The Road to Freedom? Week 15, July 5th to 11th 2021 inclusive

Monday, July 5th

Boris has said that we’ve got to open up some time, and that now, with schools about to break up for the summer and before the winter increase in other illnesses, is probably the best time to do it.  Fair point.  From July 19th, social distancing goes, WFH goes (boo, hiss), nightclubs etc can reopen and all limits on how many people can meet up or how many people can attend sports events, music events or anything else go.   S0, hooray, football is back on, and my cousin’s wedding should be able to go ahead as planned.

But the three things which most concern the majority of people stay.  No change, yet, regarding overseas travel – they may remove the need for fully vaccinated people to quarantine after returning from amber list countries, but nothing’s definite yet, and the bloody tests stay.  This godforsaken test, trace and isolate system – currently causing the Duchess of Cambridge to self-isolate – stays.  And the school bubble system stays, although surely, surely, they’ll have to do away with that before the new academic year.

Compulsory mask-wearing goes, to be replaced by “guidance”.  There are quite a lot of concerns about this.  Shop staff are worried, and a lot of people, especially those in vulnerable groups, are anxious about using public transport if people aren’t wearing masks.  It’s all very well saying that you should try to avoid travelling at busy times, but, if you need to get to work or to a place of education, you haven’t got much choice.

Hmm.

Scotland and North East England have overtaken North West England at the top of the infection rate charts.  Not that I wish high infection rates on anyone, and I wish to goodness that the rates would come down everywhere, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I was thinking “At least it’s not us for a change”.  Some random hotspots too – Oxford, Tamworth and N E Lincolnshire.

And the NHS, on its 73rd anniversary, has been awarded the George Cross by the Queen.

In other news, it has rained a lot today.  And Emma Raducanu had to retire from her match with breathing problems, which was a huge shame – not got tour level fitness levels yet, but that’s something that she can work on.

 

Tuesday, July 6th

More rain.

But, finally, some common sense.   From 16th August, self-isolation for fully-vaccinated adults will end, except for people who have actually tested positive themselves.   And, for the new academic year, this ridiculous “bubble” system at schools, which has seen 640,000 kids sent home in the last week, will end: under 18s will not have to self-isolate unless they themselves have tested positive.

There’s been a mixed reaction to yesterday’s announcements.  I’m trying not to get involved in arguments, because I think there’s a lot of “I’m all right, Jack”-ism going on.  It’s all very well to say that restrictions should continue indefinitely if you are in a secure public sector job, working from home on full pay, or retired, but what about a self-employed person whose business cannot operate properly until social distancing ends?   And it’s all very well to say that masks shouldn’t be worn on public transport if you’re young and in perfect health, but less so for someone who’s clinically vulnerable.

The changes only apply to England.  I hope Sturgeon isn’t going to get stroppy over travel again.  Speaking of travel, Merkel has agreed to change the rules on arrival into Germany from the UK and Portugal: fully vaccinated people will no longer need to quarantine.

Sajid Javid’s said that we could be seeing 100,000 cases a day by some point in August.  Marks for honesty, but I didn’t really want to hear that!

Whilst we’re being told that vaccine passports won’t be needed domestically, things are certainly moving in a direction in which people are split between the vaccinated and the unvaccinated.  I’m very sorry for the small number of people who can’t be vaccinated for genuine medical reasons, and hope that some arrangements can be made for them.

And Medvedev lost.  Is everyone trying to get out of Nole’s way?!

 

Wednesday, July 7th

It’s stopped raining.  I’m hoping that this is a good omen.  Trying to find a good time to have a bath before the match, but there’s too much going on!  Denis has won.  Nole has won.  Matteo is a set up on Felix.  Roger is a set down.

Italy beat Spain on penalties last night – such a shame for what was a really good match to end that way.  Please, please not penalties tonight.  Come on England!!

Meanwhile, there’s a lot of moaning going on.  Most of it’s political points-scoring – the same people who are moaning that restrictions shouldn’t be eased at all are moaning that the self-isolation system should be changed now rather than in August.  If we do see 100,000 cases a day (and we’re now recording over 30,000 a day, the highest number since January), that could mean an awful lot of people self-isolating.   Travel changes look set to be announced tomorrow, but I’m quite looking forward to this trip to Scotland now – if it happens.  Sturgeon has lifted the ban on people from Blackburn now, incidentally!

Come on England!!

Later – WE WON!!  WE’RE IN THE FINAL!!!    We went behind, but equalised.  It went to extra time, and I was thinking, please, please, not penalties.  Then we got a penalty … but Kasper Schmeichel (such a chip off the old block!) saved it, but Harry Kane scored from the rebound.  I have never known time pass as slowly as it did from then until the final whistle, but the whistle went, and we’re in the final!!   OMG!!

Matteo beat Felix.  And Hurkacz beat Roger in straight sets, bagelling him in the final set, which was a bit awful to watch.

 

Thursday, July 8th

I might actually get to bed at a reasonable time tonight, with no football and no late night finishes at Wimbledon!

It’s been confirmed that, from July 19th, fully vaccinated people (although only those vaccinated by the NHS, so this won’t apply to anyone living abroad and wanting to visit the UK, even British citizens) and under 18s won’t need to quarantine on returning from an amber list country.  I felt like I needed to rush off and book myself a trip abroad … but a) the PCR tests will still be needed, b) there may be chaos at airports and c) as I’ve already found out, an awful lot of flights aren’t operating, unless you want to go to a seaside resort.  So, for now, I’m sticking to my trip to Scotland, if it goes.

