8th January 2022
Life During a Coronavirus Pandemic: Week 92 New Year in Brighton
After a lovely Christmas on the Isle of Man I have a very quick turnaround to spend New Year in Brighton
As my Christmas break on the Isle of Man comes to an end I am asked to tour manage a New Year in Brighton. England has been given the go ahead to celebrate New Year as the government does not intend to introduce any further restrictions. This is despite the record-breaking numbers of new COVID-19 cases over Christmas due to the rapidly spreading Omicron variant. This is good news although we are advised to be cautious and to take rapid lateral flow tests before mixing with other people. I set off for Brighton with a box of lateral flow tests …
Monday 27 December 2021
I start my day with a Belgian waffle, as a treat, for breakfast. It is delicious. A brisk walk along Douglas Promenade brings us to Lord Street in plenty of time for our bus to Laxey. We meet Andrew Scarffe an expert on Laxey and author of several books about the Isle of Man at the Miners’ Memorial in Laxey. It is a privilege to spend some time with Andrew, an expert on the Laxey Great Wheel where we start our visit. This enormous waterwheel is renowned as the largest operational waterwheel in the world. It is currently awaiting repairs but is expected to be operational again soon. There is no coal on the Isle of Man so the Laxey Great Wheel, known as Lady Isabella, utilised water to power operations in the Laxey mine. This waterwheel is decorated which is an unusual feature and so is the spiral staircase that goes around its water tower.
A short distance from the Great Wheel is the washing area, our next stop. The ores were brought here by a miniature railway to be sorted and washed. Lead, zinc and copper were mined here but lead was the most profitable. A second waterwheel is on display in the washing area. This wheel, Lady Evelyn, was originally built at the Snaefell Mine nearby. It was moved elsewhere when that mine ceased to operate. When it was discovered in a museum in Wales it was brought back to Laxey and rebuilt in the washing area.
We followed the Heritage Trail to Laxey Bay with Andrew. This narrow street has a fascinating history and some interesting building including the woollen mills and the old office for the tram that once transported coal from the harbour to the mines to run the little steam engine. The area around the port and the bay is known as old Laxey as the original settlers were fishermen. Our guided tour ended here – it had been a fascinating experience and Andrew certainly brought this historic town to life for us.
PM briefed on Christmas Covid data as hopes grow of avoiding extra restrictions and he is not expected to announce further restrictions to control the Omicron variant in England after being briefed on the impact Christmas had on Covid infections and hospital pressures – a “wait-and-see” approach.
No more coronavirus restrictions in England before New Year, Sajid Javid confirms and New Year's Eve plans in England have been given the green light. He said people should "remain cautious" when celebrating and take a lateral flow test before attending events.
Measures elsewhere in the UK – from 27 December restrictions have been imposed in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland imposing limits on New Year celebrations.
Tuesday 28 December 2021
During our last, lovely breakfast at the Halvard Hotel I take the opportunity to chat to David, Front of House manager and a local celebrity as he also sings in local venues. As our flight home does not depart until this evening we have time to explore Douglas some more and in particular to visit the Manx Museum or Thie Tashtee Vannin. The museum focuses on the Isle of Man recounting its fascinating history from Vikings and Celts to the present day. It also features an art gallery of paintings done by islanders or artists visiting the island. Two hours passed very quickly as we strolled through the small galleries and sat in some old-fashioned stripy deck chairs to watch a video recalling the post Second World War days when the island was at its most popular as a holiday destination. Before leaving we had coffee and homemade cake in the cosy Bay Room Café.
Before the sunsets we have time for a last stroll along Douglas Promenade. This promenade was built on reclaimed land and Strand Street, the shopping street behind the row of grand hotels that face the sea, was originally called Sand Street. It used to be the first street from the sea. Today, this street is busy with shoppers taking advantage of the early Sales. We return to the warmth of our hotel for a cup of tea before heading for the airport. It has suddenly become very cold, so cold our flight is delayed while they de-ice the wings of our plane.
Wednesday 29 December 2021
As we did not get back to Dorset until the early hours of this morning it is a late slow start for us. We do a shop and then have an early lunch at Chez Fred in Westbourne. The special lunch menu is a great deal as it includes fish and chips, a bread roll and a pot of tea. There is no queue when we arrive and the traditional waiting room is empty – this is normal these days due to the coronavirus pandemic and customers preferring to queue in the fresh air.
When will Boris Johnson give his next Covid announcement? Already been forced to introduce social restrictions to combat the new Omicron variant of coronavirus and rocketing infection numbers this month could see him forced to tighten them still further in the days after Christmas.
Thursday 30 December 2021
This morning I am off to Brighton where I am working as the tour manager for a New Year break in Brighton. I had intended to drive there but expensive parking and the discovery of very reasonable train fares changed my mind. Also, I can work on the train which I cannot do in the car. It is a very easy journey and it is not long before I am being jostled by the crowds as I make my way along Brighton sea front to the Old Ship Hotel where I am staying. I spend the afternoon sitting in reception welcoming my group who arrive independently. It is also an opportunity to enjoy some tasty scones with jam and cream and several cups of tea.
