New Year, Same Me.

Its been a funny old year. So many bad things happening to so many good people, and yet, for me - far less change, far less upheaval.

For me, Its been a year of discovery. A year of learning. A year of quiet.

I was furloughed in march, and spent the first few months working on the final draft of TESTAMENT. I published it on the 8th June.

I've lost my way with writing since then. I think realising that GENESIS needs a lot of work has stalled the process a bit (the idea of basically re-writing my longest, most complicated book to date fills me with unending horror!) but I know I will get to it eventually - I have a story to finish, afterall. (and many more besides!)

Instead, I turned to the garden. After eight years of working solidly through every summer (Glyndebourne is at its busiest, and my job its most hectic) it was a joy to 'discover' the season in a way I've never seen it before. It was glorious and, apart from those few weeks where it was too hot to do literally anything, perfect gardening weather.

Our garden got a bit of a revamp with old raised beds being ripped out in favour of more user-friendly plant stands. I installed a trellis to make use of the vertical space in my larger beds, and grew a great crop of winter squash.

I tried growing Courgettes vertically, and they seemed to thrive, and I got more room in the beds for other crops that the Chickens could eat.

I taught myself to 'can' too. We had a bumper crop of tomatoes that I was still picking in November. I dehydrated them last year, but since we are still eating those, I purchased a water bath and delved into the murky waters of 'canning', starting with ketchup and tomato sauce for cooking.

It was a steep learning curve. We had some disasters (sauce so sharp with citric acid you couldnt eat it, and a couple of jars that went ominiously fizzy and were thrown away) but I finally got the balance right, and now wont eat store bought ketchup - mine is far superior!

Amongst all that, I taught myself to crochet. After years of watching my mother create something out of 'magic' (at least, thats how she made it look to me!) I finally took the time to learn the magic myself and found it almost medatative; quietly counting stitches allowed me to turn my mind off in a way I've never managed. (Any attempts at 'proper' meditation leaves me rolling about on the floor with laughter -

I've never been able to take it seriously.)

I didn't read as much as I'd have liked; 2020 was the first year of many where I've not reached my challenge on Goodreads. In the same way as I'd not been able to write, reading seemed to require a part of me that wasn't ready for it. I couldn't sit still, couldn't focus long enough which, given that reading has always been my way of relaxing and 'escaping reality' suggests I was perhaps already escaped and relaxed enough!

If this all seems a bit trivial, its because it is, really. But then 2020 was a year for trivial. For less 'stuff', less 'going' less 'doing'. More quiet, more solitude, more calm.

It was a year of reflection, contemplation and, if I'm honest, a year that I know I will look back on and long for another like it. Not the virus, of course. I'm not evil or cruel, and COVID has hurt so many people in so many ways - but it was a year that gave me the gift of time - and let me fill it however I chose.

For some, that was and is a nightmare. For those that need to be busy, to be social, Lockdown was a curse. For me, it was months of filling my days with crafts and tasks of my own design. For days out in the sunshine, sowing, reaping, making, being - and evenings spending quality time with Andy.

I had family around me too. With my grandad having sold his car and requiring assistance with his shopping and daily life (not to mention a fall here and there,) we fell into a care bubble - Mum, dad, Andy and I - and so family life didn't change much for me. I still got to see my parents. I still went round every other week for 'sketti tuesday' when we could.

I was also able to help out my best friend who, having had her baby on mothers day - the first official day of lockdown - and whose husband was a paramedic and working long shifts at the hospital (having to stay away often for weeks on end when exposed), was otherwise alone with her little boy for days on end. I would turn up once or twice a week and help where I could, hopefully making her day a little easier, and a little less lonely.

There's no doubt that I have been lucky. I havent lost anyone to Covid. My life has barely changed, and where it has, its been mostly for the better. Some days, I've considered it one long holiday. Others, a bizarre dream that I dont fully understand.

But now, looking forward to 2021, I'm filled with the desire to take what I've learned and make it more. More growing in the garden, more canning and learning to store what it produces. More crochet and meditation and - Yes! More reading and writing and all that comes with it.

Andy got me a sewing machine for Christmas (I have an old singer hand-crank, but I've been wanting something more modern) and so I'm excited to learn how to use it. I want to see if I can make my own clothes (or at least PJ's!) and furnishings - I've just got to muster up the courage to start.

But who knows what 2021 will bring. More lockdowns? It seems likely. More vaccines - absolutely. Less death and fear and sorrow - lets all hope. A return to normal, a resuming of life as it was pre-Covid; a relief for many, a joy for most.

But let us not forget what we learned in the year we were forced to slow down. Let us not return completely to the life we had before. This new year is a new beginning in so many more ways than a new number on the calandar - and I intend to embrace it with both hands.

Welcome, 2021. Teach me your lessons. Show me your colours. I'm ready for you.