A Non-Lockdown Saturday In Beetley

It wasn’t that long ago that I was posting about lockdown life in Beetley. To be honest, it wasn’t that different to life before lockdown, at least for me.

Now it has been almost a week since ‘Freedom Day’, and not much has changed around here. On Monday, I collected an Indian takeaway meal from a restaurant we use. Staff were still wearing masks and face shields, and the screens were in place between tables. But the diners were not wearing masks of course, so I kept mine on as I waited for the meal to be prepared.

I went into Dereham on Tuesday, and did the ‘big shop’ at a huge supermarket. Around two-thirds of the customers were weaing masks, and all the staff I saw were wearing them too. They had an announcement playing over loudspeakers suggesting masks should be retained, and that shoppers should still try to social distance where possible.

I saw some maskless shoppers grinning at that, and all of those not wearing masks were quite obviously younger than forty.

Out walking with Ollie, fellow dog-walkers are still keeping a reasonable distance if they stop to chat, and we are standing at the side of narrow paths to allow others to walk by without having to be in close proximity. But the youngsters and teenagers playing around in the river or basketball court are behaving as if Covid doesn’t exist any longer, with close physical contact, and not a mask in sight.

Where Julie works at out local Doctor’s, most people are complying with the mask rule, which is still in force for medical sites. Only a couple of people refused to wear one this week, and they were not allowed into the building. In one case, a woman became abusive and aggressive, and the manager had to be called down to make her leave.

Next weekend, there is a big family party in the Watford area, in Hertfordshire. I wasn’t going anyway, because of leaving Ollie. But Julie was looking forward to attending the 50th birthday party, and seeing many of her extended family. However, that area has shown an alarming spike in Covid infection during the last week, so attending a party inside has become a worrying prospect. Wearing a mask in that situation is not much fun, so she will likely cancel her long-awaited trip.

This all goes to show that despite ‘Freedom Day’, the virus is still around, infections are still increasing, and many of those who didn’t want to wear masks are taking full opportunity of the relaxation of rules.

In many ways, nothing has changed at all, so we carry on as before here in Beetley.

Happy Lockdown Birthday To Me!

Today is my 69th birthday!

(No sixty-nine jokes, please. This is a family blog. 🙂 )

(Not my actual cake.)

Regular readers will know that I make a big deal of my birthdays. I usually string them out over a full week, and on the day I take a trip to the seaside, followed by a nice restaurant meal in the evening.

But in 2021, none of that can happen.

Instead it will be the usual walk with Ollie, opening cards and presents, then a nice takeaway meal this evening.

I would like to wish a happy birthday to any fellow Piscean who shares this day with me. I hope to be able to post something similar next year, when I will be 70.

That’s a nice round number.

Okay, all together now. Sing along with Clare!

A Lockdown Saturday In Beetley

Next Monday, the lockdown restrictions in England will begin to be eased.

All school pupils will return, depite some opposition from the teaching unions. One relative will now be allowed to visit the elderly who live in Care Homes, though they must wear full PPE, and be the only ‘nominated’ visitor.

On the 29th, outdoor gathering will be allowed, with the previous limit on numbers (six) applying, and outdoor sports such as Golf and Tennis will once again be permitted.

In late April, hospitality venues such as pubs will be allowed limited opening, restricted to outside service only. Not good news for businesses that have no outside space of course.

A full return to ‘new normal’ is estimated to happen by midsummer, but that might change if infection rates go up again.

Here in Beetley, Julie had her second Pfizer vaccination last night, and my second dose of Astra-Zeneca is due in May. We will continue to wear masks where appropriate or complusory, and keep any social mixing to the minimum.

Some people are rushing to book foreign holidays, in the hope that full international travel will be allowed again. I still think this is very risky, but it is up to those people of course. Let’s just hope that they don’t bring back new strains of the virus, and start it all up again. Just for the sake of two weeks on a beach in Spain or Greece.

For us, including Ollie, it will be a week on the Lincolnshire coast, 90 miles north. It is not until September, by which time travel in England should be permitted.

If all goes to plan, this will hopefully be my last lockdown report from Beetley.

Fingers crossed.

Of Interest To Photographers

My friend Antony sent me a link to a short (16 minute) film on You Tube.

Two photographers travel to London to experience the city when it is almost deserted during lockdown.

They video themselves, and explain the ideas and the process, also the camera settings and equipment used.

Some of the resulting stills are shown alongside the original video footage.

For me, it was fascinating to see this area of Central London almost empty of people. Soho, Seven Dials, and Covent Garden, places where I worked and walked every day for the last twelve years I spent in that city. Even if you have no interest in cameras or photography, you might enjoy seeing the impact of the Covid-19 lockdown on the capital city of England.

(There are some short advertisements dring the video, but they can be skipped.)

Lockdown Gown

Since the first lockdown in March 2020, I haven’t done a great deal. A couple of meals out, and a few days away at the coast when restrictions were lifted briefly.

This has meant that I don’t have to bother too much about what I wear every day. Other than taking Ollie out, and a once a week trip to the supermarket, I am usually to be found in a dressing gown. (American Translation: Bath Robe)

Not unusual for me, as I have written previously about my fondness for gown-wearing.

However, lockdowns also mean no casual visitors, nobody just ‘dropping in’, or ‘popping over’. That has allowed my gown-wearing to become the norm, unless out on the Ollie walks and shopping trips mentioned above. As soon as I get up, the gown goes on. Once back from dog-walking, I change back into a gown immediately, and spend the evening feeling relaxed and cosy. Delivery drivers and post office staff have become accustomed to me answering the door in one of the two gowns that I constantly recycle through the wash.

