View from the wrong side of the Pennines

Elle Warsop, Oldham, Greater Manchester

So… a brief flash of light in the town of Oldham. Fanfare please! For a couple of days now, we have had the giddy news that we are only in the new high tier of Covid alert that came into being on… Monday? Tuesday? Some time earlier this week anyway. What a breath of fresh air. Can you imagine? Be still my beating heart! If I so desire, I can go and meet up to six people from DIFFERENT households in a garden or public place. YIPEE! Such excitement - bearing in mind that since the end of July, in terms of socialising, I have only been allowed the company of my sons and my husband anywhere on earth. Oh sheer joy!

Oh… hang on… no…NO! They’re discussing it again… Greater Manchester likely to be put into very high tier… RED ALERT… RED ALERT… no… NO… Well it was nice knowing you all.

In other news, Daughter arrived home on Sunday (on the coach. Best not to dwell) to collect all her earthly belongings to then have me take her (and them, including her keyboard) in the car the following day to her newly rented flat in London. We had to assume that when moving house you are allowed to mix and carried on. I say all her earthly belongings, but half of it is still here actually. Who knows at what point that will ever find its way to her. Piles of books, old clothes she can’t bear to part with, school memorabilia… the kind of stuff of my own that I still have in our loft, that my parents made me move out of their loft!  

So, playing the dutiful mother, I drove down the M1 and into hell. Sorry, I mean, into London. Stamford Hill to be exact. I hate driving on motorways at the best of times and the M1 is just the worst. The rain bounced down and I sat hunched over the wheel willing the juggernauts to keep their distance and us not to crash. I also never ever want to drive in London. It was exhausting but we arrived safely and managed to double park (eek - found a parking place eventually) outside her lovely flat (it really is lovely. Cold but lovely) and unload all her possessions. It had taken us over five hours of driving. And the last ten miles took us over an hour. Argh!

And then, horror of horrors (I mean how could things possibly get worse?) we had no teabags or kettle. So we went to the pub. Sod Covid! We went to the pub where Daughter works, The Salisbury Hotel in Harringay and had tea. I can heartily recommend it. It is the most beautiful building and famously has acted as location for several cult films including, The Long Good Friday with the late Bob Hoskins. My first time in a pub in I cannot remember how long and first time eating out this year. It was lovely. It felt very safe. We all kept our distance. They had all the restrictions in place; Sign yourself in at the door. Staff all wearing masks. Customers all wearing masks to walk through or when going to the loo. Every rule being followed and as I said it felt safe. Fast forward then to the following morning and the cafe we visited for brunch. Oh dear! is putting it mildly. None of the staff wearing masks and the man who came to take our order leaned right over us. Argh! Seriously? No one had to sign in and there was no attempt to get people to use the app (I don’t have it anyway but am happy to sign in). And… you had to pay cash.  To be honest I wish we hadn’t bothered, the breakfast was ok but not worth the stress. I couldn’t help thinking that it’s places like these that are spoiling it for the rest that are following all the rules to the letter. 

However, I would go back to the Salisbury Hotel in a heartbeat - I am so happy that Daughter is working there. It has a great atmosphere and the staff were lovely. They had a pub quiz on when we arrived, which sadly we missed out on, but I Iook forward to having another pint (or four) there in the not too far off future when maybe Daughter might serve it to me!


It is now Friday morning and Andy Burnham is digging his heels in against putting Greater Manchester into the very high tier without some form of financial support being in place for businesses etc etc. I cannot help thinking, like everyone else, where is it all going to end? We cannot keep shutting down like this, people have little money here as it is, but neither can we do nothing. I don’t want to see the NHS overwhelmed. I don’t want people to die needlessly. But the way it has been handled by this government…. I mean ‘Eat out to help out’ for pity’s sake and now they want to shut the hospitality industry down - you couldn’t make it up. And no one even mentions the Arts anymore. The Arts? Who? Sorry, who are you again?


On a final note I wanted to thank Jane for her recommendation of a Yoga video for my menopausal aching joints - I have given it a go and really liked it. I just need to keep doing it now, along with the walking. Thanks Jane!

Best wishes to all on here. I hope you are all keeping well wherever you are on your tier! Bon courage mes amis!