Japan’s said that no spectators will be allowed at the Olympics.

And the Queen’s been in Manchester today!   She’s been to the Coronation Street set 🙂 , and to meet representatives of community groups at the cathedral.  Wonderful to see her looking so well.

And the ladies’ final’ll be Ash Barty v Karolina Pliskova.

 

Friday, July 9th

The final’ll be Djokovic v Berrettini.  Come on Matteo!   Denis ran Nole so close, but he just couldn’t get over the line in either of the first two sets, and he wasn’t coming back from two sets to love down.

Sad to see the Olympic flame arriving in Tokyo with nowhere there to see it.  I remember going to see the torch relay going past Heaton Park in 2012.  Loads of people were there, and everyone was cheering, and it was such a lovely atmosphere.  That was repeated all over the country, and it’s so sad that it’s not happening this time.

A trade union representing airport staff’s moaning that there’ll be long queues if more people are travelling and everyone’s vaccination certificates and test results have to be checked.  Before the new rules were announced, they were moaning that a load of jobs would be lost unless more people could travel.  If the authorities said that results and certificates didn’t have to be checked, they’d be moaning that the country was being put at risk.

Malta’s banned all visitors unless fully vaccinated.  Tunisia says that its healthcare system’s on the verge of collapse.  Indonesia’s having problems.  Is there no end to this?   Cases are on the up and up across the UK, 99% of them now the Delta variant.

Two days till The Final of the Euros!

 

Saturday, July 10th

Tomorrow night’s the night!   Is it coming home, or will it end in tears?   Please, please, don’t let it end on penalties!  Whatever happens, it’s been a wonderful tournament and a real morale booster.  Thank you so much to Gareth Southgate and the lads; and I’m sure that Italians feel the same about “Bobby Manc” and their lads.

Ash Barty is the Wimbledon ladies’ singles champion!   It looked as if she was going to run away with it, but Karolina Pliskova came back, and it ended up being a really good three set match.

I really miss Rafa.

It wasn’t supposed to rain until 11am, so I went to Hollingworth Lake at half 9.  And it rained.  It’s dry now.

And, in Covid news, it looks like we might need vaccination passports to go to entertainment venues, come the autumn.  I really don’t like this idea of having to show papers: it smacks of totalitarian regimes.  But I think we’ll have to accept that these are exceptional times, and that it’s like people having to carry ID cards during the Second World War.

 

Sunday, July 11th, before the final

This is weird.  This could be a day which we remember for the rest of our lives, and which people talk about for decades to come.  Or it could all end in tears.  2 hours to kick off.

Please, please, not penalties.

Matteo won the first set of the Wimbledon final, but Nole came back to take it in four.  The BBC cameras bizarrely switched away from him during his speech to show a randon shot of the 1988/90 champion, which made me feel better!   Grand Slam?  Golden Slam?  Oh, I do miss Rafa!

I went to Dunham Massey this morning.  The giant lilies, which only flower for 10 days a year, which is usually during Wimbledon, were out.  And the house was flying the flag.

OK, just because I’m not fat enough – I weighed the same yesterday as I did on the first Saturday in January 😦 – I now need to go and make more strawberry and cream meringues.   Well, they were lucky for the semis.

Come on England!!

 

Sunday, July 11th, after the final

Oh no.  And so it all ends in tears, again.  The ultimate nightmare was losing on penalties.  And, TBH, the ultimate, ultimate nightmare was for a United player to miss.   “It was nearly complete, it was nearly so sweet.”  In just the second minute, Luke Shaw put us ahead.  We led for over an hour.  But Bonetti equalised – deservedly so, it has to be said.   It went to extra time.  It went to penalties.  We led 2-1 after the first four penalties: Pickford saved their 2nd.  But then Marcus Rashford missed.  And Jadon Sancho’s was saved.  Match point Italy.  But Pickford saved their 5th.  Would it go to sudden death?  No.  Bukayo Saka – poor young kid, why was he sent into the lions’ den rather than someone more experienced? – had his penalty saved.  And it was all over.  Congratulations to “Bobby Manc” and his players, congratulations to our Italian friends who’ve been fighting this horrible virus for longer than anyone else in Europe and need a pick-me-up as much as we do, but … oh, it hurts.  To lose on bloody penalties, again.   We’re so proud of our players and of Gareth Southgate, but I feel absolutely crushed.   55 years of hurt.   This really hurts.

The road to freedom? Week 14, June 28th to July 4th 2021 inclusive

Monday, June 28th

The good news is that Wimbledon’s started.  The bad news is that Stef lost in the first round (OK, he had a tough draw, against Frances Tiafoe, but FFS!), it rained for much of the day (in London, not here) and Jo Konta had to pull out after a member of her team tested positive.

Sajid Javid’s said that restrictions’ll be ending on July 19th and we can get back to normal, but how can we when we’re all being held hostage by this bloody test, trace and isolate thing?   Freddie Nielsen’s also had to pull out after a member of his team tested positive.  My elder nephew was pulled out of class today and told that he’d have to go home from school and self-isolate for 10 days because he was a “close contact” of someone in his French group who’d tested positive.  He doesn’t even do French!  He does Spanish instead.  It turned out that they’d mixed him up with another kid with the same first name.  So he’s OK, but the other kid has joined the thousands of others across the country who are missing school even though they themselves have tested negative.