One is made from blue towelling, the other is a plush material in a dark red ‘Claret’ colour. Both are exceedingly comfortable to sit around in, and with the sleeves rolled up, everyday jobs like cooking and washing up can be done wearing a gown.

But all this excessive gown-wearing has had an unexpected effect.

Clothes now feel strange. Although they fit the same as before, they feel restrictive compared to the freedom of a gown. I feel bundled up in normal clothes, even very loose casual ones. I am suffering from a condition that nobody predicted might be caused by the lockdowns.

Lockdown Gown.

I am going to need more gowns!

Lockdown Excess

Lockdown life has meant little change for me, to be honest. I cannot drive that far, so I am unable to visit relatives and friends. I didn’t do that much before lockdowns, so it’s not a huge wrench.

But with lockdown comes a psychological impact. Something I hadn’t really thought about.

I might die of Covid-19. That’s a real possibility. Especially when you are almost 69 years old.

The general reaction of others to this fact has mostly been positive. Oldies like me are staying healthy, keeping fit, and even getting fitter than they were before.

My reaction has been the opposite, I’m sorry to admit. Yes, I might die. That’s okay. I am old, and have had a good life, with no serious complaints.

So I can have that cream cake on a Saturday, maybe even a doughnut on a Wednesday. Why the hell not?

And wine makes me forget the possibility of an imminent, perhaps painful death. So two more bottles over the course of a week cannot hurt, surely?

I have embraced excess, without really realising it until now. My clothes still fit, and I feel alright in general. My walks with Ollie seem harder, but that’s easily explained by the constant rains turning our dog-walking areas into quagmires that I have to trudge through in difficult conditions. Or is it that?

Commonsense tells me that I have to stop all this. I have lived through the worst of the pandemic so far, and might survive. Then it would be ironic if a medical condition caused by my route down the road of excess killed me off instead of the virus.

But still, it has been quite enjoyable. So no regrets. 🙂

Special Birthdays In Lockdown

(**Update**. I am aware that so many people are spending birthdays alone today, or worse still, in hospital. This post is not meant to suggest that either Julie or I are badly off, in any way.)

Most of us feel something different about birthdays that announce a new decade. Whether it is 30, 40, 50, or even 80, there is undeniably something special about them. When you are 20, you are no longer a teenager, and if you see your 90th year, you are doing pretty well even in this day and age.

My wife Julie is 60 today. Bad enough having a January birthday in winter weather and so soon after Christmas in any year. But in one of the worst periods in living memory, a lockdown birthday when you have to go to work puts the tin hat on it.

When I was 50, Julie treated me to a long weekend in Rome. It was mid-March, and we enjoyed exceptionally warm weather. When she was 50, I took her to Prague to celebrate. Cold but dry, and very interesting. A couple of years ago, we started to plan where to go for Julie’s 60th. A few days in a place neither of us had ever been. Perhaps Valetta in Malta, or Gibraltar. Our neighbour kindly offered to take care of Ollie in our absence. Our plan was to book that holiday in January 2020, a year in advance.

Well, we all know what happened.

On the 26th of December, the second lockdown arrived. I couldn’t take her into Norwich to choose her special gift from the jeweller’s shop, as it is non-essential. And the restaurant where we had hoped to celebrate can only supply a takeaway meal. The one we had chosen doesn’t offer that option.

That leaves Julie celebrating her big Six-O with no gift from me, and an Indian takeaway that we could have any other night of the week. And she has had to go into work. As she works for the NHS in a local doctor’s, it would have seemed rather lame to request holiday leave because it is her birthday.

And just to remind us that we live in Beetley, and it is January, it has been raining solidly for 24 hours.

Happy Birthday, Julie.

Second Wave? No, This Is Much Worse

From midnight on the 31st, 75% of the population of Great Britain will be under the high-level Tier 4 Lockdown.

This follows a huge increase in cases of Covid-19, and the fast spread of the new variant that began in the south-east counties of Kent and Essex recently.
In the last twenty four hours, 961 people have died after contracting Coronavirus, and more than 50,000 new infections were notified.

Not much of a start to 2021, but let’s hope the lockdown does some good.

Here is a full report from the BBC News website, in case those of you with friends or relatives in the UK would like to know more.


Christmas Bounty

Despite agreeing to cut back on present-buying this year, I did give and receive quite a few nice gifts. Now Boxing day has passed, I gather them all from around the base of the Christmas tree, and examine them.

This year, many were edible.

Chocolate-covered pumpkin seeds.
Gingerbread cookies.
A large tin of Scottish Shortbread.
A box of ‘Stollen Bites’. Juicy little cakes!
Two boxes of delicious Baklava cakes.
Two boxes of chocolate-covered Brazil Nuts.
A large bag of salted Pistachio Nuts in their shells.

Others could be consumed by the glass.

Red wine of course, my favourite tipple.
I received five bottles, one enjoyed on Christmas Day, and another yesterday.
(Three left!)

Things to watch.

Two films on DVD.
‘Official Secrets’, recommended by Fraggle.
‘JoJo Rabbit’, which received rave reviews all year.

Useful items.

A large calendar, with photos of Sharpei dogs for every month of the year.
A Dog’s Trust calendar, sold to provide homes for abandoned dogs.
A Weekly Planner with ‘Born to be a Sharpei dad’ on the cover.
‘Obsession’ by Calvin Klein after-shave balm. My ‘signature fragrance’.

And last but not least, a new pair of my favourite sheepskin slippers, which I am wearing as I type. This year, I chose ‘Dove Grey’ instead of tan.

We went into Stage 4 lockdown yesterday. It is supposed to last until Easter. No restaurants or bars open, no ‘non-essential’ services like hairdressers or dog-groomers allowed to open. All charity shops and clothing shops closed until further notice, and no non-essential travel allowed.

Not much of a start to 2021, but we all have to make the best of it.