So here’s my 2021 alphabet review.
Anna lost her landmark birthday celebration of 60 in 2020. A trip away was cancelled. However we eventually got away to Bakewell to rent a property avec les enfants et hommes. We had a splendid weekend eating and drinking. I managed to drag Harry out on his bike around the Peak District, which is not an easy bike ride for someone not expecting the odd hill or two!
A small stream that runs past the end of my sister’s little Welsh garden. It switches between a summer trickle or a winter torrent. It’s been eroding the bottom of her garden in an alarming fashion. We needed a strong barrier to stop the erosion. It was difficult to find a contractor for a residential project. After a few false starts, mainly to do with the weather, it was started and finished in July. Ann Marie is now looking forward to heavy rainfall to maximise the return on her investment!
Much to our dismay we woke up earlier in the year to find the lawn was ripped up. After more visits and damage it was shortly tracked down to hungry badgers that were searching beneath the turf for chafer bugs. The solutions to eliminating the desirable bug or deterring badgers were bordering on comical and old wives tales. We did consulted far and wide and then decided to build a fence around the garden to stop access. It’s worked so far!
Alongside Matt (son-in-law) we managed to do a decent job of sanding his dining room floor. Other DIY at their house involved some pointing of their long brick wall. Back in Acaster Malbis I did some fencing and fence painting at the front of the house to keep out the pesky badger. After all this I decided to retire for the year and bask in the glory knowing that next year had a long list of jobs.
A difficult time for my father-in-law was made easier as lockdown easing meant there was access for relatives into his care home. More importantly his three daughters could make pre-arranged vsits to sit with him. For them it was a great relief to be able to get into his company. He’s remained in terrific spirits and it was super when we could take him out the home and bring him to York to join in Katrina and Matt’s wedding celebrations. For those in homes this pandemic has and continues to be awful.
Our one escape abroad was to Portugal. This was initially delayed from October to November, when I caught Covid. We stayed on the Algarve toward the west just outside Portimāo at Ferragudo in an apartment. With a car we drove around including a memorable lunch at Salema and popping along to Quinta do Lago to meet a friend who was also over there on holiday. Some warmer weather was a delight and taking my bike enabled me to get out and see around us whist Anna when running. We also found some lovely sunsets.
A trip to Dumfries & Galloway was one of our staycations. We took a house on an estuary near Kirkcudbright and either cycled or drove around. This part of Scotland is beautiful, green (wet) and dramatic. Despoite the vistas the level of tourism is restricted to a few caravan parks. As a complete pleb I did eventually yearn for a bakery with sourdough and maybe a deli.
After being prodded by sister I had converted to a digital format cine films and photograph negatives from the late 1940s and early 1950s. This revealed people at times in their early lives that I saw in a different light. The quality of my grandfather’s photography was exceptional in composition and inclusion. We now have an easily accessible treasure trove.
Jurassic Coast by Bicycle
A cycle ride along the UK’s southern Jurassic coastline took place in September. The expedition started in Devon and then climbed and climbed to Dorset. I cycle every year for a few nights with a pal from my University days, Tony. Along for the ride this year was Martin, an old work colleague. I chose the coastline from Plymouth to Southampton (and then onto Abingdon with Martin).) It was possibly a mistake! The coastline is terribly hilly and the traffic can be busy. Martin cycled with the wrong set of gears and Tony, an irregular cyclist, manfully went about every day but finished in darkness twice. I worry they’re daft enough to be back for more next year.
Katrina & Matt
In 2020 the Favourite Eldest Daughter, Katrina, married Matt. Due to Covid restrictions we couldn’t bring all the family together. Eventually in our garden the weather held up and we brought everyone together for a belated celebration. It was a lovely day that will be remembered for a long time for the great company and not least for the egg and spoon race!
Lands End to John O’Groats by Bicycle
Bicycles feature in my life and with no long overseas bike ride in prospect I decided to do the iconic British ride: Lands End to John O’Groats. That is, from the tip of Cornwall to the far top of the island in the Scottish Highlands. It was a hard ride of 1,000 miles riding with Peter, an old friend. It has a memorably brutal start but eventually things got easier. The weather was kind until the last day. The last night of the trip we celebrated with malt whiskey and the day after was a groggy and leaden affair getting back by train to York! I blogged everyday.
