Tier 3 Plus, Week 2, December 14th to 20th 2020 inclusive

Monday, December 14th

Oh great.  A new variant of the virus has been identified in the South East.  Like everyone hasn’t got enough problems.

The tier review wasn’t due until Wednesday, and we still don’t know if any areas will be moved from Tier 3 to Tier 2, but Greater London, most of Essex and parts of Hertfordshire are to be moved into Tier 3 from midnight tomorrow night.  Tier reviews will now be once a week rather than once a fortnight … er, even though we haven’t even had the first one yet.

Two councils in London have told schools to close early for Christmas.  Well, move to online learning.  The government is not happy.

Back into full lockdown for the Netherlands.  Until January 19th!

We have been drawn against Real Sociedad in the Europa League.  They’re currently top of La Liga!  That’s the worst draw we could have got!

And my old headmistress died this morning.  She was 88, so she had a good innings, but it’s quite sad that, because of the virus restrictions, only 30 people will be able to attend the funeral.

At least it’s stopped raining!

 

Tuesday, December 15th

We’ll find out tomorrow whether or not we’re being moved into Tier 2, but, after all the optimism a fortnight ago, hopes are fading.  This wretched spike in one small area’s set our borough back, although rates are thankfully now falling again, and rates are actually edging up a bit in Salford and Trafford.   More than that, there are concerns that rates are going to go right up after Christmas, as they did in the US after Thanksgiving.  There’s even talk that the Christmas amnesty could be scrapped, although I don’t think the government’d dare, and I don’t think people’d take any notice if they did.  And some business owners are worried about the prospect of spending a lot of time and money on reopening, only to be shut down again a couple of weeks later, as has happened to businesses in London.

Having said all of that, I’m desperately hoping for Tier 2.  I can stand a lot of things, but not being told that I can’t stay away overnight and am not even supposed to leave the area, even to go to neighbouring areas.  I’ve still got my booking at the Chester spa hotel I go to every year during “Twixmas”, but am prepared to have to cancel it 😦 .

The London boroughs which were going to close schools have agreed to keep them open.

It has been pointed out numerous times that the scientific advisory committee and several senior Cabinet ministers wanted to put London into Tier 3 straight after lockdown, and that it was Boris who said no.

No-one is impressed with all the messing about.

819,000 jobs were lost in the UK between the start of the pandemic and the end of October, 297,000 of them in the hospitality sector.  And that’s before Lockdown II.

Meanwhile, the gym has finally reopened … but it’s limited hours only, so I’m going to leave it for now.

 

Wednesday, December 16th

The “review” of the tierings has been carried out, but we aren’t allowed to know the results until tomorrow.  I’m sure Matt Hancock’s getting a kick out of this.  He’s like that bossy woman at a cafe, who made me go out and come back in because I’d inadvertently walked in through the “exit” door, even though I was already in by then, and there was no-one else there so it didn’t matter anyway.  “I have the power!”  Meanwhile, the infection rate in our borough aren’t dropping much, because of an outbreak at another care home!  I don’t believe this.  However, the rate is below the national average.  Ditto every other borough in Greater Manchester, other than Rochdale and that’s only fractionally above.  North of here, the rates in Rossendale, Burnley and Pendle are higher than they are here, but less than half what they are in parts of Kent.  I don’t know why Kent’s suddenly got so bad, but I don’t understand anything about this mad virus.

The government doesn’t want to cancel Christmas, a) because there’ll be a backlash (almost 3 3/4  centuries on, people still go on about Oliver Cromwell cancelling Christmas) and b) no-one will take any notice because people have already made their plans, but the Scottish and Welsh authorities have told people to make their bubbles 2 households rather than 3, and the Scottish government’s said that people should only meet up for a day and not stay overnight.  What if you’ve got a long journey?  Not everyone’s nearest and dearest live nearby.  And are people really going to ring Uncle John or Auntie Mary and tell them that they’re uninvited and will have to spend Christmas on their tod?  Oh, what a muddle.  There’s just no answer.  People are getting very down about being separated from their loved ones.  But infection rates are going up in most areas, even those under the highest level of restrictions.

300 people spent the night on a ferry in the Mersey (as opposed to a ferry ‘cross the Mersey), after several crew members on the Birkenhead to Belfast ferry tested positive for the virus.

Wales is going back into lockdown after Christmas.  There’s talk that the Republic of Ireland may do the same.  Italy is suffering badly.  Even in South Korea, where they’ve done so well, Seoul is running short of hospital beds.  It’s just a nightmare.

