A double entendre for proving things in the literal sense and metaphorically in the baking sense, allowing things to rest and rise. The years prior have been a flurry of activity and excitement with travel, marriage, a puppy and job changes - it’s been fantastic and exhilarating, but we both felt the need for a year of calm, to “rest in position” (as my boss would say) allowing us to focus on ourselves and prepare for what may come in the future.
It’s hard to talk about 2020 without talking about the virus, it turned people’s day to day lives into something which belongs in a thriller movie rather than in our reality. Never would I have considered that something like this would happen on this scale, it is truly frightening. The concept of the government imposing a ‘national stay home’ order alone is completely mind-boggling. We are incredibly grateful and lucky that so far we have survived without much of an impact but as we welcome the new year under ‘Tier 4 lockdown’ rules we are very aware that it is not over yet. There certainly seems to be light at the end of the tunnel and with the vaccine now being rolled out, hopefully, we’ll be back to normal at least by this time next year. For now, we’re planning to continue to hunker down and hibernate. If there’s one thing I will take away from 2020 it’s to never take for granted the simple pleasures of drinking a beer at a bar, hugging friends or sharing dinner with family around a table.
The other big news story of the year is Brexit, which continues to make the headlines most days, as it has done since 2015/2016. I voted to remain in the referendum and am unchanged in that view, I haven’t yet had a discussion with a Brexit voter that hasn’t ultimately ended up with them talking about immigration or a some nonsense about how “they control our laws”. Regardless, the UK is now out of the customs union and free trade area too, as of the 31st December 2020 officially not part of the EU. If I were to travel to France tomorrow (we can’t right now, because of the coronavirus restrictions), my passport would be stamped. I could stay in most countries in the EU for a maximum of 90 days in a 180 day period. Over the last six years, I’ve probably travelled from the UK to the EU about 60 times. Since passports last for 10 years, even if I continue to travel at the same rate, my papers are going to be pretty well-inked…
Either way, I’m glad that Brexit has reached some conclusion, frankly, I’m sick of talking and reading about it all. I’m hopeful that regardless, the change will bring some prosperity to our country - it is what it is, so let’s get on with it. Oh and I really, REALLY hope that we get rid of those damn cookie popup warnings.
The pandemic has helped us considerably in achieving the goals of the theme - for the most part, we have had no choice but to rest in position. We couldn’t go out, we couldn’t go on holiday (well, we did just before the pandemic) nor could we at the drop of a hat jump on a plane somewhere. Working from home provided the ability to really focus on ourselves, our health, wellbeing and our finances. Through it all, I can’t recall a year where I have felt closer or happier than to be with Victoria - we’ve certainly never spent as much time together as we have this year! It’s been strange, but despite it all, we’ve remained strong and had some wonderful times.
With the theme in place, our personal news this year was quiet. We stayed in our routines and didn’t shake anything up. We had a brief blip early in the year where we put our house on the market and put a deposit on a new home in Chattenden. After some deliberation, while we were in New York for Valentines Day, we agreed to stick with the theme and reverse that decision. The house was all possible financially but we opted to focus our energy in line with the theme. We are happy that we made the right call and are content where we are, for now, we don’t need more room but do expect to move in the future. Instead, we invested in improving our home, we did some work in the garden, decorated the office and the second bedroom, installed network cabling, Sky TV (for Formula 1) and even got a new fridge for the kitchen. We also finished paying off the boiler which we had replaced last year which broke just before our wedding. We’re happy in our home and with everything that’s been going on this year are glad that we stayed put.
One major aspect of 2020 was that I continued to eat a vegetarian diet. I switched in November 2019 and while it was a little difficult to get started, have really enjoyed it. I don’t miss eating meat and switching diet has helped a lot in improving cooking and healthy eating. There have been a bunch of benefits, it’s cleaner, easier, cheaper, better for the environment, healthier and reduces my impact of mistreatment/slaughter of animals. Not having to clean up smelly meat juice from the chopping board and sink is honestly a reason enough to switch.
Before anyone jumps up and calls me out, I put my hands up in that I’m not a die-hard, I won’t insist on having my roast potatoes cooked separately if whoever is cooking them happens to be using animal fat, I will eat parmesan cheese (the food of gods), I have at some point eaten sweets made with gelatine, had the odd prawn cracker and not too long ago discovered that the posh Bisto gravy isn’t vegetarian, but the normal one is - whoops! I think that finding a balance is what’s important and what makes the difference, being overly pedantic is not.
