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

Monday, June 14th

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

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

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

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

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

 

Tuesday, June 15th

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

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

 

Wednesday, June 16th

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

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

The 2021/22 football fixtures came out today.

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

 

Thursday, June 17th

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

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

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

 

Friday, June 18th

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

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

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

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

Come on England …

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

 

Saturday, June 19th

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

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

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

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

Heigh-ho …

 

Sunday, June 20th

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

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

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

I really do not like Nicola Sturgeon.

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

Bank Holiday, Monday, May 31st

So hot today!   Went to Hollingworth Lake early on.

 

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

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

Morecambe have been promoted to League 1 🙂 .

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

 

Tuesday, June 1st

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

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

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

On a happier note:

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

Wednesday, June 2nd

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

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

The BBC are scrapping Holby City 😦 .

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

 

Thursday, June 3rd

Way too much has happened today.

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

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

 

Friday, June 4th

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

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

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

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

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

STILL no news from the holiday company.

 

Saturday, June 5th

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

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

Went to Skipton this morning.  Gorgeous in the sunshine!

 

Sunday, June 6th

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

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

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

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

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

And it’s hot!

The road to freedom? Week 9, May 24th to 30th 2021 inclusive

Monday, May 24th

Greater Manchester, Merseyside, the rest of Lancashire and the rest of Cheshire are to be part of a scheme trialling extra support for people who are supposed to be self-isolating.  It’s a nice idea, but it doesn’t deal with the problem of unsupportive bosses.  I don’t know what will.

People aged 32 and 33 are now able to book vaccinations.  We should, all being well, hit the target of offering all adults a first dose by the end of July.  The problem’s with the people not being vaccinated … only about 5% of people, but 5% of people can do a lot of damage.

I really am going to have horrific anxiety when I have to go back to being trapped in an office.  Take today.  I had a bit of a mishap with my left wing mirror, and it cracked.  It was my fault, and I could kick myself for it, but accidents happen.  I rang the garage.  Yes, no problem, come in and they’ll fit a new one.  Now, if this had happened when I’d been trapped in an office, it would have been a complete nightmare.  The repairs department doesn’t open at weekends, and I can’t get there after work because the rush hour traffic’s so bad that I can’t get there before the garage closes.  I could have tried to go in my dinner hour, but, although the garage is not far away, there are a million traffic lights in between, and they’re always all on red, and there’s always a long queue if you go anywhere in your dinner hour.  And, when I got there, I had to wait whilst they messed about because they couldn’t decide whether I needed to pay the parts department (because it was a part) or the service department (because it was being fitted), even though the two card machines were on the same desk (seriously).   It didn’t take long, but things like this just become impossible when you’re trapped in an office, and this is one of the main reasons I had a breakdown in 2013.  Ok, rant over!

 

Tuesday, May 25th 

Oh FFS.  After all the rows last year, I really thought we’d got past local restrictions, clear as mud guidance, and failure to consult local authorities.  But no.  Last night, it suddenly came up on the Manchester Evening News website that non-essential travel into and out of Bolton had been banned.   Not just Bolton, but also Blackburn, Burnley, Kirklees, North Tyneside, Leicester, Bedford and Hounslow.  And people there had been told not to meet indoors.  No news conference.  No tweet.  Nothing.  It’d just appeared on http://www.gov.uk.

This morning, everyone was up in arms.  Councils knew nothing about it.  Nor did MPs.  Nor did health authorities.

The leader of Bolton council joined Andy Burnham for the regular Greater Manchester press conference, and said that there weren’t any additional regulations.  At 1/4 to 5, it was confirmed that there were, indeed, no travel regulations or any other regulations.

What a muddle.

Tensions are rising.  We keep hearing about “Bolton”, but it’s not “Bolton” – it’s Lever Edge, where the infection rate is almost 2,000 per 100,000, and Rumworth.  Rates in other parts of the borough of Bolton are certainly not low, but they’re nothing like that they are in those areas.  There are widespread, reliable reports of people there not wearing masks and ignoring social distancing regulations.  And all the areas with high rates are areas with high Muslim populations – and the authorities accept that.  Bury council last night tweeted an appeal from the Chief Executive of a British Muslim organisation, urging people to get vaccinated.  Lever Edge’s got a vaccination rate of around 35%, compared to 70% nationwide.  A lot of comments are being made, and there’s a possible risk of tensions.

So are hospital admissions.

In other news, my dad (a retired pharmacist) is now a volunteer helper at one of the local vaccination centres.

Still can’t get a straight answer from the holiday company.   Meanwhile, Austria has banned direct flights from Britain because of the bloody Indian variant.

 

Wednesday, May 26th

Europa League final tonight!  Fingers and toes crossed …

In the meantime, we are having to listen to the rantings of Dominic Cummings.  According to him, the Government got everything about the pandemic wrong, from January 2020 onwards.  However, he knew best, and, if everyone had listened to him, it would all have been handled perfectly.  Graham Stringer asked him why he didn’t resign.  Cummings looked shifty, bleated a bit, then said that, if he had, it would have been better for everyone (the implication being that he’d have solved all the problems from the outside), but that he stayed because he thought he could solve the problems from the inside.  The man’s ego is unbelievable.  He then tried to blame Matt Hancock for everything that’s ever gone wrong in the history of the world, and said that Boris wasn’t fit to be PM.  It rather reminded me of the Harry and Meghan interview.  Nasty-minded, bitter people, who can’t accept the fact that they weren’t indispensable, trying to get revenge by slagging off everyone else, without providing a shred of evidence.  He couldn’t even be bothered to wear a jacket and tie.

Clearly, mistakes have been made, here and in many other countries, in the handling of the pandemic.  But, with the problems in Bolton spreading into Bury and Manchester, and rates rising in Kirklees and elsewhere, we need to be focusing on the current situation, not on someone’s personal vendetta.  There were 3,180 new cases in today’s figures.  That’s the highest for a while, I think.  France has now imposed compulsory quarantine for arrivals from the UK.   Macron is probably loving this.