I’m hearing one tale of woe after another about kids being sent home from school to self-isolate – which. at this stage, messes up their plans and their families’ plans for the Christmas holidays.  The nursery and reception classes at my younger nephew’s school were sent home today.  These are little kids of just 3, 4 or 5 years old.   I really think that schools need to close.  I can’t believe I’m saying this: I would have had complete hysterics if my education had been disrupted and put my chances of getting top exam results at risk, plus there are the problems faced by parents who can’t work from home.  But nothing else is working.

And we are being advised to keep the windows open during Christmas dinner.  I don’t think even Victorians stressing about TB did that.

 

Thursday, December 17th

Oh FFS.  Bristol and North Somerset get moved down from Tier 3 to Tier 2.  (And Herefordshire gets moved down from Tier 2 to Tier 1.)  But Greater Manchester, West Yorkshire, Birmingham/Warwickshire and the North East all get left in Tier 3.  Even though infection rates have plummeted.  Even though infection rates here are now way below what they were in much of the South East, and indeed parts of Merseyside, when they got put in Tier 2.  If they’d said that they didn’t want to reduce restrictions anywhere until they saw what happened after Christmas, I could have understood that.  But, as ever, it’s one rule for the South and one rule for the North.  Bristol gets moved down.  Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham, Newcastle, etc, do not.  Even areas where the infection rate is below 100 per 100,000 do not.

I am SO fed up and pissed off.

The furlough scheme’s been extended until April.

Secondary school kids, other than those doing exams, are to work online for the first week of the new term.

Berkshire, Bedfordshire, the rest of Hertfordshire, most of Surrey (how come it’s OK to split counties in the South, but not in the North or the Midlands?), and parts of Sussex, Cambridgeshire and Hampshire move into Tier 3.

I could slap Matt Hancock’s irritating face.  He harps on and on about how everyone needs to “work hard” and “pull together” to bring infection rates down, like it’s everyone’s personal fault if rates are high.  Then, when rates do come down, nothing changes.

Sacha Lord, the Greater Manchester “night time economy advisor” (who was the year above me at our brother school) was on Sky News this morning, asking why it’s OK to walk round the Trafford Centre but not to sit in a socially distanced café.  You may well ask, Sacha.  You may well ask.

Andy Burnham’s comment:

“It isn’t equal treatment. It’s as simple as that. When we had higher cases and cases rising, we were left on our own. When London and the South East have them it looks like everyone has to have them.”

The leaders of Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield councils have all spoken out about the unfair treatment of the North.

Emmanuel Macron’s tested positive for the virus.   So the head of the European Council, the French PM, the Spanish PM, the Portuguese PM and the Taoiseach are all having to self-isolate.  Obviously, this is not funny …

Northern Ireland’s going into a 6 week lockdown.  Straight after Boxing Day.

The Aussie Open’s been postponed by 3 weeks.  At least we know where we’re up to, but it’s usually the one thing that makes January bearable, even in a normal year.  Bleurgh.  And the socially distanced pantomime, planned when we were told that it was OK for theatres to open, has been cancelled.

On a happier note, I went to Lightopia at Heaton Park this evening, and it was brilliant!  At least that was allowed to go ahead!

 

And United won 3-2 at Sheffield United – the first time I’ve watched a United match on Amazon Prime.

 

Friday, December 18th

Just as if we haven’t got enough problems, the Greater Manchester Police Force has been placed into special measures after a report found that there were all sorts of problems.  Chief Constable Ian Hopkins has resigned.  Some people are trying to blame Andy Burnham.  Talk about it never rains but it pours!

Were I not so pissed off with Boris, Hancock & co over the way they’ve treated Greater Manchester, I could almost feel sorry for them.  If they cancelled the Christmas bubble plans, there’d be a huge backlash, and people would meet up anyway.  So they haven’t.  So people are moaning that this’ll mean a big increase in cases – and the R number’s already back above 1.  People have said that schools need to be closed for a while: some councils actually told schools to close.  So they’ve said that secondary school kids not in exam years should work online for the first week of the Easter term.  So now teachers are moaning that they haven’t been given enough time to plan lessons.

I had a blood donation appointment this morning.  I got a mince pie on the NHS!  It’s my third appointment since the pandemic started.

And I had to wait in a queue to get on the National Trust website this morning, which has never happened before.  And this was at 7 am!  I got tickets for Dunham Massey for Boxing Day and New Year’s Day, for the times I wanted, so that was fine, but zillions of people must have logged on at once, trying desperately to find something to do over the holidays.  I must cancel the spa hotel in Chester … I’m putting it off because it’ll upset me to do it.  Someone I know’s just been to a hotel in the Lakes.  They booked it months ago, and, when they rang to explain, the hotel staff said that they were so desperate for the business that they couldn’t care less if people were coming from Tier 3 areas.

