Boris is twisting my melons man

Coronavirus is very clever. Its like a vampire, it comes out at night to strike. According to our Prime Minister Boris Johnson come 10pm at night we all have to leave the pub, restaurant or takeaway and head home before Covid attacks us. Fear not though, you can come back out again at 5am as if just like a vampire when the sun rises Covid disappears into the shadows again.

You really couldn’t make it up could you? The government that swept into power in December 2019 winning in towns and cities that had never voted Conservative before have now conducted that many u turns we all have twisted blood.

Remember when we were told to stay 2m apart only then for us to be told stay 1m plus/ish/maybe apart just after thousands of businesses had placed stickers everywhere telling us to stay 2m apart? If your telling millions of people what to do, at least be clear in what you are telling them. Stick to 2m don’t start splitting hairs over a few centimetres.

Back to the virus for one moment. Its such a clever thing that it works differently in different countries within the Union. The minute it travels into Gretna it takes on a different form and therefore you need different rules to tackle it. The same for Wales and once over the Irish Sea and into Northern Ireland. Maybe just maybe that’s what you get with devolution and each government has to be seen to justify their own existence and flex their political muscles rather than come together as one voice.

In August “Dishy Rishi” Sunak the man in charge of the purse strings told us all to “Eat out to help out” and he paid for half the tab which was awfully nice of him. Millions returned to splash the cash, fill their faces and confidence increased within the population that you could socialise without Coronavirus spoiling your meal out.

Then in September the rug was pulled from under businesses and the population when the moto became “Drink up and piss off by 10pm” because Boris realised the virus was a vampire and came out to kill after dark. I wonder if Boris had thought it through though (we all know that answer). Come 10pm in towns and cities people flood out onto the streets and all fight for transport home. So the streets are full of people getting into taxis or flooding the train station platforms. Do you reckon social distancing was adhered to?

During lockdown there was a community spirit flowing through suburbia with people being neighbourly shopping for their elderly neighbours or looking out for each other through the pandemic. Every Thursday evening people went out onto their doorsteps to “Clap for carers”. Once the clapping was finished people would chat to their neighbours, people who they didn’t even recognise previously if they bumped into each other in the shops. Remember the VE Day celebrations with street parties and barbeques? Then come September we were told forget that and now you need to “Snitch on your neighbour” by reporting them to the already overstretched police service for having friends round for a beer and a chat.

Schools opened their doors in September and your child was allowed to sit with 29 other children in a hot, sweaty classroom for hours on end but those same kids couldn’t play out in the open air in a park with just 6 of their mates. Figure that one out!

Schools are like petri dishes they are breading grounds for bugs, colds and head lice. I’ve never understood why teachers hate opening the windows to allow fresh air into the building? My memories of picking my children up from primary school are of condensation dripping down the windows, kids coming out with cheeks as red as Aunt Sally in Worzel Gummidge not to mention the sweaty bodies. You would say that is the perfect breeding ground for a pandemic yet when out in the fresh air those same children cant play a 5 a side football game.

In Bolton where I live there is a local lockdown so the pubs and restaurants can only provide takeaway service and no one is allowed to go into others homes. Yet as I drive down the road to Swinton where my father lives the pubs are open (only until 10pm remember) with customers enjoying a drink or three inside the building. There are so many different rules for different areas is it any wonder the general population are confused?

There are now so many local lockdowns soon the whole of England will have a national lockdown without one being officially implemented by Boris.

Fans returning to sporting events has been put on hold again due to the rise in cases. This means I cannot drive in the safety of my own car to a football ground where I would sit apart from the next fan in the open air then walk through a one way system back to my car where I would drive home without coming into contact with anyone. Yet I can go to the pub (in the next town remember as Bolton is in local lockdown) and sit there drinking from glasses that may not have been cleaned properly breathing in the same air as others. Is it me or does that second scenario seem more risky than the first?

I could go on but you get where I’m coming from. Confusion and u turns galore reign supreme in the UK with no sign of things changing.

