Well crikey, if 2020 ain’t been one hell of a roller coaster so far (and by that I mean the worst roller coaster in the world)…
You don’t need me to tell you that this year has produced some crazy sh*t, and, almost nine months in, that crazy is showing no signs of stopping. (Neither is the sh*t.) The world has had more ups and downs in 2020 than the aforementioned roller coaster and really, 2020 – just give us a break, will you?
However, as with all these things that the universe sends to test us, a lot of good often comes out of bad. There have been some truly remarkable stories of great things that happened this year, from Captain Tom to pollution levels dropping significantly. As this is my first Year in Review post this year – it’s a 2-in-1 post because let’s face it, