I didn’t share this year’s (2021’s) theme on the blog until now - that was quite intentional, I wanted to keep things low key. But now we’re done, I can share that 2021’s yearly theme was ‘The Year of Sustain’ with the simple objective to keep tracking as we are, to sustain our pace, way of life and to keep doing what we’re doing. The events of 2020, mostly as a result of Covid-19 made us stop, think and accept that we should take what we have for granted and that we should stop what was quickly becoming a continual and unhealthy pursuit for more.
I’m really proud that we kept close to this year’s theme and achieved it’s objective. Never before have I felt like I appreciate what we have as much as I do now. And as a result, never before have I been more content and happy with what we have, who we are and where we are in our lives. With that, 2021 brought us the biggest change, the birth of our daughter, Charlotte and her arrival couldn’t have been better timed.
Here’s my yearly summary of thoughts and what I have been up to, which I have to admit is a little longer than last years! Enjoy…
2021 continued to be impacted significantly by the Covid-19 pandemic, for us New Year and Christmas was in ‘tier 4’, the highest tier of government introduced restrictions, which we’d been enjoying for several months prior to Christmas. The tier system was devised to try and allow more freedom for parts of the country where Covid wasn’t prevalent, which it sort of did, except it was prevalent in cities and towns. I think the system was actually very smart, but ultimately things continued to get worse as winter got closer and in early January the entire country was placed into a third national lockdown where the same restrictions were imposed on everyone. That meant Christmas 2020 was quite different with no family gatherings at all, for anyone.
With the newly imposed ‘lockdown 3’ restrictions, which were to us just a continuation of what had become normal in tier 4 anyway, we spent much of winter at home. We were permitted to go to certain shops and to see friends/family for walks. Which we did and made the most of, what shows could open and which couldn’t became the topic of controversy. Continuing from 2020, we were able to book and visit local test centres to take a lateral flow tests to check if we had Covid, some of the centres were manned by the armed forces. To our knowledge neither of us had contracted it.
To help people see the light at the end of the tunnel the government published a ‘roadmap out of lockdown’ which allowed for a staged relaxation of the rules. We received fantastic news that the relaxation on the 12th April allowed for us to visit the pub once again, albeit outdoors with table service - a welcome treat on our birthday. I was first in the door (well, garden) when the pub re-opened!
By May I had received my first vaccination, following an invite from my GP surgery, administered at Wainscott Surgery which had been setup as a small-scale vaccination centre. I was given the Pfizer vaccine. Victoria had been given he Oxford Astra Zeneca vaccine a little earlier through her work. We celebrated this milestone by having our first meal out of the year, a very strange experience!
By June most of everything had re-opened with the exception of international travel which while possible, was a bureaucratic exercise in knowing what to do. My second vaccination was given at Wainscott in late July at the same centre. Despite restrictions being removed, many people continued to or chose to wear masks, with London’s TFL mandating them for travel on buses and the tube. Covid was pretty much secondary news from June onwards. By now it was now possible to order lateral flow tests for free and have them delivered at home. Many people by now were choosing to take holidays despite the need to take tests in order to visit (or return from) most countries. It was almost as if we had got over the hump and were on the home straight.
June was a particular highlight as Covid restrictions were eased enough to be able to sit at the bar and have a pint, which really was a big deal. Here’s a picture of Kelly and I in The Ship Inn, Mevagissey. I said from the start that my measure of whether we were back to normal was being able to sit in a pub and drink a beer at the bar again.
Unfortunately towards late November Covid returned to the headlines with news of a new variant ‘Omicron’ which had originated in South Africa. The government has so far been hesitant about imposing restrictions once again, with the exception of requiring masks in most indoor spaces. But the new variant was a concern and so we kept Christmas plans limited but we thankfully were able to see family. I received my third jab of the year, a ‘booster’ in late December, just before Christmas, this time at The Elms Medical Practice where it was given very quickly!
Throughout all of this year I have worked from home, visiting the office only when necessary, which wasn’t particularly frequently. Victoria has done the same, although of course is now on maternity. With the majority of the population now vaccinated and the variants seemingly reducing in severity, I do wonder what this means for 2022, I hope that the events of 2021 and 2020 are in the past, but who knows!
If there was a topic of the year, this would be it. In February of last year (2020), while we were visiting New York, Victoria and I made a big decision - that it was time for us to have a baby. It was Valentines Day and we were in DUMBO, Brooklyn, visiting some craft brew pubs. We stopped in this great little place called Randolph where you can pour your own beer, It was really quiet since it was like 3pm on a Friday and so we found ourselves a nice warm booth by the window. One thing thinking back, as you do, was that the couch we were sitting on talking had a huge ships wheel set on a world map, in hindsight quite the metaphor for our decision to change course. If you’re interested, you can see it here thanks to the power of the internet.
