I don’t know what it is about the arbitrary change of calendar year that prompts such renewal of ambition in all of us, I have all but given up on New Year’s resolutions and don’t agree with the New Year, New Me hype but yet here I am with a renewed sense of purpose now that 2021 has really started for me. I am counting the 4th of Jan as the first day of my “New Year” as it is the first day where things are ‘normal’, whatever that means these days… I have managed to spend 4 weeks with Arthur over the Christmas/ NY break which is an unprecedented length of time, but he went back to work (early!) this morning and so it feels like a good day to count as the start of my ‘New Year’ and this flush of return to my own routine seems to be giving me the motivation I was lacking at the end of last year so hopefully, I can carry this through to produce some content on this blog, starting with some reviews of 2020.
Honestly, 2020 wasn’t as rubbish for me as it was for a lot of people, whilst it has increased the challenges that I faced and turned my family arrangements on their head in a way I couldn’t have anticipated in 2019, and decimated all chances of paid sailing work for the year (and realistically for 2021 as well) and whilst I initially laughed at the idea of a 2020 round-up, “2020, Stayed at home…”, there actually have been some really good things to look back on…
With hindsight, it seems that the year was setting us up for what was to come when we returned from the Christmas festivities to a blocked drain and had to get the drain rods out… But overall the start of the year was fairly uneventful and gave me an opportunity to focus more on my hobbies and to get some sewing done. I also started painting more and actually framed some of my work to hang on the wall this year, which has been on my to-achieve list for a number of years. Unfortunately in early February, I managed to chip one of my teeth, which progressively got worse and is still waiting to be fixed it was due to be sorted the day after the initial lockdown started! Bring on 2021 and all those things that have been put off this year.
At the end of Feb the annual Poole illuminations took place and I went to see them with a few people from the ‘Yes Tribe Dorset’, it was quite impressive with a silent disco in Falklands Square, a big installation of burning lamps outside the Church and lots of illuminated sculptures and installations all along the highstreet and dockside. The evening ended with Pizza and Jenga in the Stables.
Before Lock down hit in March I finished knitting the Riddari jumper that was a Christmas present for my cousin, my replacement Lopi jumper (mine shrunk slightly and is now owned by my mother), which was the first garment that I actually used the knitting machine for part of, and worked what would turn out to be my only two days of work in the year and tested the new Sunsail boats in some seriously cold and sleety conditions!
Once lockdown was confirmed Mummy came to help with Nan so that we could stop her carer visits, and she brought a whirlwind of energy to transform the rather wild back garden into something more productive. This year we have managed to grow wild and cultivated strawberries, raspberries, red and black currants, gooseberries, plums, more apples and quince than I know what to do with, grapes, elderflowers, beetroots, a very large quantity of courgettes and swiss chard, tomatoes, potatoes, peas, beans, quinoa, crosnes, spinach, onions, butternut, turban and crown prince squashes, and are currently overwintering purple sprouting broccoli, cabbages, romanesco cauliflower, and lots of kale, as well as some herbs. We created a hugel bed which should hopefully help to deal with summer droughts in future years, added beds to the greenhouse which are still producing a few tomatoes and peppers, built raised beds in the beds that we claimed back from the garden refuse pile and watched whilst the strawberry plants took over another of the beds!