Meanwhile, case numbers are soaring.  It looked as if Salford had turned a corner, but, sadly, the rate there is on the up again.  And it’s horrendous in the city centre, because there are so many students there.   We’re ahead of most places in terms of the Delta variant.   It’s rife in the Moscow area, and also in South Africa (just as the Lions tour starts), but is only just gathering pace across most of Western and Central Europe.  And, as they’re also behind us in terms of vaccinations, they’re imposing restrictions.   Malta’s now said that it’s only open to British tourists who’ve been fully vaccinated – and the restriction applies to anyone 12 and over, but kids under 18 can’t get vaccinated ATM.  Portugal’s said that British visitors who aren’t fully vaccinated will have to quarantine for a fortnight.

And, after all Merkel’s pontificating about the EU having common rules, Germany’s said that anyone entering Germany from Portugal will have to quarantine.  What a hypocrite.  Cue an exodus of Germans from the Algarve.

The whole thing is chaos.

But … deaths and hospitalisations are NOT really going up.

 

Tuesday, June 29th

Wa-hey!   We beat Germany!   At last, we beat Germany!  2-0.  Into the QFs, against either Sweden or Ukraine.  And what a night last night, with Switzerland beating France on penalties and Andy Murray’s match and … ooh, it was all happening.   England have beaten Germany.

And Sturgeon has had to back down!  The travel ban on Manchester, Salford and Bolton (although unfortunately not Blackburn with Darwen) has been lifted.  I rang my travel insurance, and they said that, if I book something tomorrow (the ban is lifted at midnight) then they will cover the cost if Sturgeon reimposes a ban.   Hopefully she won’t, but who knows with that one.

 

Wednesday, June 30th

The holiday company has said it will give me a refund if Sturgeon imposes a ban.  So I’ve booked.  Fingers crossed!!

Meanwhile, there’s a hoo-ha going on over the QF, which will be against Ukraine in Rome, because Italy’s currently imposing a 5 day quarantine on arrivals from the UK.

A study’s shown that Greater Manchester suffered 25% higher mortality from Covid than England as a whole.  This is just Greater Manchester: I don’t know if similar studies are being done for other areas – and we’re talking about urban, northern areas here.  When this nightmare started, I never expected our region to end up being the centre of it.   It’s pretty shocking and upsetting.

On a happier note, it’s all eyes on Wimbledon!

 

Thursday, July 1st

It is hot.  I just hope it doesn’t all end in a deluge just when I’m in the Lakes!

Every night seems to end in either extra time at the football or a late match at Wimbledon at the moment.   Not complaining: it’s wonderful!   But I am so far behind with my soap operas 🙂 !   Five set thriller involving Andy Murray (who won in the end) last night.  Amazing stuff.

The Germans, not content with trying to bully Portugal into banning British tourists, are now trying to bully UEFA into moving matches away from Wembley.  WTF?  It hasn’t even got anything to do with them: they aren’t in the tournament any more!   I can’t work out whether it’s sour grapes over Brexit, an attempt to divert attention away from how slow their vaccination rollout’s been, or both.

Case numbers are soaring, though, it has to be admitted.  But hospitalisations and deaths, thankfully, aren’t.  The highest numbers are in Scotland.  Please tell me that Sturgeon isn’t going to reintroduce restrictions just as I’ve booked my coach tour!   People from Blackburn are still banned from Scotland.  People from Hyndburn (Accrington etc), where rates are higher than they are in Blackburn, are not.  Newcastle now has higher rates than central Manchester or Salford, and Liverpool has higher rates than 7 out of 10 Greater Manchester boroughs.  Bury has thankfully stabilised, for now, but Wigan’s rates are way up.  And there’s no sign of an end to it.   It still looks as if restrictions will be lifted on July 19th, though.

And our first home match of the season has been moved to 12:30 … meaning that, short of causing a huge family row, Dad and I cannot go because it clashes with my cousin’s pre-wedding party.  We are so annoyed.  We could have sloped off early and got there for 3, and 5:15 or any time on Sunday would have been fine, but … bleurgh.  2 away matches and an international break after that, so it’ll be mid-September before we get to go.  So, so fed up!!

 

Friday, July 2nd

It’s hard work trying to keep up with the football and all the tennis at the same time!

We really need to lose this nightmare self-isolation system.  It’s not even like it bloody works – case numbers are sky-rocketing everywhere.  Don’t ask me what happened to the “extra support” we were offered.  We never got it, and nor did Liverpool.   Anyway, a load of trains were cancelled today, because a few people at Northern Rail tested positive so all their colleagues are self-isolating.  And some kids at my elder nephew’s school were sent home after one kid had a positive lateral flow test result, only to be told to come back in when the kid had a negative PCR test result!   Parents don’t know whether they’re coming or going, and teachers are trying to teach some kids in person and some kids online at the same time.

And the press unhelpfully decided to panic people by saying that anyone who’d had an AZ vaccine from a batch made in India would be banned from going to an EU country because the Indian vaccine wasn’t recognised by the EU!   Technically, it isn’t at the moment, but it’s exactly the same as the AZ vaccine made here and it’s just a case of sorting out some paperwork.

OK, I am going to try to forget about all the Covid stress for the rest of this evening, and enjoy the tennis and the football!

 

Saturday, July 3rd

Tonight’s the night!   8pm, Rome, England v Ukraine.   The tension is mounting!!

