2020: In Review

So, 2020. May you live in interesting times, they said.

January: The Door

We spent new year down with Sharon’s parents in Wiltshire, stopping off in Stow on the way back to take a photo of this door. We had to drive back on the New Year bank holiday as we were saving holiday for our three week trip to New Zealand in March. We were straight back to work on the 2nd January.

Work was normal – I had just the one trip down to Southampton in early 2020 as we were by now settled in for project delivery. I was doing development for a high street optician – developing out a new diary system for appointment booking.

February: Band Repertoire Day

February was spent preparing for our New Zealand trip. We did have a band repertoire day on a Sunday in early February – this was us playing through 27 pieces in an afternoon and marking them for how much we would like to purchase them. We had a great time.

My company was moving offices in Leeds, and our last day in the old office was 28th February. Coincidentally, this was also my last day at work before our three-week trip to the other side of the planet.

We had heard rumours of a virus that was beginning to spread around the planet but there was nothing concrete. We did have someone at work going out to Italy on a skiing trip, and the decision was made that they would isolate for a week on their return. I agreed that I would work from home my first day back after the New Zealand trip so that I could gauge what was happening with the world. I packed my monitor and keyboard into a crate ready for moving, took everything else home and prepared for our holiday.

March: New Zealand

We flew to New Zealand with copious amounts of hand gel, making sure that we kept our hands clean as much as possible. We had a great trip, despite the increasing worries back home. We were just doing North Island this time, managing to get all the way up to Cape Reinga and as far south as Tongariro.

During our last week out there, New Zealand closed their borders – incoming travellers had to self isolate. We also had a glow worm tour cancelled – the family who ran it were worried that they were exposed to foreign travellers. Other than that there was very little impact on our holiday. We were very aware that we were safer out in New Zealand than at home.

We had a slight scare when one of our flights back turned up on a “cancelled” list, but it turned out that was a mistake. In the end, our Auckland -> Singapore flight was the last one to run on that route – it was cancelled the day after.

On arrival at Auckland Airport the impact of the pandemic became apparent – people in full face respirators, spaced out queues, notices about what to do if you have symptoms, tannoy announcements about staying two metres apart.

At Singapore Airport we were herded onto the flight without any social distancing, but thankfully were upgraded to business class, so had a much more pleasant final leg to London.

We originally planned to get the train home to Leeds on the Saturday we arrived back in London, but given that at this point London was the worst part of the country for cases, we decided to stay over at the airport and fly to Leeds the next morning.

We booked Business Class for the flight to Leeds, thinking that we’d be able to get a free breakfast in the lounge, only to find that all the lounges were closed – we ended up with takeaway sausage sandwich from a pub. There was very little open to serve food, and all of it was takeaway.

We arrived home on the Sunday, and haven’t left very much since. We managed a supermarket run our first day back, having thankfully missed all the panic buying, though there was still no toilet roll available.

My work had sent everyone to work from home earlier in the last week we were away, so I already knew I was working from home. Unfortunately my project ended up cancelled – the optician in question had lost a major part of their income as the footfall in their stores dropped off so much. We were off the project by 1st April.

April: Lockdown

I had worked from home before, but only on occasional days. Sharon had done it more often than I, but still hadn’t usually done a full week. We soon got used to the amount of extra time we had – getting up later, and having time to relax before dinner. We truly did not miss the commute or having to get buses into Leeds.

Shopping became a solitary activity, and we shopped less often, buying more.

May: Marble Run

I spend a lot of my time playing with computers – processing photos or writing code. Given that I was now working out of the same office where I used to play, we went looking for distractions that would get us away from the computer. This wooden marble was one such thing to play with – I took my time so I didn’t finish it too quickly!

June: Twin Isolation

Given the lack of a commute, or opportunity to wander around in Leeds, my daily photo project became more arty. The big advantage of working from home is the lack of travel time – I had more opportunity to spend time playing around in Photoshop creating art. Sometimes that art was inspired by the situation we were in.

July: Myrtle

One of Sharon’s distractions from the computer was crochet – making a variety of friendly monsters.

August: Agapanthus

We were glad that we were able to spend this time with plenty of space, and that we got our garden redone a few years ago. Flowers became a good source of photographic fodder over the summer.

September: Windswept

Our camera club meetings had been abandoned in March when the pandemic started, but the new season started over Zoom. This worked well, and allowed us to have speakers from further afield, rather than being limited to those that could get to Ilkley. We had so much demand that we even managed to start our season early getting in a couple of meetings in August.

During September we were booked to speak to Sheffield Photographic Society, and had planned to take a week’s holiday in the Peak District. This also ended up being done over the ubiquitous Zoom from home.

October: Blue Tree

Our band had stopped completely – there was no safety in getting together in room to blow germs at each other. In its place our conductor started putting together YouTube videos, talking through concepts of music and giving us music to play through. This worked well.

The Royal Photographic Society put on some great talks over Zoom. The various sub groups that usually organised in-person talks quickly took to providing a programme of talks over the internet and some of these have been truly excellent and thought provoking. Long may it continue!

November: Sphere

By November is was fairly obvious that we wouldn’t be going back to the office any time soon. Thankfully both our employers were happy with the working from home arrangements, and there was no pressure to go back in. My office had opened for some people who were struggling to work at home, but that all stopped again with each new lockdown.

December: White On White

Christmas came around too soon. Was it December or still March? We agreed it wasn’t safe to see either of our families, though we did manage some Zoom Trivial Pursuit on Christmas Day.

I had planned on completing my EFIAP/Silver during 2020, but I had a bit of a pause competing in the middle of the year and I ended up five images short of the required salon acceptances. This will be the first year since I started that I haven’t applied for FIAP distinction, but I should be in a strong position by the end of 2021.

What does 2021 bring? More online photography training, more isolation and home, hopefully a vaccine and a way out of this difficult time. I suspect it’ll take most, if not all, of the year to get back to seeing people in the flesh again. We’ll see. Hopefully the government will get their act together.

About the author