2020 A Year in Review

2020 may have been the oddest year of most of our lives but it’s done now, and we have to have hope that 2021 will be better. I have, for the most part, managed to stay mentally sound throughout most of the year, which I know isn’t the same for everyone. I thank my lucky stars that this happened now and not a couple of decades ago when we would have been far more isolated that we have been thanks to Zoom, FaceTime and Teams.

I also massively appreciate the fact that we have outside space which, although at the moment isn’t at all enticing due to the inclement weather, got us through the warmer months of the year with relative ease, especially so when we were allowed to have people in our garden.

Here are some of my favourite garden photos of last year.

The garden was reasonably productive in terms of fruit and veg in 2020 …

… and we had quite a few visitors of the fauna variety!

Inside the house, we made a few home improvements. The first was pre-lockdown when, with the help of my Dad, we transformed our bathroom from dingy to sparkly clean safari wonderland.

During lockdown when I was furloughed and hubby’s workplace was demonstrating exactly how a zero hours contract benefits the employer (they still are!) we tackled first our spare bedroom/my home office making it a homage to all things Harry Potter …

… then when I was unfurloughed but hubby was still unbusy with zero hours, he decided to tackle the woodchip in our living room and we completely redecorated including wallpapering, laying laminate flooring, opening out the fireplace and hanging the TV on the wall.

Outside we built a catio on the side of the kitchen so our furry girls can get some air safely.

Away from home, amazingly we did manage to squeeze in three holidays. The first was, to paraphrase Craig Revel-Horwood A-May-zing!! A week long cruise round the Caribbean preceded by a two night stop in Orlando and a trip to Universal to go on the new Hagrid’s Magical Creatures coaster. This was pre-COVID, in fact I remember the first I heard about it was by scanning the Sky news app whilst I was sunbathing on deck, and I assumed it would be like the previous SARS disease. I never even entertained the thought that it could turn into what it has! Blissful ignorance, eh?

In between lockdown 1.0 and lockdown 2.0 we managed a short break to Norfolk which was a game of two halves – lovely to get away and see the sea, but I got bitten by a dog, we had to come home early because hubby had a job interview (which he didn’t get!) and I got a flat tyre!

In September we went to Edinburgh for my birthday. This had been booked pre-pandemic and we didn’t know until the last minute whether we’d be able to go, but I’m so glad we could because we had a fantastic time. One of the best holidays I’ve ever had.

We had a few great days out – we walked alpacas, visited confetti fields, played with meerkats, met gorillas at Twycross Zoo and we walked and cycled many times in Sutton Park and Kingsbury Water Park …

… and we also had a couple of great days in making up for things that we should have been doing. We had a non-Jamaica party for two on the day we were supposed to be flying out and we had a tennis afternoon tea on the day Dad and I were supposed to be going to watch the ATP tour finals in London.

I also did a lot of crafts – mainly crochet, but also knitting, baking, jigsaws (do they count as crafts?) model making, felting and, obviously, mask making!

So, all in all, although it certainly didn’t feel like it at times, 2020 was actually a pretty full year and I achieved quite a lot. Amongst all this, I was also working full time (apart from being furloughed for nine weeks in the summer) in a job that I only started six weeks before we were plunged into lockdown and home working, and I feel that I managed very well to learn the new job (although this is an on-going process) under challenging circumstances. It turns out that home working, while it doesn’t suit everyone or every job, works pretty well for me, and for my team. As I mentioned before, thank goodness for technology!

Now it’s time to look forward to 2021 and I’ll finish with a quote that I recently read in a fiction book, the sixth in the Seven Sisters series by Lucinda Riley but that is based in fact (the first book I didn’t enjoy as much, but I’m so glad I persevered because they got better and better and one thing to look forward to in 2021 is the release of the final in the series).Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards – Soren Kierkegaard.


I’m a big fan of Michael Morpurgo, as it would seem are a huge number of people. His Facebook page has forty one thousand likes and the film version of WarHorse grossed almost one hundred and eighty million dollars at the box office.

