I will never forget 2020

Empty roads, pubs in darkness, restaurant carparks empty , a most eerie feeling as I drove through a local village around 10pm in December 2020 . For a few moments I'd forgotten what was happening as I lost myself in the music blaring from Maddies audio system . This close to Christmas the village should be alive with the sounds of the  annual Christmas Carol Concert , the narrow streets  packed with folk & filled with Christmas Spirit . But not this night , not this year  , this was more akin to driving in the aftermath of an apocalypse  , the village was deserted , most un-nerving & I wanted to get home , to the safety of my little house .   


2020 started pretty much like any other year , the Christmas break allowed me to spend some time with my parents & start planning a few trips which is probably my favorite occupation after photography. 

 1st up was a few days  in the South of the UK , exploring locations in Devon that I'd been eyeing for quite some time  , the weather wasn't what I'd hoped for but that is a risk all landscape photographers run as the UK climate can be fickle at the best of times & mid winter is always a gamble.   I will say at this point that I tend to avoid listening to, watching or reading anything vaguely "in the news" , life is too short to read such depressing things I feel .   

I then squeezed in a long weekend in Scotland , more changeable weather but glorious none the less  ,some fabulous reflections at Glencoe Lochan & much moodiness at the Buchaille Etive Mor.

 Next up was a long awaited trip over to the Rock , also known as The Isle Of Man . This is a magical little place dropped in the ocean between the UK & Ireland. The weather is even more unpredictable than the mainland but that is half the appeal , it is stunning beautiful whatever mother nature throws at it .  My love affair with the Island stems from my love of motorbikes  & going back in 4 wheels rather than on 2 wheels held a slightly bitter sweet taste . Doing a lap of the circuit would feel most odd indeed but just had to be done .

The UK was being battered by storms in February , Storm Dennis was the 1st that threatened my trip though thankfully it passed 2 days before my Heysham Sailing on the Ben Mychree   . Whilst on the Island the weather was changeable but pretty normal , then  a couple of days before I was due to sail back Storm Ciara hit  & again I was left wondering if I would make it back to the mainland. 36 hours before my sailing & all boats were cancelled  but I wasn't overly concerned as I have friends on the Island & there are worse places to be stuck . With 12hrs to go Steam Packet announced sailings would go ahead , it would be a rough crossing indeed but as I would sleep for most of it I wasn't worried .

I would be forever grateful in 2020 that I had those 3 trips away . My moto is get out there & do it as you just never know when you won't have the luxury of being able to do it  .


February 15th - Caroline Flack took her own life . I wasn't a fan girl , only really knew her from Love Island ( yes, sorry , I'm an avid watcher of the programme ) & yet her death hit me like a ton of bricks . I still don't understand why but even now, some 12months later I can't watch anything on TV with her in or read anything about her without crying . Maybe it was because she seemed so happy , so full of life , so young ?  I'm holding back the tears as I'm writing this .


I began to  be aware of something unusual happening in the world around the beginning of March  , although I avoid the News my colleagues  would discuss world events  & as I caught wind of this Virus thing I started to make an effort to see what was happening. 2 Weeks in to March  I started to realised how serious the situation was , stories from around the globe of countries going in to lockdown, re-patriation flights from all countries & the deaths , daily announcements of hundreds of death from this silent invisible killer & obviously the reports of Loo roll & flour in short supply . Schools had already begun to close & a couple of my colleagues had been forced to go home as they had no child care arrangements at such short notice  -  I think the schools involved gave 1 or 2 days notice. Sanitising every touch point was already the norm as was the daily hunt for a store that hadn't sold out of loo roll -  I will never understand why folk hoarded the dam stuff !


The 23rd of March will be forever etched in the annals of UK history & , for this generation at least , into our memories . Boris Johnson addressed  the Nation at around 8pm & announced the country was going in to a Full Lockdown for 6 weeks , all non essential business were to close, the elderly & vulnerable were to go in to Isolation , we could only leave our homes for a very limited & very specific set of reasons & mixing with anyone other than your household ( with a few exceptions) was prohibited. 

The world had effectively been stopped  .

Arriving at work the following morning there was an air of disbelief & shock , emails started flying in to our inboxes from head office as everyone tried to  make sense of what had been announced & how we should go about closing our business ( I work in the motor trade ) . Even so, we were all pretty optimistic that the situation would be resolved within a few weeks & life would return to normal , this little blip would be a short lived event.  Those of us that remained in the business to complete close down were issued with Key Worker letters should the police stop us on our commute in -  this probably seemed the most bizarre thing of all , the thought that the Police might actually pull someone over & interrogate them about their journey .

The 26th March will stay with me forever , it was my final day at work , close down procedures had been carried out, an unfeasibly large amount of vehicles had been crammed in to a very small workshop , the coffee machine de-commisioned, everything that could be locked was & all the lights were set to night .  Walking out of the building for the last time, saying goodbye to everyone still seemed almost normal , its what we did for the Christmas break after all , this was just going to be a slightly longer break . The thought of being stuck at home for 6 weeks hadn't really sunk in , the 1st few days , maybe the 1st week , was bearable because it was just like being on holiday except you couldn't go anywhere other than the shops for food. Never had a trip to the supermarket seemed so exciting ! 


Watching Boris at his daily televised briefing became the norm , along with DIY,  housework & walking . Along with most of the UK I redecorated the house , painted the garden fence, cleaned the decking , re-discovered my very over grown garden & took to walking around my local area on my daily exercise . I will be quite happy if I never see a paintbrush again  ! Thankfully Amazon was still able to operate , the local supermarket sold paint  ( & loo roll eventually came back in to stock ), a lot of stores started home deliveries & the weather was sublime ( the best summer since 1976 I think ) so all in all , 6 weeks paid holiday wasn't actually as bad as it sounded . 

