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.

A hitch in the proceedings

 You know when you’ve been waiting in a long queue, and, just as you’re practically at the front, someone closes the doors, draws a rope across, or says “Sorry, we’ve sold out”?  Well, that is me with the Covid vaccine.  The original target was to give over-50s, plus any younger people who worked in healthcare (and) or were extremely clinicially vulnerable, their first jab by April 15th.  But we were steaming ahead, and my group, the over-40s were next in line.  Two of my friends, both in their 40s but living in different parts of the country, had their first jabs last week.  Yesterday morning, the word in my area was that some people aged 47, 48 and 49 had been called, and that people aged 45 or 46, i.e. including yours truly, could hope to hear within the next few days.  I was so close to having that protection, to feeling that relief.

But then, yesterday afternoon, news outlets started reporting that the NHS had sent out a letter saying that there was about to be a big reduction in the number of doses of the vaccine available, and that vaccination centres should stop taking appointments.  Next thing, Matt Hancock and the website for the local vaccination centre were saying that no-one under 50, other than those in other priority groups, was eligible to be vaccinated until further notice.

It’s transpired that a shipment of 5 million doses from the Serum Centre in India’s been delayed for four weeks due to production problems, and that a batch of 1.7 million doses, which we’ve already got, is being held back because of some sort of additional testing.  The doses available are needed for second jabs and for people in the top 9 groups who haven’t been vaccinated yet.   So, having been a few days away from getting my first jab, I’m now probably a month away.  And it’s a significant month, as well: had I had my first jab in late March and early April, I’d have had my second in late June, giving me a lot more options for the summer holiday season.

Yes, obviously I do get that this is not about me.  It affects everyone in my age group, including people who’ve got health problems, or who work in jobs which mean they’ve got a lot of unavoidable contact with other people.  And, yes, I do get that the point of the vaccination programme is to save lives and avoid serious illness, not to enable people to go on foreign holidays.  And, yes, obviously it’s better that it’s happened now than before we’d vaccinated the more vulnerable groups.  And, yes, originally I didn’t expect to be called before late April anyway.  But it’s still, so, so frustrating, to have been so near and now be so far!

There was bound to be a hitch at some point, and we’ve done very well to get this far without one.  We’ve gone from having no approved vaccines available to trying to produce enough for everyone on the planet within a very short space of time: there were always going to be hiccups.  And it was lovely to hear Boris praising the “herculean efforts” of the Serum Institute, rather than, as that deeply unpleasant woman Ursula von der Leyen keeps going, criticising the very people whose amazing efforts have offered us hope of a way out of this nightmare.

We’re still on target to give everyone in the top 9 groups their first jab by the middle of April, and to give all adults their first jab by the middle of July.  The “roadmap” isn’t affected.  Compared to, say, France, which recorded over 35,000 cases today, when we, with a higher population, recorded 6,303, we’re doing OK, touch wood.  But, ooh, the frustration of being so, so close, and now knowing that it’s going to be at least another month!  Sorry for moaning, but … gah!!

 

 

Lockdown III Week 8, February 22nd to 28th inclusive

Monday, February 22nd

Boris’s roadmap out of lockdown has been announced … subject to levels of hospitalisations (rather than infections, which makes sense now that most infections should be amongst lower risk groups) not rising, the vaccination programme continuing to go well, and no nasty new variants appearing.  The Evil Tier System has been scrapped, hooray!!!  Unless any nasty new variants appear in particular areas.  Please, please, do not let this happen.  We can’t take much more.

March 8th – schools to reopen to all pupils, 2 people to be able to meet outdoors to chat/have a drink/have a picnic rather than exercise (which, TBH, people are doing anyway).

March 29th – STAY AT HOME ORDER LIFTED!!  Still a recommendation to “minimise” travel, but enough’s enough – those of us in much of the North and Midlands have been confined to our local areas since October.  Six people/two households to be able to meet outdoors.  Outdoor sports activities to resume.  Still seems to be the idea to WFH is possible – good.

April 12th – hairdressers to reopen.  Bloody hell, another 7 weeks of no hairdressers.  Non-essential shops, gyms, zoos, theme parks and outdoor hospitality to reopen.  Presumably this includes Lake District boats?  Watch the weather be vile all through April!  Weddings to be allowed, with a maximum of 15 guests.  Campsites and self-catering accommodation to reopen.

May 17th – hotels to reopen.  I was hoping for May Day weekend 😦 .  Indoor hospitality to reopen.  Foreign travel may possibly resume.  Up to 10,000 people to be allowed into sports stadia.  Cinemas and theatres to reopen.  Two households to be able to meet indoors.

June 21st – everything else to reopen.  Restrictions on social contact lifted – although mask-wearing and social distancing may well remain for a while yet.

We’ve been here before, and … well, not got there.  But fingers crossed.  I really can’t take much more.

 

Tuesday, February 23rd

Just as if things aren’t stressful enough, I had the police round earlier, to tell me that one of the neighbours had had a break-in.  All the doors and windows were locked, but the burglars managed to break one of the locks.  Thankfully, no-one was hurt, but they found the car keys and stole the car.

That’s really frightening.

The official US virus death toll passed 500,000 yesterday.  500,000.

Here, most people are feeling more hopeful after yesterday’s announcement.  However, I think the scientists want us locked down permanently, and, at the other end of the spectrum, the owners and staff of businesses which won’t be able to reopen until May or June at the earliest are very disappointed.

