The road to freedom? Week 1 , March 29th to April 4th 2021 inclusive

Lockdown

Monday, March 29th

Well, this is day on on The Roadmap To Freedom, but I feel a bit out of things.  Mum and Dad have been to London to be reunited with my sister and brother-in-law and the kids, and other people have been meeting family and friends or playing outdoor sport, and I’ve just been chained to the office laptop or going for a walk in the park!   Roll on Good Friday!   The powers that be have said it’s OK to travel around the country to see family and friends, so I don’t see why I shouldn’t have a day out, as long as I stay outdoors.

The Novavax vaccine will hopefully be available by June.

Well, let’s just hope there are no more lockdowns.  Enough is enough.

 

Tuesday, March 30th

Another warm, sunny day. Loads of people in the park. And the lowest weekly death toll since October.

The situation in Europe is worrying, though.

Oh, roll on Good Friday, when I’ll be able to get a taste of this freedom, all being well!! It can’t come soon enough!!

 

Wednesday, March 31st

Second jabs outnumbered first jabs for the first time today.  I feel a bit like a third class citizen now – full vaccinated people, first jab people, and the rest of us!!

Another warm, sunny day, with loads of people in the park.  Please, please stay dry for the Easter weekend.

It looks as if France could be heading back into lockdown, and things in the Netherlands aren’t too clever either.   Thankfully, we’re doing OK – touch wood.  Well, over 50 deaths a day, which is hardly “OK”, but compared to over 1,000 a day, at the peak of the second wave, things have improved very significantly.

 

April Fools’ Day/Maundy Thursday, April 1st

Typical, just as we get towards the Bank Holiday weekend, it goes cold again!  But it’s dry, touch wood.

Shielding ends today.

France is indeed back in lockdown.  But we’re remaining steady, at around 4,500 to 5,000 new infections and 40 to 50 deaths per day.  And we should be allowed back into Wales soon, hooray!  And we beat Poland 2-1 last night, so fingers crossed for World Cup qualification.

Hooray, at last I feel like I can join the roadmap to freedom, four days after everyone who wasn’t trapped with work crap!!

But … we’re now being told that, when cafes etc reopen on April 12th, everyone’s got to sign in, and have their details kept for 21 days.  What, even for sitting outside?   That’s just put me right off!!    Oh well, let’s not worry about that just now …

 

Good Friday, April 2nd

Hooray!   I have finally made it back to Windermere!   It’s been so long.   I drove up to Bowness this morning, and had a bit of time there.  And the weather was glorious!

Then I got the steamer across to Waterhead/Ambleside.  I thought the steamers’d be busy, but they weren’t.  They only restarted yesterday, in the end, and they said that yesterday was just dead.  I think a lot of people are confused about these “minimise travel” rules, and, also, people possibly didn’t realise that anything at Windermere would be open.  But it got busier later.  Fingers crossed for a good spring and summer.  As bad as things here have been, it’s been far, far worse for tourist areas.  The cafes here have been busy doing takeaways, but most of those at Windermere only reopened today.  In fact, I got the Waterhead Coffee Shop’s first blueberry scone since they had to close due to lockdown!

The daffodils at Borrans Park were out!  And then I came back on the Swift, the new steamer which was only launched last year – my first trip on her.

Then I had more time in Bowness … oh, my lovely, beloved Bowness, how I have missed you!

And then I went to Sizergh Castle on the way home.  I love daffodil season at Sizergh!

And there were lambs!  Well, there were also loads of lambs in the fields off the M6 and the A591, but I couldn’t very well take photos whilst I was driving!  Sizergh lambs:

Oh, how I needed that.   It’s frustrating not being able to go abroad, but not being able to travel within the country’s been far, far worse.  Let’s hope we don’t ever go back there.

In other news, I’m sorry to hear that Sachin Tendulkar’s in hospital with Covid, and there’s a row going on here over vaccine passports.  If they try to introduce vaccine passports for football grounds, theatres etc now, when most under 50s are unable to get vaccinated, it will be incredibly unfair and cause a lot of trouble.  Once everyone’s been offered a vaccination … I don’t know.  The idea of having to show papers, and denying certain people access … it does smack a bit of Nazi Germany, and that’s what people are uncomfortable about.  We’ll see.

Anyway.  Gold star for the weather, and, oh, how I have missed Windermere!! 

 

Saturday, April 3rd

This morning was cloudy, and then we had glorious sunshine by late afternoon.  The other way round would have been better, but never mind!  I went for a walk round town this morning.  It’s April, and it was the first time I’d been into town this year – how crazy is that?!  Very quiet.  I don’t know what else I expected, given that non-essential shops, theatres, cinemas, museums etc are all closed, but it was weird.