Bumpy landing on the south coast

Catherine, Sussex

Much ado this week. It has occupied every waking moment, of which there have been a good few.


Briefly, I am needed on all fronts, pretty much simultaneously:


Bf's mother staying with me, househunting.

His Nibs having three sleepovers with me/us.

Other, related, matters.


So hello and goodbye to this week's entry; more next week, when by rights some of the issues should have settled down a bit. Big hugs to the world in general and my friends in particular.


Thoughts from the Suffolk coast

Harris G, Suffolk

This is a quiet time. Nothing much happening here...


We watched the news on Monday evening. Three tiers or levels of lockdown - as foretold. But now the confirmation. Dismay. Oh it is merciless - this virus. And it is spreading, increasing. Hospital admissions up. Death with covid three times more likely than death with influenza. Gloomy predictions. We are not in control. The north is having a terrible time of it all and it is headed this way. No where to run, no where to hide. 


Shortly after the TV news there was an address to the nation from the Prime Minister. He repeats what’s already been said but with more zeal. Who would want his job? I imagine him as a child standing up in class and reading out “what I did on my holiday”. A smirk beginning to curl at the side of his face. I switch over. There has to be something else on - a Miss Marple? Michael Portillo in a pink jacket and yellow trousers on a train journey? Something more hopeful.


The rain has continued for most of the week but again, we have managed to get into the garden in between showers. I’ve had a few trips out; a drive to Loddon (where I got sodden), into Southwold (to buy milk), usual excursions to the supermarket and once to the doctor’s surgery (for my ‘flu jab). Must commend the surgery. A very slick process. Arrive. Apply face mask and hand gel. Buzz receptionist. Temperature taken. No queue. Walk to nurse. Sleeve up. Injection done. Thank you ma’am. Cheerio. 


Yesterday went for a day out in Norwich. Antique and junk shops. Despite previous experiences, parked up and took the bus to the city. Uneventful journey in. Good mooch around the empty streets and generally quiet shops. Bought a few gifts for people we won’t see this Christmas. Lunched and gave in to temptation with indulgent meal and cake.


On the bus journey back to my car, had to sit on the upper deck. Chap in front of me chatted (social distancing of course with taped off seats and everyone in masks). The bus was noisy so it is not easy to hear but shortly before he got off the bus, he told me that he was going to “have words with” the young lad who was sitting a few seats in front. I say sitting. The lad was actually sprawled across the two seats. Muddy shoes on the fabric. When people were getting up to get off, the lad would lift a foot and push the buzzer with the base of his shoe. He must have thought he was doing a public service! The chap I was talking to declared his intention to “tell the little BASTARD off”. Oh no, I thought. Not more trouble on the bus. I shook my head. “I shouldn’t bother if I were you”, I said; “No point trying to do what his parents can’t. Besides we’ve no where to run if he gets violent”. I laughed. It seemed to work. The chap looked away from the young lad and nothing happened. Is this cowardice on my part? A neglect of public duty? Cynicism? Fear? Just common sense? Perhaps it is just a realisation that the young lad might one day be a prime minister. Or an old man who can’t run very fast!


It’s rather grey outside this morning but not raining. The neighbour’s dahlias look fantastic. Great colours. Even now. It is a beautiful world, isn’t it? Red and gold leaves falling. Time to get my day started. Stay safe, good people and take care x


Mary’s Projects Mostly

Mary Hildyard, Bristol

We have come back to Bristol for a month and I can’t understand why it has so buoyed up my spirits in the way it has. Last week the prospect of many more months of restrictions through a cold, wet, English winter left me feeling very depressed. Yet, just changing residences has cheered me. 


How can I be happy to be here in Bristol when there was so much in Totnes we enjoyed - particularly the opportunity to be with other people? On Saturday we were joined by Jill for a final round of drinks under the canopy, which was so pleasant that, despite the cold, turned into supper by candle light. On Sunday we dismantled and put away the canopy, I did more practice at block printing and Simon did some last minute gardening. Monday we packed up and Tuesday we were away by car. It seems perverse then, to be happy here without a garden, less space for some projects, with no prospect of meeting up with others and for a month and just a lot of walking for exercise.