 

Wednesday, February 24th

Whilst people are generally feeling more hopeful, the local situation is worrying.  Lockdowns just don’t seem to work here.  Also, there’s now a spike in cases in some areas, pretty close by.  Last July, when the first local restrictions (other than those in Leicester) were announced, which eventually led to the Evil Tier System, it was the day before Eid, and everyone knew jolly well that it was because rates were exceptionally high in areas with large Islamic communities.  This time, it’s in areas with large ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities.  It’s very awkward, because no-one wants to seem to be having a go at any one group of people, but the infection rates are what they are – three times the average for the area.

The Leeds and Reading Festivals are apparently going ahead.  Someone’s optimistic!

A lot of talk’s going on about helping kids to catch up at school.  Teaching unions, needless to say, are moaning!

 

Thursday, February 25th

Happy birthday to me 🙂 .  After a wet day on Tuesday and a windy day on Wednesday, we got blue sky and sunshine today!  It was hard not to think what a lovely day it would have been to spend at Windermere, but had we not been in lockdown, I’d have spent the day trapped in a depressing office, having spent time and money getting cakes and other stuff for everyone else in the office (sorry for sounding grumpy about that!) and being barked at if I opened Facebook to answer birthday wishes sent by kind friends and relatives.  As it was, I was able to do myself a nice afternoon tea in the garden.   I ordered a Slattery’s “treat box”, which I collected yesterday.  But, unbeknownst to me, Mum and Dad and my sister and brother-in-law had arranged to have food delivered to me!   So I ended up with the most enormous amount of stuff!   I’ve eaten some of it: I’ll have to sort the rest out later.  And I was able to have a nice long walk in the park during a somewhat extended dinner hour.  Lots of crocuses out, and some daffodils out now too.  And I could answer the Facebook messages, WhatsApp messages and texts as and when they arrived – very kind of people.

I’m not really a birthday person.  Once you’re past 21, birthdays are a bit miserable – another year older, still fat, still not successful etc!   But, hey, it’s an excuse to eat cake!!  And it’s been a really nice day …

… except that Rafa’s pulled out of Rotterdam, with the back problem.  Please tell me that this isn’t going to be another long-running injury saga.

It’s been confirmed that exam grades will be awarded purely on the basis of teacher assessment.  A lot of moaning is going on about this – why does everything involving schools involve so much moaning?!  I’m very, very sorry for the kids concerned.  Exam conditions worked for me and I’d have been devastated if my exams had been cancelled, and there will always be a feeling that 2020 and 2021’s results might not quite compare to other years’, but there’s just no alternative, in these rotten circumstances.  On a more positive note, the country’s been moved from level 5 alert to level 4 alert.

2nd leg of the Europa League match tonight – we only managed a 0-0 draw, but we’re through on aggregate.

 

Friday, February 26th

Hooray – the next phase of the vaccination will be by age, so I’m in Group 10, 40-49 year olds, and will be next in line once the current phase has been completing.  Teaching unions, needless to say, are moaning, but the NHS hasn’t got records of people’s jobs, so it’d be an admin nightmare to do it by occupation.

The Queen’s spoken out about people needing to consider others rather than just themselves, when deciding whether or not to be vaccinated.

One in five health areas are now seeing an increase in infection rates.  I have to admit that, when I first read this, on the MEN website, my immediate reaction was “At least it’s not just us”.  But it’s very worrying – and, in both the maps shown by the MEN and the maps in tonight’s Downing Street press conference, it’s clear that, infections in many areas having sky-rocketed in December and then fallen again, it’s now as you were – rates are far higher in densely-populated, urban parts of the North and Midlands than elsewhere.  All sorts of reasons have been suggested for this, from the sensible (a lower proportion of people being able to work from home) to the plain silly (people in the North spending more time indoors because of the weather).  But no-one seems to be sure, no-one seems to be trying very hard to get to the bottom of it, and Jonathan Van-Tam seemed to be suggesting that it was due to people breaking the rules.  I object to that.

Another nice sunny day.

We play AC Milan in the next round of the Europa League.  Erk!

 

Saturday, February 27th

What a gorgeous day.  Very warm for February, and clear blue sky.  Very frustrating that I couldn’t spend it at Windermere, but I’d booked Styal, where (despite part of the gardens being closed off due to flood damage, and there being no scones!) it really was lovely – lots of snowdrops, and some early daffodils.  I’m a bit (actually, rather a lot) obsessive about daffodils 🙂 .   Oh, please let things go ahead as planned, and please let the weather behave over Easter weekend, and please let me be able to go to the Lakes.

Captain Sir Tom Moore’s funeral took place today.

And we’re nearing the 20 million mark for first jabs.

And Rafa has now pulled out of Acapulco as well.  Bleurgh..

 

Sunday, February 28th

“Vaccinometer”- another new word introduced by the pandemic.  Over 20 million people in the UK have now had their first jabs!

Another lovely sunny day today.  Very frustrated about not being able to go to the Lakes (especially as I gather that loads of people went outside their local areas to go to the seaside, and probably to the Lakes too, and the police did nothing about it), but at least I was able to go to the park.  Glorious weather.

Loads of people were in groups which were obviously more than one household/bubble.  A lot were kids with grandparents as well as parents, and others were mostly teenagers and people in their 20s.  Everyone’s just had enough.

