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  Meanwhile, Derbyshire police have apologised to the 2 women involved in the infamous reservoir walk incident, and rescinded the fines.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.

Snakes and Ladders/Tiers and Fears

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 7th

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

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

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

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

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

 

Tuesday, December 8th

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

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

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

Scottish Higher exams have been cancelled.

So have trains from Switzerland to Italy.

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

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

 

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

 

Wednesday, December 9th

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And today is Coronation Street’s 60th anniversary.

 

Thursday, December 10th

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Friday, December 11th

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

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

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

Dame Barbara Windsor’s died, aged 83 😦 .

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

 

Saturday, December 12th

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

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

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

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

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

 

Sunday, December 13th

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

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

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

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

And so endeth another week!

 

 

 

 

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

Monday, November 30th

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

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

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

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

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

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

A new tumble dryer will hopefully be arriving on Thursday.

 

Tuesday, December 1st

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

Wednesday, December 2nd

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

This is obviously great news.

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

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

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

 

Thursday, December 3rd

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Friday, December 4th

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

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

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

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

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

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

The new tumble dryer is here 🙂 .

 

Saturday, December 5th

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

Sunday, December 6th

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

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

There were long queues outside Primark.

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

Lockdown II Week 3 – November 16th to 22nd 2020 inclusive

Monday, November 16th

Since the start of the pandemic, the oven has broken, the toilet has broken, the toilet has broken again and damaged the kitchen ceiling, a lightning strike has knackered the router and the phones, and now the oven has broken again.  I mean, is it me?!  A new one will hopefully be coming on Thursday or Friday.  More money.

Went into town for an optician’s appointment today.  Very strange seeing everywhere so quiet, when the Christmas markets should be open.  I love the Christmas markets.  And that miserable git Matt Hancock’s said that it’s too soon to say whether or not the lockdown will end on December 2nd.  Retailers are getting really fed up: Waterstones (books) and Clinton (cards) have both complained about their shops having to close, when books and cards can be readily bought in supermarkets, garden centres and newsagents.

On a happier note, another firm, Moderna, have also got a vaccine which is over 90% effective.  And hopes are rising that testing will be made available to people with loved ones in care homes, allowing for visits.

Meanwhile, Boris is self-isolating, just at a crucial stage of the Brexit negotiations and in the middle of Lockdown II, after an MP with whom he attended a meeting tested positive.  Several other MPs are also affected.

And there’s been a worrying surge in cases in Hull and Grimsby.

 

Tuesday, November 17th

Superb match between Rafa and Dominic …  which, sadly, Rafa lost 😦 .

A load of virus cases in England have been “relocated”, because the addresses on the system were wrong.  Is this a joke?  Needless to say, they have mainly been relocated to urban parts of the north.  The area with the largest number of cases relocated away from it is the area which includes Rishi Sunak’s constituency.

Easyjet’s suffered the first loss in its history.

And Glasgow and various other parts of Scotland are being put into Tier 4 … which is basically the sort of lockdown that the whole of England’s presently in.  This is awful.  I know this is a horrible situation, but people and businesses can’t take much more.

I went to Tesco this morning, coming home at about 10 to 9.  The amount of traffic, considering that we’re meant to be in lockdown, was insane.  OK, the stupid council’s decision to reduce the main road to one lane each way makes it a lot worse, but even so.  Could have been parents returning from taking kids to school, but I’m not convinced.  Loads of people are working at offices, when they could be working from home.

And the police have been told to stop issuing the highest level of fines for breaking regulations.  TBH, I agree that the fixed penalty system’s stupid – £10,000 is a year’s net income to some people but loose change to others.  But why wasn’t this taken into consideration in the first place?

 

Wednesday, November 18th

I went to the office to drop some stuff off this morning.  Just after I arrived, the fire alarm went off.  I was tempted just to go home and leave the stuff I’d dropped off lying about on the desk where I’d dumped it, but decided that that wouldn’t be very fair, so I waited outside until it was sorted and I could go back in and put everything away properly.  Hordes of people came streaming out of the other offices in the block – and these are people whose jobs could certainly be done from home.  There were even people from a social group which uses one of the offices for meet-ups, and I’m pretty sure that social groups aren’t allowed to meet up during lockdown –  unless it’s some sort of emotional support group, which this isn’t.  FFS!

