“You don’t mess with the line dancers,” the lady in the cafe at Oldham leisure centre told us.
And you don’t.
We found them in the sports hall – 45 straight-talking ladies who dance, laugh and natter during their weekly two-hour session.
None of them want to lose this time together, but they would if Tier 3 restrictions were introduced in Greater Manchester as they have been in the Liverpool City Region.
“I’d be very sad,” 93-year-old Violet Walpole said. “It’s great for me to keep active.”
The class is her one opportunity to really get out, get active, and see friends for a catch up.
She caught COVID-19 in March, but remarkably recovered.
Violet said: “It is terrible. In all the years I have been here, even in the war, we never had anything like this virus. I know I’m a bit nearer to heaven now but I’m not quite near enough yet.”
She started work aged 14 in Manchester’s cotton mills in the middle of the Second World War.
She shares a surname with the first British prime minister, Robert Walpole, and does have sympathy for the current one.
“I’ve no doubt they are doing their best but they’ve made a few flip-ups (mistakes). It’s terribly hard,” she said.
Violet saw the benefit of political parties uniting in the national interest during the Second World War and thinks it might be time to do it again.
“Why don’t they work together? It might just help.”
Violet’s daughter-in-law Tinna lost her own mother to COVID in March. She’s now doing all she can for Violet, even joining in with the line dancing.
“I just hope they keep these sports places open. People need them for so many reasons,” she said.
“I don’t know what the answer is with COVID. Whatever you do you still need people to act responsibly.”
Oldham has had tighter restrictions since August, but it hasn’t reduced the numbers sufficiently to allow anyone to relax.
Line dancing instructor Rachel Holloway said the class and any exercise in gyms are a “lifeline” that should only be closed as a last resort.
She added: “It’s just really difficult to say to them: ‘Don’t go anywhere and don’t do anything’ because then the quality of life is non-existent.
“If we are keeping the shops open, we have to keep the gyms open.”
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