On a more positive note, anyone aged 30 and over can now make an appointment for their first jab.

 

Later – oh, FFS.  We lost 11-10 on penalties, after a 1-1 draw.  Penalties are a lottery and you can’t criticise anyone over those, and congratulations to Villarreal, but we played poorly, failed to capitalise on having the bulk of the possession in the first half, and, generally, screwed up.  Very, very disappointed.

 

Thursday, May 27th

To add to life’s ten million other traumas, the French Open draw is the worst in the entire history of the universe.  Rafa and Nole in the same half.  Throw in Roger in Nole’s quarter, and Diego and Sinner in Rafa’s quarter.  It is a nightmare.

The decorator has painted the kitchen ceiling.  Again.

The rate at which infections are increasing is falling (if that makes sense) in Bolton, Bury and Trafford, although it’s up in the city centre and Oldham.  Cases are rising nationwide – 3,542 in today’s statistics.   A lot of infections are in secondary school kids.  OK, this may well be because secondary school kids are being tested twice a week, so more asymptomatic cases are being picked up than in adults, but it’s a worry – there are no plans at present to vaccinate kids.

I’ve e-mailed the holiday company again.  This is getting ridiculous.

 

Friday, May 28th

I have received an e-mail from the holiday company.  It read as if it’d been written by a five-year-old.  To be fair, I’m assuming that auto-correct was to blame for a lot of it, but, if you were sending a work e-mail, would you not check it through first?  The holiday is “defiantly” (I assume that this means “definitely”) going ahead.  But they have extended the payment deadline by a month “because of this”.  Well, if it’s “defiantly” going ahead, why extend the deadline?  However, they will inform me if it’s not going ahead.   I mean, WTF?   Why can’t they just tell the truth?  “We are waiting for our head office to make a decision, and we anticipate that this will be by Such A Date.”

Over 4,000 cases reported today.  Most of these are “the Indian variant”.  Oh, and apparently there’s now a Thai variant, as well.  And the R number, which we haven’t heard about for weeks, is back above 1.

Nicola Sturgeon’s said that Glasgow’s got to stay in lockdown.  This is getting ridiculous.  I seem to be using the word “ridiculous” a lot lately!

The single dose Janssen vaccine’s been approved for use in the UK.

 

Saturday, May 29th

Went to Bolton Abbey today.  Due to Covid, you are not allowed to move your car from one part of the estate to another, although it is fine to move yourself from one part to another.  No, me neither!   Anyway, this meant that I walked the whole thing – and it didn’t take nearly as long as their maps and website suggest, so I probably won’t move the car in future anyway!   Gorgeous sunny day.  Why couldn’t it have done this last weekend?!

Then I went to Boundary Mill on the way back and, hooray, I found a dress for my cousin’s wedding.  I don’t honestly know what I wanted, so I don’t know if this is it, but it ticks the boxes of long, not low cut at either the front or the back but without having a high neckline, not clingy, and not too expensive.  Hooray!

If the wedding goes ahead.  I really can’t see all restrictions being lifted on June 21st.

Infection rates are falling in Bolton, although they’re still over 400 per 100,000.  But additional help for neighbouring boroughs has been refused.  The Government’s got nasty announcements on local radio telling you to minimise travel into and out of Bolton, like it’s a leper colony or something.

Another e-mail from the holiday company.  No more decisions will be made until the green list’s updated, which won’t be until a week on Monday.  They do expect to run Iceland tours.  So I need to decide if I can deal with the Covid stuff or not.  I am not good with decisions.  And I wish I could have my second vaccination sooner.  And I gather that the app is horrendous.

OK, I am off to watch the Champions League final.  Nice to see City and Chelsea fans enjoying themselves in lovely Porto, but, if City win, we will never hear the end of it!

Later – Chelsea 1-0 City.

 

Sunday, May 30th

Finally, a hot, sunny Sunday!  Just rather annoying that, instead of being last Sunday, when I was in the Lakes, it was today, when I stayed in most of the day to watch the French Open.  Dominic Thiem and Dan Evans have both already managed to lose.  Nice to see some fans in the stadium, though 🙂 .

However, I did go to the new Royal Horticultural Society Bridgewater Gardens this morning.  Expensive for what they are, but very pretty, only 7 miles away, and, hooray, the RHS doesn’t allow dogs in its gardens!   The opening was delayed for a year due to lockdown etc, but it’s open now, and hopefully it’ll do well.

Boris Johnson and Carrie Symonds got married yesterday, which was a bit odd because they’d apparently told people they were getting married next July – but, hey, as long as they’re happy!

Infection rates in Bolton are now falling sharply – but, worryingly, are rising in other areas, with Blackburn how having the highest infection rate in the country.  Why, oh why, is it always the North West?   This virus has got it in for us, I’m telling you.

Polls show that nearly half of people now feel that lifting all restrictions in June 21st would be too risky.  But it’s a Bank Holiday weekend, the sun is out, the tennis is on, so let’s try to enjoy the evening and not stress too much about virus stuff!  And congratulations to Blackpool, promoted to League 1.

The road to freedom? Week 6, May 3rd to 9th 2021 inclusive

Bank Holiday Monday, May 3rd

OK, it had to rain some time, but did it have to come down in sheets and buckets on a Bank Holiday, as if places like Blackpool and the Lakes haven’t lost enough money already?!  The only good thing was that it came in from the west, so, as I’d booked somewhere in Yorkshire (Brodsworth Hall) for today, I got a nice hour and a half walk round the gardens before it got really wet.  And I hadn’t got much planned for this afternoon anyway.  And Brodsworth was lovely.

