Tier 4, Week 1 – December 31st 2020 to January 3rd 2021, inclusive

New Year’s Eve, Thursday, December 31st

Starting on a new post on New Year’s Eve is very weird, but here we are, day 1 in Tier 4.  Why are electronics/IT/communications shops classed as “non-essential”?  Surely they’re absolutely essential, especially at the moment!

It snowed this morning.  However, most of the snow had melted by 10 o’clock.  I went for a walk in the park, and there were some rather disappointed-looking kids with sledges.  We get so little time off work that I usually try so hard to do something exciting on every day off, but there just isn’t anything exciting to do at the moment!  Oh well, at least, for once, I won’t be feeling like a saddo for spending New Year’s Eve sat in on my own, watching Jools Holland, whilst everyone else is out partying … because everyone else will be stuck in with Jools Holland as well!

Tommy Docherty’s died.  He was 92 and’d been ill for a while, but it’s a sad end to the year.

Andy Burnham says that 25% of virus cases in Greater Manchester are now due to the mutant strain.  That’s not good.

But, on a happier note, Dunham lights is going ahead … which surprises me, but is good news!

Well, goodbye 2020, and here’s to 2021.  Let’s just hope it’s a better year than this one’s been!

 

New Year’s Day, Friday, January 1st

Happy New Year!   A bit of snow fell overnight, but not much.  However, the south side of town is still pretty snowy from the snow that fell earlier in the week, and Dunham Massey was like a winter wonderland this morning – it really was pretty.

Later, I went for another walk, just locally.  Everyone is so bored.  You go for a walk.  You waste money on a takeaway drink and a fattening cake.  You come home.   At least United and Villa are on TV tonight.

I would give a great deal to go for a walk somewhere devoid of horrible barking dogs.  Does it not occur to people that letting their odious mutts disturb everyone for miles around – the volume at which some dogs bark really is astounding – isn’t very fair?  I don’t know what I’m more sick of, barking dogs, or people who, after 4 1/2 years, still refuse to accept the result of the Brexit referendum.  But at least you can scroll down or change channels to get away from the “Ooh, I’ve changed my Facebook profile photo to one of the EU flag” brigade.  There is no escape from the dogs!!  OK, moan over.

It’s been decided to focus on giving as many people as possible one dose of vaccine, rather than vulnerable groups two doses.

Opinion is split as to whether or not schools should be closed.   Some people are questioning why London, again, is being treated differently to other areas, but the situation in London and parts of the Home Counties really is far worse than it is here.  A frightening number of people in my sister’s community have got the virus, and that’s not even one of the worst-affected areas of London.  And I get the sense that people there are panicking: two friends have said that they’re thinking of cancelling mammogram appointments because they’re nervous of going near hospitals.  It’s not like that here.  People are concerned, but not panicking.

There’s also serious concern about businesses.  The whole thing’s such a nightmare.  “Experts” are saying that we need to vaccinate two million people a week, but the vaccine just can’t be produced that quickly.   If only it could!

Later – hooray!!  We beat Villa 2-1, and are now level on points with Liverpool at the top of the table!!

And Last Christmas is number 1!   After 36 years.  I gave up following the charts about 25 years ago, but that’s made me smile.

All primary schools in London will now stay closed, not just those in certain boroughs.  Make your mind up.  Why not say that in the first place?

 

Saturday, January 2nd

It was minus 3 C this morning, but bright and sunny.  I decided to walk round some different parts of Heaton Park for a change, and that was really nice.  However, it snowed heavily for about an hour in the afternoon, and the wretched stuff is all over the road and not likely to melt tonight.  It’s OK once you get to the main road, but, especially if you’re a nervous driver and have inconsiderate neighbours who park on the road, that’s easier said than done!

City’ve had no more positive virus tests, and their match against Chelsea tomorrow is going ahead, but Fulham had to call off their match at Burnley, and several lower league matches are also off.

Ryanair are running a “Jab and Go” advertising campaign.  “Covid vaccines are coming.”  Lots of pictures of grinning people on the beach or diving into swimming pools.  “So you can just Jab and Go!”  I cannot wait to go on holiday, but those adverts are in such poor taste that you just have to laugh!

