirk Castle.  Boris is supposed to be coming up with this “road map” on February  22nd, but heaven knows when travel restrictions will be lifted.  If he reintroduces the bloody tier system, I’m going to stage a revolution …. if Andy Burnham doesn’t beat me to it.   I don’t feel too bad, but I know that my anxiety levels are high because I’m getting a lot of anxiety pains and I’m crying over things which wouldn’t normally get to me.  Several friends have said that they’re finding things very hard.  And there’s nothing that anyone can do.  There are all these “lockdown tips” about meditation or yoga or whatever.  I do not need to meditate.  I need to see my sister and brother-in-law and the kids, and my uncle and cousins, and I need to go to the Lake District.

I was hoping that, today, I might actually get some time to read, catch up on the TV backlog, and sort out photos … but I ended up spending ages on the phone to Sky, who’d messed up my bill for the second time in three months, and ages throwing warm water over the boiler condenser pipe. which, despite having insulation stuff on it to stop it freezing, had, er, frozen.  It was quite satisfying when a huge lump of ice shot out of it.  But it was a terrible waste of time.  And water.

Both Matt Hancock and Boris have said that we’re going to have to learn to live with Covid, but the scientists are saying that we need to eliminate it entirely.  I think they want us locked up for ever more.   The economy, people’s mental health and children’s education can’t take much more.  There’s going to be a load more moaning when tax allowances are frozen in the Budget, but the money for the furlough scheme and the small business grants has got to come from somewhere.   I actually saw one ridiculous article saying that we should just print more money!  What, like the Weimar Republic did?  What rubbish.

Tennis and football tomorrow.  The Six Nations is going on too, and the cricket.  So glad that we’ve got sport to focus on!

 

Sunday, February 14th

As hoped, 15 million people in the UK have now received their first jab.  Pretty much everyone in the top four groups has been offered a jab.   Good news!

63 Tory MPs have said that all restrictions should be lifted by May.  That’s going too far – we can’t have hordes of unvaccinated people packed into nightclubs, or 500 guests at weddings – but we really cannot go on like this.  Public opinion hasn’t turned against the lockdown yet, but we do need this “road map” out of it.   I know it’s an impossible situation, but education, employment and mental health are all becoming serious concerns.

One of our local councillors rang me today.  They are apparently concerned about how people are coping in these difficult times, and want to make sure that people are OK and ask if they need any help.  It’s eleven months since we first went into lockdown, and now, just as elections are coming up, councillors are concerned about people … funny, that!   We had quite a nice chat, though.

My weight is a disaster.  2lbs off.  Hooray!  2lbs straight back on.  WHY??!!

The Premier League is also turning into a disaster: we only managed a 1-1 draw at West Brom.  Not a great day in Melbourne either: much as I like to see Grisha (Dimitrov) doing well, I would rather he hadn’t thrashed Dominic (Thiem), because Dominic was the one with the best chance of beating Nole.  Sascha Zverev, over to you.  Rafa and Fabio have got a day match tomorrow, so I’ve set the alarm for stupid o’clock!

The WHO team in Wuhan don’t seem to be getting very far with getting information.  Will we ever find out how this nightmare started?

On a happier note, Prince Harry and Meghan are expecting another baby.

Six weeks of Lockdown III.

 

Upside Down

  Thanks to the accursed virus, fans had to be thrown out of today’s night session at the Australian Open in the middle of the 4th set of Djokovic v Fritz, before the clock struck midnight.  It was like a very strange version of Cinderella.  Also, the River Thames has frozen over for the first time in 60 years, the Austrian Tyrol is now the worst coronavirus hotspot in Central Europe, United’s match at Real Sociedad of San Sebastian has been moved to Turin, and we’ve been promised a new Downton Abbey film as long as everyone gets vaccinated.  I’d love to think that all anti-vaxxers are keen Downton Abbey fans and that this will make them see the error of their ways, but sadly I fear not: however, hey, it’s worth a try.   These are very strange times.  I’m just waiting for someone to tell me that they’ve seen a weird light in the sky and that their neighbour’s cow’s given birth to a three-headed calf.

Meanwhile, my life has become so predictable that I’m starting to feel like one of the Ena Sharples gang in the early days of Coronation Street, always sitting in the snug of the Rovers and never drinking anything other than milk stout.  Except that the pubs are closed.  Further to last week’s scone trauma, when the cafe had run out of scones by 11am, I decided that I would go and get a scone today, to be eaten tomorrow, to get round the problem of the Australian Open committee having inconsiderately given Rafa and Cam the second night match with absolutely no thought as to when I was going to go and get my scone without the worry of the cafe having run out of them again.

So I went in, and, because the guy knows that, since the start of Lockdown III, I always go in on a Saturday morning, he asked if I’d be coming in tomorrow, and said that, if so, he could always put a scone on one side for me.  So I explained that I wouldn’t be coming in tomorrow because I didn’t know what time the tennis would finish.  I’m not sure what’s more weird, the fact that the scone trauma had such an impact on the guy that he offered to put a scone aside (bless) or the fact that I saw fit to explain in a café that I couldn’t leave the house during Rafa’s match.

On top of that, because everyone seems to go for their walk in the park at the same time every day, and I was a bit later than usual due to the tennis, I passed someone I barely know and they said “Ooh, you’re late today”.

My life has never been very exciting, but I have my moments.  The house is full of pictures of me at Machu Picchu, the Taj Mahal, the Kremlin, the Pyramids, Tiananmen Square, the Venice Carnival, etc.  Now, people notice if I’m walking to the local park a few minutes later than usual.   I’ve even started going to the same checkout every time I go to Tesco, because it’s usually staffed by a very smiley lady who always chats away and cheers me up!

