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.

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.