Like lots of people, I think, it wasn’t until WarHorse came to prominence that Michael Morpurgo came to the forefront of my mind. You may have noticed the slightly strange turn of phrase there ‘came to the forefront of my mind’. This is because he had been in my mind for a long time, but I had completely forgotten until I did some browsing of Amazon that I did actually read a Michael Morpurgo book when I was twelve. This one.


I know I was definitely twelve because the book was a gift from my Dad and C when I broke my leg. I always remembered the book but didn’t remember who wrote it. I read it in one day while I was stranded on the sofa, up to my hip in plaster.

I read WarHorse on my Kindle a few years ago and loved it so when I saw that the stage show was touring and coming to the Hippodrome in Birmingham I headed straight on line to book tickets, and last Saturday we headed into town for the matinee showing.


It was a packed house, not an empty seat anywhere as we waited for the show to start.


The puppetry was amazing. The two main horses, Joey and Topthorn had three people operating them, two inside the body representing the hind and the heart and one alongside representing the head. Somehow the knowledge that the horses hearts were being represented made the depiction all the more poignant. I obviously couldn’t take photos during the performance but I’ve found a good pic online.


On the left is Joey and Topthorn is on the right. You can see the three puppeteers. This is when they were first introduced to each other behind the lines of the battlefield in France. There were also supporting horses, but these were differentiated by being less formed, their bodies ended at their tail with no hind legs, and they were operated by just one person.

As well as the horses, there was a puppet goose. It was operated by one person using a handle attached to it, and it waddled around the stage on a wheel. The goose provided a very necessary touch of light relief.


The title of the show is fairly self explanatory, but until I read the book, it had never occurred to me that animals were involved in the First World War. We all know of the enormous human suffering and loss of life, but less is known of the plight of the million horses that were sent to France. Only sixty two thousand returned. That’s approximately ninety five percent that perished.

The book is written from Joey’s point of view but I guess it would be hard to portray this on the stage so in this case you watch the events unfold in front of you. You see Joey bought at auction by Ted Narracott and then see his relationship grow with Albert, Ted’s son. He has to learn to become a farm horse, ploughing the land, and it is this which ultimately saves his life out on the battlefields of France.

I don’t want to ruin the story, just in case anyone hasn’t read it/watched it, so I won’t delve any more into the plot. The portrayal of the fighting, the torture of uncertainty and no news back home and the agonising choices having to be made at the front line is incredibly moving. In fact, at times I found myself squirming in my seat because I actually found it quite uncomfortable viewing. The thought that this is real, people and horses actually went through this. Millions of lives were lost, millions more changed forever. So much bravery and valour, but oh so much pain and suffering.

For me, as an animal lover, and someone who’s had to go through the pain of losing a beloved pet, seeing the First World War portrayed in this way, using animals, drove home to me how absolutely devastating the war was, to the world, to our country, to families, to individuals. It made me incredibly grateful to the men, women and animals who bravely suffered the atrocities of war, whether it be on the front line or away from the action keeping the country ticking over, and so so relieved that this isn’t our reality today.

The show has a happy ending, but put against the backdrop of such horrors, this just serves to heighten the emotion. I never normally get upset at shows or films, but I just couldn’t help it and the tears were rolling down my cheeks at the end. It was harrowing. I felt utterly emotionally exhausted, but then guilty for not being able to hold it together when real people endured the reality of the war with stoicism and resolve. The actors got a standing ovation as they came on to take their bows, which was absolutely deserved. I’m glad we went to see the show, but I don’t think I would put myself through it again.

Saturday shopping trip

I needed to pay a cheque into my account today (successful PPI claim – whoop!) so we headed off to our local shopping centre, Sutton Coldfield, to visit the bank.