I’ve put in a claim for tax relief for working from home.  It’s £1.20 per week, which just about covers the cost of milk and teabags, and doesn’t touch the cost of heating, lighting, phone calls, water etc, but, hey, owt’s better than nowt.  I’d love to know how many employers have offered to reimburse people and how many are just pocketing the amount they’ve saved.

I do wish people would work together and stop trying to score political points.   Teaching unions were a nightmare earlier in the year, and are at it again.  The National Association of Head Teachers is taking legal action against the Department of Education, and the main teachers’ union is threatening to advise its members to refuse to go to work.  As for that idiot Sadiq Khan, all he cares about is having a go at the Government.  There’s certainly a growing feeling that schools need to close – admittedly very easy for me to say when I’m neither a teenager at a crucial stage in their education nor a working parent with young children – but this hostile attitude isn’t helping anyone.

Excellent episode of Casualty tonight – a “coronavirus special”, set during the first lockdown.  Some of it, admittedly, was the BBC trying to score political points, but most of it was very powerful, and I actually ended up in tears when a longstanding character died of the virus at the end.  Yes, I know that it’s only a TV programme, and that the actor is alive and well although probably rather fed up about losing his job, but he represents real people.

 

Moan coming up:

As bad as the first lockdown was, after 10 weeks of it I was able to go to Blackpool and eat fish and chips and ice cream on the beach.  It’s now around the same length of time since we were put under travel restrictions in October, and things are only getting worse.  And are expected to get worse yet.  A few sanctimonious people are saying that they’re prepared to do whatever it takes, for as long as it takes, but most people, whilst genuinely concerned about the very serious situation, are fed up and whingeing and moaning.  It’s the feeling of being trapped.  It’s the horrendous boredom.  Weirdly, it’s the guilt – I’ve got a very Victorian mentality that says that I should be doing something all the time, but there’s nothing to do.   Yeah, I know, I could try to learn Japanese, but I haven’t got the heart for it when I’ve got no idea whether my rearranged holiday will go ahead or not.  I’d volunteer to do something to help in the community, but I can’t because I’ll be chained to the office laptop again from Monday.

And we want to see our relatives and friends.  People with long-term partners with whom they don’t live aren’t supposed to see them unless it’s for a walk in the park.  Parents and children, grandparents and grandchildren, siblings, aunts and uncles and nieces and nephews, cousins and close friends aren’t supposed to see each other at all if they don’t live in the same area.

Those sanctimonious people may be very virtuous, but they’re also rather annoying!   This is crap.  In 20 years’ time, maybe we’ll all say what jolly good fun it was, like people did about spending the night in air raid shelters but, right now, sanctimonious people are annoying!

 

Sunday, January 3rd

The political points-scoring going on over the schools issue is sickening.  This is a time of severe national and international crisis – how is all this spite and venom and divisiveness helping anyone, least of all children?  How exactly are social media posts saying things like “Tory incompetence is killing teachers” supposed to help?   Good job these vile groups weren’t around during the war, isn’t it?  Do any of them actually care about what’s best for children, parents, teachers and local communities?  No, they do not.  Unfortunately, these groups dominate teaching unions, which isn’t very good for anyone.  Interesting article in today’s MEN about a woman from Bolton who lost her job due to school closures.  I fear that a lot more people will be in the same position if schools close indefinitely but workplaces don’t.  But I don’t see how we’re to get infection rates down if schools stay open.

The infection rate across Greater Manchester as a whole is now 278, up 36% on last week.  The rate, and the rate of increase, varies quite a bit between boroughs, but the general picture is very worrying.  Cases are increasing more rapidly than the national average for the first time since October – although still well below the national average rate of 509.  Some parts of the SE are well over 1,000.   And parts of Merseyside are higher than any part of Greater Manchester, but remain in Tier 3.  And Burnley is 562.  Is there some sort of overspill from Burnley and Rossendale into Bury?  Probably not, actually, because then it’d be affecting Rochdale too, and Rochdale isn’t as bad.  Carlisle’s over 500, as well.