For the record, I’m not vegan and for now, have no ambition to be. Eggs are delicious and I don’t understand how people would ever want to live in a world without cheese. Yes, I realise that the link to animal welfare, etc but again it’s all about balance. I have plenty of leather shoes and I’m not going to throw those out anytime soon either. Perhaps in time my opinion will change, we’ll see.
Another change this year was alcohol. Unprompted, I stopped drinking for four months of the year, from mid-July to mid-November. This was hard and fast, there was no balance and it needed to be that way. I read a book, Allen Carr - Stop Drinking Now. It worked (seriously, it’s an amazing book) and stopping was actually a lot easier than I thought, it was still a thing on my mind, but it wasn’t a hardship. Those four months were while we were out of lockdown, we went to Cornwall, we had friends over, so it wasn’t just us sitting at home. I had no fixed target when I stopped, but wanted to ‘prove’ that I could, in line with the theme. I stayed away from the alcohol-free beers and instead switched to fruit juices, sparkling water and some fancy-pants cordials (Ginger cordial is amazing).
I noticed some changes when I stopped. Most of all, how much money I spend on Alcohol, which was actually really rather shocking (see graph). I slept WAY better - like I couldn’t believe how much better I was sleeping and I felt generally more energised and ‘able’ to go and do some exercise. I even got back into an exercise regime and spent a lot of time on a rowing machine at the gym.
Ultimately, not drinking ever again isn’t for me and so I made a decision, which I slept on, to drink again. I really, REALLY craved red wine and it was torture cooking without a bottle open. In moderation, Alcohol is really rather lovely, I enjoy it and while it’s certainly not good for you, in balance, I don’t think it’s particularly harmful. Of course it’s different for different people but I can say with certainty that I have never been angry or aggressive through drinking and I’m old enough now to know when I’ve had too many, those days are behind me!
In the four months I was off I realised that our society absolutely has a drinking problem. That problem is fuelled by the self-regulating industry and the governmental lack of desire to address the societal problems caused by alcohol. The price of alcohol in supermarkets is outrageous and why alcohol is still being advertised so freely absolutely baffles me. Earlier in the year I was completely caught in Verdant Brewing’s Scarcity-style marketing and sales tactics. I fooled myself into thinking it was a hobby, that their cans were ‘art’ when really I was just buying overpriced beer which often I didn’t really enjoy drinking. I hope that there will be change in the years to come, people shouldn’t be mothered by regulation but the cost between a beer in a pub and a beer in a supermarket shouldn’t be so disparate, accessibility needs to be reduced and risks better publicised.
Fitness was a bit of a mixed bag, but certainly an improvement on 2019. I got off to a great start in the new year, did some RunThrough events, was going to Parkrun (got a new PB!), ran my first 10k, was hitting the gym, it was great. Unfortunately, as soon as the pandemic hit I basically stopped. I did some bits and pieces here and there, going to the gym once it opened back up and got out running again as the weather improved. In the summer I did very little but was spurred on as I took my booze-break and did exceptionally well in the gym on the rowing machine mixing that with outdoor running, it felt great. I added in some resistance and weight exercises using Fitbod to keep up with a near-daily morning gym routine. As the 2nd lockdown neared I basically stopped exercising completely, with the statistics in Medway getting worse, even though the gym was open I stopped going. The gyms eventually closed and remain so for now. As the year drew towards a close Victoria and I started using Apple Fitness+ and I have ordered a rowing machine for home which arrives this week (Eeek!).
From a general health perspective, we certainly ate better, with the vegetarian diet we had more money to spend on fresh food. We shopped a lot at M&S, during the pandemic it was a lot easier to park, they initially did a good job of limiting the number of people in the store, the fresh produce is great, there’s limited choice (so we didn’t derail on our list much) and having good food made us happy when there was little else to do. That said, M&S is super expensive, but despite it our weekly shop was not far off being comparable to 2019 given that we weren’t buying meat or wasting money in Pret. We got ourselves into a good groove most weeks using a meal plan or at least cooking meals based on what was in the fridge with nice lunches too.
