18th September 2021
Life During a Coronavirus Pandemic: Week 77 Harrogate
This week I have a lovely few days in Harrogate, a historic town in Yorkshire I have never visited before.
Despite my apprehension about taking the train to Harrogate via London it was a very easy journey. Seats were pre-allocated and most passengers were in a window seat with an empty seat beside them. Refreshments could be ordered and delivered to my seat using a bar code on the back of the seat in front of me. My only regret was I forgot my headphones and had to tolerate a loud football commentary from someone behind me competing with the soundtrack of a children’s film from a family in front of me. In desperation I played my music without headphones and was actually asked not to turn it off as other passengers were enjoying it.
Monday 06 September 2021
Today is my last opportunity to volunteer as a COVID-19 marshal at the BIC in Bournemouth as the centre will close on 15 September and I have other commitments until then. I check the rota on their website for volunteers and find a slot this evening. I leave in time to go for a walk along the West Cliff. It is good to see the West Cliff Lift is operating again. The cliff lift is an easy way of getting from the beach to the cliff top with amazing views of the coast on either side. They are classified as light railways and this one was built in 1908. The service has been suspended due to COVID-19 restrictions.
The sun is shining and it has been a glorious day which has brought crowds to the beach again. While I pause to enjoy the view a single Red Arrow flies by. I hear the distinctive noise of the engine before I catch sight of him flying low over the beach. I assume he is on his way home after performing at the Bournemouth Air Show which finished yesterday. I am on duty outside the BIC this evening and during our briefing we are advised to be aware that anti-vaxxers have been more active recently. We are told to work in pairs at all times and never to approach a car asking for directions. And that that there have been incidents in London when anti-vaxxers have stopped outside vaccination hubs to ask directions and then thrown acid at anyone approaching the car. We have some excitement outside when a dolphin sighting turns out to be a water skier in the water.
In the News Today
Wetherspoon pubs hit with shortages as toast is temporarily off the menu as a supplier of bloomer bread to Wetherspoons has had labour difficulties. One branch of the pub chain reportedly blamed Brexit as the cause of the supply problem. But a spokesman for the company said supplier of bloomer bread to the company has had labour difficulties at its production facility. It is just a week since some of the company’s pubs ran out of some brands of beer due to industrial action.
Tuesday 07 September 2021
I set off for the National Trust jetty on my bike very early this morning. I am on duty at the Outdoor Centre on Brownsea Island but I am going across early so I have time for a long walk first. Before setting off I put the clicker I had inadvertently taken home on Sunday in the pier warden shed. I walk along the boardwalk and then take the pink path. On the way I climb the gate at an entrance to the Nature Reserve to take some photos of the West Lake.
Further along the path I sit on the seat swing to enjoy the ambiance and the sunlight slanting through the trees. I watch a red squirrel darting through the tree canopy above me. The red squirrels are very active in the early morning – they race across the path in front of me and I hear their claws scratching on tree trunks as they head for the upper branches and then peer down at me.
I keep following the pink path from the pier all the way to the Outdoor Centre. The Tuesday Club are working there today. This club is a group of volunteers who meet there every week to help with various tasks around the centre. When I get to the centre they are about to have a coffee break. A member of this club is celebrating his seventieth birthday a week ago and has made coffee in a cafetiére and has brought a carrot cake to share. It is a lovely way to start my shift. I spend the day working in reception, checking out the departures and sorting out the equipment they have returned.
Canada reopens borders to double jabbed Brits with no quarantine for the first time since March last year. Brits, who are fully vaccinated against Covid-19, can now visit the country without needing an essential reason. They will also be exempt from quarantine measures. Canada was recently added to the green list meaning no quarantine will be required on returning to the UK. But travellers will still need to take a pre-departure PCR test followed by a PCR test on day two of the return from Canada.