Boris has been to Bolton today.  Presumably trying to convince people that he does actually know where the North West is.

It’s a week till Christmas …

 

Saturday, December 19th

Just when you thought 2020 couldn’t get any worse.  Why did the bloody virus have to mutate?  In England?  Just now?

Thanks to this mutant strain of the virus, which has appeared in the South East, Christmas has been cancelled.  Everywhere in the South East which has just gone into Tier 3 is now in Tier 4, which is pretty much the same as the lockdown which the whole country was in from early November to early December, and travel between Tier 4 areas and the rest of the country is banned.  Similar restrictions are being introduced across Wales and Scotland.  It’s initially only until December 30th in the English areas affected, but it’s hard to see that much will change in 11 days.

So my sister and brother-in-law and nephews, whom I haven’t seen since the end of August, now can’t come to us as planned.

The rest of us, Tiers 1, 2 and 3 can still form a three household bubble, but only on Christmas Day.   People in Scotland and Wales may also form “Christmas bubbles”, but, again, only on Christmas Day.

I have actually cried.  It’s no-one’s fault, but … oh, we were so close.  Just days away.

There have been worse years.  80 years ago, nearly 700 people were killed in the Manchester area, in the Christmas Blitz.

But this is still a real kick in the teeth.  Thankfully, this new strain doesn’t seem to be any more dangerous, but it does spread more quickly.  Every time you think this virus can’t throw anything else at us, it does.

In other news:

I had my hair cut and dyed this morning.  The appointment was booked weeks ago, but, with another lockdown possible (hair salons remain open here, but will have to close in Tier 4 areas), I’m glad it’s been done.

I went to Sale Water Park this afternoon, just for somewhere different to go.

Christmas is off in Italy as well.

And I cancelled my Twixmas spa break.  Given that I’ve lost my trips of a lifetime to Iceland and Japan this year, you wouldn’t think that losing a night outside Chester would have upset me, but it did.  I think it was very good of me to cancel.  Someone I know went to a hotel down south and gave a false (Merseyside, so Tier 2) address.

Bleurgh.

 

Sunday, December 20th

Could someone please wake me up from this nightmare?  We can’t take much more.  I actually feel sorry for Boris: I would have cracked up completely if I were him.  I just can’t believe how much things have escalated in the space of a couple of days.

Apart from the odd sanctimonious person who’s saying that any sensible person wouldn’t have made any plans for Christmas anyway, people are upset over the Christmas plans being changed.  And whingeing that Boris left it so late – but he didn’t have the data on the mutant strain until yesterday.

Shocking scenes from the London railway stations last night.  You’d have thought people were fleeing from an invading army.  No-one’s supposed to be travelling out of a Tier 3 area (Tier 4 rules apply from today) before Christmas, but the stations were jam packed, and trains to all four corners of Britain, plus Paris and Brussels, were also jam packed.  Why the hell did no-one stop this?

Several countries, including the Republic of Ireland, have imposed travel bans on the UK.  It’s not a surprise.  We imposed a travel ban on Denmark over the mink.  If this new strain that emerged in Spain in the summer had been identified sooner, maybe the second wave wouldn’t be as bad as it is.  TBH, I think the new strain’s probably spread already.  I sincerely hope not – rates in our borough are falling, and, although rates across Greater Manchester are rising, the week-on-week increase is only 3.4%, which isn’t too bad – but it seems likely.

So holidays are off, which is bad enough, but more of a problem is that France has banned freight traffic for 48 hours.  The Port of Dover is closed.  I just cannot believe that this is happening.  I should imagine we’re going to see panic-buying over the next couple of days … even though, at this time of year, a lot of fresh fruit and veg comes from outside Europe anyway, and, as yet, it’s only European countries and Israel imposing bans.

I wonder if the Queen’d mind her Christmas Speech being broadcast a few days early!  OK, I’m not being serious, but we urgently need to pull together, and the Queen’s the only person who can pull us together.

I just cannot believe what is happening.  Vaccinations have just started.  We’re supposed to be getting towards the end of this nightmare.  Instead, it’s just got a million times worse.  There were nearly 36,000 new infections today.  Last Sunday, there were just under 18,447.

In other news:

  1. United beat Leeds 6-2.  This is the best thing that’s happened all week.
  2. Lewis Hamilton is Sports Personality of the Year.
  3. I’ve been to Hollingworth Lake (again).
  4. My sister managed to get a turkey roll and the trimmings, so at least they’ll have a Christmas dinner … just, sadly, not with us.  My brother-in-law’s mum and dad will be joining us, though.