However, all being well, non-essential shops will be reopening a week on Monday, as will hairdressers and outdoor seating at cafes/pubs/restaurants.  Boris is due to give a press conference on Monday night, confirming whether or not it’ll go ahead, but I don’t see why it shouldn’t.  We “only” recorded 10 Covid deaths yesterday, although obviously it was a Bank Holiday.  We may also get some news on the vexed question of vaccine passports.  Boris is the last person you’d expect to back something like that, but apparently he does.  And there’s also talk of a “traffic light” system for foreign travel – meaning the same palaver as last year, with things being moved on and off lists at the last minute.  But it seems very unlikely that the April 12th easing won’t go ahead.  Roll on haircuts!   

 

Easter Sunday, April 4th

It looks as if both the “traffic light” system for foreign travel and the vaccine passport system will be going ahead, with the passport system to be trialled at the Carabao Cup final and various other events.  Ugh.  But, by the time the new football season starts, everyone should have had at least their first jab.

Meanwhile … just as life seemed to be looking up at last, I came downstairs this morning to find water coming through the kitchen ceiling for the THIRD time in a year.  I slipped on it, and whacked my knee and arm on the wooden floor.  Then I took the cover off the light fitting, to try to see what was going on, and, in my agitated state, dropped it, whereupon it smashed to smithereens.  So I have now got no cover for the light, water coming through the ceiling, a ceiling that needs repainting again, and a bruised knee.  I think it’s the bath this time, not the shower.  I was going to ring the emergency plumber – of course, it just had to happen on Easter Day, when hardly anyone’s working – but they charge a fortune, and last time the guy made a mess of the job and I had to get him to come back.  So I’m hoping to get the ordinary plumbers next week. and am hoping fervently that the dripping gets no worse.

After all this, I had complete hysterics and rang my poor mum and dad in floods of tears.

Bleurgh.

Once I’d mopped the floor, mopped up the tears and put a bucket down, I turned to chocolate. Some people have said their supermarkets are short of Easter eggs this year, but I’m pleased to say that ours isn’t.  Here is my Easter egg, with its accompanying Malt-Easter bunnies:

I then went to Biddulph Grange, as planned.  I was very sad not to see the woodland walk in daffodil season last year, but here it is in all its glory, this year:

Also, they had Easter special hot cross scones:

I then stopped at Alderley Edge on the way home:

So that was all very nice.  But I now need to get:

  1. A plumber.
  2. The decorator (again).
  3. The electrician (for the light fitting).
    And it was all fine this time yesterday.  Why does life throw you curveballs like this?  And I keep panicking about what’ll happen when I have to go back to being Trapped in the office and something like this happens.

And, on top of all this, there are fears that the French Open might be postponed.  If that idiot Macron spent a bit more time trying to deal with the virus situation in France and a bit less time making Anglophobic remarks, things might not be in this mess.  But they are. 

But we beat Brighton, 2-1.  Sadly, nothing is going to stop City from winning the league, but fingers crossed for a top four finish this year.

 

Dancing with the Daffodils

We were put into Tier 3 in mid-October, so we had 5 1/2 months of not being able to leave the local area.  Being separated from family and friends in other parts of the country has been very hard, and I really feel for people whose loved ones are abroad and who can’t visit them even now.  And, much as I love my home city and our local park, I need to get out into the countryside, especially to the Lake District, to clear my anxiety-filled head and lift my soul; and not being able to do that’s been difficult and frustrating.  But hopefully, thanks especially to the wonderful efforts of the Vaccine Taskforce , we’re now on the “Roadmap to Freedom”; and I finally got to go back to Windermere on Good Friday.  And, for once, the Bank Holiday weather played ball – not a cloud in the deep blue sky.

Lockdown’s affected different parts of the country in different ways.  We’ve been under additional restrictions since the end of July, which has been very tough.  Walking round the streets and local park every day, trying to avoid people with horrible barking dogs and wishing that the queues at the cafes were shorter, I’ve sometimes envied people living in rural areas.  But, because we’re a densely-populated area, the takeaway cafes have been very busy all along.  I often see people I know in the queues at the park cafes, or the cafes on the main road, which is rather nice; and it’s also nice for our local businesses to have that custom.  But, at Windermere, a lot of places closed at the start of Lockdown III, or even earlier, and have only just reopened.  Tourist attractions remain closed for now, although (hooray!!) the steamers between Bowness and Ambleside can operate, classed as public transport.  But it’s been a tough old time for tourist areas.  Blackpool’s tourism boss said last week that recovery’d probably take five years.  Windermere Lake Cruises have spent millions on a lovely new steamer- which I was lucky enough to be able to go on yesterday – only to find that they couldn’t run any steamers at all for much of last year and the first three months of this year.

So it was absolutely wonderful, and very special, for me to be there.  By a weird coincidence, the music in the car, which was on shuffle, decided to have Elvis singing “Glory glory Hallelujah” as I caught my first glimpse of the lake from the A591, and that seemed very fitting!   And it’s also wonderful for tourist areas to be able to start welcoming visitors back.

