As Tier 4 strikes most of us across the country, and January looks set to be the most January January there ever was, I think it would be very easy to fall into a spiral of negativity right now. We are definitely in for a rough start to 2021, but as I’ve tried to do for as much of this year as possible I’m trying to be positive and see the light at the end of the tunnel – which at least seems to exist now. Despite the shit show that 2020 has undoubtedly been, I’ve had some great times too. Different, but great. Before I put 2020 firmly behind me, this is my last look back on this year so here’s my highlights from 2020.
I did dry January which wasn’t a highlight at all, but it did mean I felt a lot better about myself by the end of it. We went for a weekend away to Armathwaite Hall and Spa in the Lake District, which was a lovely end to the month, and we came home to the news my sister and Martin had got engaged. Back then we could actually celebrate it as well.
On the very last day of the month we picked up Arthur, from the middle of nowhere on a farm somewhere near Ilkley outside of Leeds. Little did I know then just how good this year would be for getting a dog. I firmly believe he has almost broke, but also saved my sanity this year. One of the best highlights of 2020 for me.
February saw our first group night out with our friends from Amble, where we went to Ghetto Golf in Hoult’s Yard. Dancing in Stack afterwards until the early hours all packed in just seems so long ago. Kieran and I also did a bottomless brunch at Jam Jar in Jesmond and this was one of my favourite days out, we had such a good time.
It’s quite hard to remember work trips from back then, which if I’d told myself the previous year I just wouldn’t have believed it. I went to both Hamburg and Copenhagen at the start of this year, and briefly ventured in to Oslo as well. I’ve never taken for granted being able to visit these places through my job, but it’s funny that I began this year saying I hope it wouldn’t be quite as much as it had been. That certainly turned out to be true.
Before lockdown hit I did manage to go on my first press trip of the year, to Glasgow with People Make Glasgow. Kieran and I had a packed itinerary and I absolutely loved the trip. We had some of the best food and drink that weekend, I’d love to go back in future. I didn’t get to share many blogs about my trip at the time, as literally a week or two later we were in lockdown, but I did share them over the summer when restrictions eased a lot.
March and April now feel like such a blur, other than the Sunday night we all sat and watched Boris announce the national lockdown, I can remember the first day working from home, and standing in the Asda queue a lot. The uncertainty around what was to come was pretty scary, but I felt like there was a sort of unified excitement from everyone about all being in the same position and trying to get through it.
Kieran and I did our own bottomless brunch one Saturday, and I had some of the worst hangovers of the year having never left the house. House party is an app I hope I never have to use again.
I also wrote my most successful blog post ever – 35 things that will happen in Newcastle when lockdown ends, and that was a real highlight from 2020 for me because I’ve never had a post go that crazy so quickly. Reading that now is quite funny, as so many of them still apply all these months down the line. If I’ve learned anything since then though it’s not to get your hopes up about anything.
I was furloughed in May and I promised myself from the start that I would really try to stay positive, make myself get up every day and treat my blog as though it was a full time job. For a lot of it initially I did do that, but it was also so hard to go from the most hectic on the go life to literally nothing so suddenly.
The weather in May was incredible so that helped, and if there’s anything I’m proud of from this year it’s the tan I managed to get from sitting in the British sun during those weeks. Little things like an afternoon on the beach, or in the garden were real highlights, and I think we’ve all learned to appreciate the small things this year.
June was one of my most favourite months of the year. Restrictions were easing, and Kieran turned 30. We had a week off together and rather than spending it in Palma as planned we had days out and picnics in various parts of the North East. Again I appreciated those days so much after the lockdown we had and just being able to be outside and have some fun again felt good.
It was also a sad month as my cousin should have been getting married, and we had big plans for Kieran’s 30th, but in both instances we made the best of it as much as we could.
When I look back on the summer months, it could almost sound pretty normal. We had nights out, discovered Beach Box in Jesmond which was great, pubs reopened, we went to the Sam Fender gig and saw a lot of our friends. Of course it wasn’t really normal, with table service, contactless ordering, being at a music gig on a platform surrounded by nobody, and sanitiser everywhere. But we had fun and there was just so much happiness at being able to be with people again. Another lesson we’ve all learned – how much we appreciate the people in our lives.