Wednesday 08 September 2021
I rush around getting ready to cycle to a coffee morning in Parkstone. I take the new bike and the chain almost comes off twice. But some frantic back peddling stops it coming off completely although it makes a terrible noise and I am worried about doing some damage. As well as drinking coffee and indulging in a selection of home-baked delights we have gathered to watch a head shaving in aid of cancer research. Sue and Beryl are having their heads shaved. I admire their courage and watch in awe as whole heads of hair disappear in a matter of seconds. I leave soon after the deed is done as I have to pack up the car and head for Hertfordshire this evening.
Tour operator offers holidaymakers free Covid tests in industry first as the company On the Beach has announced that it will offer free Covid tests to holidaymakers returning to the UK, after research found that the cost was proving prohibitive to travel.
Green and amber travel lists could be scrapped next month under plans being drawn up by ministers to simplify holidays.Officials have been told to develop a new system based on the vaccination status of travellers rather than the Covid rating of the country they are visiting. It is likely to mean amber and green will disappear as separate categories.
UK likely to throw 800,000 AstraZeneca doses in the bin after take-up falls and vaccines approach expiry date. The doses were destined for use in the UK rollout, but after the Government recommended in May that younger people should get an alternative jabbecause of the blood clot risk linked to the AstraZeneca jab, the take-up slowed dramatically.
Thursday 09 September 2021
As I am leading a city break in Harrogate over the next three days I have an early start. I am travelling by train and have to go into London where I catch the train from Kings Cross to Harrogate. I arrive there around midday and stroll slowly through the town to the hotel where we are staying. This hotel has some history. It was originally a hydro hotel where guests were treated more like patients in a hospital with a strict regime of drinking waters and taking walks. It is also the place where Agatha Christie was spotted dancing in the ballroom following a nation-wide hunt lasting ten days when she disappeared after learning that her husband had been having an affair.
When I get to the hotel I am too early to check in to my room but I can I speak to the Duty Manager to go through the programme for my group. I have a snack lunch in the hotel bar and then settle myself in reception to wait for the group to arrive. As the group is formed of independent travellers they all arrive at different times. After greeting them and getting their menu choices for dinner this evening I introduce them to other members of the group several of whom have congregated on the large lawn outside the hotel. That evening we meet up for a Welcome Drink and Information Meeting followed by a private dinner. I go through the programme for the next two days which includes a walking tour of Harrogate.
In the News Today
Scotland needs independence more than ever before, says SNP depute leader as he hit out at Boris Johnson and his “nasty party”. He condemned the Westminster Government over issues such as the damage caused by Brexit and plans to cut Universal Credit. Following a fourth consecutive victory by the SNP in the Holyrood elections, he said “independence day” is “drawing ever closer”.
Friday 10 September 2021
This morning we go on a guided walking tour of Harrogate with a Blue Badge Guide. We start at the Royal Baths. The building is now occupied by a Chinese restaurant but the original exterior and interior have been preserved. The Royal Hall was originally known as the Kursaal or Cure Hall and provided entertainment for the rich and famous who visited Harrogate to take the waters. It was built in 1903 and re-named the Royal Hall after the First World War. It is England’s last surviving Kursaal and today it is used as a regional entertainment centre.
It is fascinating to learn the history of this town that was once famous for its waters. One has to wonder why due to the pungent nature of the sulphur based waters found there. We stop outside the Pump Room and our guide fills a glass with the sulphur laden water that is found in large quantities in this area. The glass of water is passed around the group so we can smell the water – I step back firmly declining the invitation as I have not only smelt but also tasted similar water in Italy. I don’t need a reminder. I am not surprised to hear that most of the hotels built to accommodate those taking the waters are close to the Pump Room. As there were no public toilets it was necessary to be close to facilities to deal with the side effects of drinking the waters.
During our tour we walked through the beautiful Valley Gardens. These gardens were an integral part of taking the waters in Harrogate. Walking in the gardens and listening to the band that played in the bandstand there were both included in the schedule for the day. We see some of the covered wells while strolling amongst the formal flower beds. There ae eighty-eight wells here and the water from each one is different. Harrogate is no longer a spa centre but, due to the large number of hotels it has become popular as a conference centre.
