The year that has just past will remain long in all our memories, no doubt, and not for the best of reasons. A year ago the new coronavirus was just seeping into our consciousnesses and we had no idea how it would turn our lives upside down. We certainly know that now!
For the first Lens-Artist challenge of 2021 we are invited to share favourite photos from last year. Like Tina in setting us the challenge, I’ve chosen to share some images that tell my 2020 story – favourites from each month rather than my overall favourites.
Walking through our local park on a frosty morning I paused to take a few photos. I had no idea how many walks I would end up taking in this park during the course of the year; no idea that many of my plans for the year would come to nothing; no idea of the storm that was about to hit us all.
At the start of February we were off on what we thought at the time would be the first of several trips abroad this year; it turned out to be our only one. We toured Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam as the pandemic started to take its hold it that region, but fortunately before things got bad enough to impact on our trip. We had a wonderful time but came home at the end of the month to a country just starting to realise that COVID would affect us too.
At the start of the month we still didn’t appreciate the severity of the challenge facing the world. We met friends in London for lunch; saw a play, a film and a comedy show; and hoped that those who said it was ‘nothing more than flu’ and we could develop ‘herd immunity’ were right. They weren’t.
Lockdown. It was a glorious spring, and the blossom was beautiful, but little else was normal. We learned the new rules, took our daily walks in our immediate area and hunted down toilet rolls. We still had no idea what a long and bumpy ride this would be.
Restricted to walks in our immediate area, and tiring of our nearest parks, we ventured to one a little further away, Boston Manor. It soon became a firm favourite for our daily walks and we often followed its very short nature trail down to the Grand Union Canal, which meets the River Brent near here.
The weather was wonderful. I should have been hosting the international Virtual Tourist meeting in Newcastle at the end of the month but instead we were still confined to London. But the rules relaxed enough to allow us to take a short drive from home, so we ventured to Black Park (near Slough) and Runnymede for longer walks in new surroundings.
With a further relaxation of the rules we were able to see my sister and her husband for a socially distanced lunch in our garden, and to meet a friend for coffee. We also returned to Runnymede to explore its historic memorials to the signing of Magna Carta, and to John F. Kennedy.
Still stuck in London we made the most of the great summer weather with walks by the Thames. Pubs and restaurants re-opened and we ate out for the first time since early March. It felt strange at first to have to wear a mask while moving around inside, register our details, and sit at well-spaced tables, but it soon became our ‘new normal’.
For the first time since February we were able to take a holiday – not abroad, but nevertheless a holiday. We spent a week in Newcastle upon Tyne, as we usually do around this time of year. And before returning home we added on a few days in the Yorkshire Dales, staying in a holiday rental apartment in Leyburn.
Making the most of the relative freedom, we had another short holiday, renting a little mews cottage behind a hotel in Wells, England’s smallest cathedral city. With fun day trips to Glastonbury, Cheddar Gorge and Brean Down, this was a lovely little staycation. We also managed to catch up with an old university friend, meeting up for a pub lunch on our way down to Wells, and squeezed in an extra bit of sight-seeing, exploring Avebury for an hour or so on our way home.
We took our final ‘staycation’ of the year, in Whitstable – our favourite seaside spot in the south east of England. We rented a lovely little house in the centre of town and had some wonderful walks by the sea, the obligatory beer in the Old Neptune pub on the beach, and a side trip to Margate and Broadstairs. Another ‘proper’ holiday, albeit short.
Before the UK went into full lockdown again we managed to fit in an afternoon walk at nearby Osterley Park. It’s only a short drive from our home but we hadn’t been for years. The house was closed of course but we had a very pleasant walk around the lakes in the park, spotting a very untimid heron. Take-away coffee at the stable café and a brief look at the formal gardens rounded off our outing very nicely.
We also went back to Ruislip, the London suburb where I grew up, for a walk in the ancient woodlands there.
I managed a brief Christmas shopping trip in central London before strict restrictions came in again later in the month, with all but essential shops closed and no mixing of households even on Christmas Day.
We had a quiet but pleasant Christmas, and toasted the New Year on the 31st with hopes that the vaccines will give us a brighter and freer 2021.