12th February 2022
Life During a Coronavirus Pandemic: Week 98 Fun in the Snow
So good to be back on the ski slopes – hearing the swish of my skis, the sun warm on my face and blue skies above stark white snow.
It is very strange experiencing COVID-19 restrictions again as they are no longer mandatory in England. Although Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland still have some restrictions in place but, it is expected, these will end in March. At least the UK is united regarding the rules relating to international travel but I will still have to fill in a Passenger Locator Form and take a Day 2 test when I return to the UK. Day 2 testing ends six days after I get home.
Monday 31 January 2022
After checking on everyone at an early breakfast I set off for the slopes with the group minus two, one not skiing today and the second having his boots stretched and joining us later. The weather is grey and dull but no sign of the snow the weathermen have been threatening. When we get to the top of Sillerenbühl the others go off to ski and decide to wait for the latecomer. I enjoy doing the short, hump-backed red run from the top to the bottom of a button lift. But, every time I do this run I finish below the start of the button lift and have to side step back up to it. Of course, I could continue down the red run but this long run ends up in a completely different ski area. After a while I check my iPhone and discover a message from my latecomer to say he has found the others and is skiing with them. No clue regarding where they are skiing so I am now able to please myself. I found a series of blue and red runs yesterday that were deserted. I ski these runs for a while until my legs start protesting. By this time a strong wind has got up and it has started snowing.
I take the cabin lift back to the village and go back to the hotel. When I join the group in the bar this evening I am summoned to speak to the manager. He tells me, for a second time, my group really must wear masks in the restaurant when not sitting at the table. He said other guests were complaining but, as I am only aware of it happening once, I suspect this is coming from the restaurant manager – a no-nonsense Eastern European. He said anyone not complying would be asked to leave the restaurant. But, some good news, as the weatherman are predicting heavy snow all day on Wednesday the hotel is offering us complimentary hot drinks and cake that afternoon. When we go into dinner I sit at the end of our long table in order to catch anyone who heads for the salad buffet without donning a face mask first.
Brexit Freedoms Bill and what the new draft legislation means for UK Boris Johnson has announced plans for new legislation that makes it easier to rip up EU laws and regulations that have remained in the UK statute book following Brexit. He claims the Brexit Freedoms Bill will “cut £1bn of red tape for businesses, and ease regulatory burdens.”
In the News Today
The Sue Gray report into the alleged lockdown-busting parties in No 10 and Whitehall has finally been made public. The redacted report stated “at least some of the gatherings” she investigated represent “a serious failure to observe not just the high standards expected of those working at the heart of Government but also of the standards expected of the entire British population at the time”.
Boris Johnson to ask Sue Gray for new ‘partygate’ report in an attempt to quell growing anger from his Tory backbenchers and save his premiership. Ms Gray, a senior civil servant, published a 12-page "update" into the claims that revealed a gathering in the Prime Minister's own Downing Street flat was one of a dozen events being criminally investigated.
I'm sorry and I'll fix it, says UK's Johnson after lockdown party report the British Prime Minister apologised and vowed to "fix it" after Sue Gray’s report into lockdown parties held at his Downing Street residence criticised serious failures at the heart of government.
Tuesday 01 February 2022
Another dull day, snow in the air but not actually falling when I set off for the slopes. I make the mistake of leaving my goggles on my helmet rather than pulling them on to my face with the result the foam surrounding the lenses gets wet and when I pull them down they immediately mist up and I can’t see a thing. I clear them but they soon mist up again, and so it goes on and I try to ski by feeling the snow through my skis rather than looking at it. This produces some interesting sensations such as feeling as though I am going uphill rather than downhill. I survive although I do miss the piste a couple of times and end up knee deep in snow. It takes a while to shuffle back on to the piste. I decide to try the long run all the way down to the village despite being advised by the group it involves a lot of poling on several flat sections. I do expend a lot of energy pushing myself along with my poles in some places but the beauty of this run, through woods and beside a small river more than compensates for this.
Soon after I get back to the hotel I receive a phone call from a member of my group who requires a dentist and asks me to try and make an appointment for him at 5 pm today – he is still on the slopes. The hotel receptionist very kindly contacts a local dentist who can only see him in a hour’s time or late tomorrow afternoon. While the receptionist has the dentist on hold I call my client – but he does not pick up. I confirm the appointment for the next day and send a message to my client confirming an appointment for tomorrow. I then set off for the village to check the location of the dentist. As I am strolling down the main street I receive a call from the client – he only read half my message and has flown down the mountain for tomorrow’s appointment today! He is very good humoured about his mistake it makes an entertaining story over dinner that evening. Especially as his toothache disappears the next morning and my first task is to cancel his appointment. All in a day’s work.
World Health Organisation warns countries not to act like 'lemmings' and open up too quickly Its emergencies chief has urged nations to chart their own path out of the pandemic. Denmark was the first EU country to lift all COVID-19 restrictions. The UK, Ireland and the Netherlands have also decided to remove most coronavirus curbs despite infections with the Omicron variant remaining high.
In the News Today
Boris Johnson’s ‘partygate’ shake-up unravels as top civil servant rejects new No 10 job It was hoped Antonia Romeo would take on the new permanent secretary role in Downing Street, but she has declined. It is understood Antonia Romeo, one of the UK's most senior female civil servants, has decided not to seek the newly created permanent secretary role in Number 10.
Wednesday 02 February 2022
Fine, persistent snow drifts past the restaurant window this morning throughout breakfast yet the majority of the group are eager to go skiing. As a thick mist is ebbing and flowing across the foothills and the wind is shaking the trees I decide not to join them. It turns out to be the right decision as they just go to the top, have a coffee and come down again. I spend the day making notes for my report regarding this trip as it is a new hotel for the company I work for. It is very cosy in my room as I have a lovely fire and large windows on the white world outside. I do emerge for coffee and cake in the afternoon and dinner this evening.
Controversial study in which volunteers infected with Covid delivers first results It has shown that it typically takes two days for symptoms to start developing after exposure to the virus. The Human Challenge Programme found that an infection first appears in the throat and peaks after five days, at which point the virus is more abundant in the nose than the upper respiratory tract.
In the News Today
Plan to 'level up' UK revealed Billed as a plan to close the gap between rich and poor parts of the country, the long-awaited "levelling up" strategy has been unveiled. It was a key part of the Conservatives' 2019 election-winning manifesto, has 12 missions, will take until 2030 to complete.
Thursday 03 February 2022
A beautiful pink sunrise over the mountains early this morning heralds better weather today and there is a steady stream of people heading for the one cabin lift in Adelboden. After an early breakfast my group joins them and we take two cabin lifts to the top of Sillerenbühl and then skied down to Geils and go up the H.. chair. This is new territory for me and I stay in this area to explore further while the group heads for another area and some easy blues. I find a long roller coaster run and ski it top to bottom three times before moving on. By this time the sun is quite fierce and the snow is getting soft. I am wearing too many layers but can’t do much about that except open the ventilation slits in my ski jacket. This is true spring skiing but more usual in March than January. I ski until my legs are aching and I am dripping with sweat and then return to the hotel for a long soak in the bath followed by a stroll through the town. I was duped into buying a Travelex money card at Heathrow Airport and it does not work for me at all as my last CHF 10 is locked in the card due to a minimum amount that can be withdrawn. I need to download an app to top it up to the minimum amount to get my money back so I decide to leave it there. I can’t spend it in the village as none of the shops take these cards.
In the News Today
Rishi Sunak announces £150 council tax rebate for most Brits to help with energy price hikes The saving, which will be paid in April, applies to homes in England in council tax bands A to D and covers about 80 per cent of households, the Government said. On Thursday, energy regulator Ofgem announced a record £693 rise to the energy price cap, - a rise of 54 per cent.
Who is eligible for Rishi Sunak’s energy bills discount and council tax rebate? The chancellor told MPs it was “not sustainable” to keep UK energy bills “artificially low” but all domestic energy customers would be entitled to a one-off £200 discount on their power bills that will be applied automatically from October and paid back in £40 instalments over five years. He also said that every homeowner with a property graded in bands A to D would be entitled to a £150 council tax rebate.
