, , , , ,

Whoever you are 2020 was undoubtedly the year of Covid. This time last year we didn’t know what furlough meant, and thought Brexit would be the biggest challenge we’d face.

But I can’t write off the year completely. After all it contained unquestionably the greatest day of my life, January 11th- my wedding day, and seeing Robyn walking down the aisle in that beautiful dress was breathtaking. It was wonderful to have so many of our family and friends there to share it with us. Special thanks to my best man Sim who went over and above the call of duty to make our day so special.

We headed for home and were massively honoured by Oxford City Stars ice hockey club who made us guests of honour at their game. I’ll try and forget the result!!

We flew to Lisbon and had the most wonderful “Mini-Moon” where we went on a catamaran tour, and had the loveliest meal at a “Fado” restaurant. Oh and we did take in Sporting Lisbon vs Benfica!!

But once we returned home afterwards things began to unravel, as they had for most of the world. Dad had managed to break his ankle during the night at our wedding venue, and as the country locked down from March Dad was in Wallingford Hospital receiving rehab on his ankle with us unable to visit when he picked up Covid. He made light of it, his family didn’t and I was mighty relieved when he recovered. I have to say the NHS staff at Wallingford were wonderful.

But he paid a high price for that ankle. He can no longer live independently and moved into a care home in June. It is clearly the right place for him, but that didn’t make moving him there any easier. I have to say Oxford United were were wonderful to him, with club stalwart Peter Rhoades-Brown phoning him for a chat on a number of times when he felt low, and isolated in a locked-down care home. Because while the care Dad receives is wonderful, it isn’t home for him and never will be. 

Robyn and I were furloughed in April, and I remember the feeling of dread when I drove home from work for the last time for 9 weeks. If Covid taught me a new skill it was how to slow down, I’d spent the years since 2010 living life at a million miles an hour and through sheer fright as to how I’d feel if I’d ever paused for thought. Thank god for Robyn who managed to both slow and calm me down!! She used the time to make the painful but necessary decision to leave a job where she’d been both shamefully undervalued and taken for granted. There’s a lesson for us all there. 

Thanks to the infamous Masons Arms “Hoof Hearted” pub quiz team. We managed to form a little online support bubble keeping in touch via Zoom quizzes and chats. That and Masons’ publican Chris Meeson’s weekly pub quiz from the pub kept so many people’s spirits up in those dismal lockdown days. Even now I don’t think Chris realises just how important those Saturday evenings were to so many of us. Chin up Chris, when you are open again, we’ll be there to support you as you have supported so many of us. You’ll also have folks visiting who’ve never been to the pub but enjoyed the quizzes from afar. They’ll get to meet the likes of Deano, Les, and Bottle!!

Eventually the lockdown rules were eased and I’ll never forget that evening in the pub garden when we all ventured out and sat in little socially distanced groups. It wasn’t normality, but it was a wonderful evening. Now that’s gone for the time being, but having the vaccines now being rolled out does at least give us hope during these locked down days.

One of the “Hoof Hearted” team has been part of the team behind the Oxford vaccine. We are so proud and grateful for all that she and her team have achieved, and I know I’ll never be able to find the words to thank her properly. Perhaps as many people as possible being vaccinated is the best way of doing so. 

The irony of Robyn and I contracting Covid during the November lockdown wasn’t lost on either of us. We were very lucky, we were wiped out for a few days but recovered reasonably quickly. We are very aware that others have not been so lucky. 

In the end we were fortunate that on Christmas Day we were able to see Dad then drive down to Bristol to spend Christmas with Robyn’s side of the family. I remember during my wedding speech that I’d spent part of Christmas 2016 with Kelly and her family and she thought thought she’d put me off but that wonderful wonderful cacophony of noise, wrapping paper and chaos reminded me of Christmas should be about- family and sharing. I think that many of us need that reminder once in a while, and this year was as a drunk as I’ve ever been on Christmas Day. I remember when I sat down with the first beer of many I looked around and said “Isn’t it lovely to be with people again?” 

And it’s that that we are all aiming for in the end. This pandemic will end and we will all get to go to the pub, meet friends and give loved ones a hug again. I feel so grateful to have so many people who have looked out for us this year. Top of that list is wonderful, beautiful sweet Robyn who has had to put up being exiled for long periods from her family who are her world. But as we left Bristol after the celebrations we looked at each other and knew we’ll get through this.

We will get to have a honeymoon, we will visit our friends in Stockholm and I do need to take Robyn to Tirana. Bless her, she’s heard no end of stories from the Stag weekend!! I’d love to be in the position to be able to plan with purpose again!

And that is perhaps the point of this hastily written piece. We will get through this, and we’ll do it with our families, friends and those wonderful key workers. Have a happy and healthy 2021.  

Photo by Lee Hatherall