It looks as if some holidays abroad will be possible soon.  And that most of Europe will admit people who’ve had both jabs.  But I can’t see my tour of Iceland happening.  Iceland is very reluctant to let people in, coach tours are complicated because they rely on everywhere on the itinerary being open, and the tour company need to make a final decision at least 8 weeks in advance.  And, as much as I want to go, this is an expensive trip, and I don’t really want to spend a load of money on something that’s going to be compromised by restrictions.  I can go to the Lakes for a week, and go to some different places.  But I feel like I’ve already lost a year of travel, of different places, different cultures, different experiences, and don’t want to lose another year.  But, when I go abroad on my own, it’s usually city breaks where I spend most of the time visiting historic sites, palaces, cathedrals, etc, and I’m not sure how possible that’s going to be.  Beach and pool holidays may well be on, but they’re not my thing.  I get bored, I worry that someone will nick my stuff whilst I’m in the pool, I feel like everyone’s thinking how fat I am and how weird I am for being on my own, and I can’t be doing with hordes of noisy people.  Also, this is a messy year for holidays due to evil work not letting us have time off when we want.  And I really need a break in the summer.

Also, today’s a reminder that it would be nice to go somewhere with guaranteed good weather.  Hmm.

The Oktoberfest’s already been cancelled.  Not that I want to go and drink Bavarian beer, but it doesn’t suggest much optimism for how things are going to go.

Restrictions on numbers of mourners at funerals are to be lifted on May 17th.  Social distancing may or may not end on June 21st.

And I could swing for the minority of idiots who caused trouble at yesterday’s protests.  Two police officers were hurt – one suffering quite a nasty facial wound.

Not a word have the Glazers uttered.  I didn’t expect them to ride out on horses to meet the protesters, like Richard II at the Peasants’ Revolt (not least because they’re 3,000 miles away, which is part of the bloody problem), but say something, for crying out loud.

 

Tuesday, May 4th

Weather horrible again, although not as bad as yesterday.  The wind’s blown the blossom off the trees in the park, where I took my WP profile photo last year.  It looks rather pretty.

The plasterer can come on Saturday morning … which is rather a pain, as it messes up my free day, but it’s that or wait indefinitely!

Not a lot else to report.

 

Wednesday, May 5th

The weather has gone completely berserk.  Last night, we had hail and sleet.  We’ve now got blue sky and sunshine.

Rafa beat Alcaraz, 6-1 6-2, in Madrid.  One of the Amazon Prime commentators called the young lad “Alcatraz”.  Unfortunately, that might stick!

It’s being reported that traffic is back to pre-pandemic levels.  If you ask me, it’s worse!   There are more supermarket delivery lorries because people have got used to doing online shopping, and I think people are either nervous about using public transport or else have got used to commuting/doing the school run by car rather than by bus/train/tram, because there certainly seem to be a lot more cars on the road at busy times.  Bleurgh!

Canada’s become the first country to OK vaccines for 12 to 15 year olds.

And it’s being reported that large numbers of people flying back to the UK from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, all of which are on the red list, are dodging quarantine by stopping off in Turkey.

 

Thursday, May 6th

Europa League Final, here we come … even if we did make a meal of it by losing 3-2 at Roma!  Sadly, Arsenal weren’t able to make it 4 out of 4 for English teams (it’s City v Chelsea in the Champions League Final): instead, we’ll play Villareal.

Covid Election Day.  A lot of people ordered postal votes, but I rather like going to the polling station, thinking about the suffragettes, the Chartists and Peterloo as I walk down there.  I can’t get excited about local elections – whichever party wins, the council will still make the traffic situation worse rather than better – and the mayoral election result’s a given, but still. BYOB – bring your own biro.

Meanwhile, stupid French fishermen are trying to start a war with Jersey, and the weather is still crazy.

Rafa beat Popyrin, 6-3 6-3 – and has been named Laureus World Sportsman of the Year 🙂 .  Naomi Osaka’s been named World Sportswoman of the Year.

My payment deadline for the Iceland tour which I’m 99% sure won’t be happening is now under two weeks ago.  I’ve e-mailed the holiday company to ask what’s going on, and am waiting for a reply.  I know this is a nightmare situation for them, but they need to let people know.  And the Government need to let people know about this “green list”, which it seems likely will initially just be Israel, Gibraltar, Portugal, Malta and some of the Spanish and Greek islands.  They also need to confirm that the May 17th reopening is going ahead.  Hotels, cinemas, restaurants etc haven’t had the official go-ahead yet.  It’s getting ridiculous.

And there are problems in Bolton again .  Hyndburn’s got the highest infection rate in the country, which isn’t very good, but apparently that’s due to an outbreak at a school in Accrington so can be contained.  But Bolton’s got the next highest, and that’s due to clusters of the Indian and South African variants.  FFS.  Why have people been allowed to travel to high-risk countries?   It does seem to be very localised, with rates in neighbouring boroughs close to the national average, but I still haven’t got over the whole area being penalised for high rates in Rochdale last July.

 

Friday, May 7th

Iceland is on the green list.  I still can’t see the trip running, but I cannot get a straight answer from the holiday company, who just say to assume it’s running until advised otherwise.  Even with the green list, there’ll be queues at airports, and Iceland wants you to be vaccinated, and … oh, this is all very frustrating.  If it’s cancelled, it’s cancelled, but I need to know, and they won’t tell me!   You can’t get to speak to the bigwigs, and the people who answer the phone don’t know any more than I do.  I could just cancel it myself, but … I’m not sure that I’m ready to make that decision.  But the payment deadline is fast approaching.   Portugal, Gibraltar and Israel are also on.  And Australia and New Zealand, which won’t let us in!   Turkey is now red-listed, making the idea of playing the Champions League final in Istanbul even sillier.  For heaven’s sake, play it at Villa Park.  Villa have said they’re happy to stage it.

Rafa lost to Sascha in the Madrid QFs.  Bah.

The Glazers have issued a statement.  About United, I mean, not about Rafa or holidays!  It doesn’t say very much.

