Saturday, 18th December, 2021

[Day 642]

So here we are the day after my brother-in-law’s funeral and the consensus amongst family members is that we all experienced dignified whilst emotional farewell rites yesterday and my brother-in-law had received a really fitting tribute to his life. Today we had planned to have a toddle throughout Harrogate this morning and to see my sister in the afternoon. The breakfast room is largely self-service and there is only one waiter on duty to cope with anything that needs doing as well as a lot of clearing up. I had chatted with him briefly yesterday about my experiences working at the Old Swan Hotel (just down the road) and this morning the waiter was in the mood to chat a lot more about our mutual experiences of life in the big hotels. He did tell us, though, that the hotel we were staying in had endured three changes of management/ownership within the last five years – the manager himself, though, was not stand aloof but would get ‘stuck in’ to help out wherever a pinch point happened to be. As might be expected, there seemed to be quite a flurry of people booking in for a kind of pre-Christmas holiday day cum shopping trip. I remembered well my Old Swan days when as a 15-20 year old, the locals were treated to a contingent of young female staff (waitresses) who had been supplied by a local catering college elsewhere in Yorkshire and the hotel offered them some accommodation as it needed a lot of extra staff to help to cope with the demands of the festivities ahead. As you may imagine, the local youths working in the hotel were more than happy to receive and induct this new augmentation to the hotel staff and to show them ‘the ropes’ as it were. So after a leisurely breakfast, our first task was to get into town and to buy a charging cord for my iPhone as I had neglected to bring one with me with the other things I had to think about on Thursday morning. Having acquired a charging cord, we set off in search of a coffee outlet but Harrogate is liberally supplied with these. We managed to secure the last seat in one (it was a popular time) but we had the good fortune to have a power point completely adjacent to our table so our iPhone could charge whilst we were tucking into tea-cakes and Yorkshire tea. We texted my sister to confirm it would be OK for us to turn up in an hour or so. The other family members were busy at work or busy entertaining relatives of their spouses who were visiting over the Christmas period. So we journeyed from Harrogate to Knaresborough and spent a quiet and contemplative few hours with my sister where various details of my childhood were revealed that I knew nothing about. One of these involved a stout wooden kitchen table which had a top about a metre square. Apparently, in my imagination this made a wonderful craft with which to navigate God knows what stretch of water. Apparently at the age of about 3 or 4, I had taken one of my grandmothers blue dresses and cut a lare hole in it (for what purpose I cannot imagine) so that I can make either a flag or a sail to expedite the journey of our pretend boat. What happened to me as a result of this I do not remember but I suspect my grandmother did not say ‘There, there – boys will be boys‘ but probably exacted a kind of retribution that would have made an Old Testament prophet grow pale. My sister fed us with some of the left-overs from yesterday’s ‘do’ (buttered scones and the like), so Meg and I did get to consume some of yesterday's victuals after all.

We returned to Harrogate in the late afternoon and were delighted that the hotel had reserved a parking place for us. We made a lightning visit into town where we were tempted into an Oxfam bookshop and bought a couple of items and also a few iron rations to sustain us a little this evening before breakfast tomorrow morning and also upon our return journey. We do not feel inclined to do any packing this evening but may throw things into the suitcase first thing tomorrow morning.

The Omicron variant is spreading fastest in London and 26,000 new cases have been declared in London alone. This has resulted in the mayor of London declaring a ‘major incident’ as hospital admissions have been rising fast but, even worse, staff absences have been going up massive levels. There is now talk of a Plan ‘C’ to act as a follow on to Plan ‘B’ and even of a two week lockdown immediately after Christmas. Whether a lockdown is declared officially or not, some of the country is going into an unofficial deadlock over Christmas with working at home, Christmas parties cancelled, sporting fixtures largely devastated and a general feeling of alarm and despondency.