In case anyone’s reading this, just to clarify the points above 🙂 :

  1.  For five wonderful days, fans have been allowed into the Australian Open.  It’s been wonderful hearing the noise of a real crowd again.  But, sadly, there have been some cases of the virus in Melbourne, and so the state of Victoria has been put into lockdown for a week.  Everyone was supposed to be home at midnight, so the crowd had to be thrown out in the middle of the match.  It was very strange.  This wretched bloody virus.  But thank you to the authorities for allowing the tournament to continue.
  2.  Due to travel restrictions, English football clubs cannot travel to Spain, Germany or Portugal for the next round of Champions League/Europa League matches, and Portuguese clubs cannot travel to England.  So United’s match in Spain (the Spanish Basque country) has been moved to Italy, Arsenal’s match in Portugal has been moved to Italy, Arsenal’s home match against a Portuguese club has been moved to Greece, Liverpool and city’s matches in Germany have been moved to Hungary, and Chelsea’s match in Spain has been moved to Romania.  Everyone with that?  Good.
  3.  Hugh Bonneville has said that there’ll be a second Downton Abbey film once everyone who’s been offered a vaccination has had a vaccination.
  4.  Tyrol (excluding East Tyrol, which is geographically separate), which has played an important role in my life as the setting for the early Chalet School books, has sadly been hit by an outbreak of the South African variant of the virus.  No-one’s allowed out of the province unless they’ve had a negative virus test within the last 48 hours, and no-one’s allowed to cross from Tyrol into Germany at all.

The world is upside down.  That’s also a bad pun to do with the Australian Open.

If anyone’s actually read all that, thank you.  Writing is helping me to cling on to what bit of sanity I’ve got left 🙂 .  Stay safe x .

 

 

 

 

Lockdown III Week 4, January 25th to 31st 2021 inclusive

 

Monday, January 25th

Boris says that all adults in the UK will have been offered a first dose of the vaccine “by the autumn”.  What does that mean?  The beginning of September?  Or later?

Pressure’s growing for answers on when schools might reopen, but the Government just can’t answer that.  Data out today shows that teachers haven’t been affected any more than the population in general, but I doubt that that’ll stop the teaching unions from moaning.  Male factory workers are, sadly, most likely to have died from the virus.

Israel’s banning all international flights for a fortnight.  There’s talk of doing that here, or of using quarantine hotels like Australia’s doing.  I don’t understand why so many people are travelling.  There’ve been pictures of long queues at Heathrow.  The people in them weren’t in uniform, so they clearly weren’t airline crew staffing cargo flights.  And don’t tell me that they were all travelling for “essential work” purposes.  Some of them were kids!   Some people are being fined for driving 20 miles from Preston to Bolton and yet others are jetting off on holiday.  It’s not on.  How do they get away with it.

All Debenhams shops are to close permanently, although the “brand” has been taken over and will continue online.

On a happier note, more mass vaccination centres have opened, including one at the Blackpool Winter Gardens and one on Lancaster Cathedral.

More snow overnight.   Luckily, most of it’s melted now.  It looked very pretty under the blue sky, but I need to get to Tesco and M&S tomorrow!

And we really are terribly well-behaved in this country 🙂 .  There’ve been riots in the Netherlands, after the Dutch government announced new restrictions!

 

Tuesday, January 26th

The UK death toll from the pandemic passed 100,000 today.  We’ll never know the real death toll.  There’ll be people in the “official” figures who died of other things but had tested positive for the virus within 28 days.  There’ll be people who died of the virus but hadn’t had a test within 28 days, or (in the early days) at all.  There’ll be deaths caused indirectly by the virus – treatment for other conditions delayed, or, especially amongst elderly people in care homes, not allowed visitors, mental deterioration leading to physical deterioration.  But, comparing the expected/average death figures since the pandemic started with the actual death figures, 100,000’s probably about right.  A hundred thousand people.  All leaving behind devastated relatives and friends.

To put it into additional perspective, around 40,000 people were killed in the Blitz.

I actually cried when Sky News said 100,000.  We knew it’d be today, but the number just hit me.  A hundred thousand people.

I’m never sure how reliable the various figures are (I don’t believe any of the statistics that’ve come out of Russia, China or Iran), and I know that every country’s recording virus deaths differently, but some figures for deaths per million people, on what seems to be a reliable website, are – Belgium 1812, Slovenia 1618, UK 1474, Czech Republic 1448, Italy 1424, Bosnia-Herzegovina 1391, USA 1277, Peru 1218, Spain 1194, France 1082, Sweden 1070, Brazil 1031, the Netherlands 777, Germany 639, Rep of Ireland 602, India 112, Australia 25, New Zealand 5.

The political points-scorers are busily blaming Boris.  And, yes, mistakes have been made.  We should have closed our borders last February.  We should have locked down earlier.  But we weren’t that far after a lot of other countries.  Maybe we reopened too early.  But then so did a lot of other countries.  The second wave hit Spain long before it hit us.  And Sweden never really locked down at all.  Lockdown issues have certainly played a part.  But there has to be other stuff going on too.  The obvious answer is that it’s to do with population density, and concentration of population in urban centres.  Other demographic issues may also be involved – age, ethnicity.  Could occupations be a factor?  And travel? –  a lot of people pass through London, in particular, and a lot of people use crowded public transport to get to work.  Other health issues? – to do with demographics, climate, diet? I don’t know.  But someone needs to find out.

We need to know why the UK has been so badly hit.  And we, in the North, and especially in the North West, need to know why our region has been so badly hit.

Further to the Snapfish saga, they have, at the third attempt, managed to print the order correctly.  However, they sent it in two different envelopes (they often do this, I know not why) and only one has arrived.  They do occasionally get separated in the post and arrive on different days, so I’m just hoping that the rest turn up tomorrow.

The car was iced up so badly when I went out (to go to Tesco and M&S) this morning that I couldn’t even open the doors until I’d cleared the ice.  Later, it warmed up a bit, but poured down.  No-one is feeling great at the moment.  Cold rain does not help.

And, on a happier note, my brother-in-law’s mum and dad (in the 70-74 age group) both had their first doses of the vaccine today.

 

Wednesday, January 27th

Oh FFS.  City won last night, to take top spot ahead of us.  Tonight, we were playing Sheffield United who, with all due respect to them, had only won one match all season … until tonight, when they beat us 2-1.  Bloody hellfire 😦 .

No update on any sort of plan even to begin easing restrictions until the end of February.  And schools won’t reopen until March 8th at the earliest.  And then it’ll be, hey, a few rural areas, off you go, and to hell with other areas.  What is to be done to help kids in the worst-affected areas?   There’s been some talk of cancelling the summer holidays, but there’s no way teachers’ll agree to that.  And WHEN will we be able to travel even within the UK?