Then I cleared all the weeds and dead leaves out of the garden, ready to put some new plants in once it stops being frosty overnight.

Drew 0-0 at Chelsea.  City are stupidly far ahead.

There are daffodil shoots everywhere.  Waiting for them to flower is like a metaphor for waiting to be able to go out and about and see our relatives and friends again.

Lockdown Birthday/Group 10

  Dear Weather.  Thank you so much for behaving on my birthday (February 25th)!  It’d blown a gale the day before, and poured down the day before that.  I don’t want to push my luck, but, if you don’t mind, will you, please, please, also be nice during Easter week (especially over the four-day weekend, for those of us who’ll be chained to office computers until then), when, all being well, we’ll finally be allowed out of the local area for the first time since mid-October?  We’ll only be allowed to meet up outdoors and, whilst we’ll hold our long-awaited reunions with loved ones wearing cagoules and clutching umbrellas if need be, it would be rather nice if we could at least stay dry.  Thank you.

Also, as a slightly late birthday, it’s been announced today that people in my age group are Group 10 – i.e. we’ll be next in line to be vaccinated, once the second phase of the programme’s been completed.   Bring it on.

I’m not really a birthday person.  Once you get past 21, they’re just rather a reminder that you’re another year older and are still not thin/successful/whatever.  Unless you are, obviously.  However, they’re an excuse for a meal out, eh?  And, hey, let’s celebrate the fact that we’re still here, especially after a year on which no-one will be looking back with undiluted pleasure, as the Queen might say.  Having a late February birthday, I’m one of the last people to turn another year older in the Covid era.   Some people, depending on when their birthdays fall and which part of the country they live in, will have been lucky enough to have had a small celebration with family and friends.  Everyone else, hard luck.  It’s a shame for little kids, who usually make a big deal of birthdays, and for people marking “landmark” birthdays.  I was rather amused to see a small plane flying over the local area, trailing a banner proclaiming “Happy 90th Birthday, Doris” a few weeks ago.  I hope Doris had a lovely day 🙂 – but it won’t have been the day she’d have had otherwise, and it’s not as if you can rebook a special birthday in the same way that you can rebook a concert or a stage play.

It did turn out quite well, though.  Whilst pleased to see the blue sky and sunshine when I got up, I could have howled with frustration at the thought of how wonderful it would have been to spend this nice, sunny day in the Lake District, or looking at the snowdrops and early daffodils at Chirk Castle, or walking along the prom at Blackpool. However, as I reminded myself, had it been normal times, I’d have been spending the day trapped in a depressing office, eating a piece of cake at my desk, being expected to provide cakes and fruit for everyone else, and being moaned at if I picked up my phone to answer a message from a kind relative or friend.

As it was, I got to have a lovely walk in the park during my dinner hour.  Lots of crocuses, and, hooray, some early daffodils!   There are daffodil shoots everywhere: it’s going to look amazing in a few weeks’ time.  And, thanks to the weather, and thanks to vast quantities of food – some of it bought by myself, some of it delivered to me thanks to my lovely family – I was able to have a very large Lockdown Afternoon Tea (I didn’t eat everything all in one day, honestly!)  in the garden.  So it was really very nice.

But let’s hope that Lockdown Birthdays will soon be a thing of the past, eh?  Three cheers for the vaccination programme, and fingers and toes crossed for Easter weekend xxx.

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

Monday, February 8th

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Tuesday, February 9th

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Wednesday, February 10th

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

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

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

And I am fat.

 

Thursday, February 11th

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Friday, February 12th

Chinese New Year.  Hmm.

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

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

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

And the economy shrank by nearly 10% last year.

Still cold and sunny.

 

Saturday, February 13th

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

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

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

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

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

 

Sunday, February 14th

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Six weeks of Lockdown III.

 

Lockdown III Week 5, February 1st to 7th 2021 inclusive

Monday, February 1st

Boris has hinted that the Evil Tier System could be dropped.  But hasn’t made a definite commitment.   He was in Batley this morning, and a reporter had a go at him for picking on the North … well, not in so many words, but he (the reporter) did point out that the North had been under restrictions for far longer than the South.

However, there are more problems with these wretched mutant variants.  There is now another mutant variant, this time in California. And, worryingly, two cases of the South African variant have been picked up in people with no known connection to South Africa, in Woking. It’s not far from Heathrow, so is it possible that a member of airport staff’s caught the virus and inadvertently passed it on in the community?  Or that someone’s got it elsewhere?  And we’ve now been told that there are 105 cases in all, in various areas – including Southport, which is rather too close to comfort.

This is why we need tougher travel restrictions, for now.  There could be more mutants anywhere, which haven’t been identified yet.

On a more positive note, every care home resident in England has now been offered a vaccination, which is an important milestone. And the rollout to the overseas territories has begun – some doses of the Oxford vaccine have embarked on a 17 hour journey to the Falkland Islands!  Also, Israel’s reported very promising results from its vaccination programme. Nothing’s going to be 100% effective, but only a very small number of people have become ill after being fully vaccinated. Wonderful news.

The Isle of Man’s completely out of lockdown – no social distancing, no closures.