I thought it’d be busy.  It wasn’t.  The “stay local” and “minimise travel” rules are … er, well, let’s say that everyone’s interpreting them in their own way.  But some people aren’t leaving their local area, some people are still nervous about going out at all, some people aren’t sure what will and won’t be open, and, with overnight stays still banned, there’s only so far that anyone can go anyway.  And goodness knows when overseas tourists will be back: the Lake District usually welcomes a lot of visitors from the Far East in the spring, from Europe in the summer and from the US in the autumn, and I can’t see that that’s going to happen this year.  But maybe we’ll see another Staycation Summer: last year’s was a big boost.

But, for me, it was glorious!   This is my favourite time of year, when the daffodils are out.  I didn’t think I’d get to see the daffodils at the Lakes this year, and to be able to see them at Windermere, and, later in the day, at Sizergh Castle, especially under that beautiful blue sky, really did mean so much.  And being able to get back out on to the lake on the glorious steamers.  I miss being able to go abroad, but not as much as I’ve missed the Lake District!   There is nothing like the wonderful views there, and the feeling of peace and nature and timelessness.

It’s quite strange being able to plan again.  OK, we can’t plan holidays yet, but I can start thinking about when I might go and see the lambs at Tatton Park, and the bluebell walks at Capesthorne Hall, and have a day out in Blackpool, and so on.  I don’t expect miracles, and I don’t think we’ll be getting back to normal any time this year.  But we’re making a start.  And I’m so very grateful to have had that day yesterday.  I waited a long time for it!

If anyone’s reading this, thanks for reading, enjoy the rest of your Easter weekend, and stay safe xxx.

–  daffodils at Bowness Pier

– the Swift, new steamer

– blueberry scone from the Waterhead Coffee Shop

– lambs and daffodils at Sizergh Castle

 

The Summer of Staycations – holidaying in the age of Covid-19

  The lovely coach tours of  Iceland and Japan which I booked last year and had been so looking forward to were cancelled due to the evil virus, and I didn’t fancy a week in a beach resort on my own, panicking in case wherever I was got added to the naughty list and I had to self-isolate for a fortnight … so, like many people, I went for a staycation, and had 9 days in the Lake District.  It’s somewhere very special to me, and, given how little annual leave we get, I normally only go there for day trips or weekends, or a Bank Holiday weekend at most; so it was really rather lovely to get this additional time there, and to visit some areas which I don’t normally get chance to see.  OK, there were some wet times, but there were plenty of dry times, and even some glorious sunshine.  So, what was it like being on holiday in the age of Covid-19?   Did I feel safe in the hotel and in busy tourist places?   How different  was it being in a rural area, where many shops are very small and can only let a few people in at a time, to being in a big city?  And what was it like having to plan everything like a military operation, because you now have to pre-book most things: you can’t just turn up!   Well, it was lovely, but it wasn’t quite like going on holiday in normal times!

It was good to see “no vacancies” signs on nearly all the hotels, B&Bs, guesthouses, rooms, cottage let sites, campsites, etc.  The Lake District and other tourist areas have suffered terribly this year, first with the bad weather in February and early March and then with lockdown.  And it could be some time before overseas visitors come back: there are usually a lot of Japanese and American tourists in the Lakes, and a lot of money was spent last year on promoting the area in China, which, sadly, was money down the drain, not that anyone was to know that at the time.  So, hopefully, the staycation boom we’re seeing this year can give the “Lakeland” economy a much-needed shot in the arm.

However, there are issues with that.  The roads in the Lake District were not built for heavy traffic, there’s a limited amount of parking available, and it can be difficult to stay 3 foot, never mind 6 foot, away from other people on narrow pavements.  There’s also, obviously, concern from residents about large numbers of people coming in at this time, and we’ve also seen a worrying increase in littering in the last few months.  I have to say, though, that I didn’t really experience any problems.  Nowhere was so crowded that I felt that there was anything to worry about, and the issues with parking and traffic were no worse than they usually are on sunny summer days.  However, there isn’t anywhere in the Lakes where people really tend to congregate, because you tend to walk around.  The problems seem to be happening more in beach areas in Devon and Cornwall, where people stay in the same places.

What there were were some issues (what’s another word for “issues”?!)  with limits on the numbers of people allowed into shops and cafes/restaurants.  A few places weren’t open at all.  Most eating places were open, but, with tables having been moved further apart, and not everywhere having the room for outdoor seating, there were queues and waits in some places.  However, nearly everywhere was operating a take-away service, and that was great.  Well, as long as the weather behaved (and there were no wasps around)!   I’ve never eaten and drunk outdoors as much in my life as I’ve done in the last 5 months: it’s like being in an Enid Blyton, Elinor M Brent-Dyer or Lorna Hill book!   It’s lovely.