The acting mayor of Liverpool (the mayor being off due to corruption investigations) has called for a lockdown.  So, now, has Keir Starmer.  Could people please define “lockdown”?  Because if they mean saying that you can’t go out for a walk but you can go and spend all day in a non-essential office or factory with a load of other people, then it’ll do more harm than good.  If they mean closing workplaces but ensuring that anyone who cannot work from home gets furloughed rather than laid off, it may well be an idea.

I broke bounds by about a mile today, and went to Styal.  There isn’t even a sign to say that you’ve crossed from Manchester into Wilmslow: if you didn’t know, you wouldn’t.  I am not saying that this was a good thing to do, but everyone is breaking bits of rules – lots of groups which were clearly two households or more – and I’d pre-booked it before we all got moved into Tier 4, and I was in the open air, away from other people, and the boundaries don’t make much sense anyway.  It was really lovely there.  Strangely, though, the tea rooms both there and at Dunham were very quiet, even though there were plenty of people around.  Nice for me, because they can be horrendously slow and I don’t like waiting in long queues, but very strange.  Takeaway places in Heaton Park and Hollingworth Lake are always busy.  Is this some kind of north-south divide thing?!  There were scones there, hooray!

 

 

Back to being chained to the office computer tomorrow … which I wouldn’t mind if they’d so much as bothered to send round an e-mail wishing people all the best for Christmas and the New Year.  Bah.  The next Bank Holiday is Good Friday, which is April 2nd.  Where will things be at by then?

Tier 3 Plus, Week 4 … well, half a week – December 28th to 30th 2020 inclusive

Monday, December 28th (Bank Holiday, as Boxing Day fell on a Saturday)

City’s match tonight’s been called off, after a number of their players tested positive.  That’s a worrying development.

On top of everything else, there’s been heavy snow in some areas, although, thankfully, not here.

Rates here continue to rise, with the average across Greater Manchester now (as of yesterday) just under 200.  That’s obviously very worrying, but, having been at or near the top of the infection rate charts for months, the situation here at the moment is (touch wood!) not that bad compared to that in other areas.  The rate in Brentwood is now 1,442, with some other parts of Essex and parts of London not far behind.

We’re being told that the big increase in cases in Trafford and Stockport is due not to the mutant virus but to “increased social mixing”.  Probably in pubs and restaurants in Cheshire East, before it was moved into Tier 3!

The situation in neighbouring areas is worsening.  Both Cheshire districts are now well over 200, Warrington’s 298, and Liverpool’s 200.  To the north, Pendle’s on 427 and Burnley’s on 488.  And the worst rate in the North is now in, of all places, Eden (Penrith and Ullswater).  496.  South Lakeland’s not nearly as bad, but even they’re up to 188.

On a happier note, it’s hoped that the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine could be ready to go soon.  It doesn’t have to be stored at -80 degrees C, so should be a lot easier to administer quickly.

Despite all the goings-on, I’ve had a nice day: I managed to get a reduced rate spa day at the Norton Grange in Rochdale.  They’d tried really hard to keep things Covid-secure, although, unfortunately, some idiots were completely ignoring the signs about how many people should be in each area at once.  I had great intentions about going in the gym, and I did go in briefly, but I spent most of my time in the pool and the jacuzzi, and then had a facial and a back massage.  Really nice takeaway afternoon tea!  I am so fat …

 

Tuesday, December 29th

I was a bit stressed when I looked out this morning and it was snowing: the road up to our estate is a nightmare in the snow, and I had to get to Tesco and M&S!  However, it wasn’t too bad here, and it wasn’t sticking on the roads.  But at Tatton Park, where I’d planned to go anyway, there was loads and loads of snow!  The roads were OK, although the car park was a bit tricky (considering that they charge people to park there, they really should have cleared it), and it was all really good fun, with people throwing snowballs and building snowmen, and a few kids on sledges.