For a short time this morning, I put some Christmas music on, re-read some festive scenes from children’s books, as I do every year, and tried to block this nightmare out.   It’s the travel bans that get me.  We can’t even go to Liverpool at the moment, FFS.  It’s all making me feel trapped, which is my main anxiety symptom.  But there are bigger things going on here.  We are suddenly in a huge crisis.  And we’re on our own.  And we’re not even united.

I wish I could Do Something.   Instead of wasting the next 4 days on pointless work.

I know.  80 years ago – well, 80 years ago, minus a few days – we were facing the Christmas Blitz.  Nearly 700 people in the Manchester/Salford area were killed.  There have been worse times.  But this is still a pretty crap time.

 

 

Tier 3 Plus, Week 1 – December 7th to 13th 2020 inclusive

Monday, December 7th

Hooray!   Two small Christmas markets are to open in town.  I might go on Friday: I’m having the day off because they won’t let us carry our holidays forward, and, with cinemas, museums etc all closed, there’s very little else to do.

There were pictures of packed crowds outside Harrods over the weekend.  How come so many people can afford to shop at Harrods?!  Desperate cafe/restaurant owners in Tier 3 areas are demanding to know how come this is OK and yet they can’t have customers in to sit at socially distanced tables.  The government, natch, couldn’t care less.

Infection rates continue to fall across Greater Manchester, hooray!  But, worryingly, the rate of increase in our borough has slowed right down – it’s still down week on week, but actually up between mid-week and the end of the week.  We’ve now got the second-highest rate of the ten boroughs, and are really letting the side down.  It could be due to a particular factor such as an outbreak at a school, but nothing’s been said.

Prince William and Kate are touring the country on the Royal Train.  Hopefully this’ll be a morale booster.  Politicians are not welcome, but Royals are 🙂 .

Level 4 restrictions in Scotland are to end.  Lucky Scotland!  But infection rates in Wales, especially South Wales, are rising, and the situation’s also worrying in parts of Europe.  We hear next to nothing about what’s happening in Africa, Asia or South America … except for the England cricket tour of South Africa having to end early due to members of both teams, and hotel staff, testing positive.

 

Tuesday, December 8th

The vaccine roll-out’s started!   A 90-year-old lady called Margaret Keenan received her first shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine this morning, in Coventry.  Hopefully this is the beginning of the end.  (And not the end of the beginning.)

I know this is really exciting, but it’s hard to be excited when, after plunging for the last few weeks, infection rates in our borough have somehow started creeping up again.  WHY is this happening?  They’re down everywhere else, even Oldham and Rochdale which’d been struggling so badly.  Hopefully it’s just a blip, maybe a cluster at a school or something, but we aren’t being given any info.  With tier levels due to be reviewed next week, this is just the last thing we need.  It’s like we’ve been progressing along the snakes and ladders board and have now slipped right back down a snake.  Infection rates in Greater Manchester as a whole are down, and now below those in Greater London, but I’m really worried about what’s going on here.

William and Kate visited Manchester yesterday, and have now been reunited with the Queen, Charles and Camilla, Anne, and Edward and Sophie at Windsor Castle.  Sadly, whilst they were welcomed by the people they met, the tour’s been marred by the ill-mannered Nicola Sturgeon and the equally ill-mannered Vaughan Gething (the Welsh Health Minister) pretty much saying that they weren’t welcome, and Downing Street failing to give the appropriate backing.  You can’t do right for doing wrong, sometimes.

Scottish Higher exams have been cancelled.

So have trains from Switzerland to Italy.

And, following the affair of the Danish mink, we now have the Catalan lions.  Sounds like a rugby team.  But it’s not funny- four lions at a zoo in Barcelona have tested positive for coronavirus.

And I am off to finish writing my Christmas cards before watching United v Leipzig.

 

Later – oh FFS.  We made such a great start to this year’s Champions League, and now we’re out at the group stage.  Just like this year hasn’t been bad enough!

 

Wednesday, December 9th

Some statistics for infection rates per 100,000 head of population:

Coventry (Midlands) – 134
Bristol (West Country) – 141
Leeds (Yorkshire) – 144
Newcastle (North East) – 146
Greater Manchester (North West) – 159

All of these areas have been placed into Tier 3, with travel restrictions imposed and hospitality businesses forced to close.

London – 183
Luton (just outside London, airport named “London Luton”) – 287

Both of these areas have been placed into Tier 2, where travel restrictions have not been imposed and hospitality businesses are open.

Yep.  That just sums up the Westminster bubble’s attitude towards anywhere outside the London area, doesn’t it?

The issues in our borough are apparently due to a cluster in one small area – obviously not good news, but at least it’s a cluster not a general thing, so hopefully things will improve next week.  Things are levelling off in other areas too, though 😦 .  So sick of the whole bloody thing.