My plan for today was to go out early, before play started at Wimbledon.  But it was absolutely pouring down, and didn’t clear up until later, so I ended up just going out for two short walks in between matches.   Can Daniil, Sascha or Matteo beat Nole?  Or could Roger, who beat Cam Norrie today, really win it again?  Andy lost to Denis Shapovalov last night: I really like Denis, but it was a shame to see Andy go out.  Dan Evans also lost, to Seb Korda, son of Petr, which made me feel old.  But well done to Emma Raducanu, into the last 16 on a wild card – amazing.

Angela Merkel has been whining at Boris about the number of fans allowed into Wembley.  Can that woman not mind her own business?!

 

Later – it’s coming home!   Well we’re certainly coming home from Rome to Wembley!  England 4-0 Ukraine, wa-hey!   And all the other QFs went the way I wanted too, so it’s England v Denmark and Spain v Italy.   Wednesday night, semi-final …

 

Sunday, July 4th

I was actually lucky with the weather today!   I think North Yorkshire had heavy rain yesterday, but it was glorious at Fountains Abbey this morning … whilst it was wet in Manchester.  It started throwing it down whilst I was halfway home, and I don’t like driving in heavy rain, but it was better than walking in heavy rain!

I do know that stressing about what the weather will do in a fortnight’s time is not helpful …

Meanwhile, there’s a lot of talk going on about lifting restrictions.  I really don’t know what to think.  We cannot live under restrictions indefinitely.  And, thankfully, hospitalisations and deaths are not going up.  But, when infection rates in Bolton dropped sharply, it looked as if the problems caused by the Delta variant would last for a few weeks, peak, and decline.  But that’s not happening.  They’re going up again everywhere.  And showing absolutely no sign of peaking, never mind declining.  If we decide that we’ll just have to live with this, we can’t keep the self-isolation system.  Every flaming train on the Cumbrian Coast Line was cancelled yesterday, because of people self-isolating.  And the situation in schools is chaos.   At this rate, it’s going to be like some Solomon Grundy thing – everyone back in the office on Monday, two people at home due to kids self-isolating on Tuesday, Joe in HR got pinged by the Test and Trace app on Wednesday, tested positive on Thursday, everyone off work for 10 days from Friday!

Heigh-ho …

Wimbledon is back

Well, it was all gloriously chaotic in my house this evening, as I tried to keep up with Spain v Croatia going to extra time at the same time as I was watching Andy v Basilashvili, and my Sky Planner got completely confused when the BBC decided that Andy’s match should be moved to BBC 1 and EastEnders and Holby City should be moved to BBC 2.   And then it somehow went to a 4th set and so it clashed with the whole of France v Switzerland, and everything got even more complicated, and now that’s going to extra time as well, after Switzerland equalised in the last minute, just as Andy was serving for the match for the fourth time … as if the first couple of days of a Grand Slam event aren’t complicated enough as it is, with so many matches going on at once.   Pass the Pimm’s.  And the vodka!

Isn’t it absolutely brilliant to be doing this again?   Yes, we’ve had the other 3 Grand Slam events, even if the 2020 French Open was bizarrely played in October and the Aussie Open was moved to February, and we’ve had plenty of other tournaments too, but having a year without Wimbledon was tough.

I really wanted today to be a perfect day, but … well, Rafa had already pulled out injured, it rained, Jo Konta had to pull out because of the infernal virus rules, and Stef lost in the first round.  Oh well, maybe perfection was asking a bit too much.   But it’s back!

In 1989, I read a magazine article which described Wimbledon as “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”.  32 years later, that still sticks in my mind.

If you ignore the Shakespearean connection, it sounds so gloriously romantic.  And Wimbledon is.  The grass courts.  The white clothes.  The Royal Box.   There’s no other tournament like it.  I’ve even got a Wimbledon song.  Eternal Flame, by The Bangles.  No, there’s no connection between that song and Wimbledon for anyone else.  It’s just me.  But it’s my Wimbledon song.

There’ve been a lot of “Wimbledon moments” in my life.  There’ve been a lot of tennis moments generally.  The US Open moments have often come in the wee small hours of the morning, and I never get much sleep during the Australian Open either.  And I’ve got this weird tradition of going to Blackpool on the morning of the French Open men’s singles title.  I once rushed back from London on a Sunday morning to watch the Monte Carlo final.  I once sat in a hotel room in America watching Indian Wells.  In fact, I once spent an entire afternoon sat in a hotel room in Blackpool watching Wimbledon, apart from the bit when I walked out in tears before it was going wrong.  I went back in a few minutes later.  The match turned round.  It all ended happily.  I did tell Mum and Dad that it was a stupid choice of date for a weekend away.  And I even nearly missed a flight home from Tel Aviv because I was watching Rafa v Roger in my hotel room (Rafa won).

I do things like this all the time.   But Wimbledon is special.  And the fact that the evil virus forced Wimbledon to be cancelled for the first time since the Second World War really seemed to say a lot about last year.   It’s … well, I think it’s the most important part of the British summer.  And we’re going to be missing a lot of things about summer for a second year in a row, thanks to the evil virus.  Holidays abroad are pretty much off the cards.   Music festivals won’t be happening.  A lot of people’s wedding plans have been mucked up.  But Wimbledon’s back.   And if, please, we could have a wonderful, wonderful tournament, to cheer us all up … ?  Sascha, Daniil, one of you … come on, could this be your year?   Oh, and if England could win Euro 2020 …

2020 was The Year Without Wimbledon.  Let’s hope that there’s never another.  One year without Wimbledon was quite enough.