February got off to a stressful start when Samsung released a phone update.  I am terrified of phone updates.  I wish there was a way of stopping them.  They’re usually fairly minor, but this one changed a few things, and a) it took me a while to find something afterwards and b) it stopped one of my apps from working.  I updated the individual app and, touch wood, it’s OK now, but the whole thing panicked me, knowing that I couldn’t go to a shop and ask for help if I needed it.  Anyway, let’s try to move on from that …

But it is so nice having some tennis to watch.  And I’m back with the spray on hair dye, which is a pain but is better than having grey roots.

And this is Children’s Mental Health Week.  It’s a tough time to be a kid.  One “expert” suggested that everyone should repeat an academic year, but a) some kids are doing OK and b) it’s not practical anyway, because then there’d be no room for the little ones due to start school in September.   Another suggestion’s been cancelling the school summer holidays, on the assumption that schools are open again by then, but a) teachers would never agree to it and b) parents will then be unable to go on holiday … if anyone can go anywhere by then.

 

Tuesday, February 2nd

Very sad news this afternoon, with the death of Captain Sir Tom Moore, aged 100.  He died “with coronavirus” (with tragic irony, he may well have contracted it in hospital), but it’s emerged that he’d had pneumonia for several weeks.  To live to 100, and still to be completely mentally alert and relatively physically fit, is a wonderful thing, and to inspire an entire country, and indeed much of the world, in a time of crisis is just incredible.  There are so few of that wonderful generation left.  Sad, sad news.  I cried over that.  Such a loss.  But a wonderful, long life.

And we’ve been told that the so-called “Kent mutation” has mutated again – this time in the same sort of nasty way as the Brazilian and South African variants.  Whether it did this off its own bat or whether it “got together” with one of the others (as a scientist on Sky News put it, which makes it sound as if they all got together for a few bevvies and to have a good laugh at us), who knows?  I do get that viruses mutate, but we keep being told that there’s a race between the virus and the vaccine, and it feels as if the virus isn’t playing fair.  Unfortunately, it isn’t really possible to disqualify it.

We’re being told that there are “mutations of concern” in Liverpool and Bristol now.   There was some talk about a mutation in Liverpool a few weeks ago.  And it’s only 35 miles away.   It could be a coincidence, but … Kent, Liverpool, Bristol – is there something going on with ports?  Maybe like “freshers’ flu” at universities, where germs from lots of different areas mingle and get swapped around?   People in those areas are being told to avoid going out, which is scary.

I’m concerned about the fact that infection rates in Greater Manchester are not falling as quickly as they are elsewhere … places which saw a surge in December are seeing much bigger drops than places where rates were already relatively high.  Is the virus now “endemic” in some areas, as was suggested in August or September?  Will this nightmare EVER end?

A few examples, rates @ 28/01/21 compared to (rates @ 21/01/21) – Knowsley 611 (898), Sandwell 547 (841), Blackburn 464 (570), Liverpool 388 (608), Carlisle 359 (607), Barnet 330 (545), central Manchester 299 (369), Bristol 269 (349), Bury 264 (333), Kirklees 234 (262), Cheshire East 197 (275), Newcastle 182 (253), South Lakes 167 (252), E Devon 109 (127), NE Lincs 92 (104).

Meanwhile, I was actually quite enthusiastic about getting up this morning, despite snow and heavy rain, because Rafa was meant to be playing in the ATP World Team Cup at 8 o’clock our time.  But he didn’t, because of a “stiff lower back”.  With less than a week to go before the Australian Open, this is pretty worrying.  Let’s just hope it’s nothing serious.

But tonight, hooray, we beat Southampton 9-0!   9-0.  So frustrating that we couldn’t be there to see it at the ground rather than on telly, but still … 9-0.  Sorry, Southampton, nothing personal, but, wa-hey!!

 

Wednesday, February 3rd

Good news:

– 10 million people in the UK have now received their first dose of a vaccine.
–  Research shows that the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine protects against transmission, and that the 12 week gap
between doses is OK.
–  Numbers of Covid patients in hospital are falling.

But the numbers of deaths are still horrendous, and many people remain in hospital.  And there’s now the additional worry that your area could be the next one affected by an Unexplained Mutant Incident.  And 5 out of the 10 local boroughs have now got rates above the national average – falling, but not as quickly as the national average is falling.

And the Australian Open traumas continue.  First, Rafa said that he wasn’t going to play tomorrow because his back was still sore.  This really, really is worrying.  Then it was announced that a staff member at one of the hotels had tested positive, everyone at the hotel was going to have to self-isolate until they’d tested negative, and all tomorrow’s matches in all six warm-up events were cancelled!

Also, some insensitive person decided to include a huge photo article in the latest magazine on forthcoming highlights.  Including snowdrops at Chirk Castle and daffodils at Sizergh Castle.  Both of which I want so much to see, but won’t be doing.  It was like Jim Bowen saying “And here’s what you could have won”.  Bah.

I’ve bought more spray on hair dye.  I’d forgotten what a mess it makes of the shower curtain (when it washes out)!

I got my Christmas presents from my sister today 🙂 .  She decided to post rather them rather than keep waiting for these infernal travel restrictions to be lifted.

And it’s been confirmed that the Eurovision Song Contest will go ahead.  I’m not sure whether this is good news or bad news 😉 .