A few examples of infection rates (which I know aren’t the only factors involved, but we don’t get breakdowns by area of the other stats:

Knowsley 882, Sandwell 808, Slough 753, Brent 677, Birmingham 597

Hyndburn 568, Carlisle 544, Norwich 465, Southampton 404

Manchester central 356, Bristol 331, Bury 316, Leeds 294, Sheffield 240, Newcastle 238

… and then right down to NE Lincs on 100, and Torridge (Devon) 51

 

There are all sorts of rows going on over vaccine supplies.  Pfizer/BioNTech and AstraZeneca are both struggling to meet existing orders.  I’m sure they’re doing their best, but Germany’s threatening to stop Pfizer exports and Italy’s threatening to sue.  The EU is trying to control all member states by imposing some sort of joint vaccine supply programme, although Hungary (good for Hungary!) has gone its own way and ordered supplies from Russia.  The EU also seems to think that its orders should be prioritised over everyone else’s.  Their deal with Astra Zeneca wasn’t made until three months after the UK’s, but, a bit like Verruca Salt in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, they are stamping their feet and screaming “I want it now” (well, not quite, but not far off).  Talk about selfish and petulant.  And vaccine supplies to North West England, and other parts of the North, are to be reduced by a third, and supplies diverted to London, which is running behind.

Quarantine hotels are to be brought in, but only for people entering from certain countries.  Oh FFS.  It takes weeks and weeks before mutant strains are identified.  For all we know, mutant strains could currently be on the loose in France or Germany or Outer Mongolia or anywhere.  And why are so many people travelling anyway?

On the positive side, the rest of my Snapfish order has arrived.  And one of the park cafes has said that they’re introducing a 20% discount for regulars, which I class as!  And it’s been dry, and a lot warmer than usual.

Theoretically, things should feel better once we get more daylight and warmer weather.  And yet then it’ll hurt even more, because then I’ll be missing things.  I should be going to Rode Hall for the snowdrop walks next week.  Then to see the snowdrops at Chirk Castle, my pre-birthday treat.  And maybe to Rufford Old Hall and Arley Hall.  Then to Bettys in Ilkley, to see the Easter eggs and cakes.  Then into daffodil season – first Chirk, then Biddulph Grange, and then, most importantly of all, the Lakes.  Then the lambs, at Tatton Park and Bolton Abbey.  Then into bluebell season, Capesthorne Hall and Erddig and the Windermere west shore.  Will I get to do any of that?  The virtue signallers make you feel guilty for saying things like that, but more and more people are saying that they’re struggling.

 

Thursday, January 28th

Infection rates in our borough dropped below 300 yesterday.  5 of the 10 Greater Manchester boroughs are now below 300.  But we’re being told that the peak of hospital admissions is likely to come this weekend, and last for a while.

According to reports in the papers, non-essential shops (including hair salons?) aren’t likely to reopen until April.  And is that early April or late April?  And cafes and restaurants not until May.  Travel hasn’t been mentioned.  Nor have cinemas, theatres etc.  And heaven only knows when we’ll be able to go back to football matches, concerts etc.

The picture’s grim across most of Europe too.  France could be heading back into lockdown.  Madrid and Barcelona are running short of vaccine supplies.  Germany has said it’ll have vaccine supply issues until Easter.  Hospitals in Lisbon are running short of beds.  Over in the US, there are reports that a new variant may have emerged in California.   And Canada’s got concerns over vaccine supplies.  We don’t hear much from the rest of the world, but I gather that things are particularly bad in Mexico, and that parts of Peru are going back into lockdown.   And Lebanon’s in full lockdown: you’re not even allowed to go food shopping, but have to rely on deliveries.

Also, will someone please tell Nicola Sturgeon to STFU?  Seriously, is this the time to be mithering about an independence referendum?  She is so annoying.

Meanwhile, there are concerns about low take-up of the vaccine amongst some ethnic minority groups.  But, on a happier note, it looks as if the Novavax vaccine, being manufactured in Teesside, is pretty effective.

I am not finding it easy being chained to the office computer during the day, with virtually no contact from work (I’m not sure what I expect them to do, to be fair, but they could try to offer a bit of support) and doing housework, without having anything nice to look forward to at weekends … or for months ahead.

 

Friday, January 29th

I can’t believe what’s going on over the vaccines.  The European Commission has long been a deeply unpleasant organisation, but this just takes the biscuit.  If it weren’t for the companies who’ve developed the vaccines, we’d all be facing a future of either permanent lockdown or else millions more deaths, and many more people left with long term health problems, until herd immunity was reached.  Instead of thanking and praising these heroes, the European Commission has done nothing but issue them with threats and demands.  And insist that it should get first dibs on any vaccine produced, and to hell with the rest of the world, and never mind the fact that the UK order with Astra Zeneca was placed three months before its order was.   We’re all frustrated about the delays and production problems, but they’re pharmaceutical companies, not miracle workers.  There were bound to hiccups with operations on this scale.  And, now, export controls are being put on any supplies being exported from the EU – which is going to endanger anyone in non-EU countries who’s had the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine and is waiting for the second, not to mention going against every trade deal going, as it would block the fulfilment of longstanding contracts.  Talk about I’m all right, Jack.

Meanwhile, Janssen, which is owned by Johnson & Johnson (I got confused by this and thought that two separate companies had both produced vaccines, but no!) have got a vaccine which is 66% effective, so not as good as the others, but only needs one dose.

In other news, Eurosport kindly televised the exhibition matches from Adelaide, so I got to see Rafa beat Dominic 🙂 .  And in front of a crowd!  So, so wonderful to see crowds back at matches.  When will it happen here?

And I had actually lost a few pounds from Saturday to Wednesday,  But half of them have suddenly gone back on on Wednesday and Thursday,  I just do not understand this.  One day could have been a blip, but two?  I haven’t done anything different.  I am very demoralised 😦 .

 

Saturday, January 30th

I am so, so disgusted with the European Commission.   They have totally screwed things up for 27 countries in terms of the vaccine roll-out, and are trying to divert attention from their incompetence by acting like arrogant, petulant bullies … which just makes them look even more incompetent.  Last night, an almighty row broke out when they decided to try to use Northern Ireland as a political football, saying that, in violation of the Brexit deal, they would impose border controls between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, to stop the UK from getting any vaccine supplies (yes, those vaccine supplies which will save people’s lives, and which the UK has quite legitimately ordered) from within the EU.   Without even bothering to consult the Republic of Ireland.  Or any other member states.  Everyone hit the roof – in London, in Belfast, in Dublin and elsewhere – and they had to back down.  I’m tempted to say “Hah”, but this really, really isn’t funny.  It’s left a very bad taste in everyone’s mouths.  And they’re still saying that they’ll block vaccine exports, although Michael Gove’s said that the UK’s vaccination programme won’t be affected.

