10th December 2021
Life During a Coronavirus Pandemic: Week 89 Omicron Hits UK
An Illuminated Walk around the gardens and grounds of Kingston Lacy is a highlight this week.
It is a busy week as I celebrate my birthday and enjoy a visit to Wimborne in Dorset. This lovely little town stretches along the banks of two rivers, the River Stour. and the River Allen. Its water meadows are a haven for wildlife and feature otters, king fishers and a large flock of swans. As it is winter the only wildlife I see on my walks there are a lone Little Egret paddling by the White Mill and a solitary swan floating serenely on the river’s current. The rest of the flock are sheltering in a field behind a wind-breaking hedge. Wimborne is fringed by the large farm and parkland that form part of the Kingston Lacy estate managed by the National Trust.
Monday 29 November 2021
After a rude awakening at 6 am by the over exuberant tune on my iPhone I spent some time finding something a bit subtler. House work is next on the agenda, stripping the bed, putting a load of washing on and re-organising my cupboards. Well, putting my system back in place following a visit from my friend. Now I know where everything is once more. A pink glow outside draws me out on to my balcony. Although it is still early the sky is blue and cross-crossed by pink trails no doubt generated by flights out of Bournemouth airport. I no longer feel a stab of envy for the people on those planes – the rapidly changing rules relating to international travel makes a prolonged stay in Dorset even more attractive.
Domestic chores finished it is time to set off for Sainsbury’s as I have a click and collect slot following the online purchase of 12 bottles of Prosecco and wine. I had expected they would be packed in cardboard boxes but, instead they are laid out in two large plastic pallets. I have a slight panic as I don’t have any boxes with me. The driver is very understanding and packs them all safely in one pallet using bits and pieces lying around the boot of my car and I am soon on my way home. I was unaware a substitution had been made and a carefully chosen Italian white wine has been substituted with a Pinot Grigio bottled in in Moldovia. Of course, it may turn out to be a gem but I doubt it. On my way home I am distracted by the sight of a large flock of Oyster Catchers skimming the mud flats in Poole Harbour and finally gathering at the water’s edge. There is always something going on around the harbour which is lovely.
Six Omicron variant cases detected in Scotland, authorities say They are in addition to the three already detected in England.
Community transmission suspected as UK Omicron cases detected with no travel history Six cases of the Omicron coronavirus variant have been found in Scotland - some of them are thought to have no known travel history, suggesting they could have been transmitted within the country.
Boosters ‘to be offered to all over 18s’ to combat the Omicron variant. The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, is expected to advise the use of boosters for younger people, and could also recommend a cut in the current six-month wait between second and booster doses.
Tuesday 30 November 2021
Today I am back in Hertfordshire – still my permanent home although my volunteering commitments in Dorset mean I am not spending as much time there as usual. My flat went on the market last month and was quickly sold, subject to contract so I have started the process of packing up. My friend comes with me and we decide to head into Radlett for coffee and cake at the Teatro Café in the Radlett Centre. The cakes are delicious – in particular the unusual apple strudel cake. We call in at the estate agents where I am told all is going well with the sale of my flat.
After an afternoon of emptying cupboards and packing up boxes we head for a local Toby Inn and a lovely roast dinner – and good value. As we leave we stop to admire a display of Toby jugs. I had not made the connection before regarding the name of the pub with these pottery jugs. A Toby Jug is a pottery jug in the form of a seated person, typically a heavy-set man enjoying a jug of ale. These jugs were developed and popularised by Staffordshire potters in the 1760s. One theory regarding the name is that it is named after the intoxicated, jovial character of Sir Toby Belch in Shakespeare’s play Twelfth Night. Another, that it was named after a notorious eighteenth century Yorkshire drinker Toby Fillpot featured an old English drinking song The Brown Jug, first published in 1761.
England face mask rules return over Omicron fears and are mandatory again on public transport and shops in England in an effort to slow the spread of the Omicron variant. People arriving in the UK from abroad will now also have to take a PCR test and self-isolate until they receive a negative result.
The Symptoms of The Omicron Variant We Know So Far - main indicators are fatigue, body aches and headaches, and patients, thus far, did not report losing their taste or smell as with the Delta variant, and there hadn’t been a drop in oxygen levels as seen in previous variants.
Wednesday 01 December 2021
Dentist and hygienist this morning. It will be a wrench if I have to leave this practice as I have been going there for nearly twenty years and they are like good friends I tell them this may be my last visit but within a few hours I have some bad news from my estate agent – my buyers have lost their buyers. Very relieved I did not cancel my next appointment. Back at the flat the gas engineer is hard at work replacing my gas meter. I have not been able to read this meter for at least two years due to condensation inside the meter. This has been reported on several occasions but I have never had a response. Finally, I manage dto contact someone (the CEO) who actually responded. Once that had been done we could not resist a second visit to the Toby Inn carvery before heading back to Dorset. On the way back we drive through a spectacular sunset on the motorway – as my friend is driving I can enjoy the luxury of taking some photos.
No 10’s big bet on Boosters More than 23m people will be able to book booster jabs by the end of next month after Boris Johnson promised to “throw everything” at the vaccination campaign in the face of the Omicron variant.
‘Armycron’ – it is reported that the PM has mobilised the army to help the booster roll out.
In the News Today
Up to 740,000 cancer cases missed in the “biggest cancer catastrophe ever” as potential cases that should have been urgently referred by GPs have been “missed” since the first lockdown.