There’s talk of making restrictions in Tiers 2 and 3 even tighter when lockdown ends.  I have just had enough of this.  We’ve been under restrictions since July.  Rates in the North West are falling.  What are they going to try to do to us now?

In Scotland, police are to have powers to stop people travelling outside their own council areas in Tier 3 and Tier 4 areas.  Like they’re living in an open prison.  I understand that this is a really, really shit situation, but people have just had enough.

There’s been a big anti-lockdown protest in Berlin.

There is some talk of a Christmas truce here.   As long as you only hold small family gatherings, and only travel by car – which is a pretty stupid suggestion, given that a lot of people don’t have cars.  But maybe it means that my sister and brother-in-law and nephews will be able to come here for Christmas after all.

But there are concerns that the Australian Open may not be able to go ahead.  Players have said that they’re willing to self-isolate for a fortnight – which, given that that’d include Christmas and New Year if they were to be out of quarantine before the start of the warm-up events, is no small commitment.   But now the government of Victoria’s suggesting it won’t let players arrive until January.

And Boris has appeared at PM’s Questions by video link, as he is currently confined to barracks.

 

Thursday, November 19th

The new oven has arrived, hooray!

Rafa has reached the semi-finals, hooray!

Government funding’s been announced for some sports clubs, due to the effects of the virus.

Mink in Sweden have now got the virus as well.  What is it with mink?!

More bad news in the retail industry today – more firms going into administration.  And we’re only hearing about big firms – how many small shops have gone?

Infection rates in the North West continue to fall, which is obviously very good news, but infection rates elsewhere in England continue to rise.  It’s weird: it’s like we’re having a different pandemic to the rest of the country.   The infection rate across the 10 boroughs is down to 399.10, down 22% week-on-week.   The average across England is 265.5 and rising.  Over 500 deaths across the UK again today.  Italy suffered nearly 800 yesterday.  And New York’s closed schools again.

Hull is much the worst affected place in the country now, with Scarborough, Teesside, Bristol, Swale (in Kent), Stoke, and parts of Leics, Lincs and West Yorks also struggling.

Please, please, please let us out of bloody lockdown on December 2nd.  Northern Ireland’s going back into lockdown after next week.  So they’re coming out for one week.  Well, I hope everyone manages to get a hair appointment.  How bloody demoralising – practically straight back into it.

And Brexit talks have been suspended after one of the EU negotiators tested positive for the virus.  It wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if Michel Barnier had made the whole thing up to throw a spanner in the works, but I suppose we have to assume it’s genuine.

 

Friday, November 20th

It has rained nearly all day.  Despite this, there were still long queues at both the cafes in the park.

Not convinced about all this focus on Christmas.  Much as I want to see my sister and brother-in-law and the kids, we’re being told that 5 days of lockdown will be “needed” for every day for which restrictions are eased.  If we have 5 days over Christmas (the 27th and 28th are Bank Holidays, as Christmas Day and Boxing Day fall at the weekend), plus New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, that means a 35 day lockdown.  People’s mental health is suffering as it is, and a lot of businesses won’t make it through another 35 days of being closed.  We’re not in some sort of Hollywood film where everything revolves around Christmas.  I just don’t think it can be justified.  Which is extremely sad.

2 million people in Scotland are now back in lockdown, and businesses in Northern Ireland are furious that they’ll have to close again after only being able to reopen for a week.

The Serbian Orthodox Patriarch’s died with coronavirus, after attending a funeral for the Serbian Orthodox church’s chief cleric in Montenegro … lots of people, no social distancing, people even kissing the body.  It’s very sad, but there does seem to be an issue with people thinking that religious services should be exempt from the rules.  It’s happening here too.  I don’t understand why religious people seem to think they should be exempt.

Matt Hancock’s wittering on about how “we must keep our resolve”.  It might come across quite well if it was Churchill saying it.  Still, at least he manages to brush his hair before leading a press conference.

