I haven’t written a yearly review since 2008. But 2020 has been such a peculiar year that I felt it was appropriate to spend some time looking back.
For many, 2020 was a dark year, indelibly marked-out as the year of the virus. But, 2020 didn’t start this way. January 1st was just another new year day, like many others before it.
We took our traditional walk with friends in Arundel, followed by lunch in a nearby pub. The children were over-excited and loud. We inserted ourselves into the restaurant area, trying to ignore whatever mischief the young 'uns were making the other end of the table.
I took it all for granted: The laughs; the children hugging their friends; the ordinary, everyday-ness of sitting in a pub encircled by people.
Later in January, we took a short break at Center Parcs in Woburn Forest, it was glorious! I’m so glad we got to do this, in sweet ignorance of what this year was about to unleash.
February is fuzzy, and was notable for only a couple of things: It was the only time my parents got to visit our house all year, and I ran the Brighton half marathon.
It seems incredible to me now that we spent February much like any month. We lived our lives and raised our kids. Reports of a strange new virus had started pouring out of China, but I didn’t pay them much heed. Stupid, now, looking back on it.
In March, there was a global pandemic that shit all over everything. Coronavirus spoiled all our fun and took away our freedoms.
To add injury to insult, I found I couldn’t walk properly. My foot didn’t give me any warning; it just decided to hurt like a bugger one morning. Weeks later, a small hair emerged from my heel. I spent almost three months hobbling about, thanks to a simple hair splinter.
Suffice it to say that March wasn’t my favourite month.
One saving grace was technology. Thanks to everyone having cameras in things we could see and speak to family and friends almost as if there were in the same room. Remote meetings eventually became tedious, but I think they saved my sanity in the beginning.
As we entered April, the reality of the lockdown started to kick-in. However, mixed-in with the mind-numbing conformity of each day were some unusual experiences:
- The government shut everything, including the local leisure centre, which allowed Roo to race her scooter around its deserted car-park.
- We felt so guilty about Roo not seeing her friends that we brought a trampoline that was too big for our garden.
- We ate almost every meal together as a family.
- I cycled hundreds of miles through a virtual world.
- I turned 40, and my friends organised a surprise online party.
- Katie home-schooled Roo while looking after a six-month-old baby.
- I rather enjoyed working from home but was thankful for my office space in the shed.
- I spent every lunchtime with Roo in the field near our house for her “PE lesson.”
May is Roo’s birthday month, so we pulled out all the stops to make it memorable. Even though she couldn’t see her friends, we still had a party and played all the classic games: Pass the parcel, knife and fork chocolate eating and pin the tail on the unicorn.
May was when we started venturing further afield. We spent a lot of time in Highdown Woods in Arundel, where it was easy to social distance.
By the start of June, cases had started to decline. We felt a sense of hope, believing we’d broken the back of the pandemic. I felt confident enough to meet some mates on the beach for a drink. It felt good to see friends for real rather than through my computer screen.
As I’d not had a haircut since February, I was starting to resemble a cave person. In desperation, I let Katie cut my hair. Just a bit of the back, but it made me feel human again.
The big news in June was household bubbles! As Katie’s mum lived alone, she was able to join our bubble. It meant she could cuddle the children for the first time in months. I was missing my parents too, but I’d have to wait a little longer to see them.
July stands out for three things:
- We had our first crop of home-grown peas.
- I finally got a full hair cut (from a professional).
- We went on holiday to the New Forest.
A holiday felt like an absolute luxury. I think that made us appreciate it all the more. We also booked the first cottage we found that was free. What a revelation! Usually, I’d spend hours online looking for the best deal or the most favourable reviews. We did none of that, and it was fine. I think we’ll deploy this tactic more in the future.
The start of August was hot. Too hot. The temperature in RooTwo’s room hit 32℃ one evening. Still, there was little to complain about, cases of the virus remained low, and we had a lot of fun in the sun.
I took delivery of my beautiful new Ribble CGR Ti gravel bike. I won’t bore you with the details, suffice to say that she is a thing of beauty.
We cultivated some butterflies that Katie had ordered by post. Several weeks ago they’d arrived as five frightened-looking caterpillars. Now they were confidently fluttering their way to freedom; it was all pretty amazing.
By far the best thing about August was seeing my parents. Restrictions had eased to such a point that we were able to spend a whole week with them. I’m so grateful that we got to spend the time with them, even though it was entirely too short.
In September, Roo went back to school. It must’ve been weird for her after all those months at home. It was surreal for us, too.
Paul and I went bikepacking in the New Forest. It was a great trip, even if we did almost get trampled by a cow. Back home, Roo and I had spent the night under canvas in our garden. I think she did pretty well for her first night in a tent, even though it was freezing in the early hours.
RooTwo turned one; where did that time go? And what a tumultuous way to spend your first year on Earth.
He’s a rambunctious little man, always emptying cupboards or dropping things down the loo. I can’t wait to see who he becomes over the next year. He fills my heart with joy, my beautiful boy.
Coronavirus rumbled on and treated us to a second wave. How kind. The government ordered another lockdown. In contrast to the first, this tightening of restrictions didn’t feel unusual. We were used to it, and it helped that Roo was still able to go to school.
We returned to our old stomping ground at Whiteways Woods. We also spent a lot of time in local parks and on our beautiful beach. We are fortunate to live by the sea, after ten years it still makes me feel like a kid on holiday.
December started well, it looked like the lockdown had worked, and cases began to fall. We were able to visit the Amberly museum where Roo took part in their Christmas elf trail.
Later in the month, we splurged on a visit to the light trail at the Wiston Estate. The lights were spectacular!
Christmas day was quiet. We couldn’t see my parents and Katie’s mum wasn’t feeling well. Just the four of us, then. The weather was magnificent; a blessed relief from all the rain of recent days. The children opened their stockings in the morning, and we went for a walk before lunch. A bit of prepping the night before meant we were relaxed. In the afternoon, while RooTwo slept, Roo opened her gifts from us. It wasn’t what we wanted, but the kids had a nice day.
As we near the end of the year, a new variant of Coronoavirus is rapidly spreading. It’s 60% more transmissible, and is infecting more young people than previous strains. West Sussex quickly followed London into the new “tier four” restrictions. It’s an uncertain and worrying time. We now have a vaccine, but it remains to be seen who will win the race: Us or the virus.
Happy new year, everyone!
My year in numbers
- I listened to 9,272 tracks, an average of 25 per day,
- Unsurprisingly, my favourite artist was Mike Oldfield; I listened to him 1,027 times.
- My favourite track was “Everything in Its Right Place” by Radiohead; I listened to it 63 times.
- “Your Song” by Elton John made a surprise appearance on my top tracks. When trying to get RooTwo to sleep, Elton helped!
- Steven Wilson was my favourite new artist; I listened to him 435 times.
- I went cycling 122 times and clocked a total distance of 2,538km.
- I spent 112 hours in the saddle.
- I went running 85 times and travelled 470km; that’s an average of less than twice a week, but I did have three months off thanks to my foot.
- I spent 38 hours in running shoes.