21st August 2021
Life During a Coronavirus Pandemic: Week 73 Bristol Weekend
A week of lows and highs. An aggressive AGM and a lovely weekend break in Bristol
During week 73 of the Coronavirus Pandemic I return to Hertfordshire for the AGM of my flat there. It is not a pleasant experience and I wish I had stayed away. But it does heighten my resolve to sell the flat and buy a smaller, freehold property in a prettier area. I contact a local estate agent the very next day and start looking forward to the weekend when I will be a tour manager again for three days looking after a group in Bristol. I have worked in this lovely city before and I am looking forward to another visit there.
Monday 09 August 2021
All thoughts of an early morning bike ride are washed out by heavy rain early this morning. I content myself with twenty minutes on my exercise bike for my daily dozen. Then my mobile rings and it is Halfords in Poole to say my new bike has arrived and is ready for collection. I re-arrange my day and get the bus to Poole after an early lunch. I have to get a second bus to Halfords on the Ringwood Road. My bike is ready and after adjusting the height of the saddle I pay the bill and set off. But I don’t get very far. Just a mile from the shop the chain comes off. I try to put it back on but it seems to be jammed between two cogs. I call the number I have for Halfords aware that it is a call centre. As I feared my call is answered by a woman who does not understand the significance of a chain coming off a bike and tells me to take it back to the store. I explain this is not possible and ask her to get a message to the store to call me as a matter of urgency. I wait nearly an hour but no-one calls me. Finally, because I have to drive back to Hertfordshire this evening I can wait no longer and have to push the bike and free-wheel the three miles back to the flat.
Back at the flat I am having a well-deserved cup of tea when something large and blue floats past the window. A large flock of terns resting on a nearby roof rise as one squawking hysterically as a surfing kite floats towards them and drapes itself across the ash felt. I spot the distraught owner racing down the road after his errant kite. Fortunately, he is able to grab the end of the harness and gently nudge his kite off the roof. All is well although I doubt the tern population will be roosting on that roof any time soon.
UK set to ‘hoard’ up to 210m doses of Covid vaccine research suggests, as ministers were accused of leaving poorer countries “fighting for scraps”. But a government spokesperson countered this by saying the UK are committed to donating 100m doses to aid global recovery and funding the provision of more than a billion vaccines through Covax.
Ministers urged to cap ‘rip-off’ costs of PCR tests after an analysis showed many companies on the list of providers which meet minimum testing standards on the Government website were charging more than £200 for a PCR test and only 11% offer tests for under £50.
Covid vaccine hesitancy halves among 18- to 21-year-olds in Great Britain according to data from the Office for National Statistics. It also suggests increasing numbers of 16- and 17-year-olds are willing to have the jab, as hesitancy has decreased from 14% to 11%.
Tuesday 10 August 2021
My elusive Canon camera turns up outside my front door early this morning. I take photos of the package outside the front door where it was abandoned and send them to DHL as requested. I hear no more from them regarding their driver’s interpretation of ‘delivery must be made to addressee or package returned to depot’. It was rescued by another resident in the flats when it was left outside last week. I do thank her at the start of the flats’ AGM this evening but I am greeted with an icy glare. Maybe because I don’t subscribe to their decision to spend vast sums of money in a quest to be the best gardens on the street where we live.
Top scientist warns we're nowhere near end of COVID pandemic and says the world is closer to the beginning of the COVID pandemic than to the end predicting coronavirus will become a "forever virus" like influenza.
'Right moment' to lift restrictions in Scotland, says Nicola Sturgeon who admits to "nervousness" at the move, but said the vaccine is now giving "significant protection". Level zero ended at midnight with almost all of the remaining anti-Covid measures now removed.
‘Best evidence yet’ for UK booster programme according to the head of a new study showing people who have been infected with Covid-19 and later fully vaccinated generate stronger immune responses against different variants of concern.
Wednesday 11 August 2021
Today I meet my friends for lunch at Teatro in the Radlett Centre. It is a lovely place to eat as it features a small art gallery. We are surrounded by some beautiful photographs taken by Eric Cheek who is featured in the current temporary exhibition. One of the photographs shows the temples of Bagan in Myanmar and the memories come flooding back. My tour of Myanmar or Burma as it used to be known was one of the most interesting trips I have ever done. In particular I remember watching a host of hot air balloons drifting above Bagan as dawn was breaking. Lunch is the highlight of my day as I spend the rest of the day preparing for a weekend break I will be tour managing in Bristol in a two days’ time.
