A look back at 2020

Avon valley, June

Birthday dessert, January

As 2019 drew to a close it felt like life was finally returning to some semblance of stability after a hectic few years. After a shaky start my new job was feeling more satisfying, the problems with the house seemed resolved and I was beginning to plan some decorative changes, my health & weight were on improving trajectories, and my bank balance was gently building up & promising another Exotic Adventure Holiday before the year was out. At the outset 2020 looked like being a gentle continuation of this quietly positive trend...

Having your birthday on a public holiday - mine is New Year's Day - can be troublesome when trying to eat out. With my dear friend Linda we worked our way around virtually every pub & restaurant in town looking to find somewhere for a celebratory dinner but alas, they were all either closed or weren't serving evening meals. Eventually we made our way out to The Barge, one of our old haunts, where despite showing the ravages of a long (& apparently very busy) lunchtime rush, being short staffed, and starting to run out of food they found us a table and rustled up a splendid meal. Not only that but the waitress noted our offhand mention of it being a birthday treat and produced a dessert emblazoned with 'Happy Birthday' on the plate. A very good start to the year.

Birthday bash, January

Birthday celebrations continued a few weeks later when I met up with my mother & UK-based sisters for a family meal. For the past few years we've been meeting for each of our birthdays and as the Birthday Boy it was my turn to choose the venue. Sadly the post-Christmas lull meant that most of the places on my possibles list hadn't reopened for business but eventually I found Zuaya, a South American-themed restaurant/bar which turned out to be an excellent choice. You can read more about the day here.

At work things had taken a severe downturn. My probationary review in December had been a bit rocky but despite (from my perspective) my line manager reacting quite confrontationally to my feedback we'd ended the meeting in what felt like amicable agreement. After my string of short-term jobs it was reassuring to have gotten past the peril of a one-week notice period and needing to keep one eye on the Situations Vacant websites.

But it was not to be. Apparently I'd made a worse impression that I realised and my manager had decided to extend my probation for another month. It wasn't clear if this was strictly legitimate - the work contract laid out a three-month probationary period but didn't specify how it ended and the manager heavily implied that it was purely his decision whether I had passed or not. Working with an antagonistic boss is rarely pleasant so once again I polished up my CV and began searching for another job.

January is rarely a good time to be job hunting but there seemed to be quite a few vacancies in my field of iPhone app programming. Before long I was making surreptitious calls in office corridors and spending long evenings completing programming tests, leading to two serious possibilities - both of which were predominantly home-based. After interviewing I went for the one based outside Reading, the journey to the office would be long but making it just once a week would mean less time in trains than my current daily commute into Bristol. The company produced software used in NHS hospitals and although I've never worked on anything obviously socially reprehensible it was surprisingly satisfying to think my work would be clearly beneficial. On the last day of my extended probation I handed in my notice, this caused quite a stir as the line manager hadn't told anyone about his decision (he was let go himself a month later) and began a three week (planned) break before starting the new job.

New synthesizer, February

My solo music projects had dwindled to almost nothing over the past few months (probably due to employment anxiety) and so as a spur to creativity I allowed myself the indulgence of a new instrument - a Modal Argon 8 synthesizer. I've been very wary of spending too much on my electronic music hobby - I worry that I'll just acquire more stuff without putting it to use - so splashing out £580 was a very big deal for me, well over twice what I'd paid for any synth previously. But it's a wonderful instrument, not only capable of a vast array of sounds & textures but having an excellent keyboard which I can use to drive my other instruments (and hopefully improve my very dodgy playing skills). And it did tempt me back into composing, resulting in the albums Intempate and Lux, both of which were produced almost exclusively with the Argon 8.

Rising river waters, February

Living just a stone's throw from the broad ford that gives the town its name I've gotten used to seeing the river burst its banks every couple of years or so, although the process is much more sedate than 'bursting' would imply. This year Storm Dennis caused the Avon to ease out of its stays, flooding some of the bankside streets but luckily stopping well short of my house.

After the rapid deterioration of vision in my left eye last year I was due a follow-up test to check if anything had changed. Sadly it was much the same, and a high-tech examination to probe under the surface (with fancy photography, no scary invasive procedures!) failed to find a treatable cause. Losing my depth perception and the peripheral vision on my left side brings a bunch of day to day challenges but I've developed habits to cope with most of them and apart from the occasional misaligned pour or scuffed step I manage pretty well.