A Russian health official’s said that people shouldn’t drink alcohol for 56 days after receiving the Sputnik vaccine.  Other officials are panicking and saying that it’s only 3 days.  The thought of 56 days with no vodka is not going down very well.

And today is Coronation Street’s 60th anniversary.

 

Thursday, December 10th

Andy Burnham’s suggested that Greater Manchester could be split.  If I were in Trafford, Stockport or Tameside, I would certainly be very annoyed if I were kept in Tier 3 due to higher rates in Bury and Rochdale, but splitting the area would be a complete nightmare.  What about town?  And Salford?  Gah, why does there have to be this stupid bloody cluster just now?  Things were going so well until the middle of last week.  It’s not even anywhere near us!  It’s due to outbreaks in two care homes and a school in one small area: rates in every other part of the borough are falling.  Just hope things improve.  Please, please let Greater Manchester, the North East and West Yorkshire all be moved into Tier 2.   And please don’t punish us because of a cluster in one small area.

Meanwhile, London now has the highest infection rate of any region (region, not county) in England.   When Leicester had the highest rate, it was practically sealed off.  When Bolton did, its hospitality businesses were closed down.  When Blackburn did, some businesses there were not allowed to reopen when those in the same sector could everywhere else.  When Oldham did, restrictions on people meeting family and friends were tightened, and the same with Liverpool when it did.  But, in London, no additional restrictions – just extra resources chucked at it so that all secondary school pupils can be tested!   I’ve got nothing against London itself, or the people who live there, but it’s one rule for them and one rule for everyone else, and it’s just not on.

And, just to add to the gloom, it looks as if the spiteful EU is going to ban British tourists “because of Covid” once the transition period ends on January 1st.  It’s hard to believe that places like Spain, Italy, Portugal and Greece, which desperately need to get tourists back in, will stick to this, but … well, it’s not very good, is it?   Still no deal, and talks are due to end on Monday.  FFS, this has been going on for 4 1/2 years.  Even the negotiations to bring about the treaties at the end of the First World War, the Second World War and the Napoleonic Wars took nothing like this long!

Theresa May had a deal.  The stupid, stupid MPs in the last parliament rejected it.  I hope they’re pleased with themselves.

Secondary schools and further education colleges in London are to close again – online teaching only from Monday.

And Kay Burley, who more or less accused Andy Burnham of causing people’s deaths, and carried on as if Dominic Cummings committed the crime of the century by driving from London to Barnard Castle, has been taken off air for six months after going out to a restaurant with a group of friends and colleagues in London, then asking them back to hers.  Inzy Rashid and Beth Rigby, who were also there, have both been taken off air for three months.  But I bet they’re all on full pay.  What a load of hypocrites!  Having said which, it does seem a bit much, considering that people like Margaret Ferrier have done far worse and got off scot-free.

I’m doing a lot of moaning, aren’t I?!  Just so fed up.  Why does there have to be this stupid cluster just now?!

 

Friday, December 11th

We get so few days off, and I usually drive myself mad as to how best to use them.  The 2 days I’d saved for December were meant to be for a Christmas market break abroad.  Instead, I spent today at the “Christmas mini-markets” in town, and then having a quick look round the Trafford Centre.  They were very mini mini-markets, but at least we’ve got something.  The local economy’s shrunk by 15% since this nightmare began.  Every little that people can earn helps.  And it was nice to have a walk round.

Large swathes of the Trafford Centre car parks have been closed off, to stop it getting too busy.  This might have been a good idea if they’d announced in the local media and in signs on the motorway that they were doing it.  Instead, the first you knew about it was when you got there.  I managed to park without too much trouble in the end, but I can see it being chaos tomorrow!   It’s usually so crowded there in December that it’s hard to move, one of the reasons I much prefer town, so in one way it was nice to be able to walk round without all that, but obviously it’s not so great for the shops.

The national R rate is unfortunately going up again, because of the issues in London, Essex and Kent.  The BBC website said today that schools in the North will be “irritated” that they’ve been left struggling to try to contain infections for months, whilst every stop’s being pulled out now that infection rates in schools in London are so high.  This isn’t the Manchester Evening News, the Lancashire Telegraph or the Yorkshire Post talking.  This is the BBC saying that London’s getting preferential treatment and the government’s discriminating against the North.

Dame Barbara Windsor’s died, aged 83 😦 .

Some better news – the self-isolation period’s to be reduced from 14 days to 10 days.  Good!

 

Saturday, December 12th

What a damp squib of a derby match!  0-0, and very few chances.  It’s over 9 months since the last Old Trafford derby, the last match I went to.  When will I be back there?  Still, on current form, most people were saying City would thrash us, so a draw’s not too bad!