During the spring and early summer, I did a fair bit of sewing, I realised I had a lack of really warm weather clothing that covered me up, as I am normally on the water during the hottest parts of the year and it is much cooler out there, so I needed to make some items to wear during our heatwave this summer. But after that, I didn’t feel like making much and turned to mending things that I already owned/had recently inherited. Many days of painstaking mending I had a few more wool jumpers to add to my wardrobe and after many more weeks of mending I have a large selection of socks that will see me through many more years (I am notoriously hard on my footwear!) I also dived into natural dyeing and seeing what colours the plants that grow naturally in my garden could produce and it turns out there are a lot of varieties of yellow that are available! I also test knit a jumper during the heatwave much to my mothers amusement…
With the weather being what it was I pretty much lived in my courtyard for most of the summer, having a table out there and some comfy chairs that I decamped to most days. Because the summer was so hot I also rigged lines across the courtyard that were used as both washing lines and supports for fabric sunshades. The courtyard catches the early morning sun really well so was the perfect place to enjoy the morning coffee and give thanks that I had access to such a nice space. This winter I have added a wood burner to the courtyard to extend its use into colder weather, but will have to source more wood to burn if it going to get much use…
Not being able to just pop to the shops has made me consider my shopping habits even more that I had before, where I had started to try and get more of my purchases from plastic free sources over the last few years the ability to go to the refill shops completely disappeared this year but I have managed to reduce the amount of waste I produce by making more products from scratch. I have finally mastered making sourdough loaves in a way that reflects the bread that I like to eat, producing yoghurt and sometimes cheese from milk, cooking beans from dried, mastering dishes like soups and fried rice which are excellent for utilising leftovers, and preserving the glut from the garden by making sauces and chutneys etc. For my birthday this year I received a pizza stone so have been experimenting with making homemade pizzas and I am slowly getting there making pizza and being able to transfer it to the oven without folding it in half…!
Arthur and I have been talking about getting a van for a while and this year it finally happened, 2020 has been the perfect year to realise the benefits to campervanning for a holiday where you can be self contained and not have to rely on other people for your time away. After we got the van a lot of measuring took place and after a lot of throwing ideas around, and remeasuring, we came up with a plan of how to convert the back of the van to have a bed but still be able to return to “work van” mode until the bed was required again. We have taken the van away twice now and are slowly realising what we need and more importantly what we don’t need to take with us.
Arthur has been doing the main work on the van (and is currently taking the air intake apart for cleaning as I write this), fitting a domestic battery, changing the lighting to LED to reduce the power draw, taking all the cladding down to add insulation, taking the floor up to add insulation and in the process removing the carpet and then gel coating the floor, and constantly planning the next project. My contributions are more alined to my skill areas, I sewed the bed support (to fit on the frame Arthur made), produced curtains and curtain liners, sourced the cookers and crockery that we took with us and (possibly my favourite bit) planned a whole host of meals that we could cook on the camping stove or in the rice cooker with limited fresh produce. The 12v rice cooker/hotpot was possibly the best purchase for the van, the ability to have hot food after a cold walk without having to find somewhere to be able to use the gas stove is an excellent option to have and although it does take longer to cook dishes it is hands-off time so we can set it going and then focus on getting the van ready for the night.
Since Autumn arrived my urge to make returned again and I started knitting socks for myself with yarn the I purchased as mementoes of our trips away, ripped back my first wave of change jacket to adjust the shaping and reknit it, mended more knitwear including a number of my Nans jumpers and started knitting a Gansey for a Christmas present for Arthur (and no it wasn’t finished in time!) and doing more artwork including a sketchbook of our van trips. Hopefully this desire to make will continue into 2021 as there are lots of things on my want to make list.
One of the biggest changes during 2020 has been not seeing Arthur anywhere near as much as I am used to, not working at Sunsail means that I haven’t been spending time living at his in the summer like normal and the quarintine that I have been living under to protect Nan means that he hasn’t been able to just pop over and spend time with me. This has meant that we have had to work hard to plan time together and becuase of the hastle of requarantineing afterwards it has actually meant that we have spent more quality time together (actually taking holiday from work!) rather than just squeezing in days here and there between events. And shock of all shocks Arthur actually managed to take two extra weeks off for Christmas so he could quarantine prior to coming into contact with Nan, which meant we spent 4 whole weeks together over the festive break most of which was pretty much just the two of us and it was excellent and a real novelty. We did as many walks as the weather would allow, some diy, lots of crosswords and ate lots of tasty food, by the end of it I think we were both craving a little bit of routine and I am looking foward to getting to all those creative things that I had put off because they are too insular an occupation whilst there was someone else in the house, but I am not looking foward to how long it will be till I next get to spend time with him (fingers crossed for my birthday! >.<