 

Saturday, November 21st

Oh no!!  Rafa lost to Daniil in the semis … after serving for the match in the 2nd set.  Just can’t win the World Tour Finals 😦 .   And it looks as if the Australian Open might be put back to March.  Tennis Australia’s idea was for the players and anyone accompanying them to arrive in mid-December, go into quarantine for 2 weeks, and then be ready for the warm-up events and for the Open to start on January 18th as scheduled, but it looks as if the government of Victoria’s going to put the kibosh on it.  That is a blow 😦 .  January’s a miserable time of year even in normal times, and the Aussie Open’s the one good thing about it.   And then that’ll muck up the calendar for the rest of the year

On a happier note, United beat West Brom, 1-0.

It’s five weeks to Christmas!   Doesn’t feel like it, with no Christmas markets … although some people are trying to cheer themselves up by putting their trees and decorations up.  Please tell me that the people over the road are going to switch their garish flashing lights off during the day – I love Christmas, but those lights flashing 24/7 will do my head in!

And it’s 5 days until Thanksgiving … and cases seem to be soaring in most parts of the US 😦 .

Managed to walk round Hollingworth Lake and have a mince pie 🙂 from The Olive and Pickle before the rain started.

I meant to go out for another walk later, but I had to make a start on clearing out the kitchen cupboards, and then Dominic and Nole’s match lasted nearly three hours and it was dark by the time it’d finished.

 

Sunday, November 22nd

We’re going to be told tomorrow what we are and aren’t allowed to do over Christmas.  It’d be vaguely comical if it wasn’t such a nightmare – it sounds as if we’re all being summoned into the school hall to be given a lecture about how reports will be handed out after the carol service and the Chanukah play, and you must give yours to your parents Or Else.

Then, on Thursday, we’re going to be told which tier we’re going in after lockdown.  This again sounds like being at school.  Some areas are being moved into higher tiers.  It doesn’t sound like we’ll be going into a lower tier.  The average infection rate across Greater Manchester’s below 360, which is well below where it was, but the national average is around 260.  Hull, by contrast, is up at around 700, with Swale in Kent around 650 and several other places over 500.  Worse news is the talk of tighter restrictions in each tier.  FFS, are things not bad enough?  But the 10pm curfew’s being lifted, which isn’t an awful lot of help when pubs and restaurants are closed anyway.

Finished clearing out the kitchen drawers and cupboards, but ran out of time, energy and enthusiasm so still haven’t done the fridge and the freezer.  I’ll try to get them done tomorrow.  Then that’s inside done.  My car urgently needs valeting, but all the decent places are closed due to lockdown.

Medvedev won the World Tour Finals.

Went to Tatton Park this morning – and there was a rainbow right over Tatton Hall!   You have to book to go round the gardens, which I’d done, but not for the estate, which was pretty busy.  It’s a big enough place to be able to walk around without going near anyone else, but the queue for takeaway food and drinks was horrendous!  It wasn’t too bad when I went, at about 11, but by half 12 it really was long!  Nice sunny morning, after all the rain yesterday.  Once we’re back in the evil tier system, I shouldn’t officially be going outside Greater Manchester into East Cheshire, but … well, we’ll see.

 

Lockdown II Week 2 – November 9th to 15th 2020 inclusive

Monday, November 9th

Big news today – Pfizer and BioNTech have got a virus which preliminary analysis shows is 90% effective in preventing infection.  It’s early days, but it’s certainly sounding hopeful.

Unfortunately, in a press conference tonight, in which Boris and Chief Medical Officer Jonathan Van-Tam went on about bugle toots, arrows in quivers and penalty shoot-outs, Boris went on about the evil “Tier” approach, so it looks like we’re going to be stuck with these vile travel restrictions for some time yet.  So sick of it.  Wales isn’t doing this any more.  Why are England and Scotland?

A relation of mine has contracted the virus whilst in hospital.  This seems to be happening with a lot of people.  I understand that the virus is incredibly infectious, but surely, after all these months, hospitals should have better procedures in place.