My visit to the optician revealed that I'd not bought new glasses for several years and the silver lining to my eye's failings was only needing a dummy lens on that side. The cost saving gave me the excuse to go for some very fancy frames, so thin & light that they barely register any weight when I'm wearing them. Another step in my ongoing process of making small but tangible improvements in my day to day life.

New glasses, February

A scary moment came in February when I opened the gate to let in a visitor for an elderly neighbour and we discovered she'd collapsed and was in obvious distress. Help was quick to arrive - she has a 'panic button' system which worked really well with a very helpful operator who guided us through the first steps and summoned emergency staff and a local relative - but for a time I found myself comforting her while the support systems went into action around us. It was very challenging to try to be the still point in all the panic & anxiety, putting my own emotions aside while being calm & reassuring for someone going through what to them was a life or death crisis and in retrospect I was quite proud of myself for neither getting swept into the fearfulness nor resorting to promising "It will all be OK" when I didn't know that it would be. After a short hospital stay she was back good as new - a very happy ending!

Fixing the smoke detector, March

At the end of February I started my new job. The office was in Wokingham, not far outside Reading, and I'd be working there four days a week (with one day working from home) for a few weeks before cutting back to one or two days once I'd gotten established. The commute was about two hours door to door involving three train journeys but the connections were easy and I used the time for reading & catching up on emails, something I'd be doing at home anyway. The office was modern & well laid out, my co-workers were friendly, and although the work wasn't quite as organised or systematic as promised (it never is) it was still an improvement on my recent job experiences. After a few days I was set up with equipment, had filled out most of the admin forms, and had started to put names to faces.

Living in hotels for three nights a week gave me a chance to explore Wokingham's nightlife. With no access to cooking facilities I sampled several of the local restaurants, attempting to try out new styles while resisting the urge to approach every menu with indulgent abandon. In which I was partially successful. A great discovery was the Everyman Cinema which had comfy armchair/sofa style seating, blankets for those who felt the cold (which meant it wasn't swelteringly hot for the rest of us), a nicely varied programme with different films showing on different days, and the option to have proper food or drinks at your seat. On one occasion I was the only patron in one of the screens and just before the film started a member of staff came over and gave me a free chocolate bar as a 'thank you for supporting us' gift, a very nice touch.

Between the Everyman and the Little Cinema in Bath I managed to see seven films in the first two months of the year, sadly this regular moviegoing habit was destined not to continue. My favourites were Jojo Rabbit which was delightful, and the True History of the Kelly Gang which was definitely offbeat but surprisingly engaging.

And then came the lockdown. At work I was told to cancel my hotel bookings for the following weeks and to take home all the equipment I'd need to operate from there for the foreseeable future. Within days life shrank to a small orbit around my house.

Quarantine ice cream, April

The first weeks of the lockdown were a strange mixture of radical change and humdrum normalcy. The streets were deserted and unsettlingly quiet as traffic shrank to a trickle, most of the shops closed and the remaining few suffered very interrupted supplies (although this never became a big problem for me), and I started getting cancellation notices for nearly all of my appointments & scheduled events. And yet indoor life was surprisingly unaffected, I've worked from home on many occasions in the past and the generally more flexible approach to working meant I could reorganise my hours into the early mornings and evenings giving me more free time during the day. With only myself to cater for it was easy to work around temporary shortages in the shops and actually encouraged me to make smaller but more frequent supermarket hikes through the deserted back streets. The lack of human contact was a concern but I made up for it with frequent phone, Skype and (eventually) Zoom calls, along with (socially distant) chats with my neighbours in our shared central courtyard. In the face of the scary news coming in from around the world I was faring remarkably comfortably.

In those early days, with the lightning fast spread of the pandemic in all the headlines, it seemed to me that we'd all catch it sooner rather than later so when I started coming down with a cough & general malaise I resigned myself to a few weeks of fluey isolation. The threat of serious illness seemed very low and I wasn't particularly worried, in fact in anticipation of a short quarantine I'd invested in some morale-boosting ice cream to see me though days of listlessly watching videos while wrapped up on the sofa. As it turned out I didn't have covid and after a couple of days was back at work - and the ice cream remains tucked away at the back of the freezer. Maybe a Christmas treat?

Band Zoom, April

One of the biggest impacts of the pandemic was on the Rhythm Coalition, the local band in which I play bass. We'd built up a moderate schedule of gigs for the year which were all quickly cancelled, as was our regular booking at the rehearsal hall. Losing the chance to play music with such a talented group of friends left a gaping hole in my quality of life, not being able to perform live was disappointing but it was the weekly practice sessions that I really missed - working on new songs, trying out different arrangements, or just bashing out old favourites. There's something about conjuring a harmonious whole from a bunch of disparate elements, dynamically balancing individuality and conformity, that makes me feel vibrantly alive and 'in the moment' - it was very sad to lose it. We managed some rehearsals together when circumstances & lockdown restrictions allowed and met up via Zoom when they didn't but I find myself desperately hanging on for when we can play regularly again.