It’s hard not to see this as the European Commission throwing its toys out of the pram because it can’t bear the fact that the UK vaccination programme’s going so much better than its own (Le Figaro‘s headline yesterday was “Vaccination: Brexit 1, Brussels 0”), but it won’t just affect the UK: it’ll affect Canada, Australia, Japan and many other countries too.

The WHO has condemned the European Commission’s vile attitude and behaviour.

Politicians and newspapers in various EU countries are extremely peed off with the European Commission.

Meanwhile, many highly vulnerable people in 27 countries, who could have been vaccinated by now had their governments made their own arrangements, are still waiting.

OK, enough about the vaccine row.   Two more points dropped today, in a 0-0 draw at Arsenal, whilst City won again.  Bah.  And I’m going to have to start using the spray on hair dye again: my grey roots are really showing.  Bah again.

On a happier note, I had such a nice time at Dunham Massey!  I’m disappointed about missing the snowdrops and early daffodils at Rode Hall and Chirk, but the Dunham Winter Garden, which I don’t normally go to at this time of year – I’m usually busy with the Australian Open during the second half of January, and then I prioritise Rode and Chirk in February – has got some beautiful, beautiful carpets of snowdrops, and quite a few early daffodils too.  I was so pleased that I went round the gardens, then round the deer park, and then back to the gardens for a second look!   Gorgeous 🙂 .

 

Sunday, January 31st

I found some snowdrops in the park today!  It was a bit of the park which I don’t normally go to, but I was trying to find a quiet area without any dogs … having been jumped up at my a horrible dog with filthy muddy paws.  Most of the mud brushed off, but the owner didn’t even apologise – just said “It’s a dog, what d’you expect?”.  I am so, so sick of dogs.  They are everywhere.  And the noise they make carries such a long way, especially with yappy little dogs with high-pitched barks.

Dogs apart, it was very nice in the park.

 

Scone courtesy of The Coffee Sack 🙂 .

Infection rates in Greater Manchester are still falling, but not as quickly as the national average, and the rate for the city centre is now above the average.  I really cannot face a return to the Evil Tier System and being told that other people can travel around the country, reopen their businesses and send their kids back to school, but we can’t, after everything we’ve been through already.  The situation nationwide seems to be stabilising, but we’re being told that it’ll be at least a fortnight before the impact of the vaccination programme starts to have any effect.  609,010 doses were given yesterday!  That’s the highest number yet.   Almost 9 million people have now received their first dose.

A WHO team’s in Wuhan, trying to get to the bottom of how this nightmare started, but I don’t think China will ever let us know.

Worrying news from Portugal, where patients are having to be sent abroad as there are hardly any intensive care beds left.  And also some worrying news here – Captain Sir Tom Moore’s in hospital with pneumonia and coronavirus.  Oh, what horrendous irony that one of the biggest heroes of this nightmare should contract the virus.  He’s not in intensive care, and hopefully he’ll be OK, but I was very upset to hear that he was ill.

And, despite a drop in temperature, it’s definitely feeling a bit springlike, but snow’s forecast for Tuesday.  Please, please do not cause any problems on Friday, when I need to take my car in for its MOT!

Anniversaries, Adelaide tennis and appalling ingratitude

  It’s a year today since the first cases of Covid-19 were identified in the UK, at a hotel in York, in a family who’d recently returned from Wuhan.  At the time, it was worrying, but we certainly couldn’t have seen what lay ahead.  It’s a grim anniversary.

Meanwhile, the wonderful pharmaceutical companies which have done such amazing work in creating effective vaccines so quickly, and hopefully offering us all a way out of this nightmare, and which deserve the highest honours which every country and organisation in the world has to offer, are being rewarded for their superlative efforts with threats of legal action from the European Commission (against AstraZeneca) and the Italian government (against PfizerBioNTech).  Seriously?!   I’m sure they’re doing their best, but there are bound to be teething problems with producing such vast quantities of new products.  And one of the issues is that production’s been interrupted whilst they try to increase capacity, which they have to do because it may well be that the entire population of the world has to receive a dose of the vaccine every year.  Nothing like this has ever been done before.  They should be getting Nobel Prizes, not threatened with lawsuits.   It’s extremely unedifying behaviour from the politicians concerned.

On a happier note, how glorious to see live tennis in front of crowds, at the exhibition event in Adelaide. Particularly glorious in that Rafa won his match in straight sets 🙂 , but, hey, just glorious generally.  Well done and thank you so much to Tennis Australia and the wonderful Australian people  for everything they’ve done.

There’s been widespread publicity about some of the “issues” involving the quarantine procedures for the players and those accompanying them.  OK, being stuck in a hotel room for 14 days, and, if you were unlucky enough to be on one of the flights where someone tested positive, not being allowed out to practise as originally planned, must have been pretty grim.  Especially if you had mice in your room.  But, hey, if being shut in a room for 14 days, even with an entire family of mice, means being able to see your family and friends, go to sporting events, go out to restaurants, etc etc, at the end of it, then give me the address of the hotel and I’ll be there as quickly as I can.  Unfortunately, it’s not going to be like that for most of us – as Rafa said, Spain’s been badly hit, and so have the UK, the US, Brazil, Mexico, France, Italy and so many other countries.  Portugal seems to be suffering particularly badly at the moment.

But, oh, how brilliant to see tennis in front of crowds!  Thank you, Australia <3.  And thank you Eurosport – exhibition matches aren’t usually televised, but this one was special!

 

 

 

 

Manchester monsoons, Melbourne mice, park perambulations and lockdown locks

  2020 was The Year Without Wimbledon. This is The January Without The Australian Open.  And, on top of the plague, we’ve now got floods.  Sounds a bit Biblical, doesn’t it?  I think it’s fair to say that this year has not got off to the best of starts.  The Northwich/Warrington/Lymm area seems to have borne the brunt of the floods, although other areas have been affected too, and it’s very sad to see the pictures of the chaos caused.  Twelve cars were submerged just a few miles down the road from here, and people in parts of Didsbury and Northenden were evacuated.