And it looks as if we may lose a place in the Nations League finals due to the Danish mutant mink virus!   England are due to play Iceland.  A few days earlier, Iceland are due to play Denmark, in Denmark.  No-one is allowed to enter the UK that soon after being in Denmark.  UEFA say that the match in Denmark can go ahead.  Mink 1 – 0 England.   There are also issues over Danish players based in England, and also Swedish players based in England, as Denmark are also due to play Sweden.  And Liverpool are due to play Midtjylland away in December, but then any non-UK players wouldn’t be able to come back, and any British players would have to quarantine for 14 days!

Still stressed about the kitchen ceiling.

On a happier note, a) the park wasn’t busy today and b) Dunham lights has been extended into January and they’ve rebooked people who were booked for the lockdown period.

 

Tuesday, November 10th

GCSEs and A-levels in Wales have been cancelled for next year.  I wonder if England and Northern Ireland will follow suit.  I would have been completely hysterical if my exams had been cancelled, and am so sorry for the kids concerned, but, as the Welsh authorities have said, and Andy Burnham’s said, going ahead with exams is very unfair on kids who’ve had to miss time in school due to self-isolating.

Mass testing is to be carried out in more areas, although Greater Manchester hasn’t been mentioned.  And it looks as if the idea is to the roll out the vaccine ASAP.

I went to Tesco first thing, and then walked to the park just after 1 o’clock.  There was loads of traffic around.  OK, first thing, it was probably mostly people going to work or returning from collecting kids from school, but what were all those “essential journeys” at 1 o’clock?  I feel less guilty about going to Dunham Massey now.  Also, whilst there’ve been reports about supermarkets cordoning off “non-essential” stuff, ours hadn’t.  Cordoning stuff off is stupid.  It doesn’t protect small shops, because people just buy stuff from Amazon.

Matt Hancock has been drivelling on about how great it’ll be to get out of lockdown and back into the tiered system.  Yes, because that’s so great for everyone in Tier 3.  Talk about “I’m all right, Jack”!!

 

Armistice Day, Wednesday, November 11th

A grim milestone today – over 50,000 people in the UK have now died “with coronavirus”.  That’s the official figure, anyway.  We’ll never know the real one.  How many people died in the early days without being tested?  How many of the 50,000 people had serious health conditions and would sadly not have survived this year anyway?  But it’s pretty grim.   595 deaths today – and 53 of those were in Greater Manchester.  Why, oh why, are we being hit so badly?  One of those Stating the Bleeding Obvious official reports has come out today, saying that Northern England’s been particularly badly hit.  Yes.  We know that.  Rates are falling here, though – although, annoyingly, not by very much in our borough.

Northern Ireland’s supposed to be coming out of lockdown after tomorrow, but no-one knows if it is or not because the politicians still haven’t decided.  FFS.

Students are to be allowed home for Christmas – but will be given timeslots in which to leave.

And I am on holiday.  My nasty employers only give us the legal minimum number of days’ holiday, and make us take some of that on days not of our choosing, so holiday days are sacred and I tie myself in knots planning them.  So, so many times I’ve had to miss things I wanted to do as a result.  But, this year, I’ve got a week (3 days in Nov, 2 in Dec which I was saving for a Christmas market trip abroad – hah!!) with nothing to do, which is crazy.  I was supposed to be having 2 weeks in Japan in October.  That got cancelled.  But November trips were still on, so I was going to go to France.  That got cancelled.  Then I thought I’d go to Wales.  Until the local lockdowns in Wales came in.  Forget Wales.  Shropshire, then.  I’d made a list of places to visit there.  Then the Tier 3 crap came in.  So I thought I could go for a spa day, and go to some of the local attractions like the East Lancs Railway.  No.  Can’t even do that.  And they won’t let us carry our holidays forward.

Er, so I went to Dunham Massey.  Which is a non-essential journey.  Across town.  And I felt a bit guilty – but there were loads of people there, all in cars.  And I didn’t go near anyone else, and I was outside.  And it was nice.  Although, FFS, they are now letting dogs in the garden.  Bloody hellfire!  There are horrible dogs everywhere.  One couple were letting their odious dog bark so loudly that you could hear it across the entire Dunham Massey estate.  People were giving this couple funny looks, and some people even remarked about it, but they clearly didn’t give a shit that they were disturbing everyone else.  I’ve actually e-mailed to complain about dogs being allowed in the gardens.  I don’t normally do things like that, but enough’s enough.  NT gardens are amongst the few outdoor places which aren’t plagued with dogs.