Boris Johnson to publish winter Covid battle plan including vaccine passports to deal with a “difficult time” with the virus this winter. Among the measures likely to be included are jabs for younger teenagers, a booster programme, flu shots and vaccine passports. The government is expected to take a cautious approach with more than 8,000 Covid patients in hospital in the UK, despite the vaccination programme. The Prime Minister is seeking to avoid controversial lockdowns after some scientists warned a “firebreak” could be needed this autumn.
Saturday 11 September 2021
Today is departure day and the majority of the group leave after a leisurely breakfast. One member of the group is not leaving until this afternoon so we decide to visit the small museum in the Pump Room. It is a fascinating museum relating the history of Victorian Harrogate when it was a famous spa town. A central feature is the original wellhead (one of four under the Pump Room) in the room that was built in 1842 to house the well and its visitors.
We have lunch in the Wetherspoon Winter Gardens. As it occupies the former Winter Gardens built in 1897 as part of the Royal Baths – so the name lives on. This huge building allowed visitors to the Royal Baths to relax and stroll in any weather. When it was opened it was described as the last word in bathing establishments. A wide range of treatments was available in luxurious surroundings. During the 1920s and 1930s it was place where people could relax amid potted palms and listen to music. Today it offers a quick service of good food at reasonable prices amid elegant surroundings. I have one final stroll back through the town before departing for Wetherby where I am visiting a university friend. This evening we watch the sensational British tennis player, Emma Raducanu, making history by winning the US Open Tennis Championship. The eighteen-year old started as a qualifier and did not drop a set throughout the entire tournament.
Expensive travel PCR tests ‘to be axed for double-jabbed holidaymakers’ on their return to the UK, according to reports.Now NHS’ free lateral flow tests could replace the expensive PCR test which is currently required on the second day after arrival and can cost more than £100. Covid tests before leaving Britain also may be dropped.
Sunday12 September 2021
This morning we enjoy a leisurely breakfast while catching up on our news. Around midday we set off for a walk following a path by the River Wharfe. After crossing the river, we walk back through, Wetherby golf course and along a tree-lined path. The trees are already showing signs of a fast approaching autumn. After a lovely relaxing day, I get an evening train back to Hertfordshire. I have to use a bus replacement service from St Pancras to the station in Hertfordshire. There is one waiting so we are soon on our way. The driver is using a sat nav and we go straight to Kentish Town without any problem. Soon after leaving this station he misses a turning and ignores all further instructions and we arrive back at Kentish Town after performing a ten-point turn to get around a mini-roundabout. This time the driver manages to get to West Hampstead without any more problems and each station thereafter.
Unvaccinated and vaccinated people 'not in the same ballpark' of risk from Delta variant - amid fears of new variants emerging and evading COVID-19 vaccines, health experts are emphasising that being fully vaccinated is very different from being unvaccinated. The Delta variant is very dangerous for the unvaccinated, and presents a problem for the vaccinated but at a very different level.
Double-jabbed Britons celebrate unvaccinated sick pay cuts by Morrisons. In a bid to encourage vaccine uptake the store said it plans to cut the amount paid to unvaccinated staff who had been told to self-isolate. It will not apply to those who have not been given the chance to get two Covid-19 jabs or those who have symptoms.
Some Government Statistics
By 5 pm on Monday 06 September, a total of 7,081,927 (total that day 41,912) positive COVID-19 tests have been recorded and the cumulative total of deaths within 28 days of a positive test is 133,274 including a daily total of 45. By the end of the week on Sunday 12 September, the total of positive cases had risen to 7,226,276 (total that day 29,173) positive tests, and the cumulative total of deaths within 28 days of a positive test is 134,200 including a daily total of 56. Total deaths with COVID-19 on the death certificate is now 156,888, an increase this week of 769. (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.