The lockdowns meant lots of time for walking around the local area drinking in the scenery and seasons. We’re blessed with lots of fields and leafy paths. This was a great opportunity to have my headphones plugged in to listen to new albums or podcasts. After all these years I started to notice how transitory nature is. Other regimes to keep fit included pilates every week and occasional trips to the gym. When added to the 5,200 miles of cycling then I think I did a good job on trying to keep fit.
The holidays this year were mainly short breaks and we went down to Walsingham. Here we stayed in a property near the coastal harbour town of Wells-Next-The-Sea. It was wet but very delightful. Further east is the splendid Royal Palace at Sandringham. The house is set in beautiful grounds and after visiting here we went for lunch in nearby Hunstanton with some local friends. Norfolk could do with a road system to get to it but it is truly a lovely part of England.
I think we all became more social as lockdowns became part of our lives. I certainly put quite a bit of time into seeing friends. Some of these I had known for over 50 years. A special night was organised with old work colleagues, many I hadn’t seen for over 10 years. The list of old pals included Tim J, Mark D, Lyndon B, Tony, F, Brian E, Tim S, Mark G, Andy W, Tim M, Martin A, John V, Jim B, Steve & Sharon J, Mark S, Greg S, David C and Robert H.
Despite having not worked for a long time my state of antiquity was finally confirmed when I started to receive my State pension every four weeks plus a free bus pass and my Winter Fuel Allowance (£200.) What a time to be alive! Despite my excellent environmental cycling credentials I’ve not managed to use the bus pass yet and also slightly embarrassed by the Winter Fuel Allowance I have donated that to a more worthy cause.
The Queen has had a rough year (in fact it’s one the Royal Family will want to forget.) I came to respect and like the Duke of Edinburgh more as I got to know more about him. I think his past had its blemishes, some of his comments are quite rightly unacceptable today, but there was a gritty self sacrifice that garnered him a lot of respect and his departure was the first tangible sign that the old order was moving on. I hope Her Majesty has a lot more years in her.
I subscribe to a Morgan car magazine, plus MoJo, Record Collector and Country Music People. My consumption of books is modest . This year I mainly read history ‘The Mallon Crew’ (WW2 Bomber crew), ‘Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee’ (the demise of Native Americans at the hands of the US Cavalry), “Fatal Colours’ (The War of The Roses machinations leading up to the Battle of Towton) or biographies about Martin Luther King, Reggie Maudling or Tammy Wynette. I’m currently reading a book about the war in East Africa in WW1. It’s always non-fiction for me.
A Life in the Age of Steam
I embarked on what I thought was a simple bit of typing but it turned out to be a massive document of 166,000 words telling the early life of Eric Blackburn. A lad who left school at the age of 13 during war torn Hull and found his way onto the locomotive footplate. An interlude of National Service took place before he moved to then Tanganyika to work on the East African Railway. It’s a wonderful, event strewn, story and hopefully it will make it into published print.
In December Anna found a property back in the Peak District at Tideswell. With our daughters and Sophie’s partner’s mother, Tracey and sister, Annabelle. We spent a couple of nights walking and seeing the sights. The ladies went to look around Chatsworth House decorated for Christmas, it looked magnificent. I popped to Bakewell to look around a record shop; then on the Sunday managed to get out on my bike. Log fires, hot soup and umbrellas were de rigeur.
In 2019 we had some flights booked to Singapore (and back from Cambodia) in 2020. This quickly got shelved as the Far East went and stayed in lockdown. Next we used a voucher to fly to Miami for next February. This was weirdly compromised when British Airways cancelled some connecting flights with no solutions offered. So yet again we took a voucher. We still plan to get over to the USA in 2022. The thought of all those wide open spaces, eggs over easy and amazing parks call us. However, we’re not counting any chickens yet.
My journalism continued with mainly scribing for Country Music People. A selection of Country or Americana music was sent to me to listen to and then I had to pen 3/400 words and send back to the editor. As if by magic I was then in print every month. My blogs continued albeit they were a bit spasmodic. I blame the pandemic for limiting my ability to write something interesting or ridiculous! Added to this was Eric’s journal that saw my often looking through Google Maps to find the spelling of a remote railway station in 1960s Tanganyika.