Is it too simplistic to just use common sense? Wash your hands, sanitise, wear a mask when needed and generally think before you act. Forget whether 1m or 1m and a bit, stay 2m apart. One of the best pieces of advice I ever received was from a supervisor at work was “Keep it simple stupid” If in doubt think KISS and you stand a better chance of getting through this pandemic.

Frustration

Its fair to say that this week can be summed up in one word, the title of this blog frustration. Everyday I have come up against struggles and challenges that appear small in size but seem to irritate me greatly. The longer the week has progressed, the more frustrated and angrier I have become.

For a long time I have allowed my son to share my laptop which has been absolutely fine. We balanced out the time on it and all was good in the world. Then I bought him a Chromebook for his schooling as more and more work is online especially whilst off school during lockdown. Now he is happily playing on his Chromebook, my laptop has developed power issues.

It has happened previously but I managed to resolve it and I know it is a simple software issue and not a battery one. The battery never charges and the laptop dies as soon as you pull out the charger. I do recall finding a way to reset this issue on a forum online but this time I cannot seem to resolve it. I have even reset the laptop scrubbing everything off it but that hasn’t resolved it. Now I have no bookmarks and I will have to download all the software I did have previously. Just another example of how something so simple can get my blood boiling. Let me not even talk about how long it takes a laptop to reset!

My son has not even been back to high school for a full two weeks yet and his whole year group have been sent home to self isolate for 14 days because one child has tested positive for covid. I did joke that this would happen in the first month of him returning, I never thought it would only take 11 days.

On the subject of school. Despite the school being closed for 6 months and plenty of time for the teachers to have training days whilst the children are at home, they decide to close school on Friday in the first two weeks of the first term for a teacher training day. I mean really!! Maybe I should become a teacher, you are never in work.

Anything and everything seems to be irritating me at the moment. The news is full of doom and gloom around covid. Social media is becoming more anti social than ever. Despite being a passionate football fan since I was 7 years old, I have lost so much interest now football is played behind closed doors with no atmosphere or fans.

I miss going to games and watching football behind closed doors actually feels like watching paint dry, I really cannot take to the new season. That is something I never thought I would hear myself say.

If you have managed to read right to this point then I commend you as I know my mood is a dark one at the moment and I have no reason why. People, trials and tribulations appear to be making my blood boil. Here is hoping a few days off work will set me straight again.

Not to be

This Sunday I should have been cycling from Manchester to Blackpool and back totalling 120 miles with a few friends but thanks to Covid 19 the event has been postponed until July 2021.

To be quite honest I think I bit off a little more than I could chew in doing it “there and back” but it’s something i’ve always wanted to do. Over the years i’ve ridden 100 miles in a day but the thought of that extra 20 miles and just over another hour in the saddle did fill me with dread. What it also did was motivate me to lose weight for the ride and get out and put the miles in on my days off.

The ride itself is run by Bike Events and is a sponsored bike ride from Salford Quays to South Promenade in Blackpool, 62 miles or so. It’s usually run for the Christie Cancer hospital in Manchester and riders tend to fundraise for all different cancer charities as I have done in the past.

Normally I would be welcomed at the finish line by my family but this years plan was to arrive in Blackpool, have a break and some food then cycle back the way we came! It’s just one of those things i’ve wanted to do and can say i’ve done it.

I often need to book on some organised rides in the year purely as a motivation to get the miles in. All too often if there is nothing to train for I end up not clocking up the miles and my fitness suffers.

Once I had booked onto the event I took to the bathroom scales to find that lockdown had not been kind. During the months of March, April & May I had eaten poorly taking advantage of the nice weather having numerous bbqs but also drinking a lot of alcohol too which tends to be when I put weight on. Beer especially piles the pounds on me and I have to cycle 2-3 times per week to keep that weight off.

So I decided to lose 10 pounds in 10 weeks to be down to 14st 7lbs by the time I rode to Blackpool. Despite a holiday in between this time, I have managed to hit my target but what for? Now there is no event on Sunday, I will have to be careful not to lose my motivation to keep going.

Hopefully 2021 allows me to sign up for and participate in several organised rides. I already have the Blackpool (and back), Manchester 100 miler and Tour de Manc (60 mile) rides in my calendar so fingers crossed we are free to ride those.

