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Wednesday, 23 December 2020

Christmas Newsletter

 I only occasionally bother with a Christmas newsletter but this year surely warrants one. I'm doing it on my blog so anyone who is interested can have a read. For once, I'm actually going to take a look back at the outgoing year, in a chronological manner...


I remember Neil hitting 25 years old and being somewhat overwhelmed at the thought of being a quarter of a century old. Well this year, he reached half a century. To celebrate, Neil's brother, Graham, came over from Hong Kong - a real treat for Neil, and, with hindsight a very timely visit. We went out for dinner and had a lovely day out at Clumber Park, one of our favourite places to get out for a walk. 

On his birthday, the first two cases of Coronavirus were identified in the UK... in York, actually, which is where we went on the Sunday of Graham's visit. We sat in Pizza Hut, unaware that this would become a rare luxury, watching swarms of people going about their business, some wearing masks... which at that stage, was a bit unusual.


Again, it is only with the benefit of hindsight that we fully appreciate our little jaunt in mid-February. I had booked to attend the Learning Technologies conference at the Excel in London, and to help the week go smoothly, Neil took some leave and we planned a few days around it to visit family there too. The conference itself was fantastic! I met up with various colleagues and we spent a blissful two days in a crowded venue, totally unaware of the risks we were being exposed to. Fortunately, it was early enough that we all stayed safe.

On one of the evenings, we met up with my brother, Matt, and went for dinner at the O2 Arena. The last time I was there, it was the Millennium Dome, so that was a while back. It was wonderful both seeing my brother and also being out in a new place like some kind of normal human being, that doesn't have to worry about accessibility all the time. Thing was, access there was great! 

After the conference, we had a day at the Science Museum and Hyde Park, meeting up with my friend, Debs for lunch. Then we headed over to visit Neil's mum and took her out for lunch. I think that was the last time we ate out. If we'd realised what was coming, we might have made more of seeing his mum but we still had no idea, really.


Well, March was when it all escalated rather quickly! Having spent a year, accepting that I couldn't work from home all the time but not really understanding any of the reasons why, on 17th March, I was sent home and told not to return for at least the immediate future, until we got rid of Coronavirus. How naive a thought was that?!!

A few days later, Neil was also working from home. He had never previously liked us both working from home on the same day, but we didn't have a choice now. Actually, although we both missed seeing our colleagues face-to-face, we have both made it work for us. As well as being able to spend some working time together, we also now enjoy lunch together every day, which encourages us to take a break. We also both had to walk Liggy, as initially exercise was only permitted once a day... and Liggy was rather peeved at only having two walks. One would have upset her immensely!


Spring Harvest was inevitably cancelled, though we still took a week's leave and enjoyed participating online. They did a fab job and it was really well done but we missed meeting up with the usual group of friends. 

In April, we were still on one walk a day and that had to be from home. Driving anywhere was discouraged. The only place I could walk Liggy was round the cemetery, and that began to wear really thin. I began to feel the darkness of the Covid situation, particularly seeing an increase in funerals and the horrors of lone mourners. Fortunately, the rules loosened a little and I was allowed to drive to the park. I never thought of that as a luxury before.


Got to be honest, it all becomes a bit of a blur as I look back on May. In fact throughout the summer, everything is a little vague. We enjoyed being allowed to travel for exercise and visited Scarborough a few times. We even managed to see family at a distance. 

Somewhere in the summer, Neil started his new job, back at the council. The irony is, it was all the commuting that triggered him applying and again with hindsight, this would probably not be an issue now... but it was a promotion too and a challenge and he is settling in really well.


Still a bit of a blur but the exciting event was the purchase of Zerubbabel, our new motorhome. Well, new to us. We managed a couple of early visits - just weekends on nearby sites, to test her out. I can't wait to have a proper holiday in her!


Cases were beginning to rise again and tiers became a thing, but fortunately, we managed a weekend at Chatsworth to celebrate our wedding anniversary. We walked a lot and enjoyed a first taste of 'off grid' in Zerubbabel. We stayed in a pub car park, had meals delivered to the van and enjoyed being totally self-isolated and not having to risk public toilets and cafes. 


We were braced for bad news, as it looked like our main holiday was going to be cancelled, however we got lucky with dates. One more week and it would have all been different. We spent a wonderful week in Norfolk, in a disabled-friendly cottage, which was absolutely perfect! From there, we discovered some new favourite places - Hunstanton Beach... Sandringham... Kings Lynn. A week wasn't long enough and we'll definitely be back there some time in the future.


So here we are at the end of 2020. We had a plan A for Christmas, which involved taking Zerubbabel down to visit Neil's mum. Then plan B, which involved a short visit to Scarborough. Now we're on plan C, which is stay at home, protect the NHS, save lives. I feel like that should feel more heroic than it actually does. It feels a bit flat really. But there's now two new variants, both spreading like crazy... we know of several people who have died of this horrible virus and knew one personally. We also now know quite a few people who have either had it or currently have it... which makes it all feel much more real than it did back in March. 


So many people feel that Christmas has been cancelled this year... Bojo has ruined it! I get that, but I disagree.

I have read the Christmas story so many times and I find it hard to fully celebrate the event. Mary was just a young girl. Getting pregnant before marriage was shameful. People would have been gossiping about her, looking down on her, judging her. 

I've had two babies. I remember going to my mum's graduation 2 weeks before Josh was due. It was so stressful! I was really worried about going into labour away from home, even though Scarborough is my home. When you have a baby, you want everything to be ready, to know that baby is coming into a safe home environment. I can't imagine the stress of having to travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem when heavily pregnant and then having your first baby in a strange place.... maybe a stable. It doesn't bear thinking about. The situation was just horrible. The government totally ruined Mary's Christmas!

So this year actually feels more real. I feel more like Christmas is something to remember... to celebrate. Christmas is about the imperfect and how Jesus comes to be God with us, in our imperfect places. Whether you believe the Christmas story or not, I hope and pray that you feel peace and joy in some way this Christmas... maybe that it would come in an unexpected way. And more than anything else, I hope and pray that 2021 is nowhere near as bad as this year has been. Dull and boring and uneventful would be perfect!