We took the decision to try for a baby seriously and chose to drop our plans to move to a new house in Chattenden. We were really excited and both felt very grown up, but ready for the change. If there was ever a time, it was now, we are both doing well in jobs, we have a perfectly comfortable home and the right support from family.
Shortly after getting back home the world was plunged into chaos with Covid-19. We recall reading about the first handful of cases in the UK in the news while we were away. We continued getting on with our lives during 2020, although things were of course a little different. In March of this year (2021) we found out the fantastic news that we were pregnant. Things took a little longer than we thought, but looking back we’re really grateful of the timing and believe that Charlotte was waiting to join us when she was ready. The UK was still very much in lockdown in March and so we announced our news to family with a video which we recorded of our journey to our first baby scan in Maidstone. We shared the video on April 12th, our birthdays and anniversary day. We chose to not find out the gender until the big day which added lots of excitement.
I will let Victoria speak to her pregnancy journey, but thankfully for the most part it went without any hiccups. Feeling baby kick for the first time was very exciting! During the pregnancy we decorated the Nursery, spent far too long deciding which ‘travel system’ to buy and got ourselves as ready as it was possible to be. You can read more about all of that in the DadBlog series on the blog here, so I won’t cover it all again. Here’s a picture of Victoria and I on our last trip to Cornwall before we were joined with ‘The Bean’ (our name for the bump)
The final week of pregnancy was most difficult, Victoria had several days of contractions and in the end we were eight days past the due date. Charlotte was born at Medway Maritime Hospital, we went to the hospital on Sunday 14th around midday and she was born about 20:30pm. It wasn’t the most straightforward delivery, but when she arrived she was healthy, screaming(!) and I was overwhelmed with emotion, as was Victoria! Hands down the happiest moment of my life, it was absolutely amazing. Victoria did fantastic and spent that night in hospital with Charlotte to recover.
The past six weeks have been really, really hard, but also very rewarding. Looking after a baby is not an easy thing to do, but Victoria and I make a great team and we’re gradually getting to know our little girl more and more. Even in just seven weeks we’ve seen her grow, she’s begun to smile and laugh and loves to sit in her rocker chair and watch baby sensory videos on TV! We’re so grateful to have Charlotte in our lives and can’t wait for a whole year of growing up next year!
To make things even more special, shortly after announcing our pregnancy in April my sister announced that she too was pregnant and was due not long after our due date. My sister and my BIL found out that they were having a girl, which made it really exciting when Charlotte was born, knowing that she’ll have a close cousin of the same gender of almost identical age!
Baby Arla was born in December and her birth has a bit of a story to it, which I won’t share, but my sister certainly will if you ask her. I absolutely love this picture of the two girls! They’re both quite different babies, but I’m sure they’ll get along when they grow up.
Aside from baby news, we weren’t able to spend quite as much time as we have in the past seeing family in Cornwall, because of Covid and the difficulty travelling while pregnant. We were able to spend a couple of weeks there, with one trip in May and another in July. Both were really very lovely and we made the absolute most of it. In July we had a bit of a road-trip, visiting both Dorset and Cornwall, seeing my parents and Victoria’s too. We also celebrated my Mother’s birthday in the Fowey Harbour Hotel in July, a very lovely spot! The weather was exceptional.
We also spent time with Dad, and were able to go to watch the horse racing a few times. A particular highlight was being in the owner’s enclosure at Salisbury to see Sir Busker run. A very fun day out!
With the ‘New York Treaty’ decision made to stay in our home for the foreseeable, we decided to invest some money and make it comfortable. We had been using the same sofas for almost ten years, hadn’t done much more than surface-level decorating and had endured the same crazy carpet for almost four year. So we went for it, and ordered new carpet for the whole house. It cost a lot of money, but made a huge difference, the carpet we had installed is really amazing, we have a wool textured carpet for the stairs, hallway and landing, a nice flat carpet in the office and plush comfy carpet in the lounge and nursery.
We also setup and decorated the nursery, which you can read more about in the DadBlog. We went to town on getting it setup perfectly, and are really proud of how it came together, Victoria did really well finding the furniture, picking the colour and decorating.
We lucked out big time in the Harveys closing down sale buying new sofas. In what was a completely shady, ‘had to be there’ transaction we bought ourselves a new sofa suite. We were very close to spending almost twice what we paid for equivalent sofas from Next, but in the end got basically what we wanted with full electric recline too. They are really nice sofas! We took a bit of a risk, because we had to pay for most of it in cash, but it all worked out.