 

Thursday, February 4th

One in five adults in the UK has now had a dose of the vaccine, and research suggests that it might be OK to mix and match, i.e. it won’t matter whether or not your first and second doses are of the same vaccine.  And the Bank of England apparently thinks that the economy will bounce back strongly in the spring.  Not if we’re locked down till May, which seems to be what the scientists want, it won’t.  A lot of questions are being asked about restrictions being eased.

One question is whether or not people who’ve had both doses of the vaccine will be able to meet up.  This issue seems to be being raised in Germany as well.  If you’ve been fully vaccinated, and so has your sister/brother/cousin/close friend whom you haven’t seen since October, it’s going to be very frustrating to be told that you still can’t see them.  But, if we start creating a two-tier society, with those of us not in the priority groups becoming some sort of underclass, there’s going to be a lot of upset and resentment.  Difficult situation.

The Pet Shop Boys concert which I was due to go to in May 2020, and which was rescheduled for May 2021, has now been rescheduled again, this time for May 2022.  Third time lucky?  Just please tell me that we’ll be able to go on staycations in July.  I actually cried when I saw shots of Windermere on Joanna Lumley’s new travel programme.  So Lakes-sick 😦 .

The Australian Open draw’s been postponed, because 160 players are awaiting the results of tests.  Only one person at the hotel seems to have the virus, and it’ll be very bad luck if anyone else has caught it, so fingers crossed that it’ll be OK.  But I’m extremely concerned about the injury.  Spain’s tie against Greece has been rescheduled for tomorrow, but Rafa says that he’s still not ready to play a full match.  If he’s not ready to play on Friday, and this would only be best of 3, and the Aussie Open starts on Monday … it’s not sounding good 😦 .

A London Church of England clergyman’s tweeted that: “The cult of Captain Tom is a cult of White British Nationalism”.  This why society’s so divided, because of comments like that – and at a time when Captain Tom’s family and friends are mourning his loss.  The Diocese of London has, quite correctly, said that his “comments regarding Captain Sir Tom Moore were unacceptable, insensitive, and ill-judged”.

And the German government is refusing to let Liverpool into Germany for their Champions League match against Leipzig.  This could all get pretty messy.  Benfica won’t be allowed into the UK for the Europa League match against Arsenal … unless an exemption for elite sports players is agreed, as has been done in Italy for the forthcoming tennis event there.

 

Friday, February 5th

My car went for its MOT today.  MOTs were suspended during Lockdown I, but are now operating as normal.  The garage sent me an e-mail asking me to drive there with all the windows down, but I’m afraid I didn’t – although it’s only 3 miles away, there are umpteen sets of traffic lights en route, and I wouldn’t have felt safe sitting in a stationary ca with all the windows down.   And I had to take everything out other than the wheel nuts and the service book.  Fortunately, all that was needed was a new windscreen wiper blade.  I’ve been nervous about MOTs ever since I took a previous car in, blithely thinking everything was OK, and it needed hundreds of pounds worth of repairs.

Nice weather today, but more snow forecast for next week.  FFS!

I am really stressy at the moment.  A lot of it’s to do with my weight.  I’m going for a long walk every day, and walking up and down steps as well, but I cannot shift the weight.  I don’t generally put weight on at home in a normal week, maybe a couple of pounds on some weeks and off in others, but weight piles on on holiday and over Christmas and just won’t come off.  I have spent my entire life battling my weight.  So demoralising.

Local elections are going ahead in May.  BYOB – bring your own biro!  Our council are fairly hopeless regardless of who’s elected, but the fact that the elections are going ahead does suggest that restrictions will have been eased by early May.  They’d better have been!   Scientists keep saying that the authorities shouldn’t give dates, and I take the point that the virus doesn’t work by the calendar, but that’s easy to say when you’re not the one with no idea when your business can reopen or when your kids can go back to school  And everyone’s mental health is starting to suffer.   Miserable people are saying that no-one should go on holiday this summer because it’s irresponsible, but the people saying that are invariably people who don’t work, just as the people who are saying that dates shouldn’t be given are people whose income isn’t being affected by the lockdown.   The good news is that the R rate is below 1, and cases are falling in most areas.

And I’m sad because Christopher Plummer’s died 😦 .  I do know that he wasn’t just Captain Von Trapp, but I love him so much in that role.

 

Saturday, February 6th

It’s rained so much that Salford City v Bolton was called off due to a waterlogged pitch.  United v Everton was not called off … but we conceded an equaliser in the last bloody second of injury time, dropping two points.   So, so disappointing.

When it stopped raining, I went out, only for there to be serious trauma when The Coffee Sack hadn’t got any scones.  I must have looked very upset, because the man gave me a free cup of tea!  I did get a scone from M&S later, but I was hungry, so I ended up getting crumpets in the park.  No wonder I’m so fat!

And then, even though the forecast’d given more heavy rain for later, I stupidly stayed out longer than I should have done, and got rather wet despite my brolly.

Oh dear!!

On a happier note, Dan Evans is into the final of the Murray River event.  Good to see him playing so well.  Shame he’s in the same section of the draw as Rafa and his bad back, though.

 

Sunday, February 7th

Heavy snow’s hit parts of S E England, as well as the Netherlands and N W Germany.  We only got a few flakes here, thankfully, but I could see loads of snow on the hills when I went to Hollingworth Lake this morning.

It was lovely, despite the cold wind, but I’m sad because I should have been doing the snowdrop walks at Rode Hall today … the first rite of spring.  I’m also a bit sad at the thought of having to use Amazon Prime as the Easter Bunny for a second successive year, rather than being able to give my nephews their Easter eggs in person.

