Now that 2020 has passed I have at last found the words to explain what happened to me and to Bleak House last year and to give you an update on my Experiences.
I began 2020 with exciting plans for fabulous Experiences in London and around the country but when the pandemic hit I had no option but to cancel them. There would be no trips to Devon, Cornwall or Wales and there would be no London ambles, Christmas parties or Summer gatherings. As the year progressed and the pandemic took hold it became increasingly clear I would be running no Experiences at all.
I watched in admiration as fellow small business owners spun their offerings on a sixpence by releasing online versions of products, remote consultancy and the like. I wasn’t able to do this and couldn’t see how to make my business function at all, let alone thrive, during those difficult months. I felt starved of inspiration and every cell in my body was telling me to retreat, and so that is what I did.
Looking back now, I think I spent most of the year in a vague state of shock. I stopped posting on Instagram, I stopped blogging and I stopped sending emails. It wasn’t intentional, but I’d not been anywhere or done anything and felt I had little to say and nothing to share.
For most of the year we were living with family in Kent whilst the renovation of our house in London was underway and I find it hard now to untangle how much of the separation I felt was down to us being away from our friends, our belongings and our routines, and how much was down to the stultifying restrictions and shock of the first lockdown.
But, despite how difficult last year was, I can’t honestly say it was a bad year for me personally. Spending so much time in the countryside was an absolute joy. It was a privilege to witness the seasons unfold day by day both in the sweeping, panoramic views from the tops of the North Downs to Dungeness and in the tiniest buds unfurling in the hedgerows lining the allotments I walked past daily.
I threw myself into our all-consuming house renovation and begun to write fiction, unearthing a long-buried dream that had been tugging insistently at my trouser hem for some time. I taught myself to Lino print and we cooked our way through the Dishoom recipe book. Edward and I explored every inch of the North Downs on our daily expeditions and I swam in both the Stour and the English Channel. I suppose, in some ways, I lived the quiet country life I sometimes dream of and it was wonderful.
In late September we finally moved into our house in Camden and I am gently falling back in love with London. It’s a different city to the one we left, not least because everything happens outdoors nowadays. I am glad to be back swimming in the Ladies’ pond and walking regularly on Hampstead Heath and in Regents Park, often in the company of a good friend and a terrier or two. I am rapidly becoming obsessed with our fledgling garden and am keenly watching for the plucky green shoots that herald the tentative arrival of spring.
I dearly hope that by the Autumn it will be possible to run some Experiences again, whether it’s five days in Devon or simply a quiet amble around a pretty part of London. I’ve missed spending time with my friends, and making new ones. I’ve missed sharing my favourite parts of the UK with you.
One thing I am taking out of last year is that Instagram is no longer working for me. I have come to realise every caption I write is a blog post left unwritten or a paragraph of a short story not committed to paper and so I have decided to take an extended break from the app. You will always be able to find out about my Experiences, blog posts and other news here on my blog and in my email newsletter, and you can also email me – I’d love to hear from you.
I hope that 2020 was at least bearable for you and I hope you managed to find some optimism and hope for the future in those weird, confusing months. We have no idea yet now this year will pan out, but I hope we can make it a good one. There is much to look forward to and I am ready to embrace it.
Wishing you a very happy new year.