Except if it’s raining!  Oh, and except for the dogs.  The one big killer about staycations is that so many people have dogs with them.  But, mostly, it’s lovely.  I did eat indoors at the hotel, though: there were outdoor tables, but they weren’t really in use for evening meals.  And the tables in the restaurant had been moved well apart, with some people being asked to sit in the bar or lounge, and the hotel having to turn away people who weren’t staying there.  The hotel restaurant was also providing disposable condiments, so you got little sachets of salt, pepper, vinegar, tomato ketchup, etc, and cutlery rolled in serviettes with “sanitised” stickers on them.  And, at breakfast, you got those little plastic things of jam and marmalade – and there was no breakfast buffet, as buffets are currently no-go.

What else was different at the hotel?  I think that the original idea was for rooms only to be made up if people asked, but people must have got fed up of that, so the rooms were made up daily, as usual, unless you specifically asked for them not to be.  There was hand sanitiser everywhere, in the hotel and in shops and elsewhere.  And the staff were wearing masks in the restaurant, although I have to say that no-one was sticking to the rules about wearing masks in the hotel reception area … but it’s only a small hotel, so it’s not as if there’s a lounge/lobby area where people hang around.  And, at the hotel and in some other places, they were saying that they’d not got as many staff on as usual, so there might be waits … now, was that because of the virus, or was it an excuse?!

People did better with wearing masks in shops, though.  And whilst ordering in cafes, which I have to say is something which people aren’t sticking to at home.  The shop situation is quite different in the Lakes to that at home: here, the shops in the city centre are generally big, and the small shops in the suburbs are generally quiet.  In the Lake District, there are a lot of small shops and, with so many tourists around, there were some queues.  The Co-ops had a “traffic light” system – when the maximum number of people allowed were in the shop, the light went red and the automatic doors closed!

I do wonder how it’s all affecting business.  How long are you going to wait in a queue to buy a postcard or a souvenir fridge magnet, or something else which you’d like but don’t actually need?  One small bookshop was only allowing one person in at a time.  10 minutes’ browsing time max, but, if there are 3 people in front of you, that means you’ll have to wait half an hour to go in.  However much you might want to support local businesses, are you going to wait half an hour, if you’ve got somewhere else to be, or a bored child (or partner, or friend!) tugging at your arm, and you can open the Amazon app on your phone and order a book in a matter of seconds?  I worry about the effect that this is having on small shops, and I don’t know what the answer is.

Oh, and so many places were asking for card payments only!  It doesn’t bother me, but I hardly use cash at all these days, except for some car parking machines which won’t take cards.

The pre-booking was a hassle, though.  I’ve got mixed feelings about this: I understand that some places can get quite crowded, but I think it’s all a bit OTT.  There are enormous estates – not particularly in the Lakes, but in other areas – where large numbers of people can walk around without getting too close to anyone else.  And it is a problem.  Some places let you book well in advance, but you don’t always know that far in advance where you’ll be up to.  Others only let you book a few days in advance, which is even worse, because what if you’ve made plans but then can’t get a slot?  If you’re away for more than a week then, unless you travel with a laptop, you have to try to book on a small mobile phone screen, which isn’t easy.  And some places are very inconsistent about when they make the next week’s tickets available and, if you’re out or working, you can’t be checking the website every five minutes.  Then there’s the Great British Weather.  You book your tickets for outdoor seats on a boat trip or a walk round some nice gardens … and then, on the day, the rain is coming down in torrents!

And it’s the timing.  With the National Trust, you only get a 30 minute slot.  You can’t even go into the car park before that, or go in at all after it.  If you’re travelling some distance, it’s very hard to be within 30 minutes: traffic conditions can vary a lot from one day to another.  And, if you want to go somewhere beforehand, it’s a nightmare: how can you know exactly how long you’ll want to be at the first place, or how long you might have to queue for the tea rooms or the toilets, and that’s before you even start with the traffic.  So, yep, I see the problem, but it is undoubtedly a pain.  And I just want to have a moan at Ullswater Steamers, who refuse to sell single tickets.  Windermere Lake Cruises, the Coniston Launch and the Keswick Launch are quite happy to sell single tickets – which I appreciate in particular from lovely Windermere Lake Cruises, of whom I’m a regular customer, because they’re allocating seats so it is an issue if they’ve got to leave one empty because a customer is on their own.  I hope this isn’t going to be an issue with theatres and cinemas get going again.  I’ve already seen someone getting upset online because they’d been told that they couldn’t book a single ticket for a scenic railway … again, Windermere were great about this, and let me book a single ticket for the Lakeside and Haverthwaite Railway.

I suppose the pre-booking avoids having to queue for the ticket office, and rush to be near the front of the queue when the steamers are ready for boarding.  But it is generally a bit of a pain!   But, hey, at least things are open and up and running again!  I booked a Windermere Lake Cruise as soon as they started running again, in July, and I did three more (yes, three!) during my staycation, including the cruise which is combined with the steam railway trip. I spent some time in lovely, familiar Bowness, and Waterhead, and also at Ambleside which I don’t usually have time to walk round properly.  And I stayed in Grasmere and went to Coniston, Hawkshead and Near Sawrey, which I usually do in daffodil time, late March/early April.  I usually do the walk from Wray Castle to Claife Heights in May, when the bluebells are out: this year, I did it in August.  And I walked all the way back, seeing as the small boats which usually take you back to Bowness weren’t running because of the virus!  And I also went to Keswick, Bassenthwaite (where a bride and groom were having their photos taken), Borrowdale, Muncaster Castle, Holker Hall and Pooley Bridge, and, hey, I walked from Grasmere to Rydal.  And, as usual, stopped off at SIzergh Castle on the way home.  So it was a busy 9 days.  But it was lovely.