The big news of was that despite doing all of that, we ultimately decided to move. This was a combination of factors, Charlotte coming, time spent at home, realisation that our current home is adequate now but not big enough for the future, our ability now to afford a bigger home, etc. We initially planned to move to a place in Upnor which was on the market, but that didn’t work out or feel quite right. We instead found a great place in High Halstow that’s just right for what we need, big enough without being too big and with the right potential for us to extend and build on what we’d be buying. This went against the ‘New York Treaty’ but we both felt like it was right. Well, timing could have been better, Victoria was very pregnant while we were looking, but still! We did look at one other house, on St Mary’s Island, but it wasn’t for us.
Very, very excited to get moving and can’t wait to start the next chapter in our lives. Charlotte being here has highlighted our need for more space, particularly downstairs. We can manage for now, but we’ll certainly need more room in the kitchen so that we can have a table and high-chair. All being well, we should exchange in January of 2022. Most of the legal stuff is ready for the house we’re buying and we’re almost there on the people we’re selling to. We’ve made good progress getting ready for the move, we’ve cleared the loft and boxed up as much stuff as we can over the last few weeks. The conservatory resembles a warehouse right now! There’s some big jobs left, need to clear the garden of pots and other crap and nearer to the time we need to start packing away the things we use day to day. Yesterday we ordered a bunch more boxes and plastic crates from Ikea. You don’t want to know how much money we’ve spent on boxes - it’s truly shocking.
It’s going to be quite sad leaving Upnor, but we’re confident this is the right move. We need to broaden our horizons a little and experience living somewhere slightly different. It’ll be nice living in a house that’s bigger and will be lovely to be able to walk Charlotte to the pre-school and primary school once she’s a little older, something we can’t do in Upnor.
In terms of Diet, I’ve stuck well to my vegetarian diet. Over two years now, which I’m actually really proud to say. It’s been pretty easy for the most part because in those two years we’ve basically been stuck at home and have the freedom to cook proper food. It’s been a bit of a problem when eating out, because most places just have an ‘option’ which is either the same thing or just not very nice. New York was pretty difficult and Belgium was a nightmare.
I feel like I’m questioning myself more and more, which is annoying, watching Anthony Bourdain is probably not helping much. I don’t really miss meat much at all, but fish on the other hand - man, that comes up a lot, I really miss eating fish and shellfish. I don’t know why, but I just miss the flavour and texture of fish. I’ve debated with myself as to whether opening up to being a part-time pescatarian is a sensible choice, but I don’t know. Will see how I go, opening up to fish would make eating out a whole lot more fun, right now I’d rather cook for myself than eat out.
One thing I can say for sure is that I don’t think I could go the other way and eat fully vegan. It’s easy as a vegetarian to eat cheese with everything, and I’m conscious of that. But equally I really, really love cheese, the smellier the better. And milk, and butter. I couldn’t imagine having to cook without butter.
We’ll see what 2022 holds, I think I’ll try and stick with it for a while yet. Perhaps making exceptions for travel or eating out or something. Either way, I’ll update the blog.
Speaking of cooking, I’ve been really enjoying spending more time in the kitchen and putting effort into making nice home cooked meals. In 2022 I’d like to start to spend time working through some cookery basics and investing in some more grown up kitchen equipment as what I have I really do use a lot. Little nervous moving into the new house because the kitchen is a step backwards compared to ours today, particularly the hob and oven. Going to need to address that quite quickly, even if the rest of the kitchen stays as it is.
Not too much to talk about in this topic. Started the year quite well intentioned, following on from the 4-month break in 2020. Tried to follow a system where I would have four or so days AF, keeping track on a chart. That lasted a while, but being in lockdown at the beginning of the year made it quite the challenge. Once summer came everything went out the window. From the middle of September I slammed the brakes on again and had a two month break, where I was determined to not have anything to drink until Charlotte was here. Partly out of respect to Victoria but also to myself, wanting to make the most of everything and being able to support Victoria whenever necessary. Really glad I did, made a big difference not having anything clouding my mind. Even went on a London night out without drinking, which was a lot less fun than if I had been drinking but I got on the train and drove my car home from the station, which wouldn’t have been possible were I on it!
After Charlotte was born I had a drink with Kelly at the Kings Arms to celebrate, was really nice. Now that I’m in dad-mode for the most part it’s not really possible to drink too often and so I’m doing my best to keep it real (the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was an exception, but let’s not talk about that). Actually looking forward to having a bit of a break in January and slowing things down a bit more.
