In the morning, this leaflet arrived.
The council sent one to every address in the Rochdale borough, as numbers have spiked in the area, hoping to avert another lockdown being enforced upon us.
Overleaf were the simple bullet points:
You must wear a face covering
when in a shop or other
Do not have more than two visitors
to your home at any one time
Always keep 2 metres apart
Avoid close contact with anyone
outside your household, including
shaking hands or hugging
Get tested and isolate if you
Are told to do so
Help stop the spread
Before we had hardly had a chance to digest this, and think about our concerted effort to avoid another dreaded lockdown, Matt Hancock announced that the whole of Greater Manchester and parts of both East Lancashire and West Yorkshire were being out under special restrictions: people of different households were to be banned from meeting indoors from midnight. Oh, and in gardens too-though beer gardens are okay.
Nine out of ten boroughs in Greater Manchester have shown a rise in infections, and, though Rochdale is the only borough with a declining number, we have been lumped in with the others too.
Here is a map of Greater Manchester, with my town of Middleton surrounded by its equally condemned neighbours.
People are getting a bit fed up with it all now, and the criticism is that this news was announced on Twitter at 9.00pm, with the details revealed at midnight. The government had said that, when they ceased their daily press conferences, they would hold them for significant announcements, such as local lockdowns. It has been suggested that this short notice was with the Muslim festival of Eid in mind, which started the very next day.
There are some towns that haven’t got a single case of Covid, but have been included as being part of Lancashire.
For those not of the UK, or at least the north, I know it’s a confusing melting pot of counties and boroughs and townships. I think rather than a blanket of restrictions thrown over the whole area, a more localised town-by-town approach would be better.
But when was I ever an advisor from SAGE?
Anyway, I’m off now. I can’t call around to my mate’s house, but I can meet him in the pub for a beer.
How long now to that Holy vaccine Grail?
Have mask, will travel. Border crossings, on a damp and languid day.
Heading once more back to Manchester by train, having started a new book, Water Shall Refuse Them, along the way. The author, this being her debut novel, has been getting comparisons to Shirley Jackson and, although I’m only fifty or so pages into it, the protagonist does have a bit of Merricat about her.
Rochdale, the penultimate stop on my journey, in the dark, wet afternoon never looked so bleak.
The next few weeks are looking bleak, too. With rising figures, Rochdale is on the brink of following Leicester into a possible new lockdown. Though I don’t live in the town, my own town comes under the borough of Rochdale, and another lockdown is the last thing that any of us want.
After leaving the train, I caught a bus outside of this Rochdale Road pub, The Marble Arch, established in the Ripper year: 1888.
A renowned pub that brews its own beer, it has been some years since I’ve been in there. Possibly over twenty.
Maybe I should have called in for a pint, today, while I still can.
Who would have thought this, six months ago?
I look like I’m going to a riot.
A bit of a sterile riot, a friend pointed out.
One has to take one’s safety seriously when one is launching petrol bombs.
Another friend commented I see you’ve also had your ears lowered.
Seeing as though my wife performed my first lockdown haircut, I’m thankful I’ve got any ears at all.
And what do people do these days when they go on blind dates?
You’ve got nice eyes.
And I guess that lip readers are screwed.
These are crazy days. Stay safe, friends. Stay crazy.
This is how we seem to be living life at the moment. But all will soon be back to normal.
Hang in there, guys. The days are still passing.
A few posts back, I shared some photographs of a journey I made between two Northern cities, Leeds and Manchester, when the country was on the brink of lockdown. I had to make the return journey last week (essential travel allowed) and, with the UK now a month into lockdown, I took these photographs to share with you all to document these unprecedented days. I probably, hopefully, will never have the chance to see my city like this again.
This first one shows the seating arrangements in my local bus station, to enforce the social distancing. Only the opposite end seats were available, first come first served (though there weren’t many takers). An unenthusiastic game of musical chairs.
Again, on the bus-alternate rows of seating available. The driver taking my fare said it was the most he’d taken all morning.
Manchester, message delivered.
Looking towards the usually notorious Piccadilly Gardens.
I saw neither tram nor cycle, just the odd jogger taking their allotted moment of exercise.
When a passing bus departed, the city fell into a strangely hushed tone.
St.Anne’s Square, scene of much mourning and festooned with flowers following the Arena bombing.