I miss going abroad, though.  I’m hoping desperately that I’ll be able to do my Iceland and Japan trips next year: I’ve rebooked them.  But, in this strange year, I had a lovely staycation, and I’ll never forget those 9 days in my beloved Lake District.  I’ve often regretted the fact that I don’t get chance to spend more time there.  This summer, I did.

 

Moving On Week 1 – July 6th to 12th 2020 inclusive

Monday, July 6th

What a difference it makes when the sun’s out!  It was lovely in the park when I went for my walk.  The cafes were busy, and people were sitting at the tables.  And the boats on the lake are running again.  Please, weather, stay nice!  The economy needs it.  And it makes people feel better.

Dad managed to knock his hearing aid out whilst putting his mask on before going into the bank!  Fortunately, some kind passers-by stopped to help him look for it, and one of them found it.  People with glasses are having trouble with mask loops as well.

Financial assistance for the arts sector’s been announced, but who knows when theatres will be able to reopen?  And now Pret A Manger’s announced branch closures and job cuts.  And the virus news from America, India, Serbia and Israel’s grim.  When will this ever end?!

 

Tuesday, July 7th

Today has not been a good day.

  1. It has rained all day.  Next week will probably be glorious, because it’s the week I’m not going away (having decided to wait until August, when it’s bound to rain!).
  2. The café I went to on Sunday’s sent me a thank you message, which is lovely, but does suggest that they got very few customers.  There are so many eating places and so many hotels in town – how can they all survive under these circumstances?  And a few pubs which only reopened on Saturday have already had to close after customers tested positive for the bloody virus.
  3. I couldn’t get going today – went to Tesco, M&S and Iceland, and to the park, and going to the frozen yoghurt shop soon (in the rain), but have eaten way too much and done very little work!
  4. Can’t make any progress with the holiday company as the person I’ve been dealing with – who is very nice – is off until Thursday.
  5. A very nice local restaurant is now doing deliveries.  So I thought I’d try it.  But they won’t take orders under £30.  That’s the cost of two average main courses.  So a person living on their own is effectively excluded, unless they’re exceptionally greedy.
  6.  Millions of people in Melbourne have been put back into lockdown for 6 weeks.  6 weeks!!
  7.  Rafa’s said he’ll play Madrid, which strongly suggests that he doesn’t plan to play the US Open.  Given both the coronavirus situation and the problems of switching from hard courts to clay courts so quickly, it’s quite understandable, but … bleurgh.

Maybe tomorrow will be better!!

 

Wednesday, July 8th

Today should have been men’s QF day.  And it’s the 30th anniversary of the glorious 1990 final.

It’s actually been dry today, hooray!!  Although it’s rained down south instead, delaying the start of play in the Test match at Southampton.

And the boats and cafes in the park were quite busy, hopefully bringing in money.  The Chancellor’s announced cuts in VAT for accommodation, attractions and eating out, and even a 50% discount for eating out during August, but, unfortunately, I don’t know what can be done about the fact that people are nervous of going out.  And, whilst I get the whole test and trace thing, I think it could damage the economy more than the virus has done.  I got an e-mail from the big garden centre today, informing me that, should I go there, my details will be taken from my loyalty card for test and trace!  If you’re sat next to someone in a café, fair enough, but the garden centre’s enormous: the chances that two people who were in there at the same time were anywhere near each other are remote.  At this rate, people won’t want to risk going anywhere.

 

Thursday, July 9th

Grey and miserable today, but at least it stayed dry.  I actually went to the park without my umbrella!

Watched some of the cricket, and also some of the tennis from Kitzbuhel.

Tesco have scrapped the one-way system, which seems very odd.

Gyms are going to be allowed to reopen from the end of July … although I’m not sure if I’ll be going back, even if mine reopens, because of test and trace.

I feel totally detached from work.  I am doing some work at home, but we get no contact from the office, other than the odd bit of nastiness.  I am past caring!

And the holiday company say they can’t do direct flights because they no longer deal with Jet2.com and EasyJet only go on certain days, and, on the days that work with Easyjet, they can’t book anything because the tours aren’t guaranteed to go!

