When reading recently some other people’s year-end round-ups, I felt a familiar sense of FOMO, that in not writing a funny, fascinating and well-written year-end round-up post of my own, that I was somehow letting the year slip through my fingers like grains of sand. It might be easy to say that, for a year like 2020, this is excusable. And yet, when I look back on the year, I can see a number of highlights – some of which came before, or outside of, THE GREAT EVENT, while other highlights happened in spite of it.
To tackle the sense of unaccomplishedness in not writing such a great round-up, I can console myself with two things:
Of the round-ups I’ve read and enjoyed, most are written by the chroniclers of our time – those bloggers who already keep consistent and interesting weeknotes. It should probably not come as a surprise that these people are capable of a good year-end round-up, too.
Secondly, I noticed a curious trend in the year-end round-ups I read: a majority of them referred to their jobs by the number of hours they had worked that year. A-ha. Suddenly the correlation of [people who blog good] and [people who have time to blog good] comes into focus.
This isn’t to say “I’m so sorry for not blogging enough, I’m just such a terribly busy person with my awfully important 9-5 job that I am lucky to have.” I obviously do have considerable spare time which, if I pushed myself, I could commit to such things as good weeknotes or year-end round-ups. But one thing I probably do lack that self-employed/freelancer blogging types have, is routine and self-discipline and so on.
This is all really just to say: kudos* to you, o bloggers. I am grateful to you for keeping the torch aflame, and for a good number of those I follow who manage to do it to a rigid schedule. Your work is not in vain. There are people like me who are always so glad to see a new post appear from a particular blogger at a particular time, knowing I can either send it to my Kindle to read in bed, or save it for a later browser-based session due to that individual’s propensity for including multimedia content and grade-A hyperlinks.
* I noticed in this year’s Strava round-up the use of the singular ‘kudo’, implying that kudos, Strava’s form of ‘likes’ is a plural. Compounding this is Strava’s own suggestion to ‘give someone Kudos’ – I can only give one Kudos, not many Kudo-s. I don’t even want to know if the singular kudo has any grounding in linguistic reality (see also data as a plural), but it just feels wrong somehow. They’re not Mentos, Strava.
If you follow me here, or on Twitter, Instagram, Flickr, or have occasionally visited my Photography webpage (which needs updating) – then first of all thank you and I’m sorry. But second of all, you probably already have some idea of what my highlights of 2020 are like. I haven’t talked much about the lowlights. I’m just not the sort of person who does that in public. My mental health is fragile enough to just try and focus on the things that make me happy, and deal with the less happy things in my own way.
Anyway, some highlights of my 2020 are listed below.
- In January we somehow managed to get away to Bruges for a magical few days. This seems so unthinkable and other-worldly now, in view not just of Covid-19 but also Brexit. But this time last year both those things hadn’t happened yet, and this trip was a breeze.
- We also went to the theatre in January, which isn’t something I do very often at all, to see Hamilton. Despite this being a rare outing of this kind, it still feels remarkably well-timed and I am so glad it could happen.
- Robins! Working from home for most of last year meant I could observe the robins that visit our tiny, strange subterranean garden space. See two runs of baby robins venturing out, learning where the good food was found, and gaining their independence, was a wonderful thing to experience at close quarters. It’s helped me realise (or re-realise) how important outside space is to me. I’m lucky to have places like Hampstead Heath relatively close by, but having a garden directly outside my window has quickly shot up in my priorities (as I’m sure it did for many people in 2020).
- Sunflowers. See above, but we tried to use this strange outdoor space for growing sunflowers this year, and had great results. Some reached 8-10ft in height – probably spurred on by the base being below ground as they yearned for sun. I’ve not grown many things as an adult, but it’s absolutely something I want to do more of. I also grew tomatoes from fresh seeds this year, in an unscripted attempt which I felt was doomed to failure. Well, it wasn’t! They grew marvellously, and I would really like to grow more next year, following the correct advice.
- Running: I have been running for a few years now, but 2020 really gave me the opportunity to put more time into this. Working from home meant I had 30-60 minutes before and after work freed up that were normally spent commuting. In the height of summer I even managed to spend one or two weeks running twice a day. I haven’t managed to extract the raw data, but it is possible that I ran more in 2020 than all the years leading up to it.
- Mushrooms! A friend of ours one day randomly asked if we wanted to go mushroom foraging on the Heath. I was initially quite daunted by the prospect as I knew nothing about mushrooms and didn’t want to get sick. Luckily they didn’t really mean foraging, more hunting and identifying. This led to many more sessions with those friends, new friends-of-friends, and M and I going out doing the same. I have really enjoyed discovering a world I’ve never really paid attention to this year, and especially the photographic opportunities it has afforded me. We are even working on a collaborative zine revolving around mushrooms!
- Cornwall – in August we somehow managed to get away to Cornwall between lockdowns for a nice break away biking around and camping. Looking back now, it really feels like we threaded the eye of a needle in terms of squeezing in a trip like that. But we did, and every stage of it went smoothly. Most of all, the welcome we received in Cornwall was warm indeed. We had been led to believe by the media that Cornish locals didn’t want outsiders potentially bringing the virus to their door. Perhaps that was true in parts, but we only met kind and welcoming folks (apart from that farmer who rather coldly told us the footpath marked on our map was very much not accessible down his track). Getting back to the coast after spending spring and early summer in London was just staggering: I will never forget the colour of the sea and the coastal plants and flowers.
There are many more minor highlights of 2020 I’ve not covered. I haven’t even mentioned going to a talk by Michael Palin this year and finally meeting the man! And we got away to Hastings again in February. I also got a new camera which I am really enjoying using.
And although we only got away for a couple of camping trips in 2020, we have slowly been upgrading our camping (and hiking and bikepacking) gear, and I can’t wait for more opportunities next year to try it all out again. I received a chalk bag for bouldering/climbing last Christmas, which was not used once in 2020 so I’m looking forward to doing that again whenever we can.
And I’m still astonished we were able to watch not one but three world tour bike races on the TV this summer.
Broadly speaking, there have been elements of the government-imposed lockdown that have appealed to my introverted side. It’s quite disappointing knowing we are entering 2021 in much the same (or worse) conditions than we had way back in March. But in reflecting on what I liked about 2020 and ignoring the less pleasant sides of it, I think I can still look forward with some positivity.
Finally, my favourite picture that I took last year (and quickly becoming one of my all-time favourites) combines a number of odd things: timing, happenstance, light, architecture and engineering, and it was taken on a camera I don’t use enough, but love using all the same.