Er, apart from the dog thing, it was very nice.

I was there at 11 o’clock – quite appropriate, as the house was a military hospital during the First World War – and most people did stop and observe the two minutes’ silence, which was nice.

Then I went to see the Christmas display at the garden centre.  Which was breaking Tier 3 bounds, as it’s a few hundred yards outside Greater Manchester.  Judging from the accents of other people, most of them were breaking Tier 3 bounds.  I’d stupidly thought it’d be quiet on a weekday, but I had to queue to get in, which was annoying.  Shops are going to go under if this carries on: people haven’t got time to keep waiting in queues, and what if it’d been pouring down?  The fact that there was a long queue  says a lot: no-one “has” to go to a garden centre.  But it’s better that people go there, where visitor numbers are restricted and you can’t sit around, than go to each other’s houses.

I seem to be writing an essay every day.  And this is nearly 8 months in!

 

Thursday, November 12th

Business Secretary Alok Sharma, “leading” a Downing Street press briefing this evening, was asked by a lady from Sheffield if everywhere’d be going back into its pre-lockdown tier on December 2nd, or whether the tiering’d be reassessed.  He completely sidestepped the question and just said, twice, that national restrictions’d be ending on December 2nd.  So annoying.  And rude.

Meanwhile, Northern Ireland’s government thought that the lockdown there ended tonight, but it actually ends tomorrow night, because they got confused by their own definition of “midnight on Friday”.  Seriously.  And then, just as places were getting ready to reopen, they said that they were extending it for another week.

The number of new infections, which has remained at 20,000-23,000-ish for days, has somehow jumped from 22,950 yesterday to 33,470 today.  How the hell has that happened?  How can there be an increase of nearly 50% one day, when it’d been stable for the last week or so?

Holiday day 2 today, and back to Hollingworth Lake.  The Olive and Pickle had scones today, hooray!  Nice sunny day, too.

I then went to Healey Dell, a nature reserve not far from there.  It was absolutely beautiful, with waterfalls and all the autumnal colours, but there were very few people around and I felt a bit nervous, so I didn’t walk far.

Also, there were loads of signs up saying that the tea room was open from Thursdays to Sundays, but, when I got there, ready for another cuppa, there was a sign saying that it was only open on Saturday and Sunday this week!    After that, I decided to book Styal for tomorrow.  I’m not sure whether or not I’m meant to cross into Cheshire East, but I’m getting a bit past caring: I’m only going for a walk.  If the tier thing does apply this month, I crossed from one Tier 3 area to another today, because I genuinely hadn’t realised that Healey Dell, despite having a Rochdale address and being listed on Visit Rochdale, Trip Advisor and even Rochdale Council’s own website as being in Rochdale, is a few hundred years into the borough of Rossendale.  Well, part of it is, anyway.  Whereas Middleton, which is in Manchester, comes under the borough of Rochdale.  And we, also in Manchester, come under the borough of Bury.  And Failsworth, also in Manchester, comes under the borough of Oldham.  And we’re all Lancastrians anyway!!  Er, anyway, I’m going to Styal tomorrow.

The powers that be have agreed that the Icelandic football squad are to be granted exemption from the Danish travel ban, so the Nations League match can go ahead.  There’d been some talk of playing it in Albania!   But it can now be played at Wembley.

 

Friday, November 13th

I was going to get ten billion things done during these three days off.  How many of them have I got done?  Hmm.  I’ve done two shoeboxes for the Manchester Christmas Shoebox Appeal, though.  They’ve got to be in early this year, so that they can be quarantined for a fortnight.

Some people have put their Christmas trees up already, and supermarket websites are struggling to cope with advance bookings for Christmas week deliveries.

Lovely weather today, after heavy rain from about 5am to 7am.  The autumnal colours at Styal were absolutely beautiful.  I had a really nice time there.

I’m doing so much walking at the moment, but my weight is still a complete disaster 😦 .

Today’s figures, whilst still grim, are much better than yesterday’s – 27,301 cases, and 376 deaths.  The highest rate of positive tests by age groups is amongst secondary school kids.  Hmm.

