Well, we’ve reached the end of 2020 (nearly), and I’m not sure we can breathe that sigh of relief quite yet. It’ll be a never forgotten year in history, and one that I’m sure we all wish was long gone into the back of beyond.
I still wanted to do a round up of the year, even though we’ve done very little. Apart from a few days away in February, since March we’ve hardly left home apart from tennis lessons, school, INR appointments, visits to the village shop and post office. And the very rare trip into town for necessities and takeaway hot chocolate treats. We’ve just not been anywhere.
Here’s how the year went for us and my thoughts on the end of 2020.
Trips and days out
In the first couple of months of the year we managed to get out quite a bit. We did a post Christmas trip to Blists Hill and Enginuity which was more fun than N expected. It’s a great area up at Ironbridge because there’s lots of museums to choose from.
I made use of a flexi day to get to Hughenden – with N at school I didn’t have to worry about his moaning about me taking too many photos.
We used half term to get away for a few days, staying in Cambridge to explore there, before heading up to visit my best friend at her parents’. It was a rapid fire trips from one place to the next, but we were lucky to have at least one holiday break this year.
Post lockdown, once everything opened up, we visited one of N’s favourite places, West Midlands Safari Park. Despite the supposed limited numbers and prebooked tickets, the safari part was absolutely rammed with queues to arrive, and driving round. It was the last day out of the year for us.
I had worried this year that my top posts’ traffic dropped right off as soon as the pandemic hit. Who wants party bags when everyone’s in lockdown! Thankfully everyone started buying puzzles and my Wasgij posts took off, plus my tips on helping children read, do handwriting and other education posts did well through home schooling periods. A couple of new posts on ultimate flapjack and 4 ingredient cookie recipes flew as well.
Pinterest dropped right off from March, after my account got closed having got accidentally marked as spam. It’s back to it’s old regular level, but missed out on the trajectory it was showing pre-March. SEO has been great this year – and I hit my annual best traffic numbers by August. Unbelievable as usually I’m reliant on Christmas post traffic – and it only took 8 years and a lockdown! So a happy year for blogging. Especially as my ad revenue jumped up in line with my traffic, so my blog is paying for itself (mostly) without having to find sponsored posts and other blog work.
I also got back into Instagram after letting it slide. It’s a slog and takes a lot of time to gain followers and hold on to them, but I managed to reach and hang on to 4500 for a while until Christmas hit and it’s on the downward trend again (if you’re not following me over there, do check out my account and follow me if you like my photos – shameless plug!).
One fun thing I did was a 5 day stop motion prompt course, trying out short stop motion films. I had a lot of fun with those, and want to find time to do more. After dabbling with TikTok, these are a bit more creative and give me a reason to post on there too.
Covid times – our experience
We’ve been lucky ones. My work is very flexible and able to have everyone working from home. I’m not a fan of working from home, I miss being around other people in the office. But Zoom and Teams are so much better than the phone. Being able to see people is better for me as I prefer face to face discussions.
The flexibility has been brilliant – I’m now able to work around school drop offs and pick ups daily, where being in the office usually means I get 1 pick up a week from school. I’ve still got my job (and we’ve been busier than normal), I’ve been able to work even when N was being doing school at home. And for the farm, it’s still mostly business as usual.
Being on the farm we have the luxury of space, and easy access to the outdoors. We’re in our own bubble away from the world, or that’s what it felt like when no sports or activities were on.
Having got a puppy at the start of the year (with another for the in laws), N has loved being able to train her – he did one training session learning how to train in basic puppy skills. They’ve really bonded through him taking her out for walks when he’s not at school.
N’s also made friends with 2 calves he hand reared. Now they’re in with other cattle, he goes and gives them a scratch. He’s decided he wants to negotiate having one of the limousin calves so he can halter train it. A bit ambitious, but he’s pretty determined.
We relied on deliveries – local butchers and produce were delivering which was handy, rather than going out and about. And with the inlaws next door, it was easy enough for N to still see them outside until the weather turned later in the year. My brother lives in a nearby village, so he’d pop over to see us outside or talk through the kitchen window. Later, I’d bump into him when I was at the village shop or post office. With the rest of the family, speaking to them has been limited to doorstep present drop offs.
The one positive (although painful having to cook 7 days a week all year), was family dinners every day. Usually we would only get to do that 4 days a week, but it’s been nice to have that every day.