Lockdown Week 15 – June 29th to July 5th 2020 inclusive

Monday, June 29th

Today should have been the first day of Wimbledon.  But there is no tennis, it has poured down nearly all day – I went out to the park, and later for a short walk, and both times it started pouring down whilst I was out, and was so windy that it was hard to keep my brolly up – and the temperature’s more suited to November than June.  Bah!  And I’m fed up of not knowing when online booking for things will open, and worrying that I’ll miss it.  And it looks as if poor Leicester will have to keep stricter regulations for another couple of weeks.

On a happier note, my favourite café is reopening this weekend!  And my elder nephew went back to school today – mornings only, reams of paperwork, and there are only three weeks of the academic year left anyway, but it’s a start!

 

Tuesday, June 30th

Another cold, wet day.  I’ve decided that I need to cancel my booking for Japan … I’m sad about it, but, even if the trip goes ahead, it’s not the time for long-distance travel.  I made a list of European trips as an alternative, but they all say that they’re only going with Lufthansa so I’d have to change in Germany, which is ridiculous because Jet2.com will be flying from Manchester to Rome and Venice by then, and the tour company’s always used them before.  I sent an e-mail asking about all this, but the person I’ve been dealing with is off this week, so I re-sent it to the general address, and no-one’s answered (yet).  My sister is stressed out trying to cancel a holiday to America.

Off to the frozen yoghurt shop, then it’s United v Brighton.

Getting very little contact from work, and I don’t think clients are checking work e-mails.

 

Wednesday, July 1st

The holiday company have not got back to me.  The weight I somehow put on overnight last week has not come off.  Booking for something I wanted to book is opening on Friday … when I can’t watch the website because I’ve got the chiropodist.  And I went into the office this morning and felt really uncomfortable being there.  And there is no Wimbledon.  And Wigan Athletic have gone into administration.

On the plus side, we beat Brighton last night, the dental surgery has finally reopened, and it has stopped raining.

I just can’t see an end to this.  Leicester’s back in lockdown.  We’re still registering nearly 200 deaths a day.  WHY?  Nowhere else is.  Death rates are supposed to be back to normal, so it doesn’t make any sense.  Melbourne’s also back in lockdown, the situation in the US is bad, it’s bad in India too, and the US has bought up practically the entire global supply of remdesivir.  When is this nightmare ever, ever going to end?

 

Thursday, July 2nd

The French Open is apparently going to have stadia 60% full!  Which will be the same as usual, as the prawn croissant brigade only ever take their seats for Rafa, Roger, Jo or Gael!!  I’d assumed it’d be behind closed doors.

The holiday company have sent me an e-mail saying they’ll get back to me.  They haven’t done.  And the office laptop had a huge strop this morning and lost the IP address for the remote connection, although it’s working now.

And it managed to stay dry whilst I was in the park today, which was good.

I feel as if there should be an air of excitement ahead of pubs etc reopening, but the Leicester lockdown and the situation in America have really cast a wet blanket over everything.  And cases are quite high in several other places, many of which are local.  The authorities will not do anything about community transmission because they’re more afraid of being accused of racism than they are of the danger to public health.  So everyone’s feeling a bit despondent … and it’s all so political, with so many people more concerned about criticising the government than about trying to find solutions.

And, as much as I accept that it’s a nightmare, every solution raises new problems.  For example, it’s been suggested that schools should vary starting times, so that there aren’t hordes of kids all streaming in through the doors and hanging around in the cloakroom/locker areas at once.  That makes sense.  But it won’t fit in with transport timetables, especially for private schools where a lot of kids get school buses, or in rural areas where buses only run once an hour.  And what about primary schools, where most kids are dropped off by parents, who may have 2 or 3 kids in different academic years?  But school attendance will be mandatory again from September, unless there are very good medical reasons.

 

Friday, July 3rd

I don’t know what I’m more sick of, this horrible depressing rain or being chained to the office computer.  But, on the positive side, I’ve got a place on a Windermere Lake Cruise steamer for next Saturday!   They actually open tomorrow, but a) the forecast’s vile and b) I’d already booked Fountains Abbey.  I’ve waited nearly 4 months: I suppose I can wait another week.

The air bridges have been announced, but the holiday company have not got back to me.

I went to the chiropodist this morning.  The magazines in reception have been replaced by pictures of feet!  And the chiropodist was wearing a mask and gown.  And I had to leave by a side door!

 

Super Saturday, July 4th

This is so-called “Super Saturday”, when hairdressers, pubs, cafes, restaurants and hotels can reopen.  The doom merchants are insisting that zillions of people will be falling down drunk all over the country and the virus will spread like wildfire, but I can’t see it.  Observed en route to Fountains Abbey – a lot of caravans heading for the coast, and a long queue outside a barber’s shop.  I left here in torrential rain, but it was dry in Ripon, and I had a really nice time.  And, hooray, the visitor centre tea room (although sadly not the lakeside tea room) was open (for takeaways), and they had lovely National Trust scones, straight out of the oven!

It was pouring down when I got home, but dried up later, when I went for a late walk in the park.  The farm centre cafe’s now reopened, the ice cream vans are back, and, hooray, some of the toilets have reopened!!

This was after United v Bournemouth.  We won 5-2!   Really exciting, eventful match … such a shame that we couldn’t be there in person to watch it, but still.  We’ve restarted well … but it’s no good unless someone else slips up.

I am due at the hairdresser’s at 8am tomorrow.  I don’t think I’ve ever been so glad to be going anywhere!