It might be that I just like being back in “my” home, but I think it may be more to do with the fact that Simon and I enjoy the challenge (the novelty?) of changing places. We always have - alternating my flat for his house, then back to my flat and a week or so in  London and then the same thing all over again - or just taking off, particularly by train, for somewhere else. Last October we were in Eastern Europe as we were reminded yesterday by Google when dozens of “this time last year” photos suddenly appeared on our screens.


So, maybe for me, changing places might be the key to staying sane in this crisis and we may need to make the effort to travel back and forth more often and appreciate what Bristol offers, despite no garden. On our first Bristol walk on Wednesday we were rewarded with a fabulous sunset, so vividly red orange that it might have been painted by Turner.


My feelings on paper

Barbara Warsop, Sheffield, Yorkshire

Monday 12th October.

Boris Johnson announced the new 3 tier restrictions re Covid 19. as follows.


  • Medium - Follow rules of 6 mixing indoors and outdoors
    Pubs and restaurants to close at 10 pm

  • High - No household mixing indoors, rule of 6 mixing outdoors.

  • Very high - No households mixing indoors or outdoors
    Pubs, Bars, not serving meals will be closed


Apparently the rate of people with Covid 19 is greater now than in March 2020. BBC radio Sheffield report analysis as follows:

The rates of infections in Sheffield was 439.3 per 100.000 of the population in week 8th October.

Rotherham 240.4. Barnsley 221.6, Doncaster 173.8. This makes it confusing as Rotherham, Barnsley and Doncaster all come under South Yorkshire. 

Meanwhile just over the border is east Derbyshire and Chesterfield which will remain in the medium tier despite being in the same mayoral authority of the Sheffield region.


The Labour local authority leaders and the city regions Mayor have welcomed the restrictions but are asking the government to provide a better financial package.


It was announced that Nottingham was a high corona area but Liverpool is a very high area so they are in the very high tier group.

I am not surprised that Sheffield is now in the high tier group.

My daughter's friend works on the newly opened 28 bed corona ward of our local hospital. Immediately it was full of patients with covid.

She informed us of the difficulty of nurses not wanting to work on that ward so they have all been put on the corona ward on a rota basis. A colleague nurse cries all the time as her partner has asthma and she is terrified of passing the virus onto him. The hard work and changing of protective wear after every patient wears them all down and the plastic waste is unbelievable.

No one is clapping the NHS now and they are all so tired as we are moving into a second wave.


My own situation hasn't changed much since March. In the past few months my three daughters have been taking it in turns to do my shopping. I have only been to my local coop three times since March. Since Oldham went into lock down I have not seen my daughter Ellen for weeks. I have allowed 2 friends to come on separate occasions to sit in the doorway of my conservatory with windows and door open. It's getting too cold to do that. Being in the high tier now I am not allowed anyway. Fortunately I am lucky enough to have the facility of a phone that I can do face time on. I am thankful for small mercies.

Good job I have loads of hobbies. I do watercolor painting and X stitch. I have lots of jigsaw and books and of coarse TV. Plus the joy of the journal and the new found journal friends.


I did enjoy last weeks contributions especially John Underwood`s contribution of Dora Wentworth's pattern book. 1829 and the wonderful patterns.


Trouble is with time on my hands I sit and mull over my past. The one illness that I remember as a 1940`s child is Pulmonary Tuberculosis. 

My mum used to say to me, you must not play or go into the house of a family of children on the next road as they had consumption. TB.

Earlier an uncle of mine had lost his wife and his children to consumption.

The other terrible illness was Polio, not all died with that but it left the sufferers with weak limbs. In the past I worked with a colleague who had polio as a child and one day we were walking to work together and she fell, and as I was helping her up she laughed and told me it was her polio leg that let her down. She just laughed it off. I expect she had become accustomed to it.


I am thinking now that I am cancelling Christmas for this year.

So sorry its been such a morbid contribution this week. I will try to do better next time

From top:

My daily walk, my painting my x stitch, a little field mouse got inside my bird feeder I tipped it up and it safely ran away.


View from the Top of the Hill

Linzy Lyne, Pateley Bridge

Autumn has arrived, with the nights drawing in earlier and the roads starting to flood every other day. The farmers have been getting the cow sheds ready for the cows coming in from the fields and the daily routines around the yard have changed gear. Our peaceful idyll is once more transformed by the 6am rumbling of the JCB bringing the morning feeds and the bellowing of a bull nearby. Usually it's my favourite time of the year, full of changing colours and cosy evenings by the fire with the anticipation of a family Christmas to come. How very different this year, with all the uncertainty about the future and little prospect of family festivities.