 

Friday, July 10th

TGI Friday!   I am obviously not comparing myself to someone who works in healthcare, or to people doing other essential jobs, but I am struggling with the fact that I’ve been chained to the office laptop throughout this, with absolutely no support from the office.  And, whilst I appreciate that people can’t help the fact that their workplaces have been closed, some people have been off work on 80% pay for nearly 4 months, whilst many of us haven’t had any sort of break.  The lack of a break really is getting me down.  I should have been going to Iceland next week.  And, of course, the weather will be glorious next week, because it’s the week I decided not to go to the Lakes because it seemed too soon.

Moan over!

It has been dry for most of today, hooray … although the park is very muddy.

But I really do need a break …

 

Saturday, July 11th

Hooray, I have been to Windermere!   First time in four months.  I have missed it so much.   There should, of course, have been clear blue sky.  Instead, there was a lot of grey cloud, and a breeze which messed my hair up, but, hey, at least it didn’t rain!

I did my “socially distanced” steamer cruise, complete with mask.  It’s a pain that you can’t get off at Ambleside and then get a later boat back to Bowness, but it was just great to be back out on the water at all.

It was pretty busy.  I dread to think what the traffic and parking situation’ll be like by the time I go in August, but I’m glad for all the businesses there, which have been so badly hit.  I was amazed by how busy all the cafes and bars were … and they’re quite busy here, too.  I stuck to takeaways … not because I think there’s much chance of getting the virus in a café, but because of bloody track and trace.   Having said which, I wouldn’t usually sit inside on a dry day in Bowness anyway.  But everywhere was doing takeaways, and trying really hard to be careful – there were perspex screens up, a lot of places were only taking payment by card, everywhere had sanitiser at the doors, and there were one way systems in some places.

The public toilets didn’t open until 10am. FFS!  It’s July!  People are out and about well before 10 o’clock.

It was a lovely day.  I’ve missed it so much, and I feel so much better for being there.  Then I called at Sizergh Castle (pre-booked!) on the way home.

I kind of wish I was going now, rather than in 5 weeks’ time, but I had to make a decision and, at the time, I didn’t know when the hotels or the boats would be reopening.  And maybe castles will have reopened by mid-August?

I was feeling great until I got home and there was a depressing article in the paper about how rates are rising in our region, the rate’ll probably rise everywhere once summer’s over, and we’ll probably all be put back into lockdown.  Why do newspapers print articles like that?!  I’m trying to forget that I read it!

And this is the first day since lockdown started that I haven’t been to the park.  I didn’t get home till half 5, and, although part of me OCD-ishly wanted to go, it was too late, and I’d done plenty of walking already.  So glad to have been back to Windermere <3.

 

Sunday, July 12th

Of course, today, when I was supposed to be catching up on boring stuff, was warm and sunny!   So I went to Hollingworth Lake this morning, and the park this afternoon … and tried not to get upset over the fact that it should have been Wimbledon final day.

Hollingworth Lake was fine, but a group of 4 rude people in the park refused to get into single file so that I and other people could get past safely, which was annoying, and the kids’ playground was absolutely heaving.  Dozens of kids were absolutely crammed into the small square where you wait to go down the slide.  I don’t wish to be a killjoy, but it’s not on.   Michael Gove’s said that he trusts people’s courtesy and common sense.  Unfortunately, some people haven’t got any of either!!

What a strange year this has been.   I had some strawberries and cream in honour of the day, but … no Wimbledon, and I don’t know what’s going to happen with the US Open.  Apart from anything else, any non-American player who goes is going to have to self-isolate for a fortnight when they get back, ruling them out of the French Open warm-up events.  And, whilst New York isn’t too bad now, America had 66,000 new cases yesterday alone.

Strange times.  Strange times!!

 

 

 

 

 

Masks on the Steamer

Does that sound like a bad Agatha Christie novel 🙂 ?   Windermere’s a very special and important place to me, and I have missed it badly over the last four months, just when I needed its relaxing influence most.  I went 9 days before lockdown started, and then we weren’t allowed to travel, then they asked people to keep staying away because of concerns about the infection rate in the area, and then it kept raining at the weekends!  But, yesterday, I finally made it back.  Windermere Lake Cruises reopened last week – round trips only, pre-booking, and masks on, but the lovely boats *are* running again – and nearly all the shops and cafes in Bowness are open, and I assume it’s the same elsewhere.  Safety precautions are being followed, but the Lake District, after all the vile weather in February and early March and then lockdown, is back in business.  I am so very glad.

As far as the boat trips go, it’s a bit of a pain that you can’t go from Bowness to Ambleside or the west shore and back again, but it is what is, and I was just glad to be back out on the water at all!   Everyone has to wear a mask, and some seats are being left empty so that people weren’t getting too close.  The powers that be did an inspection before the boats started running again, and said that everything was OK.

Pretty much all the eating places are open.  On a dry day, there isn’t a problem, because most of them have outdoor tables.  I was quite surprised by how busy they were, even inside, but sanitiser’s being used, and, in some places, staff are wearing masks and gloves.  Perspex screens are being used even at places where there’s no seating and you just order at a window.  If you don’t want to sit inside – and, whilst I don’t think the risk of catching the virus in a café or bar is very high, I’m nervous of being caught by the test and trace system if I’m inside a cafe and it’s busy – and there are no outdoor tables free, or if the weather’s, then it won’t be a problem because pretty much everywhere’s offering a takeaway option.  If you want a three course meal, it’s not so easy, but, if you’re happy with a sandwich, a jacket potato, a scone or a cake, you’ll be fine.