Developer of the AstraZeneca shot says Delta variant makes herd immunity impossible because vaccinated people can still transmit the virus. The Delta variant has changed the equation for achieving herd immunity.
Only 'small group' likely to need COVID booster jab this year according to a government adviser has said - people who have a weak immune system are likely to need a booster jab but it is still unclear whether a rollout will be necessary for all over-50s.
Thursday 12 August 2021
Another rainy August day – will we ever get some sun this summer? I am anxious to get out and try my new camera but there is no point while it is raining. When the rain stops I set off to find the Radlett Brook having discovered it runs through the centre of the town. The brook is a little tributary of Tykes Water, a stream that runs north from Aldenham Reservoir to the River Colne. The Colne is a tributary of the River Thames and joins it at Staines-upon-Thames. My short cut to find this brook turns into a long walk through arable fields. I am surprised to find so much open countryside cunningly concealed by residential developments on both sides of all the roads that lead to Radlett. I walk for about two hours skirting fields recently harvested and following paths through the woods that surround them. Occasionally I get a glimpse of Radlett Brook through a tangle of wild flowers or behind one of the many residential properties perched on its bank. It emerges by the railway station. I watch, fascinated, by huge water rates scuttling along the muddy banks.
Isolation to end for vaccinated and fully jabbed people in England will no longer be legally required to self-isolate following contact with a positive Covid case from Monday and fully vaccinated people are advised to take a PCR test instead.
Tui slashes summer holiday schedule despite bookings surge due to the continued impact of British coronavirus restrictions. But, the world’s largest tourism business said it had returned to generating positive cash flow for the first time in the pandemic.
In the News Today
Beijing draws up karaoke blacklist piecing together a “blacklist” of karaoke songs that contain “harmful content”. In 2015, China banned 120 songs from the internet, including Chinese tracks titled “No Money No Friend”, “Don’t Want To Go To School” and “Fart”.
Friday 13 August 2021
This morning I set off for Bristol in the car. It is good to be working as a tour manager this weekend and Bristol is a great place to spend the weekend. My sat nav gets me there very quickly but then stops talking to me when faced with the complexities of the one-way system in the city centre where my hotel is based. So I get completely lost but I do see some of the sights of the city – two of them at least three times – including the Prince Street Bridge which is an iron swing bridge across Bristol Harbour. This Grade II listed bridge was built in 1879 and is operated by water hydraulic power provided by the engine house adjacent to it. It takes a while to cross it as only one side is open to cars whereas the other side is open to pedestrians and cyclists.
When I finally get to the hotel I am too early to check in but I had expected that and settle down in reception to do some work and to welcome my guests as they arrive. I also go through the programme and venues for my group for the weekend, talk to everyone in the group and get menu choices for tonight and then have time to explore the local area very quickly before meeting the group for dinner this evening. As our hotel is in the old town we are very close to St Nicholas’s Market which has stalls both outside and in an extensive covered area and the Castle Park that encloses the ruins of St Peter’s Church and stretches down to the Floating Harbour.
In the News Today
Twenty-seven passengers infected with Covid-19 on cruise - the outbreak occurred on board Carnival Cruise Line's Carnival Vista ship, which docked in Belize on Wednesday. All travellers who tested positive for the virus have already been fully vaccinated.
Two tourists to Hawaii face $5,000 fine for fake vaccine passports and up to a year in prison after presenting forged vaccine passports. They were arrested after falsifying vaccination cards in order to bypass quarantine on entry to the islands from the US mainland.
Saturday 14 August 2021
We all meet at 09:15 am for our walking tour of Bristol this morning. Well, nearly all as one guest is missing. I check he is not still in breakfast and call his room. As he is not to be found we wait ten minutes then leave. Our guide takes us on a History Tour of the old town of Bristol. Geographically we only cover a very small area of the town but historically we take a journey through a thousand years of history. A city whose wealth is based on trade through its famous port which was augmented by a Floating Harbour The tour lasts four hours but we do have a coffee break half way through in a lovely café, Goodes, across the road from the City Hall, one of Bristol’s most iconic buildings.
When the walking tour ended a few of us find an empty table in the crowded restaurants that lined the streets of the old town. The coronavirus pandemic means most people are taking their summer holidays in the UK and Bristol is a popular destination. It is also very popular for stag and hen parties. We are entertained throughout our lunch by a group of young women dressed as fruit. A highlight was Watermelon tumbling off her seat just before the whole group tottered off down the road. When we finish our meal we go our separate ways. I am hoping to find some street art and I find several good examples just beyond the city gate on Nelson Street. These impressive street art murals were created as part of the See No Evil Street Art Festival in 2011-2012. Bristol’s street-art culture is now celebrated by the annual Urban Arts festival that takes place every summer.