It’s never the best time of year anyway, and what normally gets me through it is the Australian Open … but that’s been delayed by three weeks, and the build-up has turned into utter chaos.  There are now reports that the Olympics could be cancelled, and it can’t be a coincidence that these are emerging just after all the chaos over the Aussie Open kicked off.  Tennis Australia put a huge amount of effort into making the arrangements, but I don’t think anyone anticipated that people who’d tested negative 72 hours before flying would then test positive after arriving.  Everyone who was on a flight with those affected, and three different flights were involved, is now confined to their hotel rooms, rather than, as originally planned, being able to go out to practise for five hours a day.  And some of the rooms have got mice in them.  And there are all sorts of rows going on over social media, with everyone and their dog shoving their oar in.   What a nightmare.

Also, I just panicked when I saw that Coronation Street had had to pause filming for a fortnight as scripts need to be adjusted due to the latest lockdown, but, phew, it’s not going to affect the number of episodes shown.

Meanwhile, we’re pretty much confined to barracks, but we are allowed out to exercise, and I’m very grateful for having Heaton Park within walking distance – and for the fact that I’ve discovered that a café which I pass on my way there does excellent scones.  I know – no wonder I’m so fat 😦 .  The park’s like the social hub of the community – it’s a bit like the days when the upper classes would go riding out in Hyde Park to see and be seen!  Walk round the park for long enough, and you’ll see all sorts of people you know.

The daffodil shoots in the park are coming through now, though … although they aren’t growing as fast as my hair (which is also greying … meaning that I’m going to have to start using that awful spray-on hair dye as well).  I’m looking forward to seeing the spring flowers.  We’ve still got flowers.  And United are top of the league!  And we’ve still got each other.  It’s sad that some people seem to use social media primarily to post hatred – why hate people so much, just because they vote for a different political party to you – but most people use it to connect with relatives and friends, and hopefully that’ll get us through it.   And, all being well, we will get the Australian Open in February!  It always ends in tears.  Well, nearly always.  It first broke my heart in 1990, and, with a few exceptions, notably in 2009, it’s done the same most years ever since.  But at least it’ll be something to focus on.  And then the snowdrops and the daffodils will come …

 

Lockdown III Week 2, January 11th to 17th 2021 inclusive

Monday, January 11th

It has rained on and off all day.  This at least meant that there was no queue at the park café.  However, Boris has been muttering about shutting park cafes down.  FFS.  Another option mentioned has been stopping people from exercising with someone from another household.  But some people, especially women, are nervous about walking on their own.  This may be the first time ever that I’ve agreed with Sadiq Khan, but he’s said that places of worship should be closed, and he’s right.  Hancock was asked about driving to exercise, but either misunderstood or sidestepped the question.  So he didn’t say that I couldn’t go to Dunham Massey or Hollingworth Lake.  TBH, I think he sidestepped it because there’s been (quelle surprise) some political points-scoring going on over Boris being see riding a bike 7 miles from home.  FFS, have people got nothing better to worry about?  He was on a bike, on his own, not having a party!  Meanwhile, Derbyshire police have apologised to the 2 women involved in the infamous reservoir walk incident, and rescinded the fines.

Hancock did say that support bubbles definitely won’t be banned.

On a happier note, 2.3 million people have now received at least one dose of the vaccine.  7 mass vaccination centres opened across the country today.   And the rate at which infections are increasing is slowing.

Rugby union cup matches have been suspended, because of virus issues.

United v Liverpool in the 4th round of the Cup.  Oh FFS!!

Morrisons and Sainsbury’s have said that people won’t be allowed in without masks, unless they’re medically exempt.  I’ve heard that before.  It’s very awkward: supermarket staff are afraid of being accused of discriminating against people with hidden health conditions etc.  To be fair, I rarely see anyone in Tesco or M&S without a mask, these days.

I’m so desperate to be able to plan something that I’ve spent a stupid amount of time thinking about which cakes to get as treats for my birthday.  It is 6 1/2 weeks until my birthday.  And I’m supposed to be on a diet.

 

Tuesday, January 12th

Another press conference tonight, this one with Priti Patel, a senior police officer and a senior doctor.  The police guy talked a lot of sense about the problems caused by people who are holding parties or going on coach trips, rather than mithering people walking round parks.  Someone from Sky News suggested that there should be more focus on the risk within workplaces, which is, as he said, likely to be far higher than that posed by people walking in parks. Another reporter just had to bring up the Derbyshire incident yet again.  Oh, FFS.  Enough.   I think the police guy was pretty narked that people were still harping on about it.   The media are being really childish, and it’s not helping.

But then nor are the police.  On top of the Derbyshire incident, police in Wales fined a woman and her husband for driving 7 miles to visit her 94-year-old mother!   How is visiting someone in their mid-90s not classed as a compassionate visit, which is allowed?  I appreciate that these are isolated incidents, but they’re making the police look stupid.  People are now teasing each other in the park about making sure you don’t get arrested for having a bottle of water and a packet of crisps with you.

The Republic of Ireland’s now got the highest infection rate in the world, and Portugal’s having a bad time of it as well.  And two gorillas at San Diego zoo have got the virus.  And Angela Merkel’s been going on about “the British variant”.  Whilst people have – quite rightly – got annoyed with Donald Trump for talking about “the Chinese virus”, it’s apparently OK for European leaders to talk about “the British variant”.  Quelle surprise.  Oh, and there’s now another variant – which apparently emerged in Brazil.

Nearly 697,000 deaths were registered in the UK in 2020, compared with an average of nearly 606,000 each year between 2015 and 2019.  That’s a difference of 91,000.  So that’s higher than the official death toll, but, unlike in Russia, not way, way higher.  It’s very hard to judge any of these statistics.  But they’re clearly not good.

I noticed that there was a guard by the entrance to Tesco this morning, but I didn’t see anyone going in without a mask anyway.  But I go early in the morning, when it’s quiet.  Tesco, Asda and Waitrose have now joined Morrisons and Sainsbury’s in banning people without masks, other than those who are medically exempt.  But wearing masks in shops has been compulsory since July.

Later, I had to go into the office for an hour, to put some files away, collect some other files, collect some post, and print some large documents which I can’t print at home.  There were a lot of cars in the car park: people in some of the other offices in the block are clearly making no effort at all to work from home.   And so many kids are in school.  Hmm.