I was however , chomping at the bit to get back to work  ,  words I never ever thought I'd utter . Almost daily I was in touch with my bosses , thank the lord for all the modern tech that allowed us to keep in touch, Whatsapp & Facebook have never been so used . I'm not a big user of Facebook but during those 6 weeks it became something of a saviour ,The Coronabears provided daily smiles & a couple of Zoo's started live streaming which was just fabulous to watch .  


At the end of week five  4 of us went back in to work to start the opening procedures & get the site set up to be Covid Secure which basically involved moving all the furniture around ensuring a minimum 2 meter distance between everything along with ensuring we had plenty of Sanitizer & cloths. Videos were made & posted on line of the new 1 way systems in the showroom , check-in & check out procedures were modified & we went to Appointment only . At face value this should have meant less work & a more streamlined flow of customers, the reality was far from that but at least we would be open & heading back to some sort of normality .

May 11th , after 6 long weeks we opened our doors to the public & settled in to this new normal of facemasks  & gloves , of cleaning seats & desks after every customer , of no hand shaking  or sharing pens , no road tests & sitting behind plastic screens , all these things designed to stop the spread of this virus .  Life felt good if a little odd  but a little odd was a million % better than painting & decorating .The team soon got in to the flow , business picked up & things appeared to be going well until Tuesday 9th Jun when we received an email from Head office informing us of a site meeting to be held on the Wednesday of the same week. Rumours started flying , as they do , everyone had their own idea of what would be said , my boss kept his mask firmly in place but I could see there was worry .

It may seem overly dramatic to say this but my world (& that of my colleagues ) collapsed on Wednesday 10th June , our site was being closed & we were being served notice of redundancy . This place had been my home from home for some 18years , my colleagues were my extended family ( complete with bickering) but we were a team & on the whole we worked well together . Standing in the workshop, socially distanced , I held it together  , just , until I was given my letter . I almost ran outside, desperate not to breakdown in front of management & colleagues .The floodgates opened & I cried my heart out , social distancing went out of the  window & some of us hugged , the break up of a family is bigger than any virus !  The rest of the day passed in a blur , trying to be normal in front of customers until the company issued it's press release . We were a small branch , many of our customers were  friends , many had been coming to us for 15 or 20+ years & breaking the news to them was one of the hardest things ever , having to sound up beat & positive when inside part of you was dying .                     

We went out with a blast though , how the police didn't turn up & fine us all under Covid regulations I'll never know . Once the close down was completed we had a site party in the showroom, everyone bought beer or wine , past members of staff  came along & we all had stories to tell , memories to share &  disbelief at what had happened .  I was determined not to weep any more & almost managed it , then Wendy turned up & the floodgates opened for both of us .We had worked together for many  years & we both loved the place .Can you suffer heartbreak over a work place ? Apparently so . I'm not a drinker so left before the party degenerated totally , driving out that last time , knowing I would never return , almost broke me .  

I knew life would go on , the company was trying hard to relocate all of us ( a sister site had also been closed ), lists of internal vacancies were received , applications sent off ,  my CV was dusted off & updated  & interviews attended .  I'm rubbish at interviews which may explain why I've stayed with the same company for nigh on 27 years  & the same brand for 30 years but I gave it my best shot . After a couple of nail biting weeks I was offered & accepted a  role as Team Manager with the company at their contact centre . 


The rest of 2020 became a race , to get away as often as possible the second lockdown was lifted . My Happy place is the Coast , sadly I live in the middle of the UK so coastal trips meant daft o'clock starts as staying away  fro home over night was initially not allowed . I headed to Blackpool a couple of times, to Wallasey, The Humber & as soon as we were allowed to stay away I headed North to Scotland & to Northumberland  . Life was almost back to normal other than masks, sanitising & social distancing of course ...lets say this was the new normal  & I was making the most of every minute .


More lockdowns came toward the end of the year , not travelling outside your local again became the rule along with not staying away over night . I caught Covid but thankfully didn't suffer to badly with it & from mid October I have been working from home . This suited me quite well as so long as I have an internet connection I can do my job pretty much from anywhere . Christmas came & went, we plunged back in to Lockdown in early January with an expected earliest release date of mid March 2021 . Never in a million years did we think we would still be in this situation some 12 months down the line . I fully appreciate that I am luckier than some , I still have my job for one thing .  The vaccines are being rolled out & the Gov is intending or at least trying , to get everyone in the 9  top group ( 50+ upwards ) jabbed by the end of April I believe . Maybe then we can get back to travel,  the kids can go back to school & a trip to the supermarket will no longer be the highlight of the week .


2020 -  the year that just kept on taking -

Australian Bushfires 

US  Wildfires 

Earth quakes

Hurricanes

Flashfloods 

Locust swarms

Lebanon Port Explosion

COVID 19


Here's hoping that 2021 will bring better things .




Since the Start of November I have been  working from home , living between my home & my parents home, trying to learn my new job & coping with the fact that both  parents have developed early stage dementia .  I didn't really give myself time to grieve over the loss of my workplace & work family or  the shock of redundancy . My new job is a huge pressure. Working from home , whilst ideal in my current situation , is also affecting me, although I'm happy in my own company I'm struggling( like many ) with the lack of contact with others, Video meetings are just not the same .  The inability to travel, even within the UK  is also bringing me down .

I have never felt so alone in my life  .

My mental health has suffered more than I realised or cared to admit . I'm sure many of you reading this will be feeling the same . What I can say is that bottling it all up inside is not good , TALK to someone , just saying out loud what you're feeling  will help . The problems won't necessarily go away but Talking  might help you feel slightly less alone & slighty less incapable of coping .

Please Talk to someone .



























                       








    

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