Plane in a blue sky
Sunday Stills

My (photography and blogging) year in review

It’s fair to say that 2021 wasn’t quite the year I thought it was going to be when it started. Back in last January we were anticipating a possible return to ‘normal’ at some point during this year, with more freedoms and more travelling. That did happen to some extent, but only ‘some’ extent. Never mind, we’re still here and we’ve managed to have a pretty good year, all things considered.

So for Terri’s Sunday Stills challenge, looking back through a rear-view mirror, here’s a month by month reflection on the good, the bad and the ugly of 2021. Fortunately there’s a lot of the first of those and very little of the rest! As I’m currently sharing my favourite images of the year in a series of posts for the Lens Artists challenge, I’ll try to avoid duplicating those here!


Snow in Ealing

London had been in lockdown over Christmas 2020 and as we entered the new year the rest of the country joined us. So it was a quiet month, enlivened by a weekend of snow, an unusual event in London these days. Apart from that, my blog posts harked back to past travels. I reflected on the memorable places I’ve stayed, and on the souvenirs I’ve brought home.


Daffodils in South Ealing Cemetery

Still in lockdown we were restricted to walks in our immediate area. Spirits were lifted by the first signs of spring such as these daffodils in our local cemetery. Another bright note was receiving my first vaccine shot at the start of the month; I left the temporary clinic in our local Town Hall with a sense of optimism and a real lift in my spirits.

In my blog I continued to look back at past travels. And my post about my fifty years enjoying photography as a hobby sparked particular interest and lots of comments.


Mandarin duck, Bushy Park

At the end of March our horizons were broadened by a slight relaxation in the restrictions, and we were able to venture slightly further from home. We celebrated with a short drive to Bushey Park where we enjoyed the first warm day of the year. It provided a welcome change of scene and some new photographic subjects including this Mandarin duck (the same one that ‘starred’ in my selection of favourite nature photos of the year.


With family and with VT friends

Covid continued to restrict our activities during April and my husband had his second lockdown birthday, so we celebrated that, and Easter, at home. But we were able to see my sister and her family for the first time since the autumn, enjoying a Good Friday lunch in the garden of my nephew’s new home.

In the middle of the month hospitality reopened for outside dining; we marked the occasion with a very chilly meal in the garden of our local pub! Hairdressers were able to reopen too, so I had a much-needed cut. I also got my second jab so could consider myself fully vaccinated. Out for a walk one day I captured my featured photo at the top of this post; in ‘normal’ times planes pass regularly over our house, as we’re near the flight path to/from Heathrow, but in lockdowns this is a rarer sight. Seeing this plane was a sign of hope for me, that one day I would be travelling again!

In the second half of the month I was able to resume some sort of social life. I met a friend for coffee, and we had lunch with some of my local Virtual Tourist friends at a riverside pub in Isleworth.


Sunset over a city skyline
Sunset view from the apartment we rented in Newcastle

I had started the year hoping to host the postponed 2020 Virtual Tourist meeting in Newcastle in May; but had abandoned that idea early in the year, rearranging it for September. But with an apartment rental booked my husband and I went anyway, our first visit to his home city since the previous August.

We had a day out in Hexham; visited favourite galleries and restaurants; and met up with friends for a pub lunch and with others for a day of bowling and pub-crawling. Life felt like it was returning to normal, again. Would it last?!


Green valley with small trees
Cardingmill Valley

June’s highlight was a few days away in Shrewsbury, our first ‘staycation’ since October 2020’s visit to Whitstable. On the way we stopped off in Cardingmill Valley, above, which I had often visited as a child. We met up with an old university friend who lives in Shrewsbury, whom we hadn’t seen for years!

Talking of friends, I also spent some time this month with Virtual Tourist friends from up north who were visiting London for their staycation.


Man on a stage with audience in front
Rich Hall at the Ealing Comedy Festival

We made the most of the summer months in London, with exhibitions including a herd of elephants in Green Park, regular visits to the cinema and eating out. After a hiatus in 2020, Ealing’s Summer Festivals returned to our local park and we enjoyed a comedy evening with Rich Hall and Hal Cruttenden.


Moorland with heather
On Grinton Moor, Yorkshire

August was a busy month! We had another staycation at the start of the month, with a few days in Liverpool courtesy of a hotel stay voucher one of my nephews had given us for Christmas.

Later in the month we were off again, for a long weekend in Ripon, Yorkshire. It’s our tradition to meet up in Grinton in Swaledale each August with the daughters of the family my father-in-law was evacuated with. His ashes are scattered on his beloved Grinton Moor (above); so this annual get-together is a sort of memorial to him as well as a reason to visit this beautiful part of the country. On the way home we stopped off at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, somewhere I’d long wanted to visit; it didn’t disappoint!