On a happier note, we are top of the league after a 1-0 win at Burnley!!

 

Wednesday, January 13th

It has rained nearly all day, and more snow is forecast.  This isn’t making anyone feel any better.  Also, I am so, so sick of political points-scoring.  Can’t we all try to come together at this horrendous time?  1,564 virus deaths reported today, the highest daily figure yet, and all Keir Starmer can do is bleat that what Boris said before we knew about the new variant was wrong, and that “more restrictions” are needed but without suggesting what.  There’ve also been some very distressing pictures of wholly inadequate food parcels provided to underprivileged families whilst schools were closed.  Whilst government politicians bleated that they were inadequate, and Labour politicians bleated that this showed how evil the Tories were (even though the parcels came from an independent supplier), who was the only person who actually did something useful, i.e. contacted the suppliers and told them to up their game, and then contacted the Prime Minister?  Marcus Rashford.  Marcus is a wonderful young man, but why was it left to a footballer to take action about this?

I’m hearing a lot of confused reports about vaccination.  Some local surgeries have got supplies of the vaccine, but others haven’t, and there are reports about people over 80 trying to book appointments but being told to go to centres miles away.

On a more positive note, the rate of increase of infections does seem to be falling.  It’s still worrying high in our area, but the rates of increase is certainly down.  The situation in Merseyside and Widnes is very concerning, though.

 

Thursday, January 14th

What is going on with the vaccine?  My uncle, who is 75, has had his first dose.  Obviously this is brilliant news, but my mum and dad, who are also 75, and in the same health authority but with a different GP surgery, haven’t been contacted.  Nor has a family friend, who’s 80.   Why are some surgeries moving on to the 75-79 age group when others haven’t contacted people in the 80 and over group?

It’s rained again for most of the day, apart from when it sleeted, but at least we haven’t had heavy snow like they have in Yorkshire.  Some vaccination centres have had to close because of the weather.  The Pennines seem to be protecting us: a friend who’s only about 20 miles away, but on the Yorkshire side, sent me a photo of heavy snow at her house.

Andy Murray’s got the virus!   He’s not unwell, and hopefully he’ll be OK for the Australian Open, but still.

And arrivals from the whole of South America, plus Panama, plus Portugal and the Cape Verde islands, have been banned, because of the new variant found in Brazil.  Apart from British and Irish nationals, anyone else with UK residency, and hauliers.  Why are so many people travelling, anyway?  OK, obviously hauliers have to travel, and someone’s got to man cargo flights, but there still seem to be an awful lot of people moving around.

And my diet is a disaster.  It’s not working, and I’m getting demoralised and comfort-eating.  Today has not been a good day.  People say that the virus has changed everything, but it hasn’t.  It hasn’t changed the fact that I’m chained to an office computer, it hasn’t changed the need to do housework, and it hasn’t changed the fact that I put on weight for no reason and can’t lose it.  But it’s changed the fact that I can try to cope with that by doing nice things at weekends and going on holiday.

 

Friday, January 15th

Hooray!   Mum and Dad have been called for their vaccination first doses.  And they can go very soon – tomorrow, in fact, to the local walk-in centre.  Such a relief – I was quite emotional when Mum sent the message.  Goodness knows when I’ll get done, but progress is certainly being made on vaccinating the more vulnerable groups.

And the decorator’s been, to paint the kitchen ceiling where there was the leak.  Having to see that huge brown splodge every time I went into the kitchen was doing my head in.  So glad that it’s done.

And I’m glad that it’s Friday.  Being chained to the office computer, with no prospect of being able to go out and do nice stuff at the weekend or plan a holiday, gets you down.  All travel corridors are to end from 4am on Monday … not that anyone’s going far at the moment.  Mind you, I say that, but it’s amazing how much international travel does seem to be going on.  OK, obviously someone has to transport cargo, but there seem to be a lot of other people on the move too.

The economy shrank by 2.6% in November- much less than expected, probably because of people doing Christmas shopping online, but still grim.  The overall decrease since February is 8.5%.  On a happier note, insurers who’ve tried to get out of paying out on business interruption policies have been told by the courts that lockdown definitely classes as business interruption, and the rate of infection is now falling in parts of London.  Sadly, it’s still increasing in Greater Manchester, but the rate of increase has slowed down very significantly.   The situation in other parts of the North West’s very worrying, though.

 

Saturday, January 16th

Hooray, Mum and Dad have had their first doses of the vaccine.  I walked past the vaccination centre, the local walk-in centre, on my way to M&S: there was a queue outside, and there were signs up asking locals not to use the car park nearby as so many people are expecting.  Things are certainly moving in our area: most people aged 75 and over have either had their first dose or have got an appointment to have it soon, and some people in the 70-75 age group are now being called.

The rate of infection in our borough was only up by 6% week-on-week in yesterday’s figures, and falling in some neighbouring boroughs.  And it’s falling nationwide.  But there were another 1,295 deaths today, and over 37,500 people are in hospital with the virus.  It seems unlikely that those figures will fall significantly until the beginning of February at the earliest.  Things in the Republic of Ireland are very bad.  And Portugal’s in a bad way too – is this anything to do with the mutant strains from Brazil?  Brazil itself is also in a bad way.

The strain which the authorities in France and Germany delight in referring to as “the British mutant” is officially called “Variant of Concern 202012/01”.  Doesn’t exactly trip off the tongue, does it?  Or B117, which at least is a bit easier to say.

It rained first thing, but then dried up, so I got a takeaway cream tea from The Coffee Sack and took it to the park, and then had a long walk round.  There are lots of daffodil shoots around now.  So that was OK.

But the Australian Open is turning into a nightmare before it’s even started.  A total of three people on two flights to Australia, one from Los Angeles and one from Abu Dhabi, tested positive.  I thought you only had to self-isolate if someone sat very close to you on a flight tested positive, and apparently the players and their entourages did too, but they’re saying that everyone’s got to self-isolate.  So 47 players, plus their coaches, physios and anyone else travelling with them, are shut in their hotel rooms for 14 days.  They can’t practise, so will be going into a strenuous two week event in the heat with very little preparation.  And Yulia Putintseva found a mouse in her room.  On top of this, Australians wanting to return home for abroad but unable to get permission to do so are upset that tennis players have been given priority.  Oh dear.  This is not good!