It looks as if everyone may need a “top-up” jab in the autumn.  It’s not clear whether this is a general top-up thing or whether it’s to do with concerns that the original vaccine formula may not be entirely effective against this dangerous new variant from South Africa.  Concerns are also growing about low take-up of the vaccine in some ethnic groups.  For example, amongst over 80s in Bradford, 97% of white people took the vaccine, but only 77% of people of Pakistani heritage.   But the rollout is proceeding apace, and we’re on target for everyone in the highest risk groups to’ve had their first jab by February 15th.

I am so sick of all this.  Please, please let us get back to some sort of normality by June.

Some good news – Dan Evans won the Murray River Open.  But I am very stressed about Rafa’s back injury …

 

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

 

Monday, January 25th

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Tuesday, January 26th

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Wednesday, January 27th

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

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

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

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

Hyndburn 568, Carlisle 544, Norwich 465, Southampton 404

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

Thursday, January 28th

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Friday, January 29th

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

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

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

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

 

Saturday, January 30th

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Sunday, January 31st

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

Dogs apart, it was very nice in the park.

 

Scone courtesy of The Coffee Sack 🙂 .

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

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

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

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

Lockdown III Week 3, January 18th to 24th 2021 inclusive

Monday, January 18th

Ten new mass vaccination centres opened today, including another two in the North West.  Some areas, and I’m pleased to say that ours is one of them, are moving on to people in the 70-74 age group and younger people who are classed as clinically vulnerable.  However, some areas aren’t going as quickly as others, which seems to be a supply issue.   But over 4 million people have had their first doses now, and (not that it’s a competition) we’ve got the fourth highest per capita rate in the world.

I had a letter from the building society today, saying that they want to put my mortgage protection insurance up because they expect loads of people to be made redundant this year.  Very cheerful!   I’m not sure how much of it is a genuine result of forecasts and how much is just an excuse to try to get more money out of people.

Someone got fined for driving from Preston to Bolton to collect a takeaway.  FFS.  OK, I’m sure there are plenty of takeaways in Preston, but it’s hardly a long journey, and they were in their own car.  Shouldn’t the police be concentrating on breaking up mass gatherings, or closing shops which are open illegally?  And the press are tutting over pictures of lots of people walking in parks etc.  This happened during the first lockdown.  If you live in a built-up, densely-populated area, and are not supposed to leave it, how are you supposed to exercise without there being other people around?

And could someone please tell Novak Djokovic to shut up?  It is obviously far from ideal that 72 players, and their coaches etc, are all shut in their hotel rooms, not even allowed to open the doors.  Especially when they need to keep fit ahead of a strenuous two week tournament in the heat.  Also, the food looks very poor, and we’ve all seen the pictures of the mouse in Yulia Putintseva’s room.  But it is not helpful for Nole to demand that they be moved to private homes with their own tennis courts!   He’s just annoying everyone and sounding like a spoilt brat.  The situation is a nightmare, though.

 

Tuesday, January 19th

1,610 deaths within 28 days of a positive coronavirus test have been recorded today, the highest figure since the pandemic began.  The figures have been much lower over the past couple of days and they probably do average out, but it’s still very, very distressing and worrying.

Infection rates are falling in 9 out of 10 Greater Manchester boroughs now.  But not as quickly as the national average is falling, although I suppose rates are bound to be falling more quickly in areas which went into Tier 4 first. Things are improving, though.  Infections and hospitalisations across the country are falling, but things are still grim.  The lockdown in Scotland’s been extended, and there’s no sign of restrictions being lifted anywhere else either.

Figures show that there are five times as many kids in school in England as there were during the first lockdown.  Whew!   I think we’re all aware that far more kids are in school, but five times as many?!  It’s been suggested that schools will reopen on a regional basis.  I quite see that there’s no point keeping kids out of school in Devon because infection rates are still high in Carlisle, for example, but it’s going to mean kids in the hardest-hit areas being at an even bigger disadvantage.

Today, I have been to:

  1. Tesco, where some of the staffed checkouts have been replaced by self-scanner checkouts.  Not self-service, which are bad enough, but self-scanner.  No doubt, in 10 years’ time staffed checkouts will seem as outdated as going into a corner shop and asking a grocer for six apples and two pounds of flour, but I prefer the staffed ones!
  2. Marks & Spencer’s, where, amongst other things, I collected the free pineapple which I had been awarded for using my Sparks card.  Life is so boring ATM that a free pineapple seems quite exciting.
  3.  The frozen yoghurt shop.
  4. The office, to leave some files and collect others.  There were loads of cars in the car park.  Some of the people at other firms in the building don’t seem even to be bothering to try working from home.
  5.  The park, in torrential rain.  Thanks to Storm Christophe, the weather is utterly vile.   I’m sure I should get double calorie burn-off for walking in that sort of weather.

And it’s Donald Trump’s last day in office.  Thank heavens for that.

 

Wednesday, January 20th

Every time you think things can’t get any worse, they do.  1,820 deaths recorded today.  Infections are falling, but the numbers of deaths are just horrendous.  On top of that, research from Israel suggests that one dose of vaccine may not be as effective as originally thought in preventing infection, so we may have to give everyone two doses before things start improving significantly.  Will this nightmare never end?

