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!

Vaccination Day

I’ve had my first jab!  The Oxford Astra Zeneca.  It was announced on Tuesday that people in my age group were being “called up”, as most media outlets put it, for their vaccinations.  “Called up” sounded rather like being called for active service in wartime, and there was certainly a sense of doing your duty for society, as well as protecting yourself.   It’s a big relief that we don’t seem to be having too many issues with vaccine hesitancy here: people rushed to message friends and relatives in the relevant age group and to post on social media, in case anyone hadn’t heard, and so many people tried to book appointments as soon as possible that the NHS England website briefly crashed.   94% of over 50s in our local authority area, which has been very badly hit by this horrible pandemic have now received their first jab, the national rate’s around 95%, and, hopefully, we’re on target to offer everyone over 18 their first jab by the end of July, and hopefully take-up in all age groups will be as high as it’s been in the priority groups.

I feel like I should be thanking the scientists, the Vaccine Task Force, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation and the National Health Service for leading us out of the wilderness, or leading us out of the darkness and into the light or something, like a verse from the Bible.  Or quoting some appropriate song – maybe “A Red Letter Day” by the Pet Shop Boys or “Greatest Day” by Take That?  I half-felt as if I should be wearing my best frock for the occasion!  I settled for ordinary clothes 🙂 , but a favourite pair of earrings and a Manchester United “Maskchester” mask!   And the sun shone.  And thank you to Rafa and Dan for their excellent performances in Monte Carlo this afternoon, keeping me sane (well, as near to sane as I ever get) as I waited for the clock to tick round towards the time of my appointment.  I was anticipating having to wait in a long queue, but I didn’t: it was all over and done with very quickly.

There’ve been a lot of reports of people getting quite emotional, especially clinically vulnerable people whose lives have been very restricted since this nightmare started.  It’s been such a relief every time a family member or friend has received their first jab, and in some cases now their second jab, and today it was my turn.  I know that Boris and the medics keep reminding us that the vaccines aren’t 100% effective, and I’m sure we’re all well aware of the risk of variants, but there’s no denying how much infection rates, hospitalisations and deaths have fallen since the vaccination rollout started, and don’t tell me that that’s due mainly to lockdown because we were locked down in November and it didn’t have this sort of effect.

Back in January, we were seeing some local authorities recording infection rates of over 1,500 per 100,000, and at one point we recorded over 1,600 Covid-related deaths in a day.   Now, nowhere’s got a rate of over 100 per 100,000, and the average number of Covid-related deaths per day, whilst every death is still very, very sad, is below 50.  Brazil’s recording over 3,000 deaths per day, India over 1,000, Poland recorded over 800 deaths in a day earlier this week, Italy’s seeing around 500 per day, France will probably pass the 100,000 death toll today and Germany’s close to running short of intensive care beds, so we certainly can’t take anything for granted, and can only hope that the third wave eases in other countries soon and that we manage to escape it.

It’s going to take a long time before the entire population of the world can be offered a vaccination, and it doesn’t look as if the pandemic’s going to end any other way – well, not without taking the sort of toll which the Spanish flu took.   We’ll get there, hopefully.  We’re very lucky to be in a country which has been able to provide one of the fastest vaccination rollouts in the world, and thanks again to everyone involved in that.  Hopefully, this is our way out of this, an end to this fear that’s been hanging over us all since last March, and a route back to some sort of normality.   If anyone’s read this, thank you, and stay safe xxx.

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!

 

Death of HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh

I can’t stop crying.  I know he was 99 – so close to being 100 – but, however long a life someone’s lived, it’s always sad when they go.  He’d always been there.  He and the Queen were both supposed to live for ever: this day was never supposed to come.  I felt like that when the Queen Mother died.  It’s like losing a member of your own family: he’d always been there.

The Queen’ll be lost without him.  Theirs was the greatest royal love story of all time, and history will recognise that in time.  Oh, bloody Covid: he never got to meet the two new babies, August and Lucas, and he won’t have seen most of the rest of the family for months.  As for Harry … well.   And we’re only allowed 30 people at funerals at the moment – how will that work.  Ironically, I don’t suppose he’d have wanted a big ceremonial funeral anyway.