We took the need to go into Sutton as the perfect excuse to indulge in a spot of lunch. When I say ‘we’, really I mean ‘me’ because hubby, as with most men, really doesn’t get excited by food. He sees eating more as a necessity and not something to look forward to, or plan, or dream about, or salivate over! How can one not get a little rush of excitement over a perfectly dusted Victoria sponge cake with jam oozing from its middle, or a block of purple wrapped Dairy Milk straight from the fridge, or a ginormous bag of crunchy onion rings with a creamy pot of cheesy dip just waiting to be dunked, or a big, steaming bowl of spaghetti carbonara?


Erm ….. where was I? Oh right, lunch! I can’t believe my blog is a nearly two months old and I haven’t talked to you about Ted’s Hot Potatoes yet. He makes the best jacket potatoes EVER! He started off with a mobile potato stand in 1980, then he graduated to a semi-permanent hut, and now you can find him in his own shop/restaurant with inside and outside seating. Essentially that means Ted’s has been around for ninety three percent of my life!

When I was in my early teens, my Mum and I had a tradition that involved Ted. We used to pop into Sutton towards the end of the summer holidays to get my new stationery ready for the return to school. I used to love this trip firstly because choosing new stationery is one of life’s great joys for me, and secondly because Mum used to treat us to a hot jacket potato from Ted, who was still in his mobile stand back then. We always had the same topping, and Ted is the only potato seller I know of to do this, and it’s still my go-to topping to this day …..


Delicious! Cheese and Branston on a piping hot, crispy jacket potato. It’s really (REALLY) not diet-friendly and with less than eight weeks until I have to squidge my lumps and bumps into a bikini, I really should be mindful of such things, but they taste soooooooooooo good!

Anyway, jacket potato happily consumed, we went for a nose around Flying Tiger. I always find something to buy in here. It’s full of me type things. Things that I don’t need, but I do want. Today they had yarn! This makes me happy!


The blue/green/purple (my three favourite colours) ones I think I’ll make a blanket with. Not sure how big it will be, but if I do a c2c one I can just keep increasing until the first ball runs out, and then start decreasing with the second. It doesn’t say what weight it is, but it looks slightly thicker than DK and says to use 4.5mm needles (hook in my case) so I’m guessing it’s closer to an aran and I think I’ll use a 5mm hook.

I’ve no idea what I’ll do with the fabric yarn. I got it to experiment with because I’ve never crocheted with fabric yarn. It might be good for a basket – watch this space!

I also got another of the surprise bags that I told you about in this post. This time I got all these goodies.


Not quite as exciting a haul as last time, but somehow the universe was looking out for me. I needed a new lidded drinking cup (severe danger of feline drinkage in this house if you leave an uncovered drink out!) and I didn’t like any of the ones in Paperchase which is where I’ve always got them from, so imagine my glee when I got home, opened the surprise bag and found a cup that is furry girl proof!

I love the lacy ribbon, and I’m hatching a plan to crochet in the holes along the edges so it makes a pretty join. So many wips on the go at the moment so it could be some time before this happens!

Paperchase next. Can’t, absolutely can’t, not go into Paperchase. I got two notepads. One is for work so I can organise my notes from a new meeting that I take part in (if you don’t have nice pretty pads for work, give it a go, they make a good day at work even better, and a bad day less bad) and the other is just because, and why not? It’s got gridded pages so will be useful for designing crochet projects as well as garden ones.


Final stop WHSmiths. I worry about WHSmiths because they’re up against Amazon and I’d be so upset if they went bust. I’m the worst culprit, for going in there and then buying what I want cheaper on Amazon, and I do feel guilty about it. Our WHSmiths is already smaller than it used to be when I was in there with Mum searching for the best furry pencil case and the least boring protractor for my return to school. The back third of it is now the post office.

I do try to make sure I get my magazines from WHSmiths and, although I read the majority of my books on my kindle, if I want an actual book, like an autobiography or a cookery book or something else with pictures that doesn’t translate brilliantly to a digital form then I will take myself off to WHSmiths to try to support them and keep them going.