Ideally I would love to be 14st exact but I know this will not be easy if at all possible. Last year my wife & I joined a local slimming world group. I lost 1.5 stone in 12 weeks and got down to 14st 3.5lbs but then lost interest and stopped going, then the weight slowly returned. My wife continued going for a full 12 months and lost 2.5 stone in weight. Realistically, I would be happy at 14st 7 but think I could probably get down to 14st 3lb. Unless I really was disciplined with my food and exercise (which I know I am not) I could hit 14st but it is staying at that weight which is difficult. I also want to enjoy my life, food and drink too and get a happy balance hence 14st 3lb would be great.

So come Sunday I will be gutted I’m not on my bike riding through Lancashire in the sunshine. Typical how now the ride is off the weather is looking ideal for the day with sunshine and temperatures of 20c. I would guarantee had the ride gone ahead there would have been rain around. Ah well, there’s always next year.

Six months later and it’s back to school time

It will be a shock to my teenage sons system tomorrow when he has to get up before 8am and go to school. Having schooled from home since March and then enjoying the six weeks summer holidays have meant he has forgotten what it’s like to put a uniform back on.

He only gets to dip his toe into school for one day as his year group (year 10) return on Friday and then are off again for the weekend. The school staggered year groups back into the building over the week and it just so happens that his year group is last to return. Three years of high school ticked off, only two more remain where does the time go?

Initially he found it all strange schooling online but eventually settled into it. He did used to remark how he missed being at school and missed being with his friends which was good to hear from a parents viewpoint. Then over time he has felt anxious about returning. He seemed to be settled at home, working to the online timetable and felt safer at home with us. He always has been a bit of a home boy in that respect.

The emails from school started to trickle into my inbox over the last ten days about what is expected from parents and pupils alike as well as what to expect differently in school this term.

There will be no mid morning snack facility in the canteen. No hot food for lunchtimes only cold food options and children preferred to bring in packed lunches for the first few weeks. Face masks to be worn at various times around the building and parents asked to avoid coming onto campus to drop off or pick up their child.

The world has to return to some sort of normality but my concern will be how schools deal with any child with the slightest cold, cough or sickness. Research suggests that children develop differing Covid symptoms to adults and those can be anything from diarrhea, vomiting, coughs and runny noses. In truth, most children develop those symptoms within the first month of returning to school anyway. The only thing missing is head lice! All those children in warm classrooms means bugs spread like wildfire and I have already heard of children having to take a Covid test before they can return to school if they have a “common cold”.

Whilst staff are rightly trying to keep the schools open and reduce infections there has to be a balance and common sense applied. I have already said to my wife I will bet my mortgage on our son being off school within a month or returning to some sort of lockdown in school due to children displaying some symptoms, it is inevitable. I just hope the school year does not become a farce with him in and out of school regularly. We have seen locally how schools have sent pupils home already after only being open a week. It has the potential to become a farce but fingers crossed for his education and health.

Bolton back in lockdown

I feel like I am getting whiplash due to all the government u turns about anything at the moment, not to mention to weekly changes to our lives due to Coronavirus especially here in Greater Manchester.

Before I begin this is not a political rant but merely an observation from someone living in an area that has had its fair share of restrictions. Add to that the lifting of those restrictions and subsequent re-introduction of restrictions borough by borough, week by week.

Living in Bolton and working in Oldham has placed me in two areas with the highest amount of positive Covid results with each borough now seeing themselves under stricter restrictions which is understandable.

For me personally these restrictions do not alter my daily life all that much. I can still see my father as he is in our “bubble” but we now are unable to see friends indoors or outdoors (which is a recent restriction). I can still go about my daily routine, visit the shops, etc but it is some of the detail in the decisions that seem completely farcical to me and many others.

For instance, just prior to this recent lockdown I could not see my friends in their house but we could be in the same pub or shop at the same time. So we could have a socially distanced pint in the pub but not have them round for dinner.

Our friend has her own beauty business. The beauty industry has been hit very hard due to the restrictions and I really feel for everyone involved who are trying to earn a living.

