Twenty-twenty. It’s been a traumatic, often terrifying, yet strangely transformative year few will forget in a hurry. This post heading may consequently seem rather outrageous. How on earth can we find twenty things to be grateful for from this Annus horribilis? Especially considering the UK is now threatening to lock down nationally once again as the new virus variant rampages into the New Year gleefully. In fact, in most other countries, life appears to be chaotic, complex and uncertain. For so many people, the past twelve months have been atrocious due to the unpredicted and unprecedented pandemic.
For us, however, whilst we missed out on getting to Liverpool Docks on NB Areandare, a ten-day Scotland driving holiday with my sister and brother-in-law, and a weekend with my sisters to celebrate our deceased dad’s 100th birthday, there’s been many unplanned things we feel humbly grateful for.
Thankfully no-one close to us has died – of any cause. Only one person in either of our extended families, to our knowledge or via a positive test, has been infected with COVID-19. Although it’s dominated our year in a variety of unexpected ways, it hasn’t ruined it. Far from it in fact.
We frequently regale tales of how we choose not to plan too far ahead due to life’s unpredictability. Our lives, in particular, are itinerant and often impulsively lived. Undoubtedly the past year was the epitome of that!
In case any of our gratitudes inspire others to look outside of their current
tier box, I wanted to record them before the year ends here in Aotearoa.
January to March 2020
- We had the most amazing week at Les Deux Alpes staying with two very dear family friends – Odile and Bruno. The beauty of the mountains took our breath away each day, and we were overwhelmed by the loving hospitality of these people.
- Three days with fun-loving boating friends staying in two converted double-deckers buses in the Shropshire countryside, before Sandra (not me, another Sandra!) took her narrowboat ‘Golden Boyz’ across the Irish Sea.
- Barry finally gained his UK citizenship awarded at pomp and ceremony ‘do’ at Chester Town Hall. Both boys stayed with us (separately) onboard Areandare in that fine city during February. We were also able to collect them from school a couple of times. We took them to the cinema. To a Cub Scout DIY day. I went to a climbing wall in Shrewsbury with them. Countless precious times to relish before the world changed.
- A week in Barbados with three of my school friends, to celebrate us reaching the sensational age of sixty. Not just any old week, but seven days and nights in a five-star hotel, full board, right on the beach. It was magical. More so with the undercurrents, we were hearing about things to come, though at the time we had no idea quite how crazy things would get.
- That we had enough savings to pay for my younger daughter to get the last Business Class British Airways flight out of Lagos, Nigeria before the airport closed for six months.
April to June
- The sheer joy of having Kim on the boat with us during the lockdown. What an unexpected and immeasurable privilege it was. For Tim and Tracey, who bought The Home Brew Boat business just before Kim arrived, as it meant our back cabin was freed up for her to snuggle up and continue to teach online and complete her Masters Thesis while she was with us.
- Our lockdown bubble mooring spot near Hurleston Junction. We sat still apart from getting essential supplies and felt as though the world had inserted a much needed and valued pause to breathe once more. Barry finally found time to paint the bathroom and bedroom – and moved the fridge up and the cooker down. You’d have to be living in the boat to appreciate that one!
- Time for so many soul-nourishing things, such as learning about foraging. Making dandelion honey, and nettle and dandelion crisps. Picking enough elderberries with the boys to make cordial – once lockdown ended. Generally loving watching nature calmly carrying on as winter transformed to spring. Learning the ukelele. Starting my family history. Walking up to the local farm for free-range eggs. All activities I’d never have ‘got around to’ without being in the enforced stillness of lockdown.
- The mallard duck family who knocked on the back of the boat each day. Or climbed up onto the towpath. Who helped Kim find moments of calm during the stresses of adjusting to life in a confined space when she was so used to her spacious Lagos apartment.
July to September
- To the British government for their Self Employed Income Support Scheme. There are no other positive things to say about the Cons! It made a huge difference when my income was reduced due to lockdown. And for my amazing ‘job’ with Ad-Extra which means I can work from wherever we are – and enjoy doing so.
- Being able to get to Anglesey with both my girls, Barry, our grandsons and son in law. What a precious and memorable week we had.
- Many magical times with Lisa, Kim and the boys as we cruised south towards Debdale. The fabulous team at Debdale for looking after Kim when she needed help after we left her on 19th August till she left NBAreandare at the end of September.
- Air New Zealand for rearranging our flights – three times. A successful, albeit very different to ‘normal’, journey to New Zealand. Two (rather splendid!) weeks in Managed Isolation in Christchurch, so Jamie could pop by to say kia ora. Then Barry surprising Tom at his delayed 30th birthday party.
- Being back in Gisborne for my 61st birthday – and Ray for accommodating us at his riverside home. Catching up with Barry’s daughter Jamie and son Tom after not seeing them physically for three and a half years.
October to December
- Picking up our campervan home. Thank you Wenderkreisen Auckland. We adore NZAreandare.
- Travelling up the Kauri Coast to Cape Reinga enjoying countless spectacular sights along the way whilst getting to grips with life on the road.
- A short visit to Christchurch to see Jamie, and a trip on the Coastal Pacific train. Magnificent.
- Barry’s brilliant ‘Pommie Bastard 65th Birthday Bash‘. Catching up with dozens of friends in the north and south islands since arriving back in New Zealand – too numerous to mention them all but it’s been wonderful. I’ve even been able to visit Suki-Lou, the cat I had from a kitten in November 2005.
- Christmas and New Year in Gisborne – yet to be blogged about so no post to link to! Lots of precious times with Tom. The sheer joy of being in a COVID-19 free country living a normal life. Humongous thanks to Jacinda, her ‘team of five million’ and Aotearoa’s ability and decisiveness to go ‘hard, early and fast. We pinch ourselves daily to remember how grateful we are to be able to live here, right now.
This Too Shall Pass
That’s a saying I often use when times are tricky – as they are for the world right now. The, pesky virus, and its mutated mates, appear to want to stick around a while longer. From here it looks like 2021 may be a bit of a ‘Groundhog Day’ for a while. But one day ‘this too shall pass’.
There are so many things we’re grateful for from this year it isn’t easy to do it justice. In spite of, or maybe in our own ‘glass half full’ way despite, the global pandemic, we seem to have had more thrilling adventures than ever.
Whatever 2021 brings we’ll continue embracing life on this precious planet head on. The South Island beckons, and we’re tentatively hoping to be back on board NBAreandare by the UK summer. But that depends on so many variables. It may not happen at all. We’ve learnt it’s best not to plan too far in advance …
Happy New Year everyone. We’re heading up to Anaura Bay for a few nights, the idyllic place where we spent our honeymoon in December 2009.
We wish you love, happiness and health. And I fervently hope that you’re able to sift through the wreckage and shock of your 2020 to find things to be grateful for. Carpe diem.