Activities and school
Our school have done a sterling job this year. As I was working from home, N didn’t have to take a key worker space at school, and even once they opened up to most children, we decided he’d just stay home as it was working fine. He had plenty of school work, and he’s quite dedicated to work hard and do what he’s meant to. He also had lots of time on the farm.
Once back in September, N’s got on fine moving into the top class being taught by the head teacher. He was also recognised as a valued, role model in school and was chosen to be one of the prefects.
He’s now got overlays to help with his reading fluency, and we followed up school’s check with an optician’s visual stress test to confirm the improvement they made.
He’s enjoying being in Year 5, and it turns out hockey is his thing with him really enjoying playing a few times a week. There’s so far been no Covid cases at school, no isolating bubbles, and hopefully that will continue. Using online streaming, the school are still managing to do a lot of the fundraising and occasion events they would have done before.
The biggest loss this year (apart from N stopping swimming lessons earlier than I’d planned) was N’s opportunity to do the county tennis training sessions. They managed to get 1 session in Spring before lockdown happened, but all the others were postponed, and eventually cancelled. While they’re hoping to start again in February, it’ll be reduced numbers, N will have moved up an age group, and hasn’t played enough matches for them to see his play. Given our county is currently in Tier 4 and lockdown for the whole country is surely on its way after Christmas, I doubt that N will get his place in the training squad again even if they are able to start again anytime soon..
Thankfully once tennis was able to start up again for the children in July, that’s meant a bit more normality and routine. N was back to playing 2-3 times a week, a group session and private. Then adding club junior sessions.
He’s still loving tennis and while we’ve struggled on getting team matches played and matchplays cancelled due to weather and lockdowns, he’s still really focused on working hard. With a new temporary coach who he thought was great over the summer – teaching him a new grip and footwork, and a new coach from September who’s really young and taking all the sessions, hopefully this now means more consistency and progress once we can get past the repeat closures due to Covid.
N did suffer a lot with tonsillitis this year, since lockdown in March. Over the 6 months up to September, N had tonsillitis 7 times, with another 2 within the year. Thankfully once back at school, he’s only had it badly once, with a couple of colds with sore throats.
He was referred for a tonsillectomy back in July, but due to Covid risk in hospitals, we agreed to a check back in 6 months, for which we’ve got the appointment through. I’m not holding much hope given cases are rising, therefore the risk to benefit will have reduced further than before, and hospitals will be even busier. So we’re hoping the incidences of him being ill have now reduced and he’s growing out of it.
Lack of dancing
My dancing has definitely stopped – pre Covid, my plan had been to start back again around Easter time, but obviously partner dancing will be the last activity back allowed given the close contact with lots of dancers in one night. I did some online classes until May when they moved to set times that clashed with N’s bedtime or teatime. I loved doing some ballroom and latin because usually you need a partner to go to classes, but solo online classes were great. I’m kind of hoping the option for these continues once everything is back open again in future.
The lack of being able to get back to dancing and no willpower to keep up with my diet (I’d lost a substantial amount from January to March) when I was now having to cook 2 different meals 7 days a week, meant I’ve put on the weight I’ve lost. The fitness I’d improved has gone – in the office I’d be able to get out for walks at lunchtimes, but at home I just don’t find it motivating to walk in the fields. Next year I need to get back on track again.
Thoughts about 2020
There’s not much to say about 2020 other than we made it through unharmed and not getting Covid. We’ve been able to see a few people locally through tennis, and school and work are going fine.
While others have really suffered with illness, isolation, being away from friends and family, and economic pressures, we’ve been lucky to to be relatively unimpacted.
N like many children has been absolutely fine this year. He even announced a few days ago that “2020 has been really good for me. I’ve been on the farm lots, I’ve got my calves, and the dogs, and school’s been good”.and “the food’s been good too. Being at home and cooking all the time means we’ve had lots of nice food, and your cooking’s improved too”. Cheeky thing, it was never bad, but crikey I’ll be pleased when I get a break from cooking.
So while 2020 has been the oddest year, and hopefully one that will never be repeated again (fingers crossed 2021 isn’t as bad). There’s been a whole lot of positives to take through to next year and beyond.
Thanks for reading the blog this year. I hope you’ve been able to get some positives from 2020, and happy new year into 2021.
Shame about the dancing. Similar in our house where the kids have hardly had any gymnastics lessons this year. Thank you also for introducing me to Wasgij puzzles. I can see why they have proven so popular on your blog. Best of luck with 2021!
The puzzles are nuts. I never know so many people went mad for them! Haven’t been able to get hold of any of the newest releases either, so resorting to look out for them second hand. All the best for 2021 for you too John.