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.

Six on Saturday 25th July

Can’t remember when I last did a Six, and next weekend we’ll be (hopefully) sunning ourselves on a Norfolk beach, in a socially distanced manner, of course, so I won’t be blogging.

I just managed to pop out in between rain showers to take some photos to share, and decided that this week I’ll focus, again, on emerging flowers and veg. I’ve split it equally down the middle and gone for three floral treats and three edible delights. I think I may well have shared some, if not all, of these before, earlier on in their journey, but I find it interesting to see the progress. Hope you do too.

First up is Sunflower Teddy Bear. I’ve got several of these that I grew from seed in the greenhouse. Planted out now, they’re only about a foot tall, and this one looks to be the closest to flowering. Quite excited about these because they’re not your stereotypical Sunflower bloom.

I seem to have found a much more suitable place for growing Sunflowers this year. Last year I grew a really tall variety only, and of the fourteen that I planted out, only two made it as far as flowering. The others all got knocked down – I think I inadvertently planted them in a fox/cat run route and the poor things got bashed and trampled on. This year I’ve planted them next to a trellis-like fence and with additional supports for the tall ones and so far (touch wood) they’ve all made it with just the odd slug nibble along the way.

Next is a Zinnia, also nurtured from seed in the greenhouse. I did think to myself when I got the greenhouse, being somewhat fickle of nature, I hope I stick at this now I’ve gone this far. So far so good – greenhouse is now an essential part of my life.

My only knowledge of Zinnias prior to this venture was from the song ‘There’s a sucker born ev’ry minute’ from the stage show Barnum.

If I import at monumental cost
A lady, fair, whose head was lost
While crossing railroad tracks to pick some zinnias
Who has no ears or eyes or nose
And wears pink tights instead of clothes
If that ain’t worth a buck my name ain’t Phineas.

Well I’ve lost my head to these before they’ve even bloomed. Isn’t that bud pretty with the promise of something so special to come some time soon?

My final emerging flower is a Nigella.

Definitely not far off a blooming delight, and again, what an attractive bud. There’s something of a prehistoric look about it. I almost expect those little green hints to be the claws of a tiny dinosaur just clawing it’s way out into the world (although hopefully not – not sure the garden’s big enough for dinosaurs!)

Moving on to the edibles and my first courgette is tantalisingly close to being ready. I’ll keep an eye on it so I don’t get a marrow! There are another couple well on their way too. If anyone has any good courgette recipes other than stir fry and ratatouille, please let me know.

Next is a new one for me. I’ve never grown runner beans before but I’ve had some success with my first attempt. There aren’t hundreds of beans growing, but I do have a few. I’m looking forward to these – homegrown always tastes so much better than shop bought.

Now I know I’ve definitely shared my pepper plant before, but there’s progress! The first two peppers at the bottom seem to have halted so maybe they’re not going to get any bigger, but I’m leaving them because I prefer them orange or red.

I was excited to see this morning that there are at least another three peppers growing on there now too. You can see one top right at the back, one top left and if you look carefully another just below that one at the back. There are still flowers too so I may get even more. I’ll keep everything crossed that they ripen soon so I can harvest.

Don’t forget to check out the Propagator for more Sixes.

Until next time TTFN 👋🏻.

Six on Saturday 30th May – a Jamaican Affair

So right about now we should be about twenty minutes into our flight to Jamaica but instead, ‘wat a gwaan?’ That’s Jamaican for what’s going on? (apparently!) We’re having a non-Jamaican lockdown party for two instead. We’ve got Bob Marley playing on repeat, we’ve got all sorts of Jamaican themed food and beverages planned, and this happened in the garden earlier.

So I’ve decided that the theme for this week’s Six is yellow, green and black in honour of the Jamaican flag. Yellow and green is obviously easy to find in the garden, but I’ve had to be a bit more creative with the black!

First up is this lovely Pansy which is yellow and as close to black as you generally see in nature. I’ve added a lot of pots filled with bright bedding plants to the garden this year. It’s nice to have the time to spend titifying the garden at the moment (although I would really like some normality soon). At least the weather’s good so we can all get out into our gardens for some light relief (those of us that are lucky enough to have them, of course).

I’m counting this next photo as green and black (like the chocolate – yum!) Well, it’s green runner bean plants in a black flexi-tub! I hardened these off for a few days early in the week and planted them out on Friday. It’s my first time growing runner beans so I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a good crop. You can’t see, but I drilled lots of holes in the flexi-tub for drainage.

I may have included this Geum in a Six before, but it’s beautiful and it fits in with my theme so I hope you don’t mind seeing it again. It was a sale table find last year and, as so often happens with sale table plants, it didn’t do a lot last year, but this year it’s covered in flowers and the bees love it. My other Geum (Totally Tangerine) has just five petals per flower, but this one is wonderfully layered and was a real surprise because I was expecting similar blooms to Miss Tangerine.

Next I’ve included another green and black offering, my gorgeous Pittosporum. I’ve a feeling I paid full price for this because I just couldn’t resist the contrast of the two colours of leaf. It lives quite happily in a container by our swing chair so we can enjoy it while swinging (that sounds wrong!)

Here’s some green. These are Nigella seedlings that have, overnight, developed their first true leaves. I sowed these in a pot and they’ve been in the greenhouse ever since. I think I need to do some research to see if I need to thin the seedlings out. There are rather a lot of them.

I’ll finish with more yellow. I guess many people would count Buttercups as weeds, but they’re bright and cheery so I’ve left some of them this year. They remind me of my childhood too – who hasn’t held a buttercup under their best friend’s chin to find out if they like butter or not?

Right, I’ll get back to my non-Jamaican party now. It’s nearly midday so it’s almost acceptable to have a Pina Colada, right? 🇯🇲🇯🇲🇯🇲🇯🇲🇯🇲🇯🇲🇯🇲

Don’t forget to pop over to see the Propagator for more (probably not Jamaican themed) Sixes.