I suppose it was kind of breaking bounds, seeing as it’s in Cheshire East rather than Greater Manchester, but I’d still class it as local, and we’re all in Tier 3 now anyway.  This whole tier system is so bonkers.  Parts of Wigan are classed as West Lancashire, and parts of Rochdale are classed as Rossendale.  West Lancashire and Rossendale, despite not having particularly high infection rates (by current standards), may be moved into Tier 4 at the end of the week, because of the issues in Burnley, Pendle and Hyndburn.  Or the 10 Greater Manchester boroughs may be moved too.  Or the whole country may be moved.   I can’t see the Lake District staying in Tier 2, the way things are going.  There are issues in parts of Merseyside and North Yorkshire too.  Oh, how I miss the Lakes!  Not that I ever go there in December anyway, but I hate the feeling that I haven’t even got the option.  Although some people are merrily heading off all over the place, even staying overnight.  A tiny minority of people, admittedly, but some.

It’s weird – we’ve been in the eye of the storm for so long, and now we’re not.  At the beginning, I was looking at everything on a national level, but, thanks to government policy, I’ve been looking at it from a local level since the end of July.  But the national picture is horrendous.  Over 53,000 new infections today – compared to around 13,000 per day a month ago, although more people are being tested now.  Some hospitals in Wales and South East England are struggling to cope.  I don’t know what’s going on with the Nightingale Hospitals – are they not being used because there aren’t enough people to staff them?

Indian Wells, one of my favourite tournaments of the year, won’t take place in March, because the situation in California is so bad 😦 .

The first person to get the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine got her second dose today.   Any hope that we could live with the virus has gone now.  We’ve just got to get people vaccinated.

We beat Wolves 1-0 – injury time goal from Rashford.  Yay!!  A lot of lower league matches were off, though – some due to the weather, but some due to positive virus tests.  Not sure if our Carabao Cup semi’ll be going ahead, because of the situation with City.

 

Wednesday, December 30th

Oh shit, double shit and treble shit.  Hancock has shoved us into Tier 4.  I did not see that coming – it was expected that parts of East Lancashire, Hartlepool and maybe Birmingham would move, but he’s dumped a whole load of additional areas too.  Greater Manchester, Lancashire, Warrington and Cheshire.  Cumbria, going straight from Tier 2 to Tier 4.  Leics, Lincs, Derbys, Notts, Northants, the entire West Midlands/Warks/ Staffs/Black Country area, the entire North East, Gloucs, Swindon, most of Somerset, parts of Dorset, the Isle of Wight and the New Forest.  Merseyside moves into Tier 3, but not Tier 4 even though its infection rates are similar to ours.  South, West and East Yorks stay in Tier 3, but North Yorks moves from Tier 2 to Tier 3, as do Rutland, Shropshire, the rest of Somerset, the rest of Dorset, the rest of Wiltshire, Herefordshire and Worcs.

Shit shit shit.  Our rates aren’t even that high.  Dunham lights is off.  Hairdressers close.  Yes, I know I sound whiney and self-obsessed, but there’s no way they’d shut down the South like this if rates were high in the North.

The nationwide picture is awful, though.  Over 50,000 new infections again.  And 981 deaths – although that probably includes deaths from over the Christmas period, recorded late.

Despite, all this, schools are to stay open, although secondary schools will return later than planned, and primary schools will close in “a small number of areas”.  “A small number of areas” has turned out to be most of London, and parts of Essex, Kent and Herts.   This includes my younger nephew’s primary school.  His comment was that he was glad he’d be getting a break from school dinners.

Amid all this bad news, some good news – the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine’s been licensed for use in the UK.  As it only has to be stored at normal fridge temperature, this will hopefully speed up the vaccination programme quite a bit.

Been for a walk round Hollingworth Lake.  In the slush and fog.

I’m pleased to say that The Olive and Pickle was so busy that it’d had to send out for extra supplies.  As I can’t be bothered getting into an argument, I’m ignoring a couple of very rude people who said on one of my Facebook posts that people shouldn’t be going for takeaways – which is about the only thing people’ve got left to do, and which is keeping eating places in business and protecting jobs – because it generates waste.  Some people are so bloody sanctimonious and irritating.  And it’s always the people whose finances aren’t affected!!  Gah.

Oh poo.  We really didn’t expect this.  Nor did most of the other areas affected.  What a nightmare.

Fulham v Spurs off due to a virus outbreak at Fulham.

 

Snakes and Ladders/Tiers and Fears

  I started writing this thinking that it would just be for a few months.  But, on New Year’s Eve, here we are.  If anyone’s read any of this during the year, thank you!