To add injury to injury we'd only just been given permission to return to the hall when our drummer was rushed to hospital after a heart attack! Thankfully he had a swift & full recovery but just to be cautious we said no to what turned out to be our only opportunity to perform in public all year. Sigh! Although in retrospect it's hard to see how the six of us could have maintained proper social distancing on the tiny 'stage' area.

New video supplies, May

The lockdown hadn't been long in place when I was faced with an unexpected problem. The smoke detectors in my house have backup batteries so they'll keep working should the power cut out, when these batteries run low they give a warning signal - a loud beep that repeats every 40 seconds. I'd had to replace a couple of these since the house was completed but now I had a complaining unit that was on the ceiling of my dining room which stretches up nearly two stories, way beyond the reach of my little stepladder or a chair precariously balanced on the dining room table. For a day & a half I suffered the torment of the relentless beeps but luckily for me fire prevention equipment apparently fell under the heading of 'permitted emergency repairs' and a workman with an impressive extending ladder (my first direct encounter with someone in mask & gloves) came round and switched batteries in both it and another unit situated up high.

Home cut hairstyle, June

With the lockdown came the restriction of not more than one outside excursion per day but with the improving weather I chose to take this as an incentive to get out for a substantial walk every day. In the past I'd usually wander along the canal towpath but this was becoming increasingly crowded so I decided to explore more of my local area. Bradford on Avon is surrounded by fairly intensive agriculture but there were a surprising number of pathways, rights of way and quiet country lanes spidering out from the town into the local countryside. Although a few of my trips ended up with vanishing signposts, ploughed fields, or impenetrable undergrowth the vast majority led me through scenic countryside, picturesque villages, and hitherto undiscovered aspects of my little Wiltshire town. I got into the habit of taking lots of pictures along the way and posting the best of them on social media which encouraged me to take a deeper look at my surroundings as I passed. Good to be reminded of how delightful my local area can be. There's a selection of my pictures here.

In addition to regular hikes I began to head out on my bicycle more frequently, letting me venture even further afield. The sharp reduction in traffic made roadway journeys feel much safer but the rolling Wiltshire countryside meant a lot of steep hills to climb (which was probably a good thing for my general level of fitness). On a few occasions I'd set off with a specific destination in mind but more often I'd just follow a vague direction, checking with my map & phone to clarify a choice of route or (more commonly) to work out the best way home. As spring turned to summer I found myself out in the peacefully deserted rural backroads more & more often.

As the lockdown eased the level of traffic rose and the roads started to feel more dangerous for a casual cyclist. I began limiting my trips to designated cycleways & a few quiet country lanes and wearing my helmet for every excursion. Eventually my regular bike rides reduced down to a single exercise run, I'd do several laps on a circuit of very quiet country lanes around a couple of local villages. This was still a very pleasant ride through fields & woodland but the emphasis had moved towards fitness & road safety.

Support your local brewery, July

All this extra usage of the bike was taking its toll and I ended up getting the wheels, gears, and brakes replaced - at this point I think the frame is the only original part remaining! I added a small lap counter to the handlebars to keep track as my exercise runs grew longer, my ancient windproof jacket was finally replaced with a dayglo modern one, and I downloaded an app to monitor my times & the distances I covered. I'd tried wearing earbuds to have music while I rode but it was a little unsettling to not be able to hear my surroundings, especially as more cars & vans returned to the roads. A neighbour suggested bone conducting headphones and these turned out to be perfect - the sound is transmitted through contact with your cheekbones leaving your ears clear to hear the outside world. They've become my regular 'on the go' headphones for walking & train travel too.

Bone conducting headphones, July

Before the arrival of the new headphones one of my ears had started to block up and severely diminish my hearing on that side. With my local health centre restricted to emergencies and suspected covid cases I wasn't sure of the new protocol but their website directed me to download an app to guide me through any medical issues. This turned out to be (from my perspective) a surprisingly effective illustration of what health case in the future might look like - I was led through a long and detailed series of multiple choice questions, each one seemingly informed by my previous answers and a couple repeating earlier questions but explicitly stating that they were confirming my responses. Eventually a message was displayed saying I did need treatment and that someone would call me within the next 24 hours. When this call came it was someone confirming my general symptoms, after which another call came, about an hour later, from someone clearly medically qualified who asked more, detailed questions, answered my own concerns, discussed the treatment, then dispatched the prescription to my local pharmacy. Shortly afterwards I got a text message saying my medicine was ready to be collected and sure enough there it was when I went to fetch it.