As the Queen once said, the country, the whole Commonwealth, owes him a debt greater than we will ever know – his support of her, all his work for charities and causes.  And it’s the passing of a generation too, that wonderful generation who saved the world: so few people from my grandparents’ generation are left now.  He was a real link with history – he was a Second World War veteran, he was the Tsarina’s great-nephew, he was linked to so many royal families, some still in place, some long since deposed.

Oh, the poor Queen.  She would have known that this day would come, with his health deteriorating, and to have been married for 73 years is incredible, but … someone’s there, and then they’re not, and, whoever you are, that is a devastating thing to have to deal with.  Covid restrictions or no, I hope that someone’s able to go to her, if that’s what she wants – one of her children, or maybe her chaplain if that’s whom she needs.

I can’t quite take it in.  We thought he’d been doing better.  He’d always been there.  Someone who’s always been part of our lives has gone.   You think these days will never come, but they do, as they must.

I saw them, in 2002.  He and the Queen came to Manchester, at the start of the Commonwealth Games, and I waited in town to see them.  I was so excited afterwards, that I’d seen the Queen and Prince Philip in person, close up.  The greatest royal couple in history.

Rest In Peace, Your Royal Highness.  You will be sadly missed.

The road to freedom? Week 1 , March 29th to April 4th 2021 inclusive

Lockdown

Monday, March 29th

Well, this is day on on The Roadmap To Freedom, but I feel a bit out of things.  Mum and Dad have been to London to be reunited with my sister and brother-in-law and the kids, and other people have been meeting family and friends or playing outdoor sport, and I’ve just been chained to the office laptop or going for a walk in the park!   Roll on Good Friday!   The powers that be have said it’s OK to travel around the country to see family and friends, so I don’t see why I shouldn’t have a day out, as long as I stay outdoors.

The Novavax vaccine will hopefully be available by June.

Well, let’s just hope there are no more lockdowns.  Enough is enough.

 

Tuesday, March 30th

Another warm, sunny day. Loads of people in the park. And the lowest weekly death toll since October.

The situation in Europe is worrying, though.

Oh, roll on Good Friday, when I’ll be able to get a taste of this freedom, all being well!! It can’t come soon enough!!

 

Wednesday, March 31st

Second jabs outnumbered first jabs for the first time today.  I feel a bit like a third class citizen now – full vaccinated people, first jab people, and the rest of us!!

Another warm, sunny day, with loads of people in the park.  Please, please stay dry for the Easter weekend.

It looks as if France could be heading back into lockdown, and things in the Netherlands aren’t too clever either.   Thankfully, we’re doing OK – touch wood.  Well, over 50 deaths a day, which is hardly “OK”, but compared to over 1,000 a day, at the peak of the second wave, things have improved very significantly.

 

April Fools’ Day/Maundy Thursday, April 1st

Typical, just as we get towards the Bank Holiday weekend, it goes cold again!  But it’s dry, touch wood.

Shielding ends today.

France is indeed back in lockdown.  But we’re remaining steady, at around 4,500 to 5,000 new infections and 40 to 50 deaths per day.  And we should be allowed back into Wales soon, hooray!  And we beat Poland 2-1 last night, so fingers crossed for World Cup qualification.

Hooray, at last I feel like I can join the roadmap to freedom, four days after everyone who wasn’t trapped with work crap!!

But … we’re now being told that, when cafes etc reopen on April 12th, everyone’s got to sign in, and have their details kept for 21 days.  What, even for sitting outside?   That’s just put me right off!!    Oh well, let’s not worry about that just now …

 

Good Friday, April 2nd

Hooray!   I have finally made it back to Windermere!   It’s been so long.   I drove up to Bowness this morning, and had a bit of time there.  And the weather was glorious!

Then I got the steamer across to Waterhead/Ambleside.  I thought the steamers’d be busy, but they weren’t.  They only restarted yesterday, in the end, and they said that yesterday was just dead.  I think a lot of people are confused about these “minimise travel” rules, and, also, people possibly didn’t realise that anything at Windermere would be open.  But it got busier later.  Fingers crossed for a good spring and summer.  As bad as things here have been, it’s been far, far worse for tourist areas.  The cafes here have been busy doing takeaways, but most of those at Windermere only reopened today.  In fact, I got the Waterhead Coffee Shop’s first blueberry scone since they had to close due to lockdown!