River with illuminated bridge
Evening by the Seine

In early September we reached a landmark anniversary, and also a sort of landmark in dealing with the pandemic; we celebrated our Ruby Wedding Anniversary (40 years!) in Paris, our favourite European city. We travelled on Eurostar, so it wasn’t quite yet a return to the air; but travelling abroad for the first time since February 2020 felt like a really big deal!

Later that month I again should have been hosting the postponed 2020 Virtual Tourist meeting in Newcastle, in what was intended to be third time lucky! But travel to the UK was still looking far too risky for most of our members. Instead I arranged a smaller meeting on the same dates for members based here.

About a dozen of us got together and enjoyed a sort of mini ‘dress rehearsal’ for what we hope will be a bigger meeting in May 2022. Surely by then…? We explored the city and nearby Tynemouth, and had a day out at the living history museum of Beamish.


Low cliffs by the sea
The coast at Lyme Regis

October is a bit of a birthday month for us; my sister and one of my oldest friends around the middle of the month and my own at the end. So there were several shared birthday lunches and then a short trip away in Dorset for my celebrations. We stayed at the wonderfully indulgent Summer Lodge in Evershott and enjoyed exploring Hardy country as well as a birthday day out by the sea in Lyme Regis. We had also had a day out in Brighton earlier in the month; so this was a double dose of English seaside!


City view with distant river
View over Seville from La Giralda bell tower

In November we had our second short trip abroad, and our first flight since the pandemic began. Our destination was Seville, chosen because it is significantly warmer than the UK in November, was easy to get to and had relatively few restrictions for visitors. We had a wonderful few days exploring this beautiful city, even if it did rain on one of them!


Ornately decorated old-fashioned room
The Court Room at the Foundling Museum

The end of the year brought the new Covid variant, Omicron. It did its best to curtail our Christmas fun, but I still managed to enjoy a drinks evening with the wonderful Plan Zheroes charity volunteers; lunch with old school friends; and a Christmas dinner with visiting Virtual Tourist friends from Hull and Chicago! Some of us visited the fascinating Postal Museum and the moving Foundling Museum in Bloomsbury.

And despite Omicron we were able to spend Christmas Day with my family, unlike last year. There was the tension of lateral flow testing – would we all be negative? – before seven of us were able to gather for a day of feasting, gifting and most importantly enjoying each other’s company.

Chris and I saw the New Year in at home, having cancelled a planned trip to Newcastle on the assumption some sort of post-Christmas lockdown was inevitable. We were wrong, so could have had and enjoyed our trip; but maybe being home wasn’t such a bad idea given the current rate of infections here in the UK.

We drank to an improving situation in 2022 and the hope that we can resume our more adventurous travels at some point in the year!


    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thank you again – I have to be fairly organised given how many photos I take, but I can still take ages to find a particular one! That September get-together was fun (although I don’t count Newcastle as ‘travelling’ as I go there so often!) Hopefully we can have a much bigger meet-up in May 😀

  • Anonymous

    Sarah, this was a meticulously organized calendar with brilliant photos of your past year. And regardless of the pandemic, you certainly did what you could to keep in the spirit.

    Happy Ruby Anniversary! We are right behind you as we were planning last night. There is a little known place in Nevada called the Ruby Mountains. We thought that would be the ideal venue for just us.

    Once again… thank you for your lovely post and positive spirit. Donna

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thanks so much Donna, I really appreciate the feedback on the post, the congratulations on the anniversary AND your persistence in commenting when for some reason WP keeps insisting that I moderate your comments when my settings should ensure that after your first comment on my blog subsequent ones are approved automatically. I have no idea what’s going wrong, but it’s always lovely to hear from you 😘 And your idea to celebrate your ruby wedding in a place with that name sounds perfect!

  • photobyjohnbo

    Nice retrospective! We were scheduled to fly to San Juan Puerto Rico today and to board the NCL Epic for a two-week back to back cruise in the southern Caribbean. With Omicron causing a 4600 percent increase in Puerto Rico and the potential for canceled flights, not to mention canceled cruises, we’ve put our travel plans on hold for now as well. Hopefully the predictions are right and that the current state will “settle down” by the end of the month.

    • Sarah Wilkie

      We’re hoping the same thing too but have reluctantly postponed our planned February trip to Sri Lanka because we couldn’t count on it going smoothly, if at all! we still hope to get away somewhere however, as soon as things calm down a bit again.