 

Sunday, January 17th

We drew 0-0 at Liverpool.  Not a bad result!  So we stay top of the league … but City play tonight, and’ve got a game in hand.

Snapfish have totally mucked up my order.  I appreciate that this is not the world’s biggest crisis, but I’ll now have to wait a week and a half for the reprint, and hope that this one’s OK.  I have no idea what’s happened: they’re usually fine, but all these photos are jumbled up in completely random order, and I couldn’t get very much sense out of the “live chat” person.

Went to Hollingworth Lake this morning, then did some reading and wrote some book reviews.

The Daily Telegraph over-excitedly proclaimed that all adults would have been vaccinated by the end of June, but, as Dominic Raab said, the beginning of September’s more like that, and even that’s only for the first dose.  It’ll be early March before any restrictions are lifted, and, given how obsessed they are with reopening schools, that’ll probably be first, sending infection rates up again.  Hairdressers should so be given priority over schools 😉 .  And, even then, it’ll be back into the evil tier system, with the evil travel restrictions.

There’s now been a positive test from a third flight to Melbourne.  72 players, and all the other people on the flights, are now banned from leaving their hotel rooms.

All this business with the tennis players … travel is very, very important to me, and the thought of a second successive year without my lovely coach trips abroad is very upsetting, but I just can’t see them happening.  Even if travel corridors, i.e. no self-isolation needed at either end, are reopened, tests will probably be required.  However careful you are, until you’re vaccinated, none of us can guarantee that we haven’t got the virus, and how could you take that chance, spending a lot of money and booking some of your (in my case) very meagre annual leave allowance without being sure that you’d be able to go?  Or, even worse, doing all that, getting there, and then, like the tennis players, being told you had to stay in a hotel room for 14 days because someone else on your flight, who’d tested negative beforehand, had tested positive later?  How would that even work, if you were only there for a week?  What on earth would you do?

There’s been some talk about takeaways being unsafe, but I think people are just going for easy targets.  There have been pictures on the news of people packed into London Tube trains like sardines: services have been reduced, but a lot of people still need to travel to work on public transport.  A Sky News poll showed that 48% of people were still going into work.  OK, obviously that includes key workers, but concerns have been raised about unsafe workplaces.   Between 6th and 14th January, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) received 2,945 complaints about virus-related safety issues.  That’s a lot more likely to be causing problems than people stopping briefly to buy a cup of tea and a piece of cake.

And so endeth the first full week of Lockdown III.  Feels like it’s been months already …

 

 

Lockdown II Week 3 – November 16th to 22nd 2020 inclusive

Monday, November 16th

Since the start of the pandemic, the oven has broken, the toilet has broken, the toilet has broken again and damaged the kitchen ceiling, a lightning strike has knackered the router and the phones, and now the oven has broken again.  I mean, is it me?!  A new one will hopefully be coming on Thursday or Friday.  More money.

Went into town for an optician’s appointment today.  Very strange seeing everywhere so quiet, when the Christmas markets should be open.  I love the Christmas markets.  And that miserable git Matt Hancock’s said that it’s too soon to say whether or not the lockdown will end on December 2nd.  Retailers are getting really fed up: Waterstones (books) and Clinton (cards) have both complained about their shops having to close, when books and cards can be readily bought in supermarkets, garden centres and newsagents.

On a happier note, another firm, Moderna, have also got a vaccine which is over 90% effective.  And hopes are rising that testing will be made available to people with loved ones in care homes, allowing for visits.

Meanwhile, Boris is self-isolating, just at a crucial stage of the Brexit negotiations and in the middle of Lockdown II, after an MP with whom he attended a meeting tested positive.  Several other MPs are also affected.

And there’s been a worrying surge in cases in Hull and Grimsby.

 

Tuesday, November 17th

Superb match between Rafa and Dominic …  which, sadly, Rafa lost 😦 .

A load of virus cases in England have been “relocated”, because the addresses on the system were wrong.  Is this a joke?  Needless to say, they have mainly been relocated to urban parts of the north.  The area with the largest number of cases relocated away from it is the area which includes Rishi Sunak’s constituency.

Easyjet’s suffered the first loss in its history.

And Glasgow and various other parts of Scotland are being put into Tier 4 … which is basically the sort of lockdown that the whole of England’s presently in.  This is awful.  I know this is a horrible situation, but people and businesses can’t take much more.

I went to Tesco this morning, coming home at about 10 to 9.  The amount of traffic, considering that we’re meant to be in lockdown, was insane.  OK, the stupid council’s decision to reduce the main road to one lane each way makes it a lot worse, but even so.  Could have been parents returning from taking kids to school, but I’m not convinced.  Loads of people are working at offices, when they could be working from home.

And the police have been told to stop issuing the highest level of fines for breaking regulations.  TBH, I agree that the fixed penalty system’s stupid – £10,000 is a year’s net income to some people but loose change to others.  But why wasn’t this taken into consideration in the first place?

 

Wednesday, November 18th

I went to the office to drop some stuff off this morning.  Just after I arrived, the fire alarm went off.  I was tempted just to go home and leave the stuff I’d dropped off lying about on the desk where I’d dumped it, but decided that that wouldn’t be very fair, so I waited outside until it was sorted and I could go back in and put everything away properly.  Hordes of people came streaming out of the other offices in the block – and these are people whose jobs could certainly be done from home.  There were even people from a social group which uses one of the offices for meet-ups, and I’m pretty sure that social groups aren’t allowed to meet up during lockdown –  unless it’s some sort of emotional support group, which this isn’t.  FFS!

There’s talk of making restrictions in Tiers 2 and 3 even tighter when lockdown ends.  I have just had enough of this.  We’ve been under restrictions since July.  Rates in the North West are falling.  What are they going to try to do to us now?

In Scotland, police are to have powers to stop people travelling outside their own council areas in Tier 3 and Tier 4 areas.  Like they’re living in an open prison.  I understand that this is a really, really shit situation, but people have just had enough.

There’s been a big anti-lockdown protest in Berlin.

There is some talk of a Christmas truce here.   As long as you only hold small family gatherings, and only travel by car – which is a pretty stupid suggestion, given that a lot of people don’t have cars.  But maybe it means that my sister and brother-in-law and nephews will be able to come here for Christmas after all.