On top of that, the weather is horrendous, and there are fears that there may be flooding in parts of South Manchester and Cheshire, and maybe even in town.  I got drenched in the park, despite my brolly.  Then, during United v Fulham (luckily, we were away, and City played earlier), it started snowing.  A lot.

It’s very hard not to turn to food for comfort.

Players in quarantine at the mice-infested hotel in Melbourne have been advised to “minimise interaction” with the mice, i.e. not to feed them.  This is getting farcical.  I know it’s a very difficult situation and Tennis Australia have gone to a lot of effort, etc, but surely it’s not unreasonable to expect hotel rooms which aren’t full of mice!

On a happier note, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have been sworn in.  I thought Biden spoke quite well, about the need to come together and work together.  I wish them both luck.  They’re going to need it!

And we’re back on top of the league, after a 2-1 win at Fulham.  Leicester went top last night, then City after their win in tonight’s early KO, and now us again.  It’s certainly exciting … just so sad that there’s no prospect of fans being allowed in this season.

 

Thursday, January 21st

It’s stopped raining, and, after two hours of heavy snow last night, there’s been no more snow.  Thankfully, the flood defences in the Didsbury/Northenden area held, but homes and businesses have been flooded in Lymm, Northwich and other parts of the North West.  Just as if things aren’t bad enough.  Boris has been to visit.  Not that there was much he could do, but at least he showed willing.

Northern Ireland’s lockdown’s been extended until March.

Concerns are rising over a low level of take-up of the vaccines in certain ethnic minority communities.  It seems to be a particular problem in the West Midlands.  Unfortunately, irresponsible people are spreading anti-vaxxer messages and frightening people.

There’ve also been reports that another new variant’s been found, this time in Liverpool.  Hopefully it’s something and nothing.  That really would be a nightmare.

Fines for attending house parties are to be increased.  It sounds good, but all people have to do is say that they can’t pay.

Glastonbury’s been cancelled, for a second successive year.  It’s not a surprise, but it’s a psychological blow, because it’s such a big event on the calendar, and it’s also yet another huge blow to the live music industry, and the events industry in general.   And one scientist’s said that pubs, restaurants, cafes etc shouldn’t be allowed to reopen until May.  The hospitality industry’s on its knees.  The travel industry’s on its knees.  A lot of sports clubs are on their knees.  Obviously, things cannot reopen under the present circumstances, but … bloody hellfire, how much longer can businesses survive?

 

Friday, January 22nd

A load of people formed an orderly queue outside a centre in Timperley after it was reported that it was going to be turned into a vaccination hub.  They hadn’t got appointments, and there weren’t even any doses of the vaccine there!  But it shows how desperate people are to get vaccinated.  There’ve been some reports of low uptake in certain areas, but I haven’t heard of any such issues in the North West.

The R number is now below 1, which is great news, but there were another 1,401 deaths today, and Boris has said that it’s feared that the mutant virus is more deadly than the original.  People from other parts of the country are being moved to hospitals in Greater Manchester.  There’ve been some calls to stop international travel completely, but I don’t know how practical that is when cargo still needs to be moved around.

There are reports that the Olympics could be cancelled.  I don’t think that the mayhem over the Australian Open’s helping.  Andy Murray won’t be playing in Melbourne because it just can’t be sorted in time.  There are a lot of arguments going on on social media over the whole quarantine situation.  It’s a nightmare.

Snapfish have reprinted my photos, but they’ve done the same thing again -jumbled them all up.  You can no longer ring up, and my “livechat” with someone who barely spoke a word of English was a waste of time.  Someone is supposed to be contacting me by e-mail.  I’m still waiting.

And I am so tired of all the hatred.  Why do people hate others so much, just because they vote for a different political party?  And why do they feel the need to post that all over social media?

At least the weather’s cleared up …

 

Saturday, January 23rd

It snowed quite heavily this morning.  When I got to the park – having stopped en route to pick up a scone 🙂 – there were lots of kids sledging and building snowmen.  The snow’d gone by early afternoon, so it didn’t cause any problems, and it was a bit of fun.  There are “Covid marshals” in the park at weekends, but a) they seemed more interested in messing with their phones than in watching people and b) no-one was doing anything wrong anyway.  It was too cold to hang around in big groups like people were doing in the spring.

The animal centre’s been closed since March.  Paying zoos opened up for a while, but the park centre didn’t.  The animals look rather bored and lonely 😦 .

Everyone is fed up.  I know we should be counting our blessings, but this is crap.  And there’s no end in sight.  Two months into the spring lockdown, you could go to Blackpool.  We’ve now been under travel restrictions for three months, and there’s no sign of things changing.  There was originally some talk of restrictions being eased by mid-February, but then it was early March, then the end of March, then Easter, and now there’s even been talk of it going on until the summer.  I feel so trapped by work, and we get so little time off, that it’s really important to me to do something special at weekends and to plan holidays, and I can’t do any of that.   People who live on their own are feeling lonely.  People who live with others are getting sick of being with them round the clock.  People are worried about money.  Kids are getting behind in their education.  And, of course, people are worried about the virus risk.  It was bad enough in the spring, but, back then, we hadn’t been under restrictions for nearly a year already, and it was still light at the end of the working day, and the weather was nice.  This is crap.