Yes, all right, there have been worse times.  We aren’t living through a genocide, a war or a famine, or a pandemic on the scale of the Black Death or even the Spanish flu.  We aren’t in danger from marauding bands of lawless mercenaries or robber barons roaming the countryside.   We aren’t being packed off to prison camps to Siberia.   But it’s been a rotten year all the same.  1.8 million people have died with this horrible virus, and the total death toll’s probably much higher.  Many others have been left with long term health problems.  Other people have lost their jobs or businesses, or are unable to go out and about due to medical vulnerability, or have had their education severely disrupted.  Unless you’re lucky enough to have all your family and friends living nearby, you probably haven’t seen some of them for ages and have got no idea when you’re likely to see them again.  And cancelled holidays, postponed weddings, and being unable to go to sports matches, cinemas, theatres, pubs, restaurants etc, whilst not the end of the world, are disappointing, upsetting and do nothing for anyone’s mental health.  All in all, it’s been a pretty rotten year.   It’s not all been bad, but a lot of it has been.

And we don’t know what lies ahead.  When you’re a major overplanner (it’s a classic symptom of anxiety) like I am, that’s pretty difficult to cope with.  I like the Whig history theory of life.  Everything gets better.   That was what was supposed to happen.  OK, we knew that things would initially get worse, but then the pandemic was supposed to peak over Easter weekend, and, thereafter, things would get better.  Yes, all right, all right, I’m a historian, so I do know that there are always second waves, and usually third waves and fourth waves, with pandemics.   But, although the peak came later than Easter, it did look as if things were improving.  By July, deaths, hospitalisations and infection rates were right down.  There was genuine optimism that things would be almost back to normal by Christmas.  I’m not specifically talking about the UK: I’m talking about most places.

What “is” normal, any more?  Are we going to see a permanent shift to working from home (oh, please!).  To meetings by Zoom rather than in person?  To online shopping?  To takeaways rather than eating out?   To watching films on Netflix rather than going to the pictures?   Just please let me get back to being able to travel abroad and go for days out …

Then it all started to go wrong again.  Down a snake.  The figures started creeping back up.  Come September, when universities went back, they shot up.  It wasn’t just universities, though.  It was just the way these things go.  The Second Wave.  Not just here, but in many other countries too.  In came the evil tier system.  And then, at the beginning of November, we went back into lockdown.  7 1/2 months in, and we were almost back to square one.

But then we began to climb a ladder again.  The rates dropped.  In our area, they dropped like a stone.  And, hooray, the vaccination programme began!  Sorted.  OK, not exactly sorted, with the difficult winter months ahead and only a small number of vaccinations able to be administered at a time, but the final square on the board was in sight.  Maybe by Easter 2021 … ?

Nope.  Down a big snake.  The virus mutated.  In Kent.  Why, of all the places in all the world, did it have to mutate in Kent?  Well, whyever it did, it did.  Infection rates sky-rocketed, especially in the South East.  A lot of foreign countries slapped travel bans on us.  The number of deaths rose alarmingly.  Some hospitals began to struggle to cope.  As the year drew to a close, it felt as if things might even be worse than they’d been to start with, and that there could even be worse to come.

Then it looked as if maybe we would go into 2021 heading up a ladder.  The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine was licensed for use in the UK yesterday, and, as it doesn’t have to be stored at -80 degrees C like the Pfizer BioNTech one does, hopefully this’ll speed the vaccination programme up.

But, within hours, Greater Manchester, 1974-borders-Lancashire, 1974-borders-Cheshire and Warrington were all dumped into Tier 4, which is pretty much the same as the November lockdown, along with Cumbria and a large number of other areas.   Back down another snake.  Maybe it’ll stop things from getting as bad here as they are in the South East?  We can only hope so.  After being in the eye of the storm for so long, it’s quite strange that now we aren’t … but things here are bad enough, and the nationwide picture is very worrying indeed.

Let’s just hope that the vaccines will sort it all out.

Strange, sad and uncertain times.  Again, if you’ve read this, and or any of my other posts, thank you so much, stay safe, and all the best for 2021 x .