The daffodils at Borrans Park were out!  And then I came back on the Swift, the new steamer which was only launched last year – my first trip on her.

Then I had more time in Bowness … oh, my lovely, beloved Bowness, how I have missed you!

And then I went to Sizergh Castle on the way home.  I love daffodil season at Sizergh!

And there were lambs!  Well, there were also loads of lambs in the fields off the M6 and the A591, but I couldn’t very well take photos whilst I was driving!  Sizergh lambs:

Oh, how I needed that.   It’s frustrating not being able to go abroad, but not being able to travel within the country’s been far, far worse.  Let’s hope we don’t ever go back there.

In other news, I’m sorry to hear that Sachin Tendulkar’s in hospital with Covid, and there’s a row going on here over vaccine passports.  If they try to introduce vaccine passports for football grounds, theatres etc now, when most under 50s are unable to get vaccinated, it will be incredibly unfair and cause a lot of trouble.  Once everyone’s been offered a vaccination … I don’t know.  The idea of having to show papers, and denying certain people access … it does smack a bit of Nazi Germany, and that’s what people are uncomfortable about.  We’ll see.

Anyway.  Gold star for the weather, and, oh, how I have missed Windermere!! 

 

Saturday, April 3rd

This morning was cloudy, and then we had glorious sunshine by late afternoon.  The other way round would have been better, but never mind!  I went for a walk round town this morning.  It’s April, and it was the first time I’d been into town this year – how crazy is that?!  Very quiet.  I don’t know what else I expected, given that non-essential shops, theatres, cinemas, museums etc are all closed, but it was weird.

However, all being well, non-essential shops will be reopening a week on Monday, as will hairdressers and outdoor seating at cafes/pubs/restaurants.  Boris is due to give a press conference on Monday night, confirming whether or not it’ll go ahead, but I don’t see why it shouldn’t.  We “only” recorded 10 Covid deaths yesterday, although obviously it was a Bank Holiday.  We may also get some news on the vexed question of vaccine passports.  Boris is the last person you’d expect to back something like that, but apparently he does.  And there’s also talk of a “traffic light” system for foreign travel – meaning the same palaver as last year, with things being moved on and off lists at the last minute.  But it seems very unlikely that the April 12th easing won’t go ahead.  Roll on haircuts!   

 

Easter Sunday, April 4th

It looks as if both the “traffic light” system for foreign travel and the vaccine passport system will be going ahead, with the passport system to be trialled at the Carabao Cup final and various other events.  Ugh.  But, by the time the new football season starts, everyone should have had at least their first jab.

Meanwhile … just as life seemed to be looking up at last, I came downstairs this morning to find water coming through the kitchen ceiling for the THIRD time in a year.  I slipped on it, and whacked my knee and arm on the wooden floor.  Then I took the cover off the light fitting, to try to see what was going on, and, in my agitated state, dropped it, whereupon it smashed to smithereens.  So I have now got no cover for the light, water coming through the ceiling, a ceiling that needs repainting again, and a bruised knee.  I think it’s the bath this time, not the shower.  I was going to ring the emergency plumber – of course, it just had to happen on Easter Day, when hardly anyone’s working – but they charge a fortune, and last time the guy made a mess of the job and I had to get him to come back.  So I’m hoping to get the ordinary plumbers next week. and am hoping fervently that the dripping gets no worse.

After all this, I had complete hysterics and rang my poor mum and dad in floods of tears.

Bleurgh.

Once I’d mopped the floor, mopped up the tears and put a bucket down, I turned to chocolate. Some people have said their supermarkets are short of Easter eggs this year, but I’m pleased to say that ours isn’t.  Here is my Easter egg, with its accompanying Malt-Easter bunnies:

I then went to Biddulph Grange, as planned.  I was very sad not to see the woodland walk in daffodil season last year, but here it is in all its glory, this year:

Also, they had Easter special hot cross scones:

I then stopped at Alderley Edge on the way home:

So that was all very nice.  But I now need to get:

  1. A plumber.
  2. The decorator (again).
  3. The electrician (for the light fitting).
    And it was all fine this time yesterday.  Why does life throw you curveballs like this?  And I keep panicking about what’ll happen when I have to go back to being Trapped in the office and something like this happens.