 

Sunday, July 5th

Hooray, I have had my hair cut and coloured!  I actually look like me again!  It was a bit weird with me in a mask and my hairdresser in a visor, and not being able to have a cup of tea, but it was the usual nice friendly atmosphere.  I’ve been going to the same hairdresser for nearly 20 years.  The salon’s opening 7 days a week, and extra hours each day, for now, and anyone who’s too nervous to go in the main salon can have their hair done in a room upstairs which isn’t usually used.

Later, I went into town, to my favourite café, The Vienna Coffee House, which reopened yesterday.

It was quiet … which was nice for me, because my main issue with going to cafes/pubs/restaurants is the fear of being caught by “test and trace”, and I certainly won’t be going into one during the three weeks before my “staycation”, but not so for them.  It’s early days, though, and town was certainly much busier than it was the last time I went.  You do have to fear for businesses, though, and for the transport networks too, with theatres still closed, no live music, and no crowds at football matches.  This rotten weather isn’t helping – London’s been busier, because it’s been nice there, but it’s been very windy here, and now it’s raining again.  It rained whilst I was on my way back from the park, too.  Bah!

Oh well.  We do need to try to stay positive.  I don’t watch BBC News any more, because of its negative attitude and the way it criticises the Government’s every move, but now Sky News is getting as bad!   Negativity won’t help.

I still can’t quite believe that all this is happening.  My admiration for the generations who lived through the world wars, especially, because of the Blitz,  the Second World War, was always high, but it’s now higher than ever.   Our lives have been turned upside down.

But, hey, hairdressers are open, and cafes are open!  Some places of worship have reopened, and some weddings have taken place.  It’s just all so far from normal.  I want normal back.

 

 

 

 

 

Socially-distanced strawberry-picking – a lockdown experience!

I’ve been going fruit-picking at Kenyon Hall Farm for many years.  The people there are wonderful.  One year, I very stupidly decided to go on a boiling hot day, straight after blood donation, left my bottle of water in the car, and started feeling faint whilst waiting in the long queue to pay.  The lovely owner sat me down, got me a cup of tea and a couple of biscuits, and waited with me until I felt better.

I used to go fruit-picking every year, as a child.  There was a fruit farm not far from where my maternal grandparents lived, and we used to go there with them.  But, over the years, a lot of “pick your own” fruit farms have closed … so I was delighted when I came across Kenyon Hall.  When I first started going there, they just had the fields and a polytunnel.  I’ve seen them build a café and a farm shop, put in extra polytunnels as a plant centre, and even put in a kids’ playground.  It’s quite a North West institution now: people from Manchester to Liverpool go every year to pick berries in the summer and pumpkins in the autumn.  Running a fruit farm at the mercy of the Great British Weather isn’t always easy, and, even just over the last few years, we’ve had gales, heavy snow in March, floods, heatwaves and droughts, but they always manage to produce fruit for us to pick even so!

Normally, I just turn up at 9 o’clock on a Saturday or Sunday morning, and off to the strawberry fields or raspberry canes I go.  It’s amazing.  You’re very close to both the East Lancs Road and the M6 there, but it feels like being right out in the country: it always makes me feel as if I’ve been transported into an Enid Blyton summer holiday book.

But, this year, the coronavirus pandemic struck.  At first, we didn’t even know if we’d be able to go fruit-picking at all.  The website kept saying that the fruit was coming along, and that they hoped that they’d be able to open, but we just didn’t know.  However, thankfully, restrictions were eased before we got into the swing of strawberry season.  I think I’ve been in July before, but strawberries really ought to be picked in June.  It just goes.  Because June goes with Wimbledon … even though Wimbledon’s now almost entirely in July, since the decision (which I had been saying needed taking for years!) to make the grass court season a week later was taken.  There’s no Wimbledon this year 😦 .  This crazy year when, on the Saturday before Wimbledon should be starting, United are playing in an FA Cup quarter final.  But there are still strawberries.

However, there’s also social distancing.  So, as with a lot of other things at the moment, you have to book a slot for fruit-picking.  And how manic has it been?  I don’t think anyone anticipated what it would be like!   It’s always popular, but, with most kids still off school, and now having been off school for over 3 months and being very bored, and a surprising number of adults still off work, it seems as if everyone wants to go fruit-picking!  And, quite apart from the social distancing issue, it’s still relatively early in the season and there just aren’t enough strawberries to meet demand.  I sort of have it my head that the fields magically replenish themselves overnight, so that, after a day’s picking, there’ll be a load of new strawberries there in the morning!   But, er, it doesn’t work like that.  500 tickets were released this Monday for this Wednesday, and they were snapped up within 20 minutes!

I’d hoped to go on Saturday or Sunday morning.  Given that the weather’s broken with a vengeance, it’s a jolly good job that that plan didn’t work out!   I checked the website every 10 minutes on Tuesday afternoon … and saw that, wa-hay, to give extra slots, they were now opening until 7pm!  Previously, the last slot’d been 3:45pm.  So I could go on a weekday.  There were evening slots for Thursday.  I grabbed one, quick!

I don’t often strike lucky, but, this time, I did.  It’d been a boiling hot day, but it’d cooled down a bit by half 5 … and the hot, dry weather meant that the field was dusty, not muddy, so I could kneel down rather than having to keep bending over!    I filled my four punnets, and the little punnet that you got included with the booking price, and I smiled all the way through.  What a lovely, lovely evening.  And what lovely, lovely strawberries!  And they do always taste that bit better when you’ve picked them yourself!

