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I spent the early part of today scanning old slides, responding to emails and helping Dawn set up her home office by converting part of the living room into a workspace. That way I work upstairs and the pair of us don’t disturb each others concentration. We’re now set up for the future which is good as I’ve had the last outside job in the diary cancelled today. Thankfully, I have several writing jobs and I can’t thank my colleagues at RAIL enough for understanding the strain that the present situation places of Freelances like myself and standing by us.

With the weather being cold but sunny the pair of us ventured out for an hour in order to try and pick up some fresh produce and a some tinned goods for the weekend. Oh, and some of Tesco’s finest alcohol free Prosecco, which is one of the best of its type. Sadly, we were unsuccessful on most fronts as both the supermarket in Halifax and the one in Sowerby Bridge has already been pretty much stripped clean. There’s tentative signs that some things are easing as people’s deep-freezes and store cupboards must be packed by now. You could still buy some eggs – and bread but in the immortal words of Magician Paul Daniels “not a lot”. A novelty was that the checkouts now have yellow tape on the floor marking out the minimum distance people are being asked to keep from each other (2 metres) – and this applies to customers and cashiers too!

Back home my plans changed when I found that my bank had settled a PPI claim. It was certainly a case of serendipity as the money couldn’t have arrived at a better time. The irony? They sent me a cheque. My bank, whom have all my bank details – sent me a cheque through the post! FFS!…

As their mobile app allowing you to scan and pay them online isn’t yet up and running I had to walk into central Halifax and pay it into a bank branch. It’s so long since I last visited that I was surprised to see they’d closed all their counters and replaced them with machines and a few roving staff. Gone are they days when you stood in a line to see a bank teller behind a bullet-proof screen. I can’t help wondering how long the NatWest will hold on to such an enormous building that was built for a very different banking age, when such institutions used architectural pomp to present power and stability. It must cost a pretty penny to operate yet the footfall will be tiny compared to just a decade ago, never mind its heyday.

As I was in town I decided I might as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb so I caught the train into Manchester. I was fully equipped with hand-sanitiser and on my Jack Jones so there was no problems with social isolation! My plans changed when I realised just how many services Northern were cancelling due to staff shortages. I’d an inkling this was happening as both my Facebook and Twitter feeds were busy with rail industry friends saying they were starting to self-isolate due to having diabetes. I’d never picked up that this was such an issue before, nor the fact that the problem is so common. Instead of Manchester, I found myself checking out a deserted Leeds station and an unheard of situation, especially on a Friday – the Wetherspoons was deserted!

The front of Leeds station at 14:51. Not how you expect to see it on a Friday…

As a plan B I caught a pretty empty Trans-Pennine Express service across to Manchester in order to be able to relate a tale of two cities. It was very instructive as it’s clear more and more people are starting to self isolate as the magnitude of the problem finally sinks in. The train was quiet with around a 8-10 people in the carriage after we left Huddersfield. In Manchester there were still people around but nothing like the numbers I saw earlier in the week. The demographic seemed to have changed too. It was much younger, with far less older people about. Most station retail outlets were deserted and many on the mezzanine floor of Piccadilly had already closed down for the duration, with areas taped off to the public. Others had become refuges for railstaff taking breaks who wanted to self-isolate. That message is really getting through. Here’s how Manchester’s two main stations looked in the Friday ‘rush’…

Manchester Piccadilly, 16:38.
Manchester Victoria. 17:11

I headed back across the Pennines on the 17:20 from Manchester Victoria which would normally be packed but it was eerily quiet with around a dozen people in my car. On arrival at Halifax I walked back and decided that – as I was passing – I’d pop into my local supermarket on the way home. The news that the Government was telling all cafes, pubs and clubs to close from this evening had obviously already got through as the drinks isle was almost bare of wines and beers had disappeared completely! It looks like we’re in for turbulent few weeks…I’m now back at home and settling in for the duration. Dawn and I will still get out and about of course, we’re not going to become hermits but we are going to be practising social isolation. I’ll tell you what though, it’s going to be one heck of a day when the pubs re-open! Well, most of them anyway.

Allow me a certain amount of schadenfreude at the discomfort of Tim Martin, boss of Wetherspoons, who earlier today complained closing pubs was ‘over the top’ and the equivalent to ‘shutting down Parliament’. Suddenly, the man who was treated as an economic expert by the media over Brexit and who helped foist that shambles upon us is now being treated as an expert on contagious diseases. Of course, the irony is that by closing his establishments they Government has probably saved his business as many of his pubs have a reputation for being ‘care in the community’ day-centres, just with alcohol. Many of his punters are in the demographic that the Coronavirus would decimate!

The country may well look a little different by the time we come out of all this…