Throughout lockdown and the summer, I ran virtual travel weekends on Instagram, sharing photos and stories of places I’ve been to and despite being a bit worried how people would take it I found that people loved it. I think this year has rebuilt everyone’s bucket lists, and encouraged the attitude to never wait for things. Get on with it, go to places you want to go and do the things you want to do. I have missed travel a lot this year, but I have a very clear picture of where I want to go in future when we can again.
I’m not going to delve too deep into my new found love of this country, and exploring what is on our doorstep because I’m fed up of hearing it from people, and I would much rather be on a plane somewhere. But I have enjoyed visiting new places in this country and it’s given me much more inspiration for weekends at home in future.
Don’t be under any illusions though, if I never have to walk the cycle tracks by my house again I will not be sorry. The beach on the other hand, I will never take for granted living by the sea again.
September was another great month, after dreaming of the Lake District since we booked it in February, every single day as we walked the same routes through lockdown we finally got there. It was the most amazing week, at Mirefoot Cottages who I couldn’t recommend enough.
My birthday followed which included a spa day to a hidden gem in Northumberland, the Beau Monde day spa where I spent a lovely day being pampered. I’ve been back since and enjoyed it just as much, a great place to have discovered not too far from home.
Kieran and I had some good food at Muddler, and Saltwater Fish Company before a weekend glamping with friends at Hill Top Huts in Teesdale. This weekend for me was one of the best, because it wasn’t what we originally planned due to a number of circumstances, but it summed up what this year has been about. Making the absolute best of a situation, enjoying being there in the moment with good friends having a laugh. You just can’t replace those types of days or weekends.
My solo trip to the Scottish Borders was another really good few days, and I stayed at some beautiful hotels while exploring the area. I want to get back up there again as soon as we can to take Arthur and Kieran.
One thing I have done whole heartedly this year is embrace the seasons. When you’re sat on furlough at home all day, you need it to be a nice environment. Many turned to DIY and upgrading areas of their house and garden, whereas I chose to take a much simpler and affordable route through flowers, pumpkins, food and candle scents. I fully nested into whatever season it was and switching tulips for sunflowers, sunflowers for pumpkins, and pumpkins for red Christmas berries just brought a smile to my day over my morning coffee.
November was one of the months I just wished away. We were in a national lockdown and I just wanted it to be Christmas. The tree was up mid month and the decision for me to do Blogmas gave me a real focus for my time. I had found it so hard after the summer when the weather got worse and everyone around me was back to work, Blogmas gave me a structured focus and goal to work towards.
Christmas and the run up to it may not have been anywhere near normal, but I threw myself into the aspects of it that I could and I hope that was reflected in my Christmas blogs. It was of course so lovely to be back in my parents house and Kieran’s mums house for Christmas Day.
Other highlights from 2020 I haven’t mentioned are probably a bit more cliche, but they’re all true. The people in my life are truly incredible, and our human ability to cope with the shit we’ve all experienced this year just amazes me. Everyone has suffered, I wouldn’t believe anyone if they said they haven’t this year, but I have some real stand out relationships with people that have only grown stronger.
There are people you speak to every day, and people you just check in with occasionally, or like the odd photo, or have a quick catch up with and I couldn’t have got through this year without the people around me, or on the end of the phone.
The humour has been another lifeline for me this year. The memes, the videos, the tweets, the forward WhatsApp messages – if there is one thing you can rely on the Great British public for it is finding humour in the darkest of days. Thank god for technology.
This selection of highlights from 2020 may have read a bit like a romanticised version of this year, which we all know is so far from the reality. There have been some horrible horrible moments, uncertainty, loss, anxiety, hurt and stress like I’ve never known before, and like anything you see online don’t be fooled into thinking anyone has life easy. This post is exactly what it’s titled – a highlight reel, but underneath lies all the rest too.
It doesn’t look like 2021 is going to start any better than 2020 is ending, but another lesson I have absolutely took in is that our outlook makes the biggest difference to everything. I refuse to get my hopes up too high, but as we head in to tier 4 and 2021, I’ve got spring in the back of my mind as a tiny light at the end of the tunnel. Let’s hope it gets bigger over the next two months.
I said it on Christmas Eve but thank you again for reading and supporting my blog. You’ve no idea how much it’s meant to me this year.
Wishing everyone a happy and safe New Year x