My wife could go and have certain treatments at our friends salon like her feet or nails but not have a facial treatment. Yet staff wear full PPE and are just as close to the customer touching other parts of the body yet are unable to move further up the body to massage someone’s face. That to any person seems a ridiculous scenario.

Only a couple of weeks ago Bolton was to be released from local restrictions so our friend made plenty of bookings for facials only for that decision to be reversed 24 hours before the restrictions were to be lifted. This meant all the bookings had to be cancelled again. Also, my wife unable to have a facial treatment in Bolton could go 10 miles over the hill into the Blackburn area and visit a beauty salon there and have said treatment because restrictions were not as strict in that area due to lower levels of infection.

Even more farcical is Edgeworth is 2 miles away and has a BL7 postcode therefore is in Bolton. Yet it comes under Blackburn & Darwen council and therefore anyone can go and have facial treatments in Edgeworth. That is one issue with having localised restrictions in place, the whole situation feels farcical.

When the decision was made at government levels to have more localised restrictions borough by borough rather than the whole of a county this brought even more frustration.

For instance, in Oldham two small areas were responsible for the high infection rates. Yet other parts of the borough had virtually no infections recorded but those areas had to abide by the new restrictions. So a business in Saddleworth (which had few infections) had to abide by new restrictions the same as in Alexandra where the rates were sky high.

It is the same in Bolton. Two areas (Hall i`th Wood & Breightmet) had high infection rates yet a few miles down the road in Bromley Cross and Horwich there were only 2 new infections yet everyone in the town comes under the same new restrictions.

I feel sorry for the local independent businesses who suffer the most. We are very fortunate to have one off independent shops, cafes, bars, restaurants that you do not see elsewhere rather than the large national ones. These businesses create a unique atmosphere and generally are flourishing in the local areas yet these are the very businesses that are suffering terribly by the constant changing of the rules.

Many businesses were closed during lockdown. Then they opened and took advantage of the governments “Eat out to help out” scheme that kick started business again. Just as those shops were getting back on their feet and customer confidence in being safe in those premises was on the rise, comes the latest hammer blow with only takeaway service allowed in the town and no business can be open between 10pm & 5am.

An interesting issue with the virus is how it appears to flourish in the poorer areas than the more affluent. When you look at the areas in Oldham and Bolton where the infection rates are high it is in poorer, run down areas traditionally with poor housing, residents with poorer diets, higher unemployment, etc.

Is that due to poor health or is it that people living in deprived areas for whatever reason do not understand the rules regarding social distancing? This is a deeper social issue and I for one do not have the answer. Yes poor housing conditions will help any virus thrive but do the people themselves listen to the news and take it upon themselves to keep safer like another person who may regularly watch the news, be aware of the advice from health ministers?

It is clear that in different communities there are differing rates of the virus. Whether that be due to poverty or due to ethnicity. This is a fact that many Bangladeshi and Pakistani communities in the north of England live in areas where the housing consists of back to back terraced houses that have seen better days. South Asian families tend to live together in bigger numbers and relatives live on the same or nearby streets.

In one asian household in Oldham, the occupants were responsible for 30 new infection rates alone. Typically in one house there will be grandparents, parents and children all living together. Those families will obviously meet up with their relatives in similar cramped housing hence how the virus spreads. Whereas my family as an example is indicative of most North European families. In our house three people reside, me, my wife and son. My father lives 10 miles away, my father in law a similar distance and our brothers live miles away too. You see the difference in communities? Yet the infection rates have been lower where I live and where my relatives live.

The whole situation is difficult and whilst I had a degree of sympathy with our government when Covid first arrived in our country, over time that sympathy has eroded due to the number of u turns and scenarios like the Dominic Cummings affair.

Having been fortunate to have a holiday abroad this year in Corfu, Greece I have seen how another country has managed the virus in a much more sensible manner. Greece locked down in February, earlier than the UK and as such have experienced less infections and deaths.

Whilst on the island of Corfu, staff in the hotel, bars and restaurants wore PPE. Tables and sun loungers were spaced sufficiently apart and the whole atmosphere was relaxed with people abiding by the rules. Everywhere was immaculately clean and the only time you realised we were in the middle of a pandemic was when you saw staff wearing PPE. I have spoken to a number of people who have also visited regions of Greece and they have come back with the same experience. One of feeling safer in Greece than back home amidst all the chaos and nonsense brought on by our own government.