I just love browsing books. I resisted a kindle for a long time because I love actual books, but I succumbed and now I love love love it. Pre-kindle I hated having to give books to the charity shop, unless it was one I didn’t particularly enjoy, because if I felt a connection with a character or a storyline, I felt it with the physical book too, but space was at a premium so keeping them all became impractical. I also do most of my leisure reading in bed, so when they brought out the kindle paper white it was like a dream come true. Proper relaxation, chilling out in the dark but still able to read. The kindle is obviously great for holidays too because you don’t have to cart heavy books around. So, I’m a kindle convert, but I do miss actual books and have to have a nose around them frequently.

Looking at the children’s books makes me smile. It makes me think of Christmases and birthdays when I would always receive at least one book. It reminds me of the complete worry-free time of being a child, when I had so much more time to sit and lose myself in a book. Children’s books have really stood the test of time. There are now the wonderfully colourful covers of David Walliams and Claire Balding books, and the ever popular Wimpy Kid, but there are also so many books still on the shelves inWHSmiths that I read as a child.

You already know about my Pooh Bear obsession, and I read all of these other books too when I was growing up, but these photos were taken today in WHSmiths. I was pleased that there were several children also browsing with their parents. All too often the aisle for young readers is empty. Many children nowadays prefer to be staring at a screen (and not a kindle one) blowing things up rather than losing themselves in a book, developing their imagination and educating themselves by reading. This makes me sad. I wish I could make explain to them the pleasure that I got as a child, and still do now from reading.

These books are in the children’s section …..


….. but I first read Michael Morpurgo as an adult. His most famous book is War Horse, which has been adapted into a hugely successful play and film. We’re going to see it next month at the Birmingham Hippodrome. I’ve also read another of his books called Wild Running. It’s a brilliant read. I highly recommend you pick up a copy (maybe from WHSmiths!)

I spotted this book whilst I was meandering through the aisles.


I read To kill a mockingbird on my very first foreign holiday in Menorca when I was twenty one and I loved it. It has a very powerful message, but is written in plain English. This copy has the same cover as the version I had. It makes me remember sitting in the sun, on the harbour (on my own for some reason – can’t recall why) reading it and realising how lucky I am but that not every one is. The film adaptation with Gregory Peck is very good, but I’d advise reading the book first. That bit of advice goes for pretty much any novel to screen adaptation, including these next ones.


They even have the Tinkerbell seal of approval! The film version of the Philosopher’s Stone (Sorcerer’s Stone I believe in the US) was pretty good and the films got better and better as they went on, and I love them, but they still don’t come close to conveying the magic of the books.

I was late to the Harry Potter party and the Prisoner of Azkaban was already out in hardback when I started reading the series, so I read the first three tomes straight after each other. I will forever be disappointed that I somehow managed to pick up the adult version of the Philosopher’s Stone (see the different style cover?) because it doesn’t match the rest. Ho hum, can’t be helped now.

I was hooked after the first chapter, in fact probably halfway through it, and was then torn between wanting to read quickly to find out what happened and a desperate need not to finish because I couldn’t bear not to be in that wonderful, magical world.

After I finished Prisoner of Azkaban, I then, along with half of the rest of the world, had to wait somewhat impatiently for the release of each new book. I ordered each one from Amazon because they promised faithfully that each book would be delivered on the release day, and they were as good as their word. My sofa used to sit in the bay window of my flat at the time, and I remember getting up early and kneeling on the sofa, chin cupped by my hands, staring out of the window willing the postman to come trotting round the corner, his big red bag bulging with Harry Potter goodness.

If there’s anyone who hasn’t read this amazing series, I really really REALLY implore you to because it is just magical. I used to dream about Harry Potter when I was first reading the books, and they were such blissful dreams from which I was sad to wake.

Go go go! Amazon has them, WHSmiths has them! Every bookstore in the world worth its salt has them! WHSmiths is your best bet – you can go pick them up tomorrow, even Amazon prime won’t get them to you by tomorrow now!