“The Conservatives have taken Hartlepool” – now there’s something I never thought I’d say!  The by-election was held under unfortunate circumstances, the previous MP having to resign due to allegations of inappropriate behaviour, but it’s been positive in that it’s focused attention on the old industrial heartlands of the North.  For far too long, politicians have only been interested in what the metropolitan elite want, and that has to change.  Last autumn, with all the Tier 3 business going on, it looked as if nothing had changed at all, but we seem to have moved on from that quite quickly.  And it won’t be forgotten that it was Andy Burnham, other northern mayors, and northern MPs from all parties standing up for us – it wasn’t Keir Starmer.  I feel a bit sorry for Starmer, trying to clear up Corbyn’s mess, and during a pandemic, but his idea of campaigning in Manchester was to pose by some rolls of wallpaper in the Trafford Centre.  No-one cares about Boris’s wallpaper.  We want jabs, jobs and travel.   And it has all got very personality-based, and Boris is certainly not lacking in charisma.

It now seems that the Astra Zeneca vaccine will not be offered to most under 40s.  I hope this doesn’t hold the vaccination programme up.  Hopefully not, now we’ve got supplies of the Moderna vaccine as well as the Pfizer.

 

Saturday, May 8th

In the least surprising of all the election results, Andy Burnham was re-elected Mayor of Greater Manchester, with 67% of the vote.  The mayoral elections have been very interesting – both there and elsewhere, they’ve been far more about the person than the party, and Andy’s said that he wants to take a “place first not party first” approach.  I have to admit that I wasn’t initially convinced about this regional mayor idea, but it does seem to be working out well.  As I keep saying, we’ve had enough of politics being all about London.  Mixed picture with the council elections, but the overall picture is gains for the Conservatives, losses for Labour.  Not impressed with the low turnout.  Labour have retained control of the Welsh Senedd.  The SNP have won the largest number of seats in the Scottish Parliament, and are whingeing about wanting another referendum.

It has rained for most of the day.  So frustrating, when you’ve been trapped with work all week.  However, I couldn’t have gone out first thing anyway, because the plasterer was coming to sort out the hole in the kitchen ceiling (from the Easter pipe disaster).  It is now a brown splodge rather than a hole.  Next job is to try to get the decorator to come and paint it white.  And I did get out to Hollingworth Lake for a bit, when the rain eased up.

Really fed up with the holiday company.  As much I want to go on this trip to Iceland, I don’t want to spend all that money if it’s going to be spoilt by restrictions.  I’m also stressed because my second jab will be pretty close to when I’m due to go, and I gather that the NHS app is a nightmare.  Then there are the issues of long queues at airports and PCR tests.  At the moment, my thinking is that a summer staycation may be better, and then a trip abroad in the autumn, if one can be sorted.  But I can’t do anything until the holiday company give me a straight answer – and, this close to the payment deadline, I’m entitled to expect one.

Bolton have been promoted to League 1 … as Rochdale go the other way, ironically.

 

Sunday, May 9th

We came from behind to win 3-1 at Villa.  So we just need one more point to secure a top 4 finish.  And City still aren’t champions.

The weather brightened up today, and I went to Erddig, which was lovely.  So nice to be able to walk somewhere with no crowds and (in the gardens) no dogs!  And to drive without traffic jams and traffic lights.

My weight is a disaster.  Every time I lose a couple of pounds, they go back on.  What am I supposed to do?  Starve?

Still no news from the holiday company.

And, finally, it looks like we will get confirmation tomorrow that the May 17th reopenings can go ahead.  And it sounds as if we’ll be given permission to hug our relatives and friends, as long as we’ve made “informed personal decisions” to do so.  If you didn’t laugh, you’d cry!  Did you ever think you’d be living in a world in which you couldn’t hug your loved ones without politicians giving you the go-ahead to do so, and making “informed personal decisions”?!  Not even George Orwell came up with that one.  I’m not criticising the restrictions, just thinking how far we’ve come from the world we lived in all our lives until 14 months ago.  Covid World!

The road to freedom? Week 5, April 26th to May 2nd 2021 inclusive

Monday, April 26th

I am absolutely dreading the day Boris says that people don’t have to work from home any more.  Decent employers will probably let people choose to work from home 2 or 3 days a week, but others will want people back where they think they can “control” them better.  The slightest thing turns into a nightmare when you are trapped in an office.  Boiler needs repairing?  “Between 12pm and 6pm.”  Parcel needs delivering?  “Between 7am and 9pm, and can’t be left without a signature.  We’ll give you a one hour time slot on the day” – like it’s that easy to go home for an hour.  Need to go to the bank?  Only open 10am to 3pm, and there will be a horrendous queue during your dinner hour, because it’s everyone else’s dinner hour as well.  And the traffic is so bad and parking so difficult that you’ll have to walk there and back, which will take up most of your dinner hour anyway.  Etc etc etc!

Today, I needed to go somewhere which is only open 9am to 5pm, and which, due to traffic and queues, I couldn’t have got to and from in my dinner hour.  So I just nipped out, at a time when there wasn’t much traffic, and when there was unlikely to be a queue.  It didn’t take very long.  But I just could not have got there if I’d been trapped in the office.

People aged 44 are now able to book vaccines.  Are we doing one year at a time now?!  I’d assumed they’d say people from 40 to 44.

 

Tuesday, April 27th

People aged 42 and 43 are now able to book vaccines.  Presumably they just staggered it to avoid the website crashing if too many people tried to book at once.  Considering that we thought it might be May before anyone outside the top 9 groups was called, it’s really going pretty well, touch wood.

However, the situation in India – lovely India, where I went in 2018 and, before all this started, hoped to go again in, perhaps, 2022 or 2023 – is heartbreaking.  Car parks are being used as crematoria.  Trees in public parks are being cut down for kindling.  Hospitals have got no oxygen.  And no free beds.  We’ve sent what supplies we can, as have other countries, but it’s a drop in the ocean.  Almost 3,000 deaths per day are being reported, and, sadly, that’s probably only a fraction of the true figure.