And, on top of all this, there are fears that the French Open might be postponed.  If that idiot Macron spent a bit more time trying to deal with the virus situation in France and a bit less time making Anglophobic remarks, things might not be in this mess.  But they are. 

But we beat Brighton, 2-1.  Sadly, nothing is going to stop City from winning the league, but fingers crossed for a top four finish this year.

 

Dancing with the Daffodils

We were put into Tier 3 in mid-October, so we had 5 1/2 months of not being able to leave the local area.  Being separated from family and friends in other parts of the country has been very hard, and I really feel for people whose loved ones are abroad and who can’t visit them even now.  And, much as I love my home city and our local park, I need to get out into the countryside, especially to the Lake District, to clear my anxiety-filled head and lift my soul; and not being able to do that’s been difficult and frustrating.  But hopefully, thanks especially to the wonderful efforts of the Vaccine Taskforce , we’re now on the “Roadmap to Freedom”; and I finally got to go back to Windermere on Good Friday.  And, for once, the Bank Holiday weather played ball – not a cloud in the deep blue sky.

Lockdown’s affected different parts of the country in different ways.  We’ve been under additional restrictions since the end of July, which has been very tough.  Walking round the streets and local park every day, trying to avoid people with horrible barking dogs and wishing that the queues at the cafes were shorter, I’ve sometimes envied people living in rural areas.  But, because we’re a densely-populated area, the takeaway cafes have been very busy all along.  I often see people I know in the queues at the park cafes, or the cafes on the main road, which is rather nice; and it’s also nice for our local businesses to have that custom.  But, at Windermere, a lot of places closed at the start of Lockdown III, or even earlier, and have only just reopened.  Tourist attractions remain closed for now, although (hooray!!) the steamers between Bowness and Ambleside can operate, classed as public transport.  But it’s been a tough old time for tourist areas.  Blackpool’s tourism boss said last week that recovery’d probably take five years.  Windermere Lake Cruises have spent millions on a lovely new steamer- which I was lucky enough to be able to go on yesterday – only to find that they couldn’t run any steamers at all for much of last year and the first three months of this year.

So it was absolutely wonderful, and very special, for me to be there.  By a weird coincidence, the music in the car, which was on shuffle, decided to have Elvis singing “Glory glory Hallelujah” as I caught my first glimpse of the lake from the A591, and that seemed very fitting!   And it’s also wonderful for tourist areas to be able to start welcoming visitors back.

I thought it’d be busy.  It wasn’t.  The “stay local” and “minimise travel” rules are … er, well, let’s say that everyone’s interpreting them in their own way.  But some people aren’t leaving their local area, some people are still nervous about going out at all, some people aren’t sure what will and won’t be open, and, with overnight stays still banned, there’s only so far that anyone can go anyway.  And goodness knows when overseas tourists will be back: the Lake District usually welcomes a lot of visitors from the Far East in the spring, from Europe in the summer and from the US in the autumn, and I can’t see that that’s going to happen this year.  But maybe we’ll see another Staycation Summer: last year’s was a big boost.

But, for me, it was glorious!   This is my favourite time of year, when the daffodils are out.  I didn’t think I’d get to see the daffodils at the Lakes this year, and to be able to see them at Windermere, and, later in the day, at Sizergh Castle, especially under that beautiful blue sky, really did mean so much.  And being able to get back out on to the lake on the glorious steamers.  I miss being able to go abroad, but not as much as I’ve missed the Lake District!   There is nothing like the wonderful views there, and the feeling of peace and nature and timelessness.

It’s quite strange being able to plan again.  OK, we can’t plan holidays yet, but I can start thinking about when I might go and see the lambs at Tatton Park, and the bluebell walks at Capesthorne Hall, and have a day out in Blackpool, and so on.  I don’t expect miracles, and I don’t think we’ll be getting back to normal any time this year.  But we’re making a start.  And I’m so very grateful to have had that day yesterday.  I waited a long time for it!

If anyone’s reading this, thanks for reading, enjoy the rest of your Easter weekend, and stay safe xxx.

–  daffodils at Bowness Pier

– the Swift, new steamer

– blueberry scone from the Waterhead Coffee Shop

– lambs and daffodils at Sizergh Castle