There seems no light at the end of the tunnel in the battle against Covid 19. Until there is a vaccine we will see weekly rises and reductions in cases in areas. We will continue to see one area have a spike in cases, then naturally see a reduction when restrictions kick in. The problem being when those restrictions are relaxed due to the lowering of the infections, then we will naturally see another rise due to people coming into contact with each other again. Will that mean we get the yo-yo effect of closing businesses only to reopen weeks later and so on?

We are already seeing the public losing faith in what our leaders say and do. Initially in March, April & May the public went along with what they were instructed by the government and generally abided by lockdown rules. Now time has gone one, the patience of most people has been tested and worn down so much that many choose to ignore the advice and carry on with their daily lives. The real danger now is that the public do not go along with the government along this journey through Coronavirus such is the lack of trust.

When and where this will end is anyone’s guess.

Just write

Just Write. That tends to be the overriding reply that came back from my latest blog post in which I rambled on (after a few alcoholic beverages) about why I have returned to blogging.

“Just write” has been a consistent theme from people when I say “I don’t know what to write about?” or I completely over think things when it comes to opening wordpress and hitting those keys on the laptop. As soon as I have thought of something to write, I then think of numerous reasons why I should not do so and this has held my blogs back for years. So blow it, from no one I am going to bore the pants off everyone and just write.

We all have stories to tell, some more interesting than others and none of us have such exciting lives that every post we publish is amazing to read. Therefore I shouldn’t beat myself up so much about what I write.

When I strip blogging back and why I enjoy it so much, I always come back to the fact I enjoy emptying my thoughts onto the internet and enjoy reading other blogs too. From now on I should just keep it simple by reading posts and writing what the hell I want. If people read it and enjoy it then great, if not what’s the worst that can happen?

Where have I been and where the hell is this going?

After a long sabbatical from blogging I’ve decided to reappear. Why? I’ve no damn idea but hell let’s have a go at it again.

I could write about my holiday to Greece and how that country has been superbly dealing with a pandemic and how I felt safer in the Ionian sea than I did in the UK but I would lose my shit big time and write something wholely inappropriately about this country.

Then there’s the time I decided to join the BMW club and buy an Xdrive Msport auto beauty of a car but that would be constructed as showing off.

Then I could write about work but I would get shot and then sacked if I discussed the job I do so that’s out of the window.

I could write about how my lad returns to school this week and I will put my mortgage on the fact his school will be closed down within a month because of a positive covid test in weeks but I won’t.

So what the hell do I write about? If I do a dairy my life is too boring to detail the minor things that happen.

If I write about topical subjects i fear my thoughts are too extreme and I may end up in trouble.

I cannot be arsed with telling tales of family days out because I’m too busy enjoying those days out.

I could write about family life but to be fair, the juicy details of tantrums, fights, bonding, growing up, teenage years have all been and gone and I should have written years ago about our experiences with a horrendously bad matched adoption with a child who was on a self destruct path who stormed out at 17.

So for months I’ve toiled with what to write about and I’ve still not got the faintest idea what to build this blog on.

Can you help me with this conundrum?

Striking a balance with life under lockdown

Recently I wrote about my positive life changes during lockdown but like everything in life, there is always a flip side and there are a few things that I have let slip and which have steadily got on my nerves. Continue reading “Striking a balance with life under lockdown”

My positive life changes during lockdown

Strictly I was never fully locked down during these last three months being classed as a “key worker” I continued to go to work so I never felt completely holed up in the house like many other people. However, I have used this time to make some positive changes to my life and although I am sharing those changes here I am in no way saying you have to follow these. That would be me being a dictator. Continue reading “My positive life changes during lockdown”

Cold turkey through writer’s block

Recently I have struggled on a daily basis to think of things to write about online. I cannot use the excuse of not having any spare time to blog as I have had more than enough time on my hands recently. Facing up to writing an original post has been like looking up a mountain. I just couldn’t bring myself to type the words. Continue reading “Cold turkey through writer’s block”