The shops all have hand sanitiser at the doors, and larger places are operating one-way systems.  The big problem (other than the fact that the public toilets don’t open till 10am, which is ridiculous) is that pavements get crowded – not helped by the fact that people walk along them with horrible dogs, or whilst looking at their phones instead of at where they’re going – and you can’t step into the road because of the traffic, but we can’t shut the country down indefinitely, and so it’s a case of being careful, sanitising your hands regularly, and, if you feel more comfortable doing so, wearing a mask.

These are strange times, but it was so good to be back.  I hate it when I can’t go to the Lake District: I need to go there regularly!  And the Lake District needs us.  It’s unlikely that the coachloads of Japanese and American tourists will be back any time soon, and all the money that was by the Lake District Tourist Board on promoting the area to China, like all the money that was spent by Metrolink on the new line to carry football crowds to Old Trafford and shoppers to the Trafford Centre, is … well, it’s not going to be reaping dividends any time soon.  But the Lakes are still there.  They’re always there.  They were there for the Romantic poets, they were there for  Victorian tourists who travelled there for a break from our smoky industrial towns and cities, and they’re there for us.

I was so happy to be going back that I got a bit tearful just getting in the car in my own drive outside my own house.  When I caught the first glimpse of the lake from the A591, I just could not wait to get there: I was practically screaming at the people in the cars in front of me to get out of my way.  There aren’t usually any cars in front of me at 1/4 to 8 in the morning, but people are on the move now, “staycations” are the way to go, and hopefully the Lake District can benefit from that.  And, oh, it was good to be back!!  I haven’t half missed it.

 

On through March 2020 – the world seems to be falling apart

Monday, March 9th

Oh no!!  Indian Wells has been called off, because of a case (one case!) of coronavirus in southern California.  No news on Miami yet, but a lot of the European players are already heading home.  I don’t know what’s going to happen with the tennis season now.  I can’t see Rome going ahead: the whole of Italy’s going into lockdown.   Nor Monte Carlo with it being so close to Italy, and, with the situation in France worsening, the French Open must be in doubt too.   It’s everywhere.  Israel’s now said that people will have to go into quarantine for a fortnight on arriving there, and the Republic of Ireland’s cancelled its St Patrick’s Day parades … although the one here’s going ahead.

 

Tuesday, March 10th

This morning, I wrote a blog post called “Love Letter to Italy”.  I am so sad to see what’s happening in a country that means so much to me.

Our Europa League match against LASK in Linz is going to be played behind closed doors.  LASK are going mad, but the Austrian government’s insisted.  Matches in France, Spain and Germany will also have to be played behind closed doors.  I’ve read that the virus doesn’t actually live long outdoors, but who knows?   I don’t know how the European matches are going to be played at all, because some countries are banning flights now.   Valencia’s match against Atalanta was played, but maybe Atalanta were already there.  Lazio fans are panicking that the season might be cancelled and they’ll miss out on the title they’ve waited so long for.  Could the same thing happen here, with Liverpool?

Nadine Dorries has tested positive for it now.  I hope it’s not spread all round Parliament!

Donald Trump says it’ll go away.  I wish it would …

 

Wednesday, March 11th

Everything’s just so weird.  It’s mid-March.  It should be all lambs and daffodils and Indian Wells and the business end of the football season, but it’s like we’re in some kind of parallel universe.  A lot of countries are closing schools.  The Fed Cup finals are off.  Cricket tours are off.  Arsenal are in quarantine because they played Olympiakos, and someone there’s got it, so Arsenal’s match against City’s off.  A lot of people who’ve tested positive in Italy have hardly got any symptoms.   Angela Merkel says 70% of people in Germany could get it.  I just don’t know what to think.

The WHO’s declared it a pandemic.  I’m not sure that the actual use of the word “pandemic” makes any difference – it’s just a word – but anyway.

 

Thursday, March 12th

Everything’s just falling apart.  Over 1,000 people have now died in Italy – where everything’s now been closed other than food shops and pharmacies.  The US has banned all flights from Schengen countries.  The tennis season’s off till May!   Miami and all the April events are off.  Challengers in play at the moment have stopped mid-tournament.  No Monte Carlo, no Rome, no Barcelona 😦 .  Euro 2020’s in doubt.  The French and Spanish Cup finals are off.  It’s getting really bad in Spain.  Very worried.   And the NBA season’s been suspended.

We won 5-0 at LASK.  So, so weird seeing a match played with no fans in the stadium.  Liverpool’s match against Atletico Madrid went ahead as normal last night, but City’s match against Real Madrid’s off because Real’s players and staff are in quarantine after one of their basketball team tested positive.