Autumn has brought the usual invasion of huge spiders, which seems worse this year, or maybe I am just on a short fuse. The horrible interlopers march through the house every night, daring me to throw my slippers at them. This of course is doomed to failure as they are much quicker than I am and vanish instantly. If I manage to keep still and just hiss "spider", Richard leaps up and despatches them. I sometimes think I will be solely responsible for the extinction of all species of house spiders during my lifetime but of course there are always more of them. As far as I know they are not yet listed as endangered.


Which brings me to my Mum. Her birthday is coming up next week and it should be a time to savour memories of childhood. Mum was notable for being incapable of causing harm to any creature, large or small. No insect was allowed to share her home but she would spend hours coaxing a fly to leave the way it came in and she was a dab hand at removing spiders using a glass tumbler and a piece of paper. I don't remember her ever showing the slightest sign of arachnophobia, so I don't know where I got it from, although I have passed it on to both my children. 


Mum always used to have a large bar of Galaxy milk chocolate on the go. In her very restrained fashion she would treat herself to two squares every evening after tea and the rest of the time the bar would stay inside its wrapper in an old ice cream tub on the floor beside her sofa. She started to notice little grooves in the chocolate, which became small nibbles and eventually large bites. It turned out that a mouse had been entering the room at night through an air vent behind the sofa and sharing her chocolate. This caused quite a stir but I don't remember any action taken against the mouse. I think they stopped up the air vent. The chocolate was kept in the top kitchen cupboard after that.


Mum would have been 99 next week, only a year away from getting her telegram. In 2004 however she was admitted to hospital with slight difficulty in breathing. She was kept in for a couple of days while her heart was checked over but all was well and she was about to come home, when she was found to have contracted an infection. She made some improvement but then the whole ward was overtaken by the bug, she became very poorly and was moved to a side room. The whole ward was quarantined. When we were allowed back in, she was unable to feed herself or even find the buzzer to ask for a bedpan. I took my Dad to visit every day. The overworked nursing staff had no time to sit and spoon feed her and her meals would lie untouched and be cleared away later, so I regularly went in more than once a day to feed her. I made fruitless attempts to alert the hospital authorities to the poor care brought about by the inadequate staffing levels. 


After three months or so she began to pick up and there was talk of moving her to a care home to recuperate but the home wouldn't take patients from the hospital as there was still talk of infection rates. I went to see her one Saturday night, I was out somewhere at a social occasion and felt I should go and see her, so I went to the hospital. There appeared to be only two staff on the ward and they were busy with another patient. Mum had been left in a soiled bed for hours. She was complaining of a pain in her hip. On the Monday morning she was scheduled to come home for a day to see how she got on but the staff phoned me to say she was having trouble walking. I told them again about the pain in her hip so they sent her for an X-ray and discovered her hip was broken. No-one could account for this. 


She was moved to a different hospital and scheduled for a hip replacement operation. I protested that surely she was too weak to have surgery but I was told they couldn't leave her in bed with a broken hip. Every day for five days she was starved in preparation but each day the operation was cancelled. On the fifth day she had the operation and in the evening seemed well. She asked for chocolate. The next morning she had a stroke while waiting for an X-ray and was sent back to the ward. The ward manager (they're not Sisters any more!) moved her to the bed next to his station to keep an eye on her. I took my Dad to visit and he sat and sang to her quietly. He wasn't there the morning she passed away. I got there in time to hold her hand. I phoned him to tell him to come and he got a taxi but she had gone when he arrived. I still cry when I sing Dad's song to myself.


I wanted to share what happened with Mum because this is why we mustn't let the NHS get overwhelmed. It has been underfunded for years. NHS staff are sitting with dying Covid patients whose families can't be there to hold their hands but now they're saying there aren't enough staff to man the Nightingale hospitals. I think that the government have handled the whole situation badly. They are almost certainly guilty of giving lucrative contracts to their friends, dithering over the science and failing to engage with local leaders and healthcare professionals but somehow we have to find a way through this. No-one has all the answers and scientists don't all agree, but we each have to do our best to help one another. My friend is nursing her dying husband at home and I can't visit. There are no words.