I was very impressed by this whole procedure. I'd filled out the initial 'form' in my own time, the questions were relevant and specific to my symptoms, I'd talked with two real people to check & clarify my answers, and the medicine was swiftly dispensed at my local chemist. It seemed like the routine aspects had been efficiently automated leaving the medical staff free to deal with the more personal interactions. Luckily my ailment was relatively easy to diagnose & treat but it was good to feel that I wasn't blocking up the system for other, needier patients.

Bike fittings, July

With a lot of enforced 'leisure' time at home I began to reexamine some of my routine & regular activities. My hair was becoming decidedly shaggy and as my local barber was unlikely to reopen any time soon I decided to take the plunge and try cutting it myself - I normally have a fairly even short trim all over and even the worst styling disaster would grow out pretty quickly. Plugging in my old beard trimmer I was soon surrounded by a mat of shorn white locks and the result was definitely passable, at least by my standards. The old trimmer was struggling with its new role so I invested in a new model and although I'll probably have a professional cut once in a while I suspect I'll continue as my own hairdresser for the foreseeable future.

As more restrictions on non-essential travel came in I decided to make a conscious effort to support my local businesses. I already had a monthly coffee 'subscription' from a nearby roaster and as my consumption increased I started getting extra supplies from the specialist coffee vendor in town. With no pubs open I discovered the local brewery offered home deliveries and you could order a 'selection pack' with a collection of their current brews, ideal for me as I often prefer a variety to sticking with a single favourite. A market stallholder in Bath was delivering flavoured olive oils & other Sicilian goodies, I'd been introduced to a local bicycle repair man ("But how???") who was taking care of my trusty bike, and when I bought a new Watchmen poster I found a framer tucked away just a few streets from my home and was very pleased with the result. I was still doing some shopping at the supermarket at the edge of town (their wide aisles, limiting of customer numbers, and enforcement of mask wearing made them increasingly preferable to the more cramped store in the town centre) but I was visiting smaller retailers & suppliers whenever I could.

Masked for travel, August

The inward focus of life under lockdown led to some reassessing of my goods & chattels. Despite living in a fairly spartan household I've found that eternal vigilance is the price of clarity and when I put my mind to it there's always some stuff that's surplus to requirements. Some things went via the local Freegle giveaway system (which seemed to be labouring under the increased load), some were destined for charity shops (although even when they reopened were very restrictive in what they'd accept - I still have a few bags of items waiting to go), some went to friends, a few, alas, ended up in the bin. A few additions came in but these were mostly part of my 'gradual improvement' plan, upgrades & replacements that each made my day to day life a little bit better. My ten year old microwave (which I use way more than the oven or hob) gave way to a new, shiny, copper coloured replacement, my huge hi-fi amplifier was replaced with a tiny model, a new set of linen, er, bedlinen sent two older sets to the giveaway pile, and a cracked salad bowl was replaced by one from a local potter.

Another synthesizer, September

In July I had my six-monthly diabetes review which was all good, my blood sugar readings were back down to 'pre-diabetic' levels and all my other vitals were showing normal results. After the progress I'd made losing weight last year it had started to creep up again so I began on a more regular exercise routine, getting out on the bike most days and doing a stint on my rowing machine when the weather kept me indoors. This bore fruit as my weight & waistline gradually reduced and my fitness level rose, to the point where people started saying I was looking thinner and, somewhat disturbingly, my body shape felt 'different' to me - something I don't remember ever happening before. Very odd. Sadly my old (& very cheap) rowing machine expired under its increased workload but it gave me the excuse to get a (slightly) better model to replace it.

In parallel with my new exercise regimen I took another look at my diet & cooking habits. I've always eaten pretty healthily, even more so since the diabetes diagnosis, but this year saw a few changes to my daily fare. One of the most unexpected was going dairy free - early in the year Linda & I popped into a cafe for coffee without noticing that it was vegan, their capuccinos were delicious so I took note of the oat milk they used and decided to give it a try at home. Having made the switch (it was good on cereal too) the only other dairy product in my fridge was some butter I kept for omelettes (& visitors' toast) so when that ran out I decided not to replace it. I don't know if getting rid of milk products has had any real impact (and I don't actively avoid them when dining out) but it's interesting to have another area of the supermarket that I no longer visit.