In other news:
1.  The weather’s turned.  Cold, cloudy and showery.
2.  Wimbledon’s doing away with Middle Sunday from next year, and just playing 14 days like the other Grand Slams do, although I assume we’ll have the second week split by gender, rather than the silly Aussie Open system of having the men’s semis on two different days.  I really can’t decide how I feel about this!

 

Wednesday, April 28th

Apparently, the idea is to use the NHS app as a vaccine passport.  I don’t really fancy downloading the NHS app, but it sounds like we may have no choice.  There’s also talk about booster jabs in the autumn.

Holiday company has now cancelled all tours up to the end of June.  Mine is due to go on 18th July.  They’ll probably cancel up to 15th or 16th July next time, leaving me hanging on!   I’m not expecting it to go, but obviously I do need the official word.  I’m sorry for myself: I booked Iceland in September 2019 and was really looking forward to it.  But I’m even sorrier for the holiday company.

I’ve sent a donation to the British Asian Trust, which is doing what it can to help India.  Unfortunately, given how many people there are in India, aid sent by both governments and charities can only stretch so far.

 

Thursday, April 29th

Ugh, the weather has turned!   But it should dry up again by the weekend.

We are playing Roma this evening.

The average infection rate across Greater Manchester remains around 35.  Across England as a whole, it remains around 25 – lowest in the South East, highest in Yorkshire, but nothing terrible anywhere.   But it isn’t really going down, just staying around the same.   This virus isn’t going away.   But we’re being told that the May 17th easing of restrictions should be going ahead 🙂 .

The US is also doing well, and things seem to be improving across much of Europe too, but Turkey, which did so well last year, is now going into full lockdown.  And the news from India continues to be very bad.  A further problem is that the Serum Institutes in India were meant to be producing vaccines for the Covax programme, to be sent to poorer countries, but, given the situation, none of those vaccines will be leaving India.  Worrying times.

Later – wa-hey!!   After going 2-1 down, we came back to beat Roma 6-2!!!   Big leads have been overturned in second legs before, so I’m not counting any chickens yet, but … well, I never dared home for a 4 goal lead.  We could yet have two all-English finals … but, as I said, let’s not count any chickens yet.

 

Friday, April 30th

Sunshine and showers today, and the same forecast for tomorrow.  Monday is looking iffy, though … and I can’t reshuffle my plans because you have to book everything in advance these days!

Everyone over 40 is now being invited to book an appointment for their first jab.  I’m hearing some reports of issues booking, though.  You can get appointments, but you may have to wait a couple of weeks, or travel a bit rather than going to a centre close to your home.  But we knew there were going to be issues in April, and things have gone much better than we thought they might.

A trial mask-free nightclub event’s being held in Liverpool.  Not that I want to go to a nightclub, but some people do!   I’d rather like to go to the pictures, but I don’t think there’s going to be anything decent on when cinemas reopen next month.

Still very bad news from both India and Brazil.

In the middle of everything else, the junction where you turn out of our estate on to the main road is closed.  Apparently something’s collapsed.  It was absolutely fine until BT started digging it up the other week – funny, that.  OK, these things happen, but there wasn’t a soul working on it when I went past at half 3 this afternoon, not when I went past at half 2 yesterday afternoon.  Typical.

 

Saturday, May 1st

Today, I have actually been out of England for the first time since … whenever I last went to Bodnant Garden, which must have been last summer.  We are less than an hour’s drive from the Welsh border, the car radio picks up Greatest Hits Manchester loudly and clearly well into North Wales, and I am sick of all this silly closing of borders to score political points.  But, hopefully, that’s over now!  I’ve had a really nice day.  I was ecstatic to find that, although the daffodils at the front of Chirk Castle were long dead, those in the gardens and woodlands were still going!

After a lovely morning at Chirk, I went into Llangollen, where I had bara brith at the Welsh Cottage Tea Rooms to celebrate being allowed back into Wales, looked at people white water rafting on the Dee, and then went on a horse drawn boat ride on the Llangollen Canal.

 

And care home residents are to be allowed to visit friends and relatives, which is lovely.

 

Sunday, May 2nd

Oh.  Well, that wasn’t the afternoon I’d planned.  Like pretty much everyone else round here, I’d intended to watch United v Liverpool. The biggest match in English club football.  El Clasico Ingles.  Both clubs needing a win in the quest for a top four finish.  And with the rather unpleasant added spice of knowing that, if we lost, City would be champions.

But it didn’t happen.

We knew there were anti-Glazer protests planned, but they were supposed to be peaceful.   However, as these things so often do, it all got a bit out of hand.  Thankfully, there was little real trouble, but a small minority of people did clash with police and stewards, and two police officers were injured.  Some people protested outside the Lowry Hotel, where the team were, and prevented the team coach from leaving; and, more seriously, some people broke into the stadium and got on to the pitch.  Gary Neville, commentating for Sky, was doing his whole Red Nev thing about the right to protest and needing to do something that would get the Glazers’ attention and make headlines, but a lot of the people on the pitch just seemed to be smirking and taking selfies.

I have had enough of the Glazers.  Everyone has.  We never wanted them in the first place.  They’ve got no connection with United, with Manchester, with football.  They were only ever interested in money.  They don’t care about the fans.  And the Super League thing was the final straw.  And, yes, something big was needed.  There are “LUHG” (Love United Hate Glazer) stickers all over the place, but they don’t care.  They’re 3,000 miles away.  But breaking into the stadium’s not on.  And we don’t want to see matches cancelled.  This is all rather a mess.   We’ve seen some awful things go on in the past.  I remember City fans going to the care home where Peter Swales’s elderly mother lived.  We don’t want trouble.  But we do want the Glazers out.  And they won’t go.   It’s our club.  But they own it.

There being no football, I watched the Estorial tennis final.  Cam Norrie went a set and a break up … but Ramos Vinolas came back to win.