This morning, I went to the markets at the Lowry, or the Quayside or whatever we’re meant to call it these days.  The actual shopping centre was almost deserted – and this is less than a fortnight before Christmas!   The markets were quite good – better than the ones in town yesterday, in fact.  Unfortunately, though, it was raining.  It’s very hard when the weather’s crap and you can’t go to the cinema, the theatre, a museum or a gallery, or even sit inside a cafe.  It did dry up later, though.

I didn’t think that the Festival of Trees (to raise money for the children’s hospice) was on this year, but it was, so it was nice to see that.

I am SO fat.  I lost a lot of weight when we were in lockdown, but it’s all gone back on and I can’t seem to get any off.  Bleurgh.  I walk and walk and walk, and still it doesn’t help.

The NASUWT (the schoolteachers’ union)’s asked why all this testing in London, Essex and Kent’s never been offered to schools in the North and Midlands, which have just been left to struggle for months.  It’s also emerged that the SAGE advisory committee told the government months ago that Greater Manchester needed additional support … and that the government ignored them and hushed it up.

 

Sunday, December 13th

It has rained nearly all day.  Oh, to be able to go to the cinema or the theatre,  or even to sit inside a cafe.  I’ve got loads of books to read and things to watch, but I can’t stay in all day, so I’ve been for a walk round Hollingworth Lake, and then for a walk to one of the local takeaways for a hot chocolate.  There were a lot of people walking around despite the rain.

I’m hoping that the spike may have peaked.  That’s very poor English, but I can’t think how else to put it!  Even with the spike, our borough’s infection rate is way below the average for London, which now stands at around 240 per 100,000.  Yet cinemas, theatres, cafes, restaurants and pubs are open there, whilst they’re closed in Greater Manchester, where the average rate is now around 160.  And in Stratford-on-Avon, where it’s around 65.  I know I keep going on about this, but so does everyone else.

Germany’s going back into full lockdown, until January 10th.

The deadline for the Brexit talks has been extended.  Again.  Come on, folks, sort it!  Apart from that bloody idiot Macron, no-one wants a no-deal Brexit.  Surely it must be possible to reach some sort of compromise?

And so endeth another week!

 

 

 

 

Lockdown II Week 5, November 30th to December 6th 2020 inclusive

Monday, November 30th

Latest diktat from the dictators of Downing Street – people in Tier 3 areas are not allowed to go and watch kids’ nativity plays, but people in Tier 1 and Tier 2 areas are.  It’s like a bloody Dickens novel.  People in London – eat, drink and be merry.  People in Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham, Sheffield, etc – Christmas in the workhouse for you.

It says in this morning’s paper that footfall in Blackpool fell by 44% between the end of August and the end of October.  And the idea of bringing in business by ending the Illuminations season’s been ruined by the Tier 3 restrictions.

It’s being reported that up to 100 Tory MPs are unhappy with the tier system, although it’s not clear how many of them will vote against it.  But Labour are wimping out and refusing to vote against it.

I wish someone would slap Matt Hancock.  He’s so bloody patronising!

News from Wales – indoor entertainment venues have got to close, and pubs, bars, cafes and restaurants are banned from selling alcohol and have to close (except for takeaways) at 6pm.

It’s rained nearly all day.  So the park was quiet, which at least meant that there wasn’t a queue in the cafe!  I’ve had two face-to-face interactions with human beings all day – asking for a cup of tea in the park cafe, and asking for stamps for my overseas Christmas cards in the post office.  I’d rather have this than being in the office, but it’s a bit miserable as well.

A new tumble dryer will hopefully be arriving on Thursday.

 

Tuesday, December 1st

Labour have wimped out and abstained, so the Let’s Level Down The North And Give London Special Treatment tier system looks set to go ahead.

A Lincolnshire MP asked why Market Rasen is in Tier 3 when East Ham, in London, has 6 times the number of cases and is in Tier 2.  Boris sidestepped the question.

The Arcadia Group’s gone bust, which takes out Evans, Top Shop, Top Man, Wallis, Burtons, Miss Selfridge and Dorothy Perkins.  Debenhams, which is closely linked to it, has now collapsed too.  I can’t believe it.  The big Debenhams in Manchester has been there since 1957, and known as Debenhams since 1973.  So it’s been a big landmark all my life.  BHS on Market Street’s another shop I’ve gone to all my life.  And Top Shop was the in place for teenage girls to shop when I was a teenage girl – not so much for fat kids like me, but certainly for cool kids.  They were struggling before this, but lockdown and social distancing have finished them off.  Unless something can be done, 25,000 people are going to lose their jobs, plus the knock-on effect on suppliers and landlords, the loss of council tax, and the general impact on footfall of big shops not being there.