Another culinary project was to try to replace 'pre-cooked' items by making them myself from basic ingredients. Two successes were stir-fry sauce - where I impressed myself by working from the ingredient list of a favourite brand - and hummus, which turned out to be surprisingly easy and where I'm still exploring new & exciting flavours. Roast beetroot hummus is wonderful! Sadly my ancient handheld blender was another appliance that couldn't handle the increased workload and gave way to a new, improved model.

Homemade hummus, September

I'd sailed through my probationary period at the new job (a nice contrast with the previous one) but things weren't going quite as smoothly as I'd hoped. My first few projects were scheduled for 'future deployment' and subsequent ones had very vague requirements & specifications - I'd spend ages trying to get the precise details, then be told of additional features that hadn't been mentioned before, then hear that "We have a different way of doing that", and finally have to go back to trying to get answers to the new questions. Not only was this very unsatisfying it made me very unproductive (at least by my standards) and I started to worry that I wasn't giving a very good return on my salary. I brought this up with my manager & workmates but I was consistently told that it was all fine and things would improve over time.

New microwave, September

There seemed to be (at least) two causes for these haphazard work practices. Although the company has been active for ten years it still operates very much like a start-up - people have their own areas of expertise and generally self-manage themselves within them. This is a very effective way of getting a project up & running but as numbers increase it makes it more & more difficult for newcomers to find their place, the organisational structure in the induction manual often bears little relation to the actual hierarchy of authority. On top of this the ongoing pandemic meant that the primary focus was on supporting the NHS hospitals using our software and development work beyond this was clearly (and understandably) given a much lower priority.

Towards the end of the year things did start to improve and hopefully I'll look back at this as just finding my way into a particularly opaque company culture. I'd not thought of myself as a workaholic but being under utilised was very dispiriting.

Outside of my day job I found time to keep up with supporting the car share system I'd written for my old Scottish community and updating my various iPhone apps with some new Apple technologies. I was also persuaded to write a new app for taxi drivers by an enthusiastic customer, we'll see if that brings home dividends.

My musical output had waned through the summer months so I packaged up the two tracks I'd completed and released them as a single, Tintinnalogia, more to be tidy than anything else. But then I read about a new synthesizer that sounded right up my street - cheap & cheerful with a quirky interface and a selection of sound synthesis methods that I'd never used before, like Granular formant oscillator and Modal resonator. I (electronically) sent off my money and soon had a New Toy to play with, an Arturia Microfreak.

Chimney repair, October

The new instrument was lots of fun and I soon found myself getting to grips with its unusual control layout, flat capacitive keyboard, and huge selection of sounds. As a learning exercise I began creating short tunes with just a single synthesis method for each, using this limitation as a spur to use what I had rather than agonise over the infinite possibilities (a trait I often suffer from - I tend to be more of a 'finder' than a 'designer'). After a shaky start I was pleasantly surprised by the results, enough to release them as the album Microfreak (but not enough to rename them from their working titles).

After working on 'single instrument' releases through the year I'm determined to get back to using them collectively with my other sonic machinery, which will require a more systematic approach. As an early Christmas present I've bought myself an Arturia Keystep Pro - a sequencer/controller to act as a base station from where I can synchronise them all together. Fun times ahead!

New art, November

October brought heavy rain and leaks in my ceiling! An initial investigation found problems with my chimney - an entirely fake construction that exists only because the earlier building (which was redeveloped into the eight flats that include my own) had a chimney and its Listed Building status demanded that a chimney there must always be! (This reasoning has since been questioned but was taken as gospel during the redevelopment work). The mortar supporting the chimney pot had decayed which let water into the flat and left the pot itself precariously perched, ready to drop through the velux window directly below it. A temporary repair was quickly put in place - the pot was removed and the chimney stack sealed with tarpaulin - but the leaks continued and further investigation revealed major shortcomings with the flashing & sealing of several of the veluxes. These will be properly fixed soon and I'm hoping to get permission to remove the chimney completely, although as this is a listed building the process is unlikely to be a short or simple one.