And the weather forecast for tomorrow is vile.  Bloody typical!   I’m going to Brodsworth come what may, but it won’t be much fun if it’s wet and windy.  And poor Windermere Lake Cruises, who’ve lost so much money already because of the pandemic,  have had to cancel all tomorrow’s bookings.  Bloody weather!

But, to end on a high note, I went to Dunham Massey this morning (picture below), and met up with my cousin, whom I hadn’t seen for ages because she’s been shielding.   So lovely to be reunited at last!

The road to freedom? Week 4, April 19th to 25th 2021 inclusive

Monday, April 19th 

I cannot believe what is going on.  It’s another warm, sunny day, a beautiful spring day … but this European Super League idea is just a nightmare.  I am so, so ashamed that United, City and Liverpool should be involved.  And Barcelona, of all clubs.  Everyone from Sir Alex Ferguson to Boris Johnson’s condemned it.  I can’t believe it’ll happen, but I said that about the Glazer takeover, rugby league being moved to the summer, and Bury being kicked out of the league.  There’s talk of banning the clubs involved from domestic leagues.  And banning players from playing from their national teams.  How the hell would that help?  That’s punishing players, fans and national sides, none of whom are to blame for any of this, rather than the clubs’ greedy owners.  No comment from any of the TV companies.  If they refuse to televise the matches, surely that’d put a stop to it?  In the middle of it all, Spurs have sacked Mourinho.

I need to ring the plasterer later- he said he’d come to have a look, but couldn’t speak to me earlier.

Had an e-mail from the holiday company, going on about hotels and itineraries and booking optional trips.  It’s a standard e-mail which comes out three months before you’re due to go, but it’s stressed me out because I have no idea what’s going to happen.  Iceland is likely to be on the “green list”.  However, unlike Greece and Portugal, I don’t think Iceland’s keen to let tourists in.  It’s so hard to know what to think.  Holiday companies are blithely saying that everything’ll go ahead almost as normal this summer … but it won’t.  However, the holiday company always makes a definite decision 8-10 weeks beforehand, so I suppose I’ll just have to wait a few weeks and see what happens.

India has been added to the “red list”, because of the very serious and worrying situation there.

 

Tuesday, April 20th

I know this is supposed to be a pandemic diary, but all anyone’s talking about is football.  Boris held a press conference this evening, in which he spoke about hopes to develop pills to treat the virus, and also concerns about a third wave, but, even at that, people kept asking questions about football.  Even the future king’s involved: Prince William’s spoken out about his concerns regarding the proposals.

How dare the Glazers and the other greedy owners do this? Sky Sports and Amazon Prime (although not BT Sport) have both said that it’s nothing to do with them.  Supporters’ groups have been holding talks with Boris.  This is what it’s come to – appealing to the Government to take action against our own clubs.  Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola have both made it pretty clear that managers haven’t been involved, and, as Jordan Henderson’s called a meeting of Premier League captains, we may soon get similar comments regarding players: Marcus Rashford’s already tweeted a picture of a banner showing Matt Busby’s “Football is nothing without fans” comment.

It’s been made clear that no German clubs will be getting involved.  So that’s Bayern Munich out.  Given the backlash, will anyone else get involved?   There’s even been talk that City and Chelsea are thinking of pulling out.  I just hope that the whole idea collapses.  But the bad feeling it’s caused won’t.  Liverpool fans were burning club shirts ahead of their match against Leeds last night.  Grimsby have suggested that replica shirts be donated so that they can be sent to Third World countries.

What a mess.

 

Later – Ed Woodward, our deeply disliked vice chairman (although, to be fair to the man, he’s just an employee) has resigned.  So has the president of Juventus.  City and Chelsea have pulled out.  Please, please, let’s just scrap the whole thing.

Oh, and the plasterer says he can sort the hole, but that it won’t be until mid-May.

And one pint bottles of skimmed milk have reappeared at Tesco.  They vanished at the start of the pandemic.  I know that people need to know this.

 

Wednesday, April 21st

Hooray.  All 6 English clubs pulled out late last night, followed by Inter and Atleti this morning, and then AC Milan.  Juve have said that the plan can’t go ahead, so, er, that leaves Real Madrid and Barca playing El Clasico every single week.  I think we can assume that the plan is now dead.  People are hailing victory for fan power, the forces of right, etc, but I think it’s more to do with the threat of being booted out of the existing competitions.  However, at least it’s over.  Joel Glazer’s written “an open letter” to United fans.  His grammar is appalling.

Rafa made an awful meal of beating Ivashka, in Barcelona, but got there, 3-6 6-2 6-4.

The Queen turns 95 today.  Not much of a birthday for her 😦 .

Getting back to pandemic news, grumpy scientists are still predicting a third wave in the summer.  I’ve now had a letter and a text from the NHS, telling me to book myself in for the vaccination if I haven’t done so already: they’re certainly being thorough.  20% of British adults have now had both jabs.

 

Thursday, April 22nd

Covid is no longer the leading cause of death in England and Wales, and infection levels are down to where they were in early September.  We still recorded 18 deaths today, sadly, but hopefully that number will fall.

However, the situation in India is terrible, and we’re now hearing that Tunisia’s running out of intensive care beds.

And, just when you thought the European Commission couldn’t stoop any lower, it’s suing Astra Zeneca for not producing as many doses as it said it would.  This is a brand new vaccine.  It’s only just been developed – thanks to the sterling work of the scientists involved.  The producers are doing their best.  Astra Zeneca aren’t even making any profit from that.  But the European Commission’s going to sue them.  Because they mess they’ve made of things is everyone’s fault but theirs.  How d disgusting.

In other news, Rafa won the first set against Kei 6-0 but then managed to lose the second 6-2 before coming through 6-2 in the third.  And now plays Cam Norrie.   And the weather is glorious, and, whilst I wasn’t sure that this idea of dining out at tables in office car parks (after offices have closed) or behind bus stops (there isn’t a lot of room for putting tables outdoors in a suburb with busy main roads) would catch on, it really has done!