In the News Today
Last major Afghan city in the north, Mazar-i-Sharif, falls to the Taliban as they tighten their grip on the country and close in on Kabul. The US president, Joe Biden, said America would not reverse its decision to leave Afghanistan, despite the Taliban advances.
Haiti struck by deadly 7.2-magnitude earthquake killing at least 304 people and injuring more than 1,800. Prime minister Ariel Henry said there was "extensive damage" in parts of the country. Haiti is still recovering from a devastating 2010 earthquake.
Banksy confirms new art is his Speculation has been rife after the art that began appearing a week ago in East Anglia He claimed responsibility for them on Instagram, where he shared a video showing him working on the pieces - called A Great British Spraycation.
Plymouth shootings may be a sign ‘incel’ culture is spreading - experts are warning this dangerous online subculture is gaining traction after Jake Davison, the gunman behind the shootings in Plymouth that left six people dead, referenced the group and expressed deeply misogynistic ideas.
Sunday 15 August 2021
It is the last day of our short break today and some people leave to catch trains after breakfast and others are staying for a while to explore further in Bristol. I join a small group doing the open top bus tour with TOOT. A new tour that only started operating this year. Our main objective is to visit the Clifton Suspension Bridge. But it was also interesting learning some more about the history of Bristol through the commentary on the bus. Had we had time we could have visited other major attractions such as the Bristol Zoological Gardens and the SS Great Britain. When we get off at the suspension bridge we walk to the viewpoint where we can view the historic bridge and the Avon Gorge from different angles. This Grade 1 listed bridge spans the River Avon linking Clifton in Bristol to Leigh Woods in North Somerset. It was designed by a young Isambard Kingdom Brunel and has been a toll bridge to fund its maintenance since it was opened in 1864. When we got back into the city we had a very nice lunch at the oldest pub in Bristol, the Shakespeare, before going our separate ways.
New Covid variants ‘will set us back a year’, experts warn UK government as Ministers are being pressed to reveal what contingency plans are in place to deal with a future Covid variant that evades current vaccines.
All 16 and 17-year-olds in England to be offered first Covid jab in next 8 days, as health chiefs race to deliver protection before schools go back. Walk-in centres are now open across the country and an online site has been launched.
In the News Today
With enough vision, the furlough scheme could have become a lifeboat for industry but it seems inevitable that the Treasury will turn down requests from trade unions to maintain the furlough scheme as a permanent safety net to have the kind of underpinning to incomes that German workers and many other nations enjoy.
Some Government Statistics
By 5 pm on Monday 09 August, a total of 6,094,243 (total that day 25,161) positive COVID-19 tests have been recorded and the cumulative total of deaths within 28 days of a positive test is 130,357 including a daily total of 37. By the end of the week on Sunday 15 August, the total of positive cases had risen to 6,267,437 (total that day 26,750) positive tests, and the cumulative total of deaths within 28 days of a positive test is 130,953 including a daily total of 63. Total deaths with COVID-19 on the death certificate is now 154,202, an increase this week of 468. (this statistic lags behind the daily statistics as it is updated on a weekly basis).
More next week
Valery Collins is the Experienced Traveller
An excellent raconteur, Valery has been writing about her experiences on the road since she started travelling 25 years ago. After publishing four books she turned to online travel writing.
Hi Valery and thanks for your experiences in Bristol, it brought back many memories, especially when you said that it was a favoured place for stag and hen parties. I attended one such and remember a great group of us going down stairs into a basement bar. It was the time of the Apollo Moon landing and, with a little more alcohol on board than I should, I launched myself from the stairs onto a pillar and slid down into the bar shouting ‘splashdown, splashdown’. Needless to say, we did not stay long. Currently the ACT is in its second week of lockdown. Parts of NSW are in their eighth week with 800 cases every day and a mounting death toll and Victoria is also firmly locked down. Prime Minister Morrison wants the country to open up when the vaccination rate reaches 70 per cent, but Premier McGowan in WA has essentially told him to go take a walk. There seems to be no end in sight.
Hi Graham – love the story of your stag party in Bristol and how times have changed as your behavioiur would be considered very moderate in these days when stag parties often leave a trail of damage. So sorry to hear of the worsening situation in Australia. I did see in the news that travel to Australia is unlikely to happen in 2022. We are lucky in England that legal restrictions have been lifted but cases have not dropped significantly and the number of deaths is increasing.