 

Newcastle v Villa’s off due to a virus outbreak at Newcastle – the first Premier League match to fall foul of it since the restart.

And even the Queen’s Christmas plans have been mucked up: she and Prince Philip are staying at Windsor, not going to Sandringham.

On a happier note, today has been sunny.  And I’ve eaten the first chocolate out of the Advent calendar.

 

Wednesday, December 2nd

The UK’s become the first country in the world to authorise use of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.

This is obviously great news.

However, it’s going to take a long time before it can be administered to everyone.  In the meantime, we’re stuck with this system that seems designed to do down the North and Midlands.  I’ve e-mailed my MP to thank him for voting against them, but, unfortunately, it didn’t change anything.  Stratford-on-Avon’s actually taking legal action against the government.  I’m trying to think of some Shakespearean joke to make about that, but obviously it’s not funny.

My brother-in-law is self-isolating for a third time, after coming into contact with someone who tested positive.  Bleurgh.

And we lost to PSG.  I should have been having a nice hot chocolate at the Christmas markets, then going to see United take on Mbappe, Neymar and co … and, instead, I had to watch it on TV.  And we lost.  And need at least a draw at Leipzig to be sure of qualifying.

 

Thursday, December 3rd

You can now travel from England to Wales.  Unless your area’s in Tier 3.

Lots of pictures of football fans being welcomed back to matches.  But not if your area’s in Tier 3.

Lots of pictures of people enjoying evenings out at pubs and restaurants.  But not if your area’s in Tier 3.

Even some pictures of theatre performances.  But not if your area’s in Tier 3.

So sick of being treated like a criminal, a leper, and generally a second-class citizen.

A rather childish row’s broken out over the vaccine, after the Education Secretary joked about Britain authorising it first because we’re the best country, and the stupid idiots at the EU took it seriously and got the huff!

Kids doing GCSEs and A-levels next year are to be told what’s on the papers.  I’m not sure that that’s a very good idea – the rest of the syllabus is then going to be relegated to the background.  It’s a nightmare situation, because some kids have been in school continuously since the beginning of September, whereas others have missed weeks and weeks because of having to self-isolate.  That’s no-one’s fault, but I’m not sure that this is the best way of dealing with it.

The tumble dryer has not arrived.  It is supposed to be coming tomorrow.  But I will not be in tomorrow.  So I’ve had to ask Mum and Dad to wait at my house for 2 hours, which I feel a bit awful about, and I’ll just have to hope I can work out how to use it.  FFS, just the one day I’m not in!!

 

Friday, December 4th

This is the weekend I was going to have a Christmas market break.  2017, Cologne.  2018, Munich.  2019, Vienna.  2020 … er, no Christmas markets, and you can’t go anywhere without going into quarantine when you get back, and there are restrictions in most of Europe anyway.  But I have been for a Festive Spa Day at the Last Drop, and very nice it was too!   I’m so sorry for them – there are usually weddings, barmitzvahs, conferences and all sorts going on there, and now the hotel and restaurant aren’t allowed to open at all.  But the leisure club can – the pool, jacuzzi and aromatherapy rooms are open, and you can have spa treatments.  And you get a festive afternoon tea.

The festive afternoon tea – turkey, cranberry and stuffing sandwiches, a jam and cream scone, and two mince pies – had to be served as a takeaway.   It’d been dry when I’d gone in for my treatments (facial, back massage, scalp massage).  When I came out, and collected the afternoon tea, it was snowing!  There are picnic tables in the hotel grounds, so I decided that it’d be lovely and festive to sit there, with snow falling around me, and eat it.  It wasn’t – it was bloody freezing, and I ended up giving up and bringing it home (and very nice it was too).  But it made a great photo for Facebook!

Loads of snow on the moors, and cars coming down from the moors had loads of snow on their bonnets.

The Brexit negotiations are not getting far.  Every time I put Sky News on, they inform us that yet more food has been delivered.  WTF?  Tell them that they’re not getting another morsel to eat until they reach a deal!  That idiot Barnier’d soon stop being so awkward then.  He wears an EU flag mask.  How sad is that?

The R rate is below 1, and infection levels are falling everywhere except in the NE.  Infection rates in Greater Manchester are falling faster than anywhere else (I think).  Only Rochdale and Oldham are still struggling a bit, and rates are coming down even there.  Everywhere else is below or only just above 200, and 4 boroughs are well below 200.  But we’re still stuck in Tier 3.  It has been noted numerous times that the rates in parts of London were 340 when they were put into Tier 2.

