A phrase that will not be part of everyones conversation. Lets face it, 2021 will also be a strange one for most or part of the year no doubt. We are however used to the impact that 2020 had on us and have since learnt to adapt to the new world. For many including myself, 2020 certainly had some negative points but I am a believer that we benefit from lifes challenges and make us better prepared for the time ahead. 2020 however was a test that even the best laid plans could not predict.
2020 started well. I was fortunate enough to begin a new chapter in my working career where I had finally found a job that I enjoyed. Without going into great detail of what I actually do, I had applied for a role within the same company that involved more of an analytical purpose at the end of 2019. I was successful and it gave me a great opportunity to step away from an managerial position where I felt my time had come to an end. I am lucky to work for a successful large finance company whos values and approach would later in the year help me and many more deal with what was around the corner.
I continued my Lakeland exploits and this was going to be the year where my goal of bagging all the 214 Wainrights would be achieved. In January, I produced one of my favourite images of the year during an excellent hike up to Dow Crag and Coniston Old Man in the Southern region of the Lake District. I remember spending a good amount of time fine tuning the shot and was lucky enough to be there at a time where the conditions were kind.
January came to a close with a bang. I received a call that every son and daughter dreads. My Father had passed away following a long term illness and the curtain had finally fallen on a successful and illustrious life. I had looked up to my Father and although he was a stubborn old mule, he had guided me well in life. Although his health had slowly been declining, it was still a shock and an obvious kick in the teeth.
We all deal with grief in different ways and sure I am not the only one to chose solitude to reflect. My love of the Lakeland fells helped me in finding that solitude. I visited Eskdale on a very wet and windy day. The day still allowed me to remember those times shared with my Father since childhood and I will never forget on that wet and windy afternoon, my finding of a white rose just off the Hardknott Pass. Imagine you are miles away from habitation and in the long grass, a freshly cut rose is lying on the ground like it has just been clipped by secateurs, ready to be added to a bouquet. Very odd.
Photography is very much a passion of mine and sure that I am not the only one to say that at times where comfort is needed, the art is an excellent tonic. From the end of 2019, I had decided to focus on some photography projects. I had a few in mind but settled on limiting them to a couple. Both of the projects were based on a simple brief of location, subject and edit. For one of those projects, I am hoping to finalise it with a view to produce a small book. ‘Carved’ is based on black and white photography in the Yorkshire Dales but is in need of more images. This year, freedom permitted, my aim is to add to the collection and include my poetry. Images and poetry are to yet to be completed. I am not setting a target. I continued to add images to the project from around February and was pleased with results. For further details of my project, head over to Projects .
Spring arrived. There had been talk of an impeding pandemic. I was miles away from the danger and was in no way going to be impacted by it. This is most likely a common thought amongst alot of people at the same time. Surely we are going to be allowed to continue with our normal lives? Simply put…no!
I will not go into the details and keep this lockdown reference short but like many, my movement was limited and restrictions were put into place, including no visits to care homes which meant no visit to see my frail Mother. We had to adapt and that was a strength of mine. I was determined to make the most of it, photography wise. With my Canon M50 in hand, I enjoyed photographing my local walk and not hanging around whilst shooting. The echoes of the landscape photography mantra ‘take your time and slow down’ was not an option in such secretive times where just a wrong movement lead to doubting if it was allowed. Social Media was awash with the Lockdown police who were ready to leap on any wrong doing.
I quickly learnt to adapt to the new world situation in both recreation and work. The starting of virtual meetings was a fresh approach at work but it didn’t replace that physical presence. It was good to continue with human interaction, despite having to be conscious of your surroundings and unexpected sudden visits from my son wanting Daddy to play. That was work, what about recreation?
I have been part of the YouTube community since 2017 and had already formed a fair few friendships. The year had lead to losing contact with many which to this day I am sure will be rebuilt but it had also resulted in new friendships which gained strength. The Photography Pubcast was the brain child of Gary Norman of Re Photography. He contacted me in early Spring of 2020, asking me to join what was then a group of 4 fellow landscape photographers/YouTubers who got together once a week to basically record an evening of mainly photography chat which would then be released on YouTube publicly. At the time of me writing this, we are on episode 35 and still going strong with around 500 plus views per week and a regular watch list. The Photography Pubcast for me is simply a gathering of likeminded middle aged blokes who have built up a virtual friendship and are all at ease to be who they are. There is a diverse range of characteristics in the group, all of which contribute to a fun, often tongue in cheek outlook of life and share knowledge of photography. I am proud to be part of the group and long may the friendships continue.
Finally there was hope. Around May time I had been given the all clear that I could revisit my beloved Lake District. This National Park is a part of my existence. The Lakeland fells are a place where I can escape and enjoy solitude. My return after a 2 month break was to the Wasdale area, in particular a misty visit to the edges of Wastwater and from there, a hike up the Western fells. It was an emotional return and I did shed a tear on that first taste of the Lakeland air. I wrote a separate article on my return in Lakeland – The Return . Little did I know then that this period of lockdown was relatively short in comparison to what the current situation is.
The freedom was short lived. Lockdown 2 was introduced and once again, to this day, my Lakeland visits have been paused. It was the 2nd October 2020 where I hiked to the summit of High Stile over Buttermere. It was an excellent day of typical drama when it comes to fell walking in the Lake District. A day where all visibility was reduced to a minimum and I was left disoriented but still I managed to find my way down to safety. It is days like these together with past experiences of breathing in the Lakeland air, following a map but still at the same time wondering what the weather bring and what lies behind the next crag. It was to be my last visit in what hopes to be a short interlude. Views of magnificent mountains, lakes and miles and miles of rolling landscapes have been taken away from me but the day I return again will no doubt be an emotional affair. Take care for now, I’ll see you soon.
The end of the year was approaching and thoughts of an alternative Christmas were being planned. It was going to be different. Visits to family and friends were restricted and my usual annual hello to my close family were finally cancelled due to increasing Covid infection rates. I had thought that the virus was for others. I had been sensible and mindful of following social distancing guidelines. It was however a question of time when my sons school would close as I had heard other stories of similar closures locally. The day came when the school notified us that there had been an outbreak which then lead to the inevitable. A few days passed of my son being at home when I felt a fever brewing. It was the right thing to get tested and so be it, a couple of days later I tickled my tonsils avoiding regurgitating my cornflakes , poked by brain, avoiding permanent damage and posted the test. It returned as positive. Initially I felt a slight panic. The media driven dangers of the virus and the thoughts of death plagued me for a day. I suffer from slight Asthma and over 50. I quickly wrote my epitaph in my head and relived the good days.
It was over rated. I had suffered a slight fever which disappeared to only re emerge a couple of days later. This cycle continued for around 3 weeks. I had fortunately suffered from mild symptoms. What happened in between that period was however another arrow shot from the bow of 2020’s evil mind. My Mother was in a care home for a good few years due to the dreadful, soul destroying Alzheimer’s disease. On the occasions when I visited Mum, I was a nameless physical presence. Still she smiled and still she managed to give that laugh and offer a kind conversation of small talk. It was a matter of time where life would finally wrap my Mother in the farewell cloak. Mum entered the long sleep in early December and her passing was the final episode of a year that will go down as a pivotal moment in time where the challenges of life were tested the most. Time will tell if it has strengthened me but I will continue to live life with a glass half full approach.
2021 will be challenging again no doubt as we enter Lockdown 3. This time will be different as there is hope, a light to walk to. The smells, sights and sounds of the places we all love will hopefully be witnessed again. As I bring this article to an end, I get a feeling that it was a duty of mine to put my thoughts to keyboard and share my story. Be safe and keep smiling.