My drinking palette has certainly changed, I’m really not too fussed by gin (well, I can take it or leave it). Instead, I’m all in on the wine and can’t get enough of the stuff, which could get expensive.
All in all, bit of a mixed bag - but that’s fine.
Started the year with very good intentions with this too. Bought a Concept 2 rowing machine, which arrived just in time for the new year. Got on really well with it, was rowing during my lunch break or in the morning. Victoria had her TacX setup with her bike too, so I gave that a try. Did a bit of running and got some times in on Strava. Unfortunately, I basically gave up on any exercise at all as soon as lockdown was lifted. I did a bit here and there, but not really anything to note. Which is a bit of a shame because actually I was doing quite well.
Really must make a difference here next year as I’m going to know about it if I don’t. Annoyingly I’ve packed away the rower or I would probably have had a bit of a row in the last month. Hey ho.
Haven’t really talked about this too much on Micro.Blog or Twitter, but mentioned it at the back end of 2020. My back was causing my some real problems, I was struggling to sleep in the mornings because my lower back was aching so much and was obviously keeping me from resting properly. At the time I tried everything before going to the doctor, new mattress, exercises, new chair, desk, standing desk, etc. Eventually I saw a Rheumatologist about it and had an MRI scan, nothing to note but the doctor gave me some great medication (Arcoxia) which helped a lot - it completely got rid of the pain. He was able to prescribe another month’s tablets in 2021 and I managed to eek those out by only taking them when absolutely necessary. By September of this year I had run out and was once again struggling. I saw a more local Rheumatologist who again recommended an MRI, which again showed nothing. He also prescribed Arcoxia which I was able to get just before Christmas, which was really good news.
In the new year I need to try and get an appointment with my GP to talk about some kind of repeat prescription. I’m kind of dreading because getting a GP appointment at our surgery is basically impossible unless you have the bubonic plague.
Other than that, been really healthy. Can’t remember the last time I had a cold, which is probably because I’ve been getting on the train a lot less, sanitising my hands often and wearing a mask. That and eating a vegetarian diet I’m sure has something to do with it!
Lot happened in Technology this year. The biggest change is the thing I’m typing on right now, my new MacBook Pro. Any Apple geek will tell you what a big deal the new MacBook Pro line up is, it’s a huge shift in terms of connectivity, form factor, power, energy efficiency and display. The computer itself in my opinion truly represents a generational shift forward, I’ve not been able to touch the resources of this computer and only once have I been able to get the fans to run. It’s crazy. I’m so, so lucky to be able to have one of these computers and it genuinely makes me happy using it! The wait was worthwhile.
The other big news was the arrival of StarLink internet. Here in Upnor I get 37Mbps down, 8Mbps up on my VDSL line which is basically okay, but really not anything special. I preordered Space X’s Starlink back at the beginning of the year and in November it arrived ready for use. Do I really need it? No. Is it worth it? Just about. The speed advantage of Starlink is phenomenal, it’s really, really fast. But it is let down by latency and reliability. It does drop the odd packet, so streaming isn’t perfect. It also isn’t quite as snappy as you’d like, it takes time to ramp up to the very fast speeds you see people quoting online. But as a piece of technology? Absolutely incredible, truly something that’s going to revolutionise the availability of service to so many people across the globe. As a bit of a network geek, I’m really excited to be able to use something like this.
This year one of my goals was to ditch Google. Pleased to say I succeeded! All my data, email and photos are deleted from Google and now running somewhere else where I have much better control over them. Data and Photos are stored in iCloud, backed up with ArqBackup/Backblaze and email is with Fastmail. Getting away from Google really wasn’t very easy, but I’m pleased to have done so, there’s nothing I miss. I do still have an account for YouTube, which is the one service I continue to use, because it basically has a monopoly on internet video. All our Google home hub speakers are gone and I use duckduckgo for day to day web searching. Yes, all of this means I’m in the apple ‘walled garden’, but I’m there consciously.
2021 wasn’t the year for Scuba diving… Covid restricted things at the beginning of the year and over summer other things took priority. I did get some dives in, but maybe only ten dives over the year. Every dive was at St Andrews and although I didn’t do much, I was able to get more familiar with my equipment, gas switching and my buoyancy. The dives I did do, were all really good, except one where my dry glove wasn’t sealed, where I had to abort the dive! Mostly dived with Art, who is a great, easy going dive partner. The year closed with the news that Southern Scuba are not going to run St Andrews lake anymore, and instead will just operate training.