  • leightontravels

    Sarah, that’s a lovely collection of shots, especially the Cardingmill Valley one. Looks like a gorgeous place. I do wish you more overseas travel this year, though reading through your overview, 2021 seemed like a pretty good year. We all did what we could given the restrictions. I have enjoyed reading about your travel impressions/experiences and your photos are always outstanding.

  • Tanja

    I think we all expected more freedom and travel in 2021 but still it wasn’t too bad. here’s hoping for a healthier 2022 and more trips!

  • Marie

    This is a great exercise – for everyone. It’s only when we actually sit and list everything, that we realise how much we actually achieved in 2021!
    Here’s to a great 2022 for us all! XXX

  • Heyjude

    You managed a lot of trips, both home and abroad. I shall have to do better this year. Great photos Sarah, and congratulations on the wedding anniversary!

  • Julie

    What a beautiful reflection! Congratulations on 40 years of marriage! Here’s to 2022 and hope it is full of travel (and normalcy).

  • margaret21

    You still seem rather well travelled to me, compared with most of us. Your photo of Grinton Moor gets the Yorkshire Stamp of Approval – as do all your shots. And you were in the Cardingmill Valley pretty much when we were there. Never spotted you!

    • Sarah Wilkie

      I guess we got around a little bit this year, but only seven days spent abroad has to be the lowest since we got married I think! Glad you liked the photo of Grinton Moor. I have so many taken there but only one this year. Likewise in the village 🙂 I didn’t spot you in Cardingmill Valley either 😆

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Yes, it’s lovely around Hexham 🙂 I was actually there twice last year, having not been for ages – with Chris in May and with some of my Virtual Tourist friends in September!

  • Rose

    It’s been a joy to review traveling ‘with’ you this past year and seeing all your lovely photos. I can hardly wait to see where you go next!

  • sheetalbravon

    What a wonderful review of the year gone by! Also your photos are gorgeous, Sarah. A little late but celebrations continue so belated wishes for the anniversary. What an amazing way to mark the occasion! Here’s wishing you many more adventures and tons of fabulous blog posts in 2022.

  • Terri Webster Schrandt

    You did a lot of exploring in your own neighborhood and there is something very special about that, Sarah! As your scope widened, I can see how much you appreciated venturing out. At least you got to travel abroad again. We took our first flight last August as I mentioned and while we were grateful to go, there is still so much to see in our own state that’s in driving distance. I’m glad you shared your Mandarin duck again–spectacular! The shot of the Grinton Moors is gorgeous. too! I’m sure you had fun with your family and enjoyed seeing your groups in person! I believe omicron will snuff itself out as this gets weaker and weaker. Here’s wishing you a fabulous ’22 both in old and new travels, and with your adventurous spirit, I’m sure you’ll be thrilled with your choices. Many thanks for being part of the Sunday Stills family!

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thanks so much Terri 😊 I’m grateful to everyone who hosts such fantastic challenges for us! You’re lucky in the US that you can access so much beauty and variety without leaving the country, as it’s so huge! But even as I write that I realise I’m doing tiny England a disservice, because we have beauty and variety here too 😀 Nevertheless I hope we can spread our wings a bit more in the coming year – and I do think you’re right about Omicron!

      • Sarah Wilkie

        Thank you Katie 🙂 We met at university where we were part of the same circle of friends but we didn’t get together as a couple until a year or so after leaving, when Chris moved to London for work and we started to see more of each other 🙂

  • the eternal traveller

    Let’s hope 2022 is a much better year for everyone. It’s not off to a great start here with Omicron going gangbusters, but hopefully that will improve soon. We do have plans for holidays this year and have fingers crossed that they will all come to fruition. Best wishes to you.

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Yes, the same problem here with Omicron but there are some hopeful stats emerging – I read this morning that the proportion of cases ending up in hospital is five times lower than this time last year! But of course that’s still far too many people 🙁

  • maristravels

    Not a bad year at all by the sound of it and you’ve got wonderful photos to show for it even if a lot of them have been taken in the UK. As you say, we’re thinking ahead to 2022, I’ve got plans for only three trips abroad, Gothenburg, Lille, and Portugal – oh, and Belfast if we can call that abroad! Glad you had an enjoyable New Year even if it was quiet. I think it was for most people. I won a hamper of lovely Sicilian goodies which I’m currently delving into and planning meals around, although I’ve already eaten the chocolate and broached the Limoncello.

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thank you Mari 🙂 Wow, three trips abroad already planned! We’re still thinking about options but not planning properly yet. We’re hoping, if Omicron starts to subside, to pick up a late bargain to somewhere at least a bit warmer in February, and are considering Canada for the summer, but nothing actually planned!

      That hamper sounds like a wonderful win! I love Sicilian food 🙂

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