And rates in the north west are definitely falling, touch wood, and the R rate could be below 1 here.

 

Saturday, November 14th

Hooray, week-on-week infection rates in Greater Manchester are down by 18%!   Although our borough annoyingly now has the 3rd highest rate of the 10.  But rates are down in every borough.  Unfortunately, rates nationwide are still rising, and another 462 deaths were recorded today.  And it’s worse across much of Europe.  Italy had over 40,000 new cases yesterday, and France had over 80,000 one day, both with lower populations than us.  Austria, with a population less than 1/7 of ours, had over 9,500 cases yesterday, and is going back into lockdown.  And the rates in America are awful.

Rishi Sunak lit oil lamps on the steps of 11 Downing Street today, to mark the start of Diwali.  It’s lovely that we’re now at a point where it’s totally cool for the Chancellor of the Exchequer to be a practising Hindu, but sad that here’s yet another festival which people will be unable to spend with family and friends.  Plenty of fireworks have been going off nearby, though!

There was an anti-lockdown protest in Bristol today, but only a few hundred people went.  Most people do accept that something needed doing, but we’re all so fed up, and there’s a lot of resentment over the fact that bookshops, toy shops, clothes shops etc have had to close when you can buy books, toys and clothes readily in supermarkets and garden centres.

The media are making a huge big deal over the fact that Dominic Cummings and Lee Cain have been given the heave-ho.  We’re getting a load of melodramatic stuff about “power struggles” and “right hand men” and “factions”.  They’re making it sound as if Henry VIII’s about to execute Thomas Cromwell or there’s been a rerun of the Bedchamber Crisis. Advisors do come and go.  I just hope that Dominic from Durham and Lee from Ormskirk are not replaced by Home Counties public schoolboys.

I found a 3 mile walk through Worsley, only 10 minutes away, on Google, so I did that today.  It was dry at that point: it rained later.   After the Healey Dell thing, I decided to save this for a weekend, when there’d be more people about.  Part of it was along the historic Bridgewater Canal and through woodland, which was very pretty, but then it brought you back through a housing estate!  Oh well, it was somewhere different to walk.  I must sound as if I go out all the time, but I really don’t – I just don’t write about all the time I spend doing housework, which is more than usual at the moment as I’m doing my annual year end house clearout (which largely consists of taking things out of drawers/cupboards, cleaning the drawers/cupboards, then putting things back in, even though I never use half of them).

 

Sunday, November 15th

Haven’t been far today, just to the park, but I’ve made progress with the Year End House Clearout, and sorted out some photos whilst watching the tennis.  Rafa’s first match of the World Tour Finals is later this evening.  Fingers crossed!

One of the inventors of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine’s said that hopefully things will be back to normal by next winter.  Next winter?!  OK, OK, I’m sure we all know it won’t be a magic bullet, and there are already plans for next summer’s big sporting events to take place behind closed doors, but … just hearing it said out loud was scary.  Another YEAR of this.  “Non-essential” shops have already been shut for 15 weeks this year and, even when they were open, weren’t doing anything like as much business as normal.  The travel and tourism industries are in a mess, as is the live music industry, as are theatres.  Another year of weddings etc being cancelled?  Of not being able to go to football matches?  And I cannot take much more of these evil travel restrictions imposed on Greater Manchester and other areas.  And, most of all, FFS, we need to see our families and friends.  Yes, I know that my grandparents’ generation lived through six years of war.  But … bleurgh.

If we could just get back to where we were in July, I’d take that for now.

The Evening News has printed charts showing the rates of infection in each of the 10 boroughs since the start of August.  In every one, it started rising at the end of August, and sky-rocketing at the start of September.  Easy for people to blame “Eat out to help out” but, as rates have sky-rocketed right across Europe, it can’t be that.  So was it schools going back?  But it seems to have started before schools went back.  Or just people moving around over the summer?  It’s done now, but we could do with knowing.  Or was it just the way pandemics go?  There are always second waves.

But they do end.  Don’t they?

And, after all the fuss over the Danish mink, the Iceland match is now irrelevant, because we lost to Belgium and now cannot qualify for the Nations League finals.  Bleurgh.