Thank you so much, Kenyon Hall.  You’re bringing a lot of pleasure to a lot of people.  You always do, but it’s appreciated all the more in this very difficult year.   I just wish that I could wave a magic wand so that the field would magically replenish itself every night!  All being well,  I’ll be back when the raspberries come!   In the meantime, I shall eat some more of these lovely strawberries.

 

 

Lockdown Week 2, March 30th to April 5th 2020 inclusive

Monday, March 30th

My payslip arrived by e-mail today.  We’re still getting paid as normal, for the time being, which is good.  A lot of people have been “furloughed”.  It’s great that the Government are running the furlough scheme, and something similar for self-employed people, rather than everyone just being thrown out of work as is happening in some other countries, but it’s only 80% of your wage, and only up to £2,500 gross per month.   I don’t think there’s much alternative to lockdown at the moment, but the economic effects are just going to be horrendous.

The chairman of Lancashire CCC’s died with coronavirus.  So has the original singer of “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll”.  And I’m hearing about more and more people I actually know who’ve got it.

Easyjet have grounded all their planes.  Not that my holiday in July’s likely to operate anyway 😦 .  And the Olympics have been moved until next year.  Looks like Wimbledon’ll be cancelled – it’s not like you can hold a grass court tournament in the autumn.  I can’t imagine a year without Wimbledon.  And we got tickets in the draw this year – Mum and Dad got tickets for men’s semi-finals day, which they’ve been so excited about, and my sister and I are due to go the first Friday.  I don’t know if they’ll offer people the same tickets for next year or not.  Yes, I know that there are bigger things to worry about – 180 deaths with coronavirus in the UK today – but it’s OK to be disappointed.  Isn’t it?

I went to another different bit of the park today – where the beehives are.  The bees were all hanging around with their mates.  Lucky bees!!  And there were squirrels everywhere!

 

 

Tuesday, March 31st

Fame at last!  Well, sort of.  Windermere Lake Cruises asked people (on Facebook) to post photos of Windermere, for a “postcards from Windermere” thing they’re doing.  Virtual postcards on Facebook, I mean!  I posted two, and they included one of them in today’s “postcard”, and mentioned my name.  I’m very excited!!

There’s all sorts of stuff going on on line.  Organisations are making resources available for free, and offering “virtual tours”.  And there are loads of memes and videos.  There’s one really funny video doing the rounds with a Pirates of Penzance type Major General character singing a song about how we’re being called upon to “Do Fuck All”.  Made me laugh!   At least we’re all keeping our sense of humour!  Unfortunately, there’s also a load of ridiculous scaremongering, like that we should all stock up on warm clothes and torches because the electrical system might collapse.  The powers that be won’t let that happen, but it can worry people.

The UK “with coronavirus”  death toll jumped to 393 today.  393 in one day.  Are we really going the same way as Italy?  People said we would.  I didn’t want to believe it.

I had to go to the office today, to dump some files and collect others, and also to collect all the stuff I’d printed off because it was too much for my small home printer.   This was after yet another long phone call to IT support, after the laptop somehow reset the link from SSL to PTP or something like that, and wouldn’t connect to the office network.  Hopefully now sorted.  I’ve also, of course, been to the park.  I saw my brother-in-law’s mum there, which was nice.

And I’m watching a lot of films, with soaps on ration and no live sport.

 

Wednesday, April 1st

April Fools’ Day.   But no-one’s laughing.  Wimbledon’s been cancelled, for the first time since the war.  We knew it was coming, but … 😦 .  The whole grass court season’s off, and we’ve already lost most of the clay court season.

2020 – the year without Wimbledon.

But, at least, the All England Club have said that anyone who had tickets for this year will be offered the same ones for next year.  Phew!!

The Edinburgh Festival’s off too.  And the Champions League and Europa League have both been officially suspended until further notice.

And, of all things to happen, the toilet flush broke.  I have lived here for nearly 19 years.  Why did the toilet flush have to choose just now to break?   I felt like bursting into tears … but plumbers are obviously classed as essential workers, so I rang my usual plumbers, only to be told that they weren’t working because one of them was very ill with the virus.  I felt awful, but I wasn’t to know.  I then rang a firm of emergency plumbers we deal with at work.  They weren’t exactly cheap, but they were great – the guy arrived a couple of hours later, and replaced the flush.  I posted all about this on Facebook!

Please, please do not let anything else break.  Having said that, I’ve already got another problem – the “low battery” warning for the car key’s coming up.   I’d usually just go to the Renault service centre, but it’s closed.  The local garage is open, but can’t do it because the keys are so hard to open.  You’d think you just slipped the old battery out and the new one in, but it’s not that easy.  Halfords might do it?  I haven’t really had time to think about it, because of the toilet flush.

Part of me’s stressing because things that used to be so easy are now so difficult, but part of me’s thinking that at least, with working at home, I could wait in for the plumber without the usual hassle of having to ask Mum and Dad if they could wait in whilst I’m trapped at work, and then feeling bad about them being stuck housesitting instead of doing whatever else they’d had planned.

563 “deaths with coronavirus” today.  Similar figures in France.  Well over 800 in both Spain and Italy.  Belgium and the Netherlands are also pretty bad, per head of population.  The only “good” thing is that underdeveloped countries haven’t been badly hit.  Yet?

And Prince Charles made a really nice speech tonight.  Good to see that he’s recovered now.