Few big news items in Sailing category this year. The most significant is that I managed to attain my Day Skipper Practical, which I’m really pleased about. This is the certificate that’s necessary for most charter boats, which is kinda cool. This certificate follows on from my Day Skipper Theory which I did during lockdown in 2020. It was possible to do the practical at the same place, Elite Sailing in Chatham, but I opted to instead do it with a Falmouth Training. Few reasons, the first is that because of Covid restrictions Elite Sailing had changed their policy to only perform day sails, where they leave Chatham and return to Chatham in the evening. That would mean sailing to Sheerness and back each day, no staying on board. The second reason is that I’m pretty familiar with the Medway, so it would get boring pretty quickly.
Falmouth Training were really good, I phoned them up, agreed a week, booked on and turned up. Managed to time the course just right to coincide with being in Cornwall too, which worked out really well. I met up with the group on the day of the British Grand Prix and ended up watching it from a pub on my iPhone! We sailed in a 33’ Sun Odyssey called Louise, which was very similar to dad’s boat although a little older. On the course we spent time sailing in the Fal and completed a passage sailing from Falmouth to Fowey. On the way to Fowey there was basically no wind at all so we ended up motoring, luckily there was wind on the way back. We bonded as a group really well and our instructor a guy called Simon Chapman was an absolute pro. Everyone drank a LOT which made it quite fun. Highlight of the trip was waking up moored up the River Fal, and sailing into Fowey. All in all, a really great course.
In other sailing news we got some sailing in with racing in the Medway Yacht Club spring series, which I blogged about on here. We also joined the racing during the Medway regatta, which was very enjoyable. I used my grand father’s signal flags to dress the boat, it looked very handsome indeed moored up outside the yacht club! Towards the end of the year Dad decided with babies here and with yacht prices at an all time high, it was time to say goodbye to Astral. She sold very quickly and will be with her new owner in the new year, we believe she’ll be kept in Salcombe, which is nice. Not sure what next year holds for sailing, but with the house move and Charlotte it I doubt there would be much time for it in the winter/spring anyway.
Travel in 2021? Ha! Well, actually I managed a little, but to be honest with the rules around where you can and can’t travel to/from changing so often the joy of travel just isn’t there. I was able to do a little, we took a boys trip to Belgium to see the F1 race that never was. It was great and it was really, really wet, but we had a serious amount of fun. There’s some posts on Micro.Blog about the trip.
Getting to the F1 was no easy feat as only a week before we left I discovered that I needed a new passport. The passport office in Belfast was the only place I could get an appointment for a fast-track passport, so I ended up on a day trip to Northern Ireland on the day before we left Dover. It confirmed I’m no longer cut out for last minute seat-of-your-pants travelling. Still, it was nice to see a new city!
That was pretty much it for travel, except for trips to the west country and a little bit of time in Leeds and Manchester for work. the later of which was during my dry-spell, so not a whole heap of fun.
Victoria and I were able to take a little time for ourselves though, despite being grounded in the UK. We took a trip to Brighton to see Frank Skinner Live (birthday present!) which was very good. We stayed at the Hilton, explored Brighton, bought Charlotte some toys and ate at the very fancy Burnt Orange resturant.
We also visited Tunbridge Wells, spending some time relaxing in the Calverley Grounds park, shopping in the Pantiles (more things for Charlotte!) and ate at Thackeray’s (an absolute favourite restaurant of ours!). We stayed at the Royal Wells Hotel, so that we could both have a drink and enjoy ourselves!
Another really nice day out was when we went and had lunch on Queen’s lawn. A little bit special, because of Covid Buckingham Palace Gardens were opened to the public. We got tickets very far in advance but ended up with a nice day. We spent the morning at Portobello Road in the markets and then went to Fortnum and Mason to buy things for Christmas.
I made a big deal about this last year and tried to do as much as I could this year. It’s definitely getting easier and using Micro.Blog has really helped make blogging more accessible, I no longer need to use my computer, write a post, save the markdown file, clean up images, add links, and then publish. I instead can just write, from my phone and attach images. Easy. For that, Micro.Blog has been great and in the last few weeks I’ve been spending time trying to find a way to use Micro.Blog as my only blog, hosting everything there. I’m still a little unsure, it’s really annoying having two places, so having one place is certainly the way to go, but there seems to be issues with Categories and there’s some limitations that I’m not sure I’m going to be able to live with. The other thing is that I really like knowing I have complete freedom with Jekyll and Github Pages at zero cost. So, still undecided, I think for the time being, I’ll keep both and put longer posts on my main blog, with shorter posts on Micro.Blog.
Going to continue blogging into 2022 as this year has actually been really successful. It’s been a little more difficult now that Charlotte is here, I don’t have quite the same freedom to just go and sit and write on my computer, but hopefully I’ll get used to that and try and manage.