 

Friday, April 23rd

St George’s Day.  And a gorgeous sunny day.  I think a lot of people had decided that it was POETS Day, because there were loads of people eating outside at The Coffee Sack, Babbo and Osma when I walked past!

Restrictions are to be eased in Austria and Italy.  Here, infection levels continue to fall, although today’s figures showed 40 deaths.  But the situation in India is awful.  A load of flights came in this morning, ahead of the “red list” deadline.  Could someone please tell me why, when travel is supposed to be banned, so many people are travelling?   How many people actually need to travel internationally for “essential” reasons?

Is there anything we can do to help?  We’ve got very close historic ties with India.

Rafa beat Cam Norrie, 6-1 6-4.

 

Saturday, April 24th

I very rarely eat out in the evenings, unless I’m on holiday because I feel self-conscious about going to restaurants on my own: it doesn’t seem to matter during the day, but it feels weird in the evening.  However, it was a lovely, warm, sunny day (the water boards are getting stressed about the lack of rain, but everyone else is just enjoying it whilst it lasts) and I just really felt like doing the outdoor dining thing, which is becoming symbolic of April 2021 … so I thought I’d go early, before it got busy, and it was really lovely.

 

Problems with nice weather – a) hay fever and b) weeds.  I spent ages pulling up weeds earlier, and they still seem to be everywhere!  But not to complain 🙂 .

This morning, I went to Rufford Old Hall, which has finally reopened.  Gorgeous bluebells!!   And, hooray, dogs are not allowed in the gardens there, nor at Capesthorne Hall, where I’m going tomorrow!

Then I came home (a slightly circuitous route, due to there being traffic chaos on the M60) and watched Rafa beat Pablo Carreno Busta, 6-3 6-2.  Very nervous about tomorrow’s final against Stef Tsitsipas – I can already hear all the “changing of the guard” comments if it goes the wrong way – but we’ll see.

Joe Biden’s described the Armenian Genocide as genocide.  Bravo!  At last.  I think Bill Clinton said he would, whilst campaigning in areas with big Armenian-American communities, and then never did.

Covid news from abroad.  Positive news from Israel, which recorded zero Covid deaths yesterday.  That hopefully shows how well the vaccines work.  We recorded over 30 deaths again today: I thought the numbers’d be coming down further by now, but then the figures are for deaths within 28 days of a positive test.   But the situation in India is heartbreaking.  Makeshift crematoria are being set up, pretty much in the street,  Boris has said that we’re seeing what can be done to help.

 

Sunday, April 25th

What a glorious day!  Well, apart from the fact that we only managed to draw at Leeds, 0-0, but you can’t have everything.  Rafa beat Stef 6-4 6-7 (6-8) 7-5 in an amazing 3 hour 38 minute Barcelona final.  I was exhausted by the end, and am now running stupidly late with everything, but yay!!  Rafa winning clay court titles in April again.  Now that feels like a bit of normality!

And I was sad that I wasn’t able to do the bluebell walk at Capesthorne Hall last year, but I went today and the woods were looking absolutely glorious!   And there were tables and chairs on the lawn, which was much nicer than being indoors.

City won the Carabao Cup, beating Spurs 1-0 in the final.  I cannot pretend to be delighted about this, but it’s good news that 8,000 fans were allowed inside the stadium.  Well, good news compared to having no fans in at all.

And so we enjoy the sunshine and hope that more restrictions will be lifted in three weeks’ time … but remain mindful of what’s happening in India and elsewhere.

 

The road to freedom? Week 3, April 12th to 18th 2021 inclusive

Monday, April 12th

Non-essential retail, hairdressers and beauty parlours, gyms and swimming pools, outdoor attractions such as zoos, self-contained holiday accommodation and outdoor hospitality all reopened today!  Well, some hospitality places are still shut because they haven’t got room for much or any outdoor seating, and some businesses sadly haven’t made it this far; but it’s a big day.  Let’s hope that, this time, we really are on the way out of this nightmare.

I had a blood donation appointment in town this morning, and, woo-hoo, I sat at a table outside a café to have a cup of tea beforehand!  Long queues outside shoe shops, weirdly.  Maybe everyone’s worn their shoes out with all the walking during lockdown!  Later, out for a walk locally, I saw loads of people sat outside pubs and cafes, and queues outside walk-in hairdressers/barbers.  And this is even though the temperature was below freezing this morning, and not much warmer later!  But it’s been lovely and sunny … unlike in Monte Carlo, where rain interrupted the tennis 😦 .

A few bluebells in Heaton Park, but not many yet.

Prince Harry’s arrived back in the UK.  Let’s hope he doesn’t cause any trouble.

And the man sent by the insurance company to check the ceiling for asbestos has been.  I’ve now got to wait for the results.  What a nightmare.  When I first found the leak, I thought I’d just need to have the bath re-sealed, but now all this.

 

Tuesday, April 13th

Hooray!!!

  1.  Vaccination bookings for people in the 45-49 age group in England are now being taken.  It wouldn’t let me book the Prestwich centre, for some annoying reason – I think that’s just doing second jabs at the moment – but it let me book Cheetham Hill, which is only a couple of miles away, for Thursday evening, and it also let me make an appointment for my second dose.  I’m a bit nervous because I know some people felt rotten for a couple of days afterwards, but let’s just get it done.   This came after the announcement last night that all over 50s had been offered a first dose, slightly ahead of the target date of April 15th.
  2. I have had my hair cut and properly dyed, for the first time in 4 months!!
  3. The average infection rate across Greater Manchester is below 50 per 100,000 for the first time since the beginning of September.
  4. Over 94% of over 50s in our borough have now had their first jab.  Practically everywhere in the country’s over 90%, apart from a few London boroughs.