 

Thursday, April 2nd

Eddie Large died “with coronavirus” today.  Like most of those who’ve died, he had underlying health problems, but maybe he’d still be here if it wasn’t for the virus.  So sad.

A row’s broken out because some Premier League football clubs – not including United, I’m glad to say, nor City – are “furloughing” non-playing staff, claiming government funding whilst continuing to pay players zillions.  It’s not on.

My hands are a bit sore again, from all the extra washing.  Nothing that moisturiser won’t sort out, though.

Been driven mad by work today.  I’m doing my best, but it’s not easy without the files and a big printer.  But I suppose I should be very glad that I’ve not been “furloughed”.

I’ve got the car key sorted, anyway.  My cousin recommended a place opposite his old house.  It’s not far away, but I still kept feeling as if I were about to be stopped by the police!   I had to ring on the bell, hand the key over to the guy there, and then wait whilst he sorted it.  And he charged a fraction of what Halfords did, when I once went there when I couldn’t get to the Renault centre!

“Clap For Our Carers” tonight.  People are banging saucepans and all sorts.  My elder nephew broke one my sister’s wooden spoons by banging it too hard against a pan!   Then, there now being no soaps on Thursdays 😦 , I watched another film.

 

Friday, April 3rd

Huge queue at Tesco this morning!  I got there at 7:55, and could not believe how many people were outside.  However, it turned out that it was because it wasn’t open yet!  I knew they’d stopped opening 24 hours, but I thought they were opening at 6am, but it’s now been changed to 8am.

684 “deaths with coronavirus” in the UK today.  932 in Spain.  And things are now very bad in New York, as well.  There’s been a lot of talk about the peak coming over Easter weekend, but now it looks as if it could go on getting worse well after that.  It’s as if we’re all living in a nightmare.  All those poor people, and their families and friends.   Another of my second cousins has got it now.

The Queen’s recorded a speech, to be broadcast on Sunday.  I’m glad.  I didn’t know whether it would be possible, because of the issues of recording it, but arrangements have been made.  It’s time.  We need to hear from our Queen.  She’s the one … politicians, with the best will in the world, aren’t the same.

Prince Charles opened the new “Nightingale Hospital” at the Excel Centre today,  By videolink, obviously.  And United players are to donate 30% of their salaries to the NHS.

 

Saturday, April 4th

Today was the Virtual Grand National – yes, a computerised race, shown live on ITV.  And I got 2nd place, with Walk in the Mill!  The winner was Potters Corner.  Unfortunately, SkyBet won’t let you withdraw less than £10, so my £6.30’s stuck there.  Huh!  I’ll have to bet it on the Belarusian Premier League, which is about the only professional sport still going on.  I don’t think online gambling is for me – I’ll stick with my once a year visit to the bookies … once bookies reopen.  The whole Virtual Grand National was really good fun, though.  Loads of people watched it, and all the proceeds from betting are being donated to the NHS.

#Sconesinthegarden day (I’ve lost a pound this week, so I was entitled to a scone) – this week by the magnolia plant, which is looking lovely at the moment!   And we had a “virtual party” thing going on all day in one of my Facebook book groups.  I should be in the Lakes this weekend, though … and in this lovely weather, as well.   But, hey ho, I’m not!

 

Sunday, April 5th

Oh, what a wonderful speech by the Queen.  She always knows the right thing to say.  I was nearly in tears at the end.  “We will meet again” … I’ve found myself humming “We’ll Meet Again” a few times since lockdown started.   She spoke about the issues that lockdown’s causing, and she spoke about the situation having similarities to some of the issues people faced during the war years.  And then she said that “We will meet again”.

“We will succeed – and that success will belong to every one of us.

“We should take comfort that while we may have more still to endure, better days will return: we will be with our friends again; we will be with our families again; we will meet again.”

I’m nearly in tears again, typing this.

It was just the most wonderful speech.  And it was broadcast in a lot of countries, not just Commonwealth countries but the US, France and other places too.  No-one in the world except our Queen could have made that speech.  She’s always there.

 

I hope Boris is OK.  He didn’t look wonderful when he was last seen on TV, on Thursday, and he’s now been taken to hospital.  It doesn’t sound too good.  They’ve said “as a precaution”, but no-one’s being taken to hospital at the moment unless they’re in quite a bad way.  Very worrying.

Things’d got a bit stressful earlier, when there were problems with Facebook, but thankfully everything seems to be OK again now.  Touch wood!   Also, there’ve been threats that outdoor exercise could be banned, because some idiots have been out sunbathing in parks.  I don’t think they actually would ban outdoor exercise, but I wish people’d stick to the rules.  I do feel very sorry for people with no gardens though.  Some parks in London have been closed because the councils said that there were too many people using them, but there’s only so much green space available in densely-populated areas, and a lot of people needing to use it.  Walking round housing estates, apart from not being particularly nice, isn’t easy with “social distancing” – you can’t stay 6 feet apart on the pavements, especially when there are so many cars parked on them, and there’s still some traffic so you can’t always step into the road.  Thankfully, there’s been no real talk of closing the parks here, although I’ve seen the police in our park, looking for miscreants.

Went through all my finished books today.  We Buy Books are doing a collect from home service – I leave the books in a box in the shed to be picked up!

And it was such a lovely, clear day today – another one – and I stood at the top of the hill near “the Temple” in the park, and gazed towards town – you can see the skyline. Well, you can see the taller buildings, anyway. I felt like a medieval pilgrim gazing towards Jerusalem.

Well, that was another week in lockdown.  How many more will there be?