But there are concerns that the Australian Open may not be able to go ahead.  Players have said that they’re willing to self-isolate for a fortnight – which, given that that’d include Christmas and New Year if they were to be out of quarantine before the start of the warm-up events, is no small commitment.   But now the government of Victoria’s suggesting it won’t let players arrive until January.

And Boris has appeared at PM’s Questions by video link, as he is currently confined to barracks.

 

Thursday, November 19th

The new oven has arrived, hooray!

Rafa has reached the semi-finals, hooray!

Government funding’s been announced for some sports clubs, due to the effects of the virus.

Mink in Sweden have now got the virus as well.  What is it with mink?!

More bad news in the retail industry today – more firms going into administration.  And we’re only hearing about big firms – how many small shops have gone?

Infection rates in the North West continue to fall, which is obviously very good news, but infection rates elsewhere in England continue to rise.  It’s weird: it’s like we’re having a different pandemic to the rest of the country.   The infection rate across the 10 boroughs is down to 399.10, down 22% week-on-week.   The average across England is 265.5 and rising.  Over 500 deaths across the UK again today.  Italy suffered nearly 800 yesterday.  And New York’s closed schools again.

Hull is much the worst affected place in the country now, with Scarborough, Teesside, Bristol, Swale (in Kent), Stoke, and parts of Leics, Lincs and West Yorks also struggling.

Please, please, please let us out of bloody lockdown on December 2nd.  Northern Ireland’s going back into lockdown after next week.  So they’re coming out for one week.  Well, I hope everyone manages to get a hair appointment.  How bloody demoralising – practically straight back into it.

And Brexit talks have been suspended after one of the EU negotiators tested positive for the virus.  It wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if Michel Barnier had made the whole thing up to throw a spanner in the works, but I suppose we have to assume it’s genuine.

 

Friday, November 20th

It has rained nearly all day.  Despite this, there were still long queues at both the cafes in the park.

Not convinced about all this focus on Christmas.  Much as I want to see my sister and brother-in-law and the kids, we’re being told that 5 days of lockdown will be “needed” for every day for which restrictions are eased.  If we have 5 days over Christmas (the 27th and 28th are Bank Holidays, as Christmas Day and Boxing Day fall at the weekend), plus New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, that means a 35 day lockdown.  People’s mental health is suffering as it is, and a lot of businesses won’t make it through another 35 days of being closed.  We’re not in some sort of Hollywood film where everything revolves around Christmas.  I just don’t think it can be justified.  Which is extremely sad.

2 million people in Scotland are now back in lockdown, and businesses in Northern Ireland are furious that they’ll have to close again after only being able to reopen for a week.

The Serbian Orthodox Patriarch’s died with coronavirus, after attending a funeral for the Serbian Orthodox church’s chief cleric in Montenegro … lots of people, no social distancing, people even kissing the body.  It’s very sad, but there does seem to be an issue with people thinking that religious services should be exempt from the rules.  It’s happening here too.  I don’t understand why religious people seem to think they should be exempt.

Matt Hancock’s wittering on about how “we must keep our resolve”.  It might come across quite well if it was Churchill saying it.  Still, at least he manages to brush his hair before leading a press conference.

 

Saturday, November 21st

Oh no!!  Rafa lost to Daniil in the semis … after serving for the match in the 2nd set.  Just can’t win the World Tour Finals 😦 .   And it looks as if the Australian Open might be put back to March.  Tennis Australia’s idea was for the players and anyone accompanying them to arrive in mid-December, go into quarantine for 2 weeks, and then be ready for the warm-up events and for the Open to start on January 18th as scheduled, but it looks as if the government of Victoria’s going to put the kibosh on it.  That is a blow 😦 .  January’s a miserable time of year even in normal times, and the Aussie Open’s the one good thing about it.   And then that’ll muck up the calendar for the rest of the year

On a happier note, United beat West Brom, 1-0.

It’s five weeks to Christmas!   Doesn’t feel like it, with no Christmas markets … although some people are trying to cheer themselves up by putting their trees and decorations up.  Please tell me that the people over the road are going to switch their garish flashing lights off during the day – I love Christmas, but those lights flashing 24/7 will do my head in!

And it’s 5 days until Thanksgiving … and cases seem to be soaring in most parts of the US 😦 .

Managed to walk round Hollingworth Lake and have a mince pie 🙂 from The Olive and Pickle before the rain started.

I meant to go out for another walk later, but I had to make a start on clearing out the kitchen cupboards, and then Dominic and Nole’s match lasted nearly three hours and it was dark by the time it’d finished.

 

Sunday, November 22nd

We’re going to be told tomorrow what we are and aren’t allowed to do over Christmas.  It’d be vaguely comical if it wasn’t such a nightmare – it sounds as if we’re all being summoned into the school hall to be given a lecture about how reports will be handed out after the carol service and the Chanukah play, and you must give yours to your parents Or Else.

Then, on Thursday, we’re going to be told which tier we’re going in after lockdown.  This again sounds like being at school.  Some areas are being moved into higher tiers.  It doesn’t sound like we’ll be going into a lower tier.  The average infection rate across Greater Manchester’s below 360, which is well below where it was, but the national average is around 260.  Hull, by contrast, is up at around 700, with Swale in Kent around 650 and several other places over 500.  Worse news is the talk of tighter restrictions in each tier.  FFS, are things not bad enough?  But the 10pm curfew’s being lifted, which isn’t an awful lot of help when pubs and restaurants are closed anyway.

Finished clearing out the kitchen drawers and cupboards, but ran out of time, energy and enthusiasm so still haven’t done the fridge and the freezer.  I’ll try to get them done tomorrow.  Then that’s inside done.  My car urgently needs valeting, but all the decent places are closed due to lockdown.

Medvedev won the World Tour Finals.

Went to Tatton Park this morning – and there was a rainbow right over Tatton Hall!   You have to book to go round the gardens, which I’d done, but not for the estate, which was pretty busy.  It’s a big enough place to be able to walk around without going near anyone else, but the queue for takeaway food and drinks was horrendous!  It wasn’t too bad when I went, at about 11, but by half 12 it really was long!  Nice sunny morning, after all the rain yesterday.  Once we’re back in the evil tier system, I shouldn’t officially be going outside Greater Manchester into East Cheshire, but … well, we’ll see.

 

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.