Friday 04 February 2022
Final day’s skiing today and the sky is blue and the sun is shining as we set off for the slopes. As we rise up the mountain in the cabin lift we can see that the large car parks below us that have been empty all week are already full. Clearly it is going to be much busier today than it has been all week. There is always a bottleneck at the top of the Sillerenbühl cabin lift and I follow the crowds for a while and then turn off on to a run that is generally deserted. Today I encounter a few tobogganers and some walkers on what is described as a multi-use track. I leave them behind when I turn on to a lovely red run and whizz down to the bottom of the cabin lift. I go back to the top and repeat this experience. Despite the heat and the fast melting snow I decide to ski all the way to the bottom. It is a bit icy in places where the snow melted yesterday and then froze during the night. A small hump back bridge is a challenge as I can see the ice glistening in the sun – I just have to let the skis run and hope I can ride the bumps. I whoop with delight when I succeed – much to the surprise of a pretty black squirrel watching me curiously. Once back at the hotel I have to ensure everyone in the group has returned their ski equipment and paid their hotel bill. We have a very early start tomorrow.
550,000 people in UK still have symptoms after a year as Israel finds more BA.2 cases Israel has announced the discovery of nearly 300 cases of the new Omicron sub-variant BA.2, which some studies indicate could be outcompeting the original version. BA.2 has now been found in 57 countries. There are now four sub-variants of Omicron which collectively account for over 93 per cent of all coronavirus specimens collected in the past month..
In the News Today
Boris Johnson rocked by further resignation, the day after losing four key aides Elena Narozanski quit Downing Street's policy unit on Friday morning. Four key aides left Downing Street Thursday, further piling pressure onto Boris Johnson. Remaining officials who have been implicated in the partygate row are now in the spotlight.
Saturday 05 February 2022
Breakfast at 6 am this morning as we are leaving at 06.30 am. I am very impressed to find a full breakfast buffet has been laid out for us including scrambled eggs and bacon as well as the usual delicious fresh bread and rolls. I particularly like the little brown rolls incorporating pieces of walnuts.
It took a while to load fourteen of us and all our luggage into the small bus that arrived punctually to transport us to Zurich airport. Some of the cases had to come inside the bus and put on the back seat which concerned me but I was reassured as they were all retained by the high backs to the seats. Fortunately, we did not have any sudden braking on our journey down the mountain.
Our journey home was very straightforward and in no time I was back at Heathrow waiting for my National Express Coach back to Dorset.
Israel’s rise in Covid deaths is an important lesson for the UK on vaccines Israel, vaccine star of the pandemic rolled out its initial jabs at great speed this time last year amid the deadly alpha wave. It saw off delta in the summer by pioneering booster shots. As omicron hit, it made fourth doses available to medics and the elderly. But now week charts show Israel’s deaths apparently soaring.
Sunday 06 February 2022
I do something today I have not done for many years – I make a curry for my friend who is joining me for supper this evening. This involves shopping and prepping. My shopping trip turns into a bit of an adventure as I have to visit three shops to find all my ingredients. Complicated by having journeyed to the shops by a bus that only runs once an hour I race around the shops and run through the Victorian shopping arcade in Westbourne finally arriving back at the bus stop two minutes before the next bus. I am still missing one vital ingredient, the curry powder but I have seen it in the local Tesco on Sandbanks. There are only three tubs of the curry powder left whereas yesterday the shelf was full. But one is enough so I am happy. All ingredients gathered I spend the next hour skinning and cubing the raw chicken and can finally relax when the curry mixture is bubbling away on the gas ring. Just the rice to boil when my friend arrives – hoping he will be suitably impressed. He says it is ‘good’ which at my level of cooking is praise indeed.
In the News Today
Boris Johnson close to no-confidence vote, as loyalist MP says end now ‘inevitable’ Downing Street is bracing itself for a no-confidence vote in Boris Johnson’s leadership soon, as his team fight to save his premiership over the Partygate scandal. Members of the prime minister’s shadow whipping operation believe that at least 35 letters have already been submitted.
Some Government Statistics
By 5 pm on Monday 31 January, a total of 17,315,893 (total that day 92,368) positive COVID-19 tests have been recorded and the cumulative total of deaths within 28 days of a positive test is 157,816 including a daily total of 51. By the end of the week on Sunday 06 February, the total of positive cases had risen to 17,803,325 (total that day 54,095) positive tests, and the cumulative total of deaths within 28 days of a positive test is 158,318, including a daily total of 75. Total deaths with COVID-19 on the death certificate is now 178,488 an increase this week of 1,672. (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.