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!
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.
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.
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.
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?!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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!
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!