I just have time, before meeting the group this evening to make my way through to the main shopping area of Brighton in search of some black tights. It is an opportunity to enjoy the Christmas lights in the town as well as some fresh air. Back at the hotel I host a welcome drink and information for my group of twelve before we have dinner in the hotel.
In the News Today
Anti-vaxxers storm Covid testing centre and trash equipment in ‘disgraceful’ protest Police are appealing for information on the dozens of people filmed taking over an NHS test-and-trace site in Milton Keynes, with one woman captured ransacking an office and apparently stealing equipment.
Friday 31 December 2021
This morning we have an organised visit to Sea Life on Brighton sea front. This lovely Victorian aquarium was opened in 1872 and is the oldest continually operating aquarium in the world. The interiors are stunning and the tanks, fed from the sea nearby, contain an extensive collection of sea creatures. Walking through the underwater tunnel is an amazing experience. I am fascinated by the rays and spend a long time watching them gliding through the water like ships in space.
This evening we meet in the Regency Suite in our hotel for champagne and canapes before dinner in the Paganini Ballroom. This majestic ballroom dates back to the seventeenth century and is perfectly suited to a gala dinner. There is stage at one end and a dance floor. My concerns regarding COVID meant I kept my distance from the dance floor when people started dancing. But, apart from that it was a very enjoyable evening and a lovely end to 2021.
Hospital car parks set to be used as Nightingale ‘surge hubs’ as Covid admissions nearly double and trusts across the country are placed on standby to deal with another surge of Covid admissions. The temporary structures will be put up on existing hospital grounds of eight hospitals around the UK and will be able to hold up to 100 patients.
Saturday 01 January 2022
As I am getting ready to go to breakfast I notice a ruby red sunrise from my bedroom window. I grab my warm coat and head for the sea front. The wind slaps my cheeks and whips my hair across my face and I rejoice in this exhilaration and the sound of waves crashing on the pebbles below me. It is good start to the first day of a new year and I soon forget the sore throat and hacking cough that sent me scuttling to my room before midnight last night to take a rapid lateral flow test. It was negative which was a great relief but also a sharp reminder how easy it is to catch the Omicron variant.
After a leisurely breakfast I have a walk along Brighton sea front before heading for the railway station. The return journey is not as easy as my journey here. Engineering works mean there is a bus replacement service on my line. On arrival at St Denys there are no signs and no staff to point us in the right direction. I was one of a group of passengers wandering aimlessly around trying to find the bus stop. We decided to head for the nearest main road and once there met some people who said the replacement bus had dropped them off ‘at the corner’. We headed for the nearest corner. While we were standing there a replacement bus arrived – and drove straight past us. Some people in the group called Uber cars, jumped in them and left. A very kind student offered me a ride in his Uber car so eventually I got to Southampton Central station and could continue my journey.
Next few days crucial as admissions rise, says health boss The next few days are "crucial" for the NHS as Covid hospital admissions rise across England, a health boss has said. Staff are working "flat out" and under "arguably more pressure" than this time last year.
Secondary school pupils forced back into face masks in lessons Announcing plans to keep schools open Nadhim Zahawi insists teaching will be face-to-face and secondary school pupils will be asked to wear face masks in classrooms again as ministers draw up contingency plans.
UK shops fear gaps on shelves as new Brexit import rules hit The government may be making light of new and burdensome Brexit rules and regulations affecting imports to the UK from the EU which came into force on January 1, but organisations representing small UK firms are not. The firms are worried about the impact on their businesses – and about the choices that will be available to their customers at their favourite specialist stores – on the high street.
Sunday 02 January 2022
Today is TR day – the time has come to complete the dreaded tax return. As I have had very little work this past tax year I thought it would be easy. But I am wrong and I spend most of the day tracking down dividends paid on the few shares I own (minimal) and interest paid on savings (very little). A sore throat and hacking cough (not COVID as lateral rapid flow tests are negative) and bad weather don’t tempt me outside. It is a great relief when, this evening, I finally hit the submit button.
A wounded PM and ailing economy force England to ‘go Swedish’ on Covid Government policy towards Covid-19 has come full circle. For now, at least, tough, officially imposed lockdowns are out. Trusting the people to do the sensible thing is back in.
No need for tougher Covid restrictions in England a decision based on hospital data up to the end of 2021, The numbers on wards and in intensive care were dramatically down on one year ago, showing vaccines and better treatment had put the country in “a very, very different position”.
Some Government Statistics
By 5 pm on Monday 27 December, a total of 12,574,768 (total that day 109,077) positive COVID-19 tests have been recorded and the cumulative total of deaths within 28 days of a positive test is 148,566 including a daily total of 130. By the end of the week on Sunday 02 January, the total of positive cases had risen to 13,235,401 (total that day 137,583) positive tests, and the cumulative total of deaths within 28 days of a positive test is 148,851, including a daily total of 73. Total deaths with COVID-19 on the death certificate is now 172,657 an increase this week of 855. (This statistic lags behind the daily statistics as it is updated on a weekly basis. Monday figures are usually unrealistically low due to difficulty collecting statistics over the weekend).
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.