Rapid testing for care home visitors has been stopped in Greater Manchester, Merseyside and South Yorkshire, because of fears that the results aren’t accurate enough.

The new tumble dryer is here 🙂 .

 

Saturday, December 5th

It was really snowy at Lyme Park/Pemberley today!  The roads were clear, but there was loads of snow on the grass – kids were throwing snowballs – and, on a lovely, clear, day, glorious views of the snow-covered Peaks.  Absolutely glorious.

 

I honestly wasn’t sure whether it was in the borough of Stockport (Greater Manchester), the borough of High Peak (Derbyshire) or the borough of East Cheshire.  However, the postal address, as given on the booking e-mail, said “Lyme Park, Disley, Stockport”.  However, it turned out that it was a few hundred yards into East Cheshire.  So I suppose I inadvertently broke “guidance” by being there – me and the other 85% of people there who’d have come from either Greater Manchester or High Peak/Buxton.  Being in East Cheshire meant that, hooray, the house could open, so you could see all the lovely Christmas decorations in there, and you could sit at the tables outside the cafe (or indoors, if you were wimping out of the cold – a nice dry cold today, not damp cold like yesterday).

This is the country we now live in.  A few hundred yards make the difference as to whether a hotel can open or has to close, and a restaurant can open or can only offer takeaways.  Those which can’t operate normally, or at all, get no more support than those which can.  In the West Country, there are three tiers.  If you live in Cornwall, you can go into a pub and drink a pint of beer.  If you live in neighbouring Devon, you can go into a pub in Cornwall, and sit at the next table to someone drinking a pint of beer, but you yourself cannot just drink a pint of beer.  However, if you also order a Scotch egg, you can then drink the beer.  Crossing from Devon into Somerset, if you live in North Somerset, or neighbouring South Gloucestershire, you are not supposed to go to either Devon or Cornwall at all.  Nor may you cross the Severn Bridge from South Gloucestershire into South Wales.  If, however, you live in Devon or Cornwall, you may drive through North Somerset and South Gloucestershire into South Wales, but you can’t drink alcohol in a pub, and you can’t even eat a Scotch egg in a pub if it’s after 6pm.  If you live in South Wales, you may drive to Cornwall, go into a pub, and drink as much as you like, without any Scotch eggs, even if you come from Blaenau Gwent, where the infection rate is around 500 per 100,000.  The infection rate in South Gloucestershire is around 150 per 100,000.  It’s like a cross between a George Orwell novel and a bad sitcom.  But it’s really not funny for those of us in areas which have been under additional restrictions since July.

The takeaway businesses set up by places round here which never used to do takeaways are doing really well, though.  I felt so sorry for a Catalan/Balearic restaurant which’d barely opened when lockdown started, but they had someone cooking paella outside today, with people gathering to watch (there’s far less “social distancing” in takeaway queues than in sit-in restaurants, but try telling the clowns in the Cabinet that), and the guy told me that they sold out in 14 minutes the first day they tried it.  Good for them!

And fans are back at Premier League matches.  But not in Tier 3.  United were playing at West Ham – so fans were allowed in, as London, bien sur, is not in Tier 3.  We won 3-1.  Yay!

 

Sunday, December 6th

Went into town today.  Due to the building work at the Town Hall, Father Christmas is sat outside Central Library.  And there are other decorations up too.  That’s my takeaway tea and bagel, not litter!!

There were plenty of people around  – although not on these photos, which I took before the shops opened and which are away from the shopping area anyway – but absolutely nothing like you’d expect 19 days before Christmas, and it was very sad to see all the empty spaces where the Christmas markets should have been.  Some of the usual decorations and trees were missing, too.

There were long queues outside Primark.

A lot of food places were open for takeaways.  I’m trying to use independent places as much as possible.  The chains have got money coming in from areas that aren’t under these horrendous restrictions.   Local independent places haven’t.  They’re all doing their best, but I had people apologising to me for the limited options on offer, saying that they couldn’t sell things like fresh cream cakes because they don’t keep and they just aren’t selling enough in a day to make it worth it, and that they’ve even had to run down their stock of non-perishable stuff because they’ve had to empty some of their freezers as they can’t afford the cost of the electricity to run them.  Yet places like these only get the same small business grants, which are very little anyway, as places in Tier 1 and Tier 2, which are able to open up and offer sit-down meals as normal.   This is the sort of thing that Andy Burnham keeps talking about.  Levelling down the North.

Gary Neville was on the Sophy Ridge interview on Sky News this morning.  He was having quite a rant.  Good for him.

The usual brass bands and carol singers weren’t around either, but four students with brass instruments were playing carols outside Marks & Spencer’s.  They made me smile 🙂 .   Thank you, carol-playing students!