Thursday 02 December 2021
Today is my birthday and it starts with a lovely cooked breakfast and two great presents – a beautiful watch and a bottle of pink gin. This evening I join my friend in Wimborne for a home-cooked dinner – a delicious tagine with couscous. We then have a walk into the town centre and stop at the Laughing Moose for a cocktail – I have a Hugo Spritzer which is light and refreshing. It is very pretty strolling through the town already decorated with Christmas lights.
Dozens of maskless passengers hit with £200 fines after rule reinstated -152 people in London were ordered to pay a £200 fine, according to Transport for London (TfL), 125 were asked to leave TfL services, and 127 were prevented from boarding a service or entering a TfL station.
UK agrees deals for 114m more COVID vaccines that could be tailored against variants, bringing a fourth coronavirus jab for British adults a step closer. This deal is with Pfizer and Moderna.
Scientists find 'trigger' of rare AZ vaccine blood clot they say it's linked to a protein in the blood. That protein is attracted to a key component of the vaccine which, they believe, kicks off a chain reaction involving the immune system. The pharmaceutical company is "exploring ways to leverage these findings as part of our efforts to remove this extremely rare side effect".
In the News Today
GPs may stop monitoring vulnerable as Ministers may allow GPs to pause regular monitoring of millions of patients with underlying health problems to focus on delivering Covid booster jabs.
Friday 03 December 2021
A real treat this evening – a walk through the Christmas Lights Trail at Kingston Lacy. We get there just before 4.30 pm when it opens so we have to queue. But this gives a chance to take in the atmosphere. There are food vans, swings and roundabouts in the area next to the car park. The car park is manned by stewards checking everyone has a ticket. When we enter the grounds the trail takes us past the front of the house which is floodlit and changes colour from lilac to purple, yellow, green and red. It looks amazing. We walk along a tree-lined path. The lights in the trees are stunning – some are floodlit with changing colours and one tree is outlined in different coloured lights that also includes the roots.
Ahead we can see the Heart Arch Walk, a line of red giant red heart-shaped arches approached along a path lined with small trees clothed in tiny, sparkling lights that rippled on and off and changed colour. It is very effective. Beyond the arch we turn into the Illuminated Avenue and make our way through a floodlit tunnel of tall trees that change colour as we go by. The notes of lovely music float around us. As we turn back towards the house we make our way along a Snowflake Walk – the surface patterned with giant, laser generated snowflakes. As we proceed, thin, linear lights form angular shapes in the branches above our heads. Through a garden of white roses and into a garden of Triffid-like giant thistles and into the Christmas Cathedral and back to the house.
Germany restricts lives of un-jabbed - new measures will bar the unvaccinated from much of public life. Only the vaccinated or recently recovered from Covid will be allowed in restaurants, cinemas, leisure facilities and many shops as Germany’s fourth wave of Covid is its most severe so far.
Booster study ‘gives hope’ on Omicron – Booster jabs “massively” strengthen the body’s defences against COVID. According to new studies a third dose raises protection.
Saturday 04 December 2021
This afternoon my friend and I go for a walk in Wimborne. We stroll along a Stour Valley Way by the River Stour. During our walk we pass Canford School which is housed in Canford Manor once the home of Lord Wimborne.
We also pass under a magnificent railway bridge crossing the old carriage drive to the manor. The bridge, once known at Bridge 77 is more commonly known at Lady Wimborne’s bridge even though it displays the heraldry of Sir John Guest who bought Canford Manor in 1846 when the railway was being built. This bridge is one of the most ornate bridges in the UK as it was built to resemble a triumphal arch similar to those that guarded grand country estates. It was a lovely walk along the river but we were pleased to get out of the biting cold as we are now in the grip of the winter weather.
In the News Today
The Omicron threat to the economy - Investors around the world suffered “a very black Black Friday” last week, due to the new Omicron variant, according to The Wall Street Journal. The FTSE All World index shed 2.2% in its worse day of trading since October 2020,
Sunday 05 December 2021
Today we take a walk along a different section of the River Stour to admire the White Mill (or Whitemill) that stands by the river in the Domesday parish of Shapwick. The mill, last rebuilt in the eighteenth century, is on the Kingston Lacy estate. When It was a working mill, it produced flour and animal feed. Its millstones turned for the last time at the end of the nineteenth century. It has been preserved to display the rare eighteenth century timber drive gear.
As we stroll along by the waters of the River Stour we see a Little Egret feeding in the shallow water around the mill and a field full of resting swans – an extraordinary sight. It is a very pleasant walk that features a lot of old-fashioned stiles that involved stepping up onto a wooden step and then manoeuvring oneself through a pair of wooden posts in a V shape just slightly larger wider than the average body.
Race to expand quarantine hotels with hundreds stranded in red list countries with hundreds of Britons stuck abroad in red-listed countries because the government has run out of space.
New Covid travel rules ‘too late to stop potential Omicron wave in UK’ The Omicron variant is “spreading pretty rapidly” across the UK and new travel rules will be too late to prevent a potential wave of infections, one of the government’s scientific advisers has said.
Some Government Statistics
By 5 pm on Monday 29 November, a total of 10,189,059 (total that day 42,583) positive COVID-19 tests have been recorded and the cumulative total of deaths within 28 days of a positive test is 144,810 including a daily total of 35. By the end of the week on Sunday 05 December, the total of positive cases had risen to 10,464,389 (total that day 43,992) positive tests, and the cumulative total of deaths within 28 days of a positive test is 145,605 including a daily total of 54. Total deaths with COVID-19 on the death certificate is now 169,020 an increase this week of 1088. (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.