When I bought my ludicrously expensive iPhone Xs a couple of years ago I thought it would last me for a good long time. Whereas a new mobile used to bring substantial improvements & new features the curve has been levelling off over the years and nowadays the marginal gains in speed & camera quality are often offset by the hassle of switching handsets. But in November I was tempted back into the Apple Store by the iPhone 12 Mini, a device who's main selling point was that it was smaller (and, amazingly, cheaper) than my current phone. It does feel a bit more comfortable in my hand but the reduction in weight has been the most noticeable improvement, it's so nice to not feel that I have a brick in my pocket. And the setup process was effortless - log in to my iCloud account, lay the old & new phones down side by side and they wirelessly copied over all my apps & settings. Hopefully I can keep hold of this one for longer than two years.

New & old phones, November

With the lockdowns and other restrictions I've been making good use of my video player (I remain unconnected to streaming services) and have found myself drawn more to the longer form of TV series' than to films. Luckily I've seen lots of good ones, including Babylon Berlin, The Boys, Chernobyl, Deutschland 83 & 86, Justified, The Night Of, Orange is the new Black (all seven seasons!), The Returned, and Watchmen. It's becoming common for TV shows to drop in quality after (or even during) their first series but the second seasons of Fleabag and Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency both managed to buck the trend.

I thought it had been a quiet year for music purchases but somehow I managed to buy twelve new albums, along with my usual eclectic haul of single tracks. Notable additions were two albums by my old friend Dave Bessell, the two Utopia soundtracks by Christobal Tapia De Veer, and the first three albums by the Cardiacs, a band I'd missed completely during their heyday in the 80's.

There's been time for reading too and my Kindle account reveals that I bought 53 books in 2020 (about the same number as the year before) and read all but a couple of stinkers. I've enjoyed the alternate history stories of Guy Gavriel Kay, fantasy & sci-fi by Joe Abercrombie and John Scalzi, comedy by Heide Goody, and have developed an unexpected fascination with (translated) German detective novels set in the 1930's and 40's - the Gereon Rath mysteries of Volker Kutscher and the Inspector Stave stories by Cay Rademacher. There's also been my usual eccentric collection of non-fiction books, including works on the development & testing of liquid rocket fuels, the experiences of Soviet female soldiers in WWII, scandal in the world of Australian sheep breeding, and the economics of 17th century pirates.

Polysequencer, December

Looking back it's strange to observe how the whirlwind of changes sweeping through the world left me in a still, almost timeless state from which to review & reflect on how I live my life. By the Spring we'd moved from what used to be 'normal' to lockdown, masks & gloves, pavement queuing outside shops, and celebrity handwashing tutorials but since then the incessant tinkering with rules & restrictions, bubbles, social distances, rules of [choose a number], levels, and tiers has had very little impact on me. I live alone, spend most of my time in the house, walk to the shops for food, and do the little shopping that remains online. My work is steady & undramatic and apart from two short trips during convenient breaks in the travel restrictions I've only been to places I can get to on foot or by bike. And yet in these doldrums of insignificance I've made changes that have had a huge effect on my daily life - exploring & discovering some (more) of the delights of my bailiwick, seriously improving my fitness & diet, learning new skills, and making gradual but significant improvements to lots of my regular tasks & tools. Despite thinking that it's been a slack year for creativity I've produced three albums of my own music and have laid the groundwork for more to come. My finances are better (& much more organised) than they've ever been and my home feels clear and (even more) uncluttered, a space with all the comforts I need without cloying me into idleness. Mostly.

There have been downsides too, of course. The absence of human contact has been hard to take but I've tried to compensate by being more attentive to emails, making more phone & video calls, and sending more birthday (& other) cards. My redecorating plans have been indefinitely postponed and the unevenness of my job's workload has been oddly unsettling. Probably the most worrying aspect has been the ongoing encroachment of ageing with my eyesight & hearing appreciably deteriorating, my mental processes feeling like they're slowing down, and a sense that I'm becoming clumsier & less adroit with handling things. It's hard to come to terms with not being 23 anymore but the evidence is definitely mounting up. On the other hand my emotional development is finally approaching adolescence, just in time for my second childhood. Yay!

"It's the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine." It seems very strange to be celebrating the cataclysm of 2020 but the suspension of so many habitual and 'normal' routines has given me the ideal opportunity to choose which of them I want to continue with or modify, questions I suspect many others will be pondering (even if unconsciously). I'm a little concerned with how comfortable I've become in such an isolate lifestyle - is this an aspect of my personality I want to encourage? - but as I hear of people getting their first vaccine jabs my inner social animal is rattling the bars, yearning for release & engagement with others. 2021 already has more than its share of uncertainty - How will the pandemic pan out? What will be the fruits of the UK's split from the EU? - but I feel well grounded to handle whatever ensues. We'll see.

December 2020