Many shop doors and windows wore similar sentiments from their owners. Some just a stark notice that no goods or money were left on the premises, in lieu of any opportunist thieves moving into the city.
Not a drinker in sight.
Moving now towards the train station.
The statue of Gandhi outside the Cathedral. The only figure caught in motion.
Ever since the lockdown the weather has been glorious. The place would have been swarming with shoppers and drinkers and more.
Looking towards the Football Museum, symbolic of the sport that has now been suspended.
I could take a photo in the middle of the road, with little fear of trams or vehicles.
Looking towards Angel Square from the rear.
Victoria Station. Could it be that I was the only commuter?
More social distancing, now musical urinals.
There was only me and this railway worker.
Only for essential travel
The train I caught had originated in Liverpool, passed through Manchester and was bound for Edinburgh. I alighted in Leeds, the station there similar to the one in Manchester.
Leeds. Snippets of conversations that took place with the few people that I encountered I intend to print elsewhere.
Millennium Square. Manchester and Leeds-two northern cities laid low by an invisible foe.
We’ve been blessed with great weather during this lockdown, For those of us that have gardens, being able to sit outside in the sunshine does help to raise the spirits. But you’ve got to feel for those people living in flats, especially high-rise flats, allowed one form of exercise a day.
This is our daily walk. My two daughters walk on ahead as my son makes it his intention to catch them up.
Sometimes it gets quite competitive. On one particular day I may walk with Millie, armed with a stopwatch, on the next with James, as they both try to beat each other’s personal best. Another day, Courtney and Millie will set off in one direction, James and I the other, and, with the route one large circular road, we end up passing each other along the way, spurring each other on with a wave and accusations of cheating.
And, if a wasp or a bee should come along, the girls end up breaking the land speed record.
This Coronavirus is no respecter of status, reputation or wealth.
The other day I heard of the death of Eddie Large, he of the famed Little and Large double-act in the 80’s. Then, this morning, I saw that Lee Fierro, who played Mrs Kintner in my favourite film, Jaws, had died.
This afternoon I was in the back garden when my wife came out to tell me that the mother of Pep Guardiola, the Manchester City manager, had succumbed to the virus.
And now the breaking news is that Boris Johnson, our Prime Minister, has been moved to intensive care after his symptoms had tonight worsened, with Dominic Raab, the First Secretary of State, deputising. In all intents and purposes, though the government won’t label him so, he’s now the acting PM in this time of crisis.
These are all notable figures, far removed from me. But, as the situation grows, the casualty list has crept ever closer within the last two weeks.
The sister of my next door neighbour, both parents of a child from my son’s school, and several people from my wife’s workplace, have all caught the virus. Also two people known to me, (not closely, I must add), have sadly died. And a couple, again, from my wife’s place of work, have also sadly passed away.
From this new and remote illness that we were first becoming aware of several weeks ago, we’ve now reached the point where a lot of us know someone who has suffered with it.
It is a diminishing circle that, with time, in our imposed isolation, we will break. It is horrible to hear of people dying alone, away from their families because of the nature of this pandemic and the required separating of loved ones. The thirteen-year old lad who both died alone and was buried alone; the elderly woman who said goodbye to her husband through a window as the hearse stopped outside her home on its way to his last resting place; people saying goodbye to loved ones as nurses hold a phone.
My lockdown in regard to these cases holds no comparison.
Listening to the Queen’s call for self-discipline yesterday, we should hold onto the part where she echoed Vera Lynne’s popular song from the wartime 40’s:
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 don’t know about you guys, but I could do with getting lost in trivialities. Making small talk with strangers, while waiting for my coffee to be made, about inconsequential things. Nothing of importance that mean everything.
A friend, who works in mental health, commented recently on a supportive FB post of mine:
Andy, I’m telling you now, I’m having a massive fuck-off barbecue when this is all done with. You, Jen and the kids are all invited. Dad dancing and social closeness required.
I look forward to that.
So – I’m growing a beard.
This situation has encouraged me to go all Robinson Crusoe.
Having never sported a beard before, this lockdown has given me the opportunity to see how it looks, without having to look like a tramp when out shopping or nipping to the bank.
My wife isn’t keen. Sometimes I think she’s only with me for my chin.
It’s only been a week, but I think I may have left it too late in life, for this early growth, to look all Pierce Brosnan. Whereas I was hoping for a few flecks of grey, I think I may be the more crazed Saddam Hussein-in-the-bolthole type.