As the second pandemic hit, going to M&S became more of an inconvenience, they were letting a lot more people in the store and parking was back to normal as other shops were open for ‘click and collect’ so the appeal wore off. We tried Bluewater M&S, which was much quieter, but it’s a little far and honestly there’s too much choice. We’ve since binned M&S entirely and either shop at Asda (closest) or Tesco Online. We’ve been avoiding Asda where possible as that too is frighteningly busy with everything that’s going on. Tesco Online is good, but getting a delivery slot is difficult, and then there is an item limit which makes it a bit annoying to get everything for a week! We did join Costco again and have been maybe 3 times, Costco is amazing, not necessarily the cheapest but it’s much more convenient to buy staples in bulk so that we don’t have to buy washing up liquid, toilet rolls or chopped tomatoes every single week.
Aside from food, I had an operation on my ear earlier in the year. Since birth, I’ve had a Pre Auricular Sinus in my right ear. It’s never really bothered me much, but it was beginning to get a little troublesome. After a consultation I with a fantastic Doctor I had it removed while under a general anaesthetic at the very new, One Welbeck Hospital. The operation was much less shit compared to having my wisdom teeth removed although the process was a little more odd. My ear has been great ever since and I feel silly for not getting on with it and having had it removed sooner.
As the year progressed I had developed some problems with my back, which you can read about in the Micro.Blog, basically waking up in the morning with a bad back (like, really bad). We bought a new mattress, a standing desk, a super-duper chair, tried a posture corrector, tried sleeping in a different bed, nothing made any difference. In the end, I went to the doctor and he gave me some tablets that are working wonders. He suspects that it could be Ankylosing Spondylitis, I had my first MRI in December to figure out what is going on. My hope is that it’s exercise related and that once I get back into a routine it’ll all go away. We’ll see.
Not the busiest year for scuba diving, that’s for certain! It’s been tricky getting out to dive, for several reasons but to be honest, with everything going on it’s just not been much of a priority. I did get some dive time in, a dive out of Eastbourne later in the year was fantastic and I did some inland dives at St Andrews too. Southern Scuba’s Buckland lake closed and Tony and Janine moved into St Andrews. I helped them get their website and email up and running. They are doing really well so far, it’s great to see them operating a bigger dive centre. 2021 is going to be a huge year for Southern Scuba and I think St Andrews will be a big success because of them.
In the sailing world, we got out on the boat a few times and attempted to compete in the autumn series. Unfortunately, that was cut short by Lockdown 2. I managed to complete my Day Skipper Theory all remotely via Zoom during Lockdown 1, which I was very happy with. Victoria and I joined Medway Yacht Club and were able to visit the bar a total of two times. I passed my RYA SRC course, and now have a small piece of paper permitting me to operate a VHF radio. I debated doing my practical for Day Skipper but it wouldn’t have worked out too well with everything that was going on and frankly, I don’t need the piece of paper right now anyway. In the November sales I got some incredibly discounted sailing clothes, including some Helly Hansen Agir trousers. I also splashed out a bit and bought myself a pair of Dubarry boots too (which I adore). Best of all though was getting to sail a 1902 Bristol Channel Cutter in St Austel Bay. This was one of the most special moments of the year for sure, it was absolutely amazing.
Ha! Yeah, we didn’t do much of that. Well, before everything kicked off we were lucky to be able to visit New York again. We got a great deal from British Airways, £1,050 for return flights and five nights in the Midtown Hilton. It was a great little holiday, we visited Staten Island, the Met, went up WTC1, drank a lot of beer, ate a lot of food and spent some time in Brooklyn too. We even managed to get a Valentines night booking at Hillstone after I sniped their booking system at just the right time. It was really nice to be able to visit New York having now been there a few times, the pressure was off to ‘do all the things’ and so we took it easy and just had a great time. Looking forward to being able to spend more time in the US in 2021 (fingers crossed).
Luckily, we had no other travel plans for 2020 and so weren’t let down when everyone’s summer holidays were cancelled, we just made do at home and lived to the theme.
As usual, I still didn’t blog quite as much as I would like to, despite having literally all the time in the world. To try and address that I have started using Micro.Blog to improve the accessibility of sharing photos, thoughts and updates. I’ve really been enjoying it actually, I love that I can share right from my iPhone without much effort, it posts directly to a sensible web page and even sends it to twitter. I’m not limited to 280-characters either, when I exceed that it wraps it all up automatically in a tweet with a link. There will still be a place for the main blog for posts like this but together with Micro.Blog it all seems to be working well for now. I need to improve on the categorisation of posts in Micro.Blog, but I’ve seen that done, so will have a tinker.
Since there were quite a few things I didn’t blog about, I’m going to publish some snippets of 2020 via Micro.Blog over the next days/weeks and will link them here with some photos.
What a year! Roll on 2021.