A few bits of not so good news – there are now concerns that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine may also be linked to rare blood clots, the situation in Brazil is horrendous, and several cases of the South African variant have been found in South London.   We’re certainly not out of the woods yet.  But, hopefully, we’re getting there.

 

Wednesday, April 14th

Rafa beat Delbonis 6-1 6-2 in Monte Carlo.  I feel like the clay court season’s really here now!  And my magnolia has produced its first flower of the year.

Denmark’s said it won’t be using the AstraZeneca vaccine, and South Africa, the US and other countries are pausing use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.  We’re never going to get the whole world vaccinated at this rate.

My holiday company’s now cancelled all trips up to and including mid-June.  So mine in mid-July is officially still on, but I can’t see it happening.

 

Thursday, April 15th

Vaccination Day!  

Yes, I’ve had my first jab!   Separate post for that (above).

In other news, Rafa beat Grisha 6-1 6-1, Dan Evans beat Nole (!!), and I’m pleased that the Queen’s decided to invite Countess Mountbatten (maybe it would have been too much for Lady Pamela?) and representatives of Prince Philip’s sisters’ families to the funeral.

Now hoping I don’t have a bad reaction.  I wish people wouldn’t feel the need to tell me that they felt ill afterwards!

 

Friday, April 16th

I seem to be OK after the vaccination, touch wood.  But Rafa lost to Rublev 😦 .  2-6 6-4 2-6.  The first set and a half was the worst I’ve ever seen him play in Monte Carlo.  Then he came back to level it, but fell apart in the final set.  I suppose you can’t expect miracles when he hasn’t played a match since the Australian Open.  And it made me very late for tea at Mum and Dad’s!   Spring is so complicated, with the clay court season …

Asbestos Man didn’t find anything.  Phew.  So now I need to try to get a plasterer in.  Also, the guy was supposed to come and cut the grass yesterday, but he never turned up.

The EU says it probably won’t order any more supplies of the Astra Zeneca or Johnson & Johnson vaccines, even though the European health watchdog’s said that the risk from the virus is far higher than the risk from the vaccines.  Well, that’s their lookout – all the more for everyone else.  Infection levels here are back to where they were in September.  Some worrying talk about a nasty new mutant, originating in India, though.

 

Saturday, April 17th

That all went as well as it could’ve done, I think.  So hard for anyone to hold a funeral at the moment: funerals are difficult enough at the best of times, without having to cope with limited numbers, face masks, social distancing and the congregation not being able to join in the singing.  The music was beautiful, and the parade beforehand was perfect, but it was very sad to see the Queen sitting all on her own.  I was a bit tearful when I saw Prince Philip’s cap sitting on the seat of his carriage, but I got very tearful when I saw the Queen.

Whilst most of the country was mourning, a woman was arrested for running topless through the grounds of Windsor Castle.  I don’t suppose the Queen was amused, but Philip would have roared with laughter.

Before the funeral, I went to Tatton Park.  I’m not impressed that they’ve put the parking fee up (it was high enough already), but anyway.  It was the most beautiful sunny day, both here and at Windsor, and I was very glad to be able to see the lambs, piglets and bluebells there, after missing them last year because we were in lockdown.

 

There are still a few “minimise travel” signs up, but everyone’s out and about now.  Thankfully, the weather’s being kind to us, and we’re out in the fresh air.   And, touch wood, we’re doing OK … but deaths have passed three million globally.   Things in India are very worrying indeed.  Boris probably wishes he hadn’t arranged to visit there now, but he can’t very well pull out without causing offence.    Brazil’s in a bad way, and Canada’s struggling now.

Dan Evans lost his Monte Carlo SF to Stef Tsitsipas 😦 .  And City won’t be winning the Quadruple: Chelsea beat them in the Cup semis today.  I really couldn’t have taken the gloating over a Quadruple.

A strange day, all in all.  Rest in peace, Prince Philip.  You were a one-off.  You will be missed.

 

Sunday, April 18th

Like there’s not enough to worry about, there’s now talk of a European Super League.  Yes, there’ve been similar rumours on and off for over 30 years, but this sounds quite serious – and United, City, Liverpool, Spurs, Arsenal and Chelsea have signed up for it, along with Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, AC Milan, Inter Milan and Juventus.  Fans, former players and journalists are united in condemning it, and I’m deeply ashamed that United are involved.  Greed, greed, greed.  And at a time like this.  I just hope it comes to nothing.

On a happier note, we beat Burnley, 3-1.  And some fans are inside Wembley for the second Cup SF, one of a number of pilot events taking place.

And it’s been the most gorgeous warm, sunny day – hard to believe we woke up to snow a week ago.  There are people sat out at pubs, cafes and restaurants all over the place.  I went to Beeston Castle this morning, and the views were just glorious.  Then I stopped at the Great Budworth ice cream farm on the way home.  It was wonderful to get out on to the A49 and just drive.  Round here, you cannot go more than a couple of hundred yards without having to stop at yet another set of bloody traffic lights, and it really does get me down.  OK, sometimes you get stuck behind tractors, caravans or horseboxes on rural roads, but, thankfully, I didn’t today.  The traffic and the traffic lights here really do make me feel trapped: it was so lovely just to drive.

Then I watched the Monte Carlo final.  For so many years, you could pretty much guarantee that Rafa’d win Monte Carlo.  Not any longer 😦 .  But it was lovely to see Stef win his first Masters title.  And then United v Burnley.

Infection rates in our borough are now below the national average – 25.7, with the rate across England 27.8 – which is incredible when you think that we had one of the ten highest rates in the country not so long ago, at over 200.   The week-on-week rates in some local boroughs are up slightly, which isn’t great, but the highest rate is only 60.3, and even a few cases make a big difference with numbers now thankfully so low.  62.4% of adults across the UK have now had their first jab.   Compare that to 529 in Paris – I just don’t see how we can let foreign travel resume at the moment, and risk upsetting the apple cart.

And so endeth another week!

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.