My sister was due to go to Dublin with two friends this weekend, but they’ve cancelled it – not that things are bad in Dublin, but they’re nervous about flights being cancelled.  Schools and cultural facilities are being closed in the Republic.  And my book club meeting on Saturday’s been called off, because some of our members are over 70 and they’re nervous.  Mum and Dad and their friends are cancelling their card games, for the same reason.

In the middle of it all, I’ve received an e-mail from my holiday company about my July holiday to Iceland, all upbeat and cheerful.  Will I be able to go?  At the moment, I’m not even sure I’ll get my weekend in Grasmere in April.

Will someone please wake me up from this nightmare?

 

Friday, March 13th

Friday 13th all bloody right.  The football season (the League, anyway, not non-league football)’s been suspended until the end of March!  No tennis.  No football – Mikel Arteta’s tested positive for the virus, although thankfully he seems to be OK.  Very sorry for Liverpool, only two points away from the title – and that’s a Manchester United fan speaking!   The Cheltenham Festival’s gone ahead, but the London Marathon’s off, rugby union’s off (but not rugby league, yet), more cricket tours are off, the US Masters is off, local and mayoral elections have been postponed, and some universities have closed.   The Queen, Prince Charles and Camilla have postponed their engagements.  A lot of countries are closing borders.  It would normally give me great pleasure to see the “European Union” shown to be nothing of the sort – every country is, quite rightly, doing what’s best for itself – but not under these circumstances.

And the panic-buying!  It’s a virus, not submarine warfare.  We’re not going to be holed up in our homes with no food.  But some of the shelves in Tesco were pretty bare tonight.  I’m trying not to panic – and, besides, I don’t know where people are storing all this stuff, unless they have giant freezers! – but I must confess to buying a fair bit extra.  When you see empty shelves, it’s hard not to start panic-buying: you don’t want to be the person left with nothing.   And there was not a toilet roll to be had.  Luckily, I don’t need any more at the moment, but some people will!  For heaven’s sake.  We got through two world wars without people panicking about toilet roll … er, although most people probably used newspaper then.  This is not a nice topic to be thinking about, but suddenly everyone‘s obsessed with toilet roll.

 

Saturday, March 14th

I had a bit of a meltdown this morning.  It was because I’d put on weight for no reason, but it was just everything.  I feel like the world’s falling apart.  I’m so glad Mum and Dad got back safely from their break in Spain earlier this week, because Spain’s now banned incoming flights.   It was all so sudden.  There were flights in mid-air: they had to turn back.  And there are holidaymakers out there who’ll have to be rescued.  Spain’s now in complete lockdown.  You can’t even go out to exercise.  Belgium’s closed cafes and restaurants.  The Manchester Marathon’s off.  I just can’t keep up with it all.

People are trying to cheer each other up – there are jokey things on Facebook about typing in the @ symbol and the third name to come up’ll be your quarantine partner.  We’re hearing a lot about “quarantining”, and “self-isolating”.

Went to Dunham Massey this morning.  Lovely, lovely daffodils.  Lovely, lovely spring – nature’s carrying on.  The daffodils have even come early.  I saw my cousin there, and she gave me a hug, without thinking.  You’re not really supposed to hug people now!  It’s elbow bumps or the namaste!   Dunham was pretty busy.  I think it’s more confined spaces that people are nervous about.  I’ve had e-mails from Vue cinemas, Costa Coffee and several hotels, assuring me that they’re safe to visit.  They must be losing a lot of business.

I then tried to get some toilet roll, seeing as Tesco had none yesterday.  None at M&S.  None at Quality Save.  But, hooray, I got some at Budget Savers!   Some shops are rationing how much you can buy now, but you’re lucky to find any at all.  Is this seriously happening?

 

Sunday, March 15th

I went to Windermere today, and stopped at Sizergh Castle on the way back – the daffodils are out there, already.  So early this year.  The weather wasn’t brilliant, but I couldn’t keep waiting.  Who knows what’s going to happen?   And just being there made me feel better.  It always does.  It was fairly busy.  Not heaving, but then it would never be heaving on a damp-ish day in March.  Oh, I am so glad I’ve been.  This has been such a strange week, and I’m afraid there’s much worse to come.  The Republic of Ireland’s now closed all pubs and bars.  All over Europe, schools, shops and indeed borders are being closed.  I just cannot believe this is happening.  As a history-obsessed kid, I often thought there might be another world war, but, instead, the world’s falling apart because of a virus.

I look forward so much to this time of year.  My daffodil days out to Chirk Castle and Biddulph Grange.  My weekend in Grasmere, and seeing the daffodils at Coniston, Windermere and Sizergh whilst I’m there.  Rafa winning clay court tournaments 🙂 .  The climax of the football season.  Thoughts turning to my summer holiday.  And now … I just feel like we’re in a nightmare.  But it’s horribly real.

 

 

 

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?