Meanwhile, I know they won't hurt me but I am avoiding spiders like the plague.


Thin Air

John Mole, St Albans



Haunted eyes

above a podium


belie the reassurance

of authority.


Nervous glances

at the telescreen


anticipate bewilderment’s



Mutual uncertainties

preside and hesitate,


confront each other

face to face


keeping their distance

as the rules require


before they leave the virus

to an empty room.


Rural Norfolk

Chris Gates, Norfolk UK

So, picking up from where we left off, a weekend of the endless drip of news/speculation ahead of today's (Monday) meetings and Prime Ministerial pronouncements regarding the fashion that restrictions might take.


I come in for a coffee after an extended geranium winterisation session in the polytunnel. At 11.30am there’s a newsflash that Nightingale Hospitals Up North are being put on standby. Fear factor or warranted?

I go off to the Co-op for some necessities, some treats and possibly, if I give into it, some panic buying. Actually, we do need kitchen towel, really we do.


Later, Monday... So, now we know - we’re to suffer three degrees of shambling additional restriction. For some reason ‘they‘ have chosen to label the three states as ‘medium’, ‘high’ and ‘very high’. If we’d have been given the implied missing  ‘clear’ and ‘low’ at least we’d have something to aim for.

A stat I believe to be true, mainly because it comes from BBC’s Vicky Young (who could tell me anything): there are more Covid patients in hospital now, as we stand on the brink, than back in March, before it all started.

Couple that with Chris Whitty’s assertion that tier 3 is not restrictive enough and some of us are in for a bumpy ride.


Sure enough by Tuesday a row erupts because it emerges ‘The Science’ wants a two week ‘circuit-breaker’ starting at half-term to break the growing infection pattern across the whole country and Ministers are reluctant to follow the science. There’s also the slightly counter-intuitive spectacle of areas in the middle ‘high’ category asking to be put in ‘very high’ as there’s better compensation available. Tory Chris Green, Bolton MP, resigns as PPS in protest at what he sees as ineffective policy.


Wednesday - and N Ireland steals a lockdown march by extending school half-term and closing pubs and restaurants (except for take-aways), for four weeks. Essex applies to put itself up a tier into ‘high’.


Three UEA students who, despite testing positive themselves and supposedly isolating throw a houseparty for 100 and cop a £10,000 fine each for doing so. 


Thursday, and while local politicos Up North haggle over compo, Essex gets its wish and moves into Tier 2 starting this weekend and London and York are to join them. 

UK tourists returning from Italy must now isolate for 14 days on return.

Test and Trace performance is worsening with just 58% being followed up successfully. 80% is the target. Dido Harding is in hiding; Dido Hiding then.

The news programmes are full of public resistance and resentment, unlike the stoic compliance earlier in the tear. The novelty has certainly worn off, or maybe it’s battle fatigue. Whatever, it’s all definitely going a bit Pete Tong.


Friday dawns and nothing has brought Andy Burnham and his nemesis  Nick Hancock together, but then compromise isn’t easy for either. One gym owner in Liverpool gets fined £1000 for refusing to close his gym instantly even though he’s faced with 7 armed policemen demanding it. Then Lancashire, moved into T3, announces its gyms will stay open under the deal it’s brokered with Government. Beautiful, seamless, thought-through policy.


At Journal deadline Andy Burnham continues to stand firm, refusing to accept a position in T3 without better financial terms. He is Police Commissioner as well as Mayor, so can quite reasonably be expected to refuse to enforce anything he doesn’t like. Sending the Boys in to close gyms, for instance. 

Finally, and with relief and relative frivolity, a bit of shameless reporting:


Last week we had our village gardening club AGM in the form of a Covid-compliant outdoor cinema, showing a 10 minute video loop of some of the gardens, attended by a good crowd (distanced, of course) munching a fish and chip supper from a mobile van we organised. We took the opportunity to have our Pumpkin Weigh-in and Yours Truly got the trophy back! Dunno how much it weighed, the scales only go round to 100lbs and it went past that.


We auctioned off the pumpkins and raised £131 for the local food bank.

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