Scientists are disputing the reports that the mutant version of the virus is more deadly.  It would explain a lot if it is.  Things are bad in a lot of places, but the death rates here are just horrendous.  Political points-scorers are saying that it’s all because Boris didn’t put us into lockdown soon enough in March, but that’s rubbish.  Whatever mistakes were made in March, infection rates and death rates were way, way down by July.  Something new is going on now.

The good news is that more and more people are getting their first shots of the vaccine.  But scientists are now saying that leaving a 12 week gap between the first and second shots is no good.

Sometimes, I still can’t believe that all this is really happening.

And I am having nightmares with Snapfish.  The “livechat” is a joke: the staff barely speak a word of English, ask the set questions on their script, and can’t cope if you go off the script.  They’ve had the nerve to offer me 100 free photos as a “goodwill gesture” after ruining my order of 638 photos!  And I can’t get any further reply from them.

 

Sunday, January 24th

United 3-2 Liverpool!  Great Cup tie, and into the 5th round we go.  But when will fans ever get back to matches?

6.3 million people have now had their first dose of the vaccination.  That’s a higher percentage of the adult population than anywhere other than Israel and the UAE.  But Matt Hancock’s said that we’re a “long, long way” from easing restrictions.

The virus situation in Greater Manchester doesn’t actually seem any worse than it was in October and early November.  I may well be talking rubbish, because we don’t get detailed regional data on hospitalisations and fatalities, but that’s how it seems to me.  But it seems unlikely that restrictions will be lifted until mid-March at the earliest … and, even then, it’ll be back to the Evil Tier System.  I hope I’m wrong, but I can’t see schools reopening fully until mid-April, after the Easter holidays.

I wish different groups of people would stop demanding to be given priority for vaccination.  There is only so much vaccine available.  Clinically vulnerable people need to be vaccinated first.  Why do teaching unions seem to think that teachers should take priority over those most likely to die>

I’ve been to Clifton Country Park today.  Quieter than usual, but there was far more rule-breaking going on than there was at Heaton Park.  No huge groups, but loads of groups which clearly consisted of two or three couples plus kids.  I know there’s a risk, but I do think that way too much attention is being paid to people out for walks – the police have been lurking round some beauty spots and fining people who’ve come more than a few miles – rather than on Covid safety in workplaces.  There are some offices round here where you see around 15 cars parked outside every day.  What’s more risky, 15 people in an office together or 4 people out for a walk together?

I’ve also read two newspapers and part of a book, watched the match, watched a historical documentary, watched part of a film, written a post on my book/TV/film review blog, written some fanfic and done some house stuff.  But it still feels like a waste of a day.

WordPress thumbnails have suddenly stopped displaying on the Facebook app.  You just get a grey box with a bit of writing in it.  The pics come up as normal on the browser and mobile browser version, so it’s clearly an app issue.  Links to, say, the BBC website or the MEN website are fine.  But the issue seems to be affecting Blogspot as well as WordPress.  I appreciate that this is not the end of the world: it is hardly as if more than half a dozen people at the most ever click on to my posts through Facebook anyway, and those who do can always click on the grey box.  But it’s annoying me like mad.  ETA – ah, problem solved!  The picture needs to be enlarged.  Which is very odd, because it never used to display unless the picture was small!

However, I finally got some sense out of Snapfish.  I’ve uploaded the photos again, so we can start from scratch, and they’re going to print them for the third time, free of charge,  Fingers crosses1

The release of the new James Bond film’s been delayed again.

But sea shanties have become a thing, after a postman made a video of himself singing one, and it went viral!  Maybe we can all bond over sea shanties 🙂 .

 

 

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

Monday, January 11th

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Tuesday, January 12th

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Wednesday, January 13th

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

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

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

 

Thursday, January 14th

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

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

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

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

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

 

Friday, January 15th

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

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

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

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

 

Saturday, January 16th

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

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

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

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

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

 

Sunday, January 17th

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

The coming of the vaccines

Lockdown 2 088

My mum and dad, both aged 75, have just been called to go for the first dose of their vaccinations at the local walk-in centre tomorrow.  Such a relief!  My uncle, who’s the same age but with a different GP surgery, had his first dose earlier in the week, and some friends who are either frontline healthcare workers or in the over 80s or 75-79 age groups, have also either been vaccinated or have got appointments to be vaccinated soon.

There’s a long, long road ahead.  So many lives have been lost.  Other people have been left with long-term health conditions.  The UK economy’s shrunk by 8.5% since February: a lot of businesses are, sadly, not coming back from this.

But I do feel a bit more hopeful today.  I’ve got some daffodils on the table – they’re from Marks & Spencer’s, and I think they’re probably from the Channel Islands, because they usually are at this time of year.  They make the front room smell of spring.  Will I be able to see my sister and brother-in-law and nephews over Easter? Will I be able to go to all, or any, of the lovely places I like to visit in daffodil/lambing season and bluebell season?  Hey, will I even be able to have my hair cut and dyed before it looks a complete and utter mess?!  Will we be able to go to any football matches this season?  Will the clay court season go ahead?  Er, that sounds really me-me-me, doesn’t it?  Sorry, it wasn’t really meant to!  But there does seem to be some light at the end of the tunnel today.

I’ve spent so much of my life reading about people who invented flying shuttles, spinning jennies, water frames, mules and cotton gins.  Today, I just want to read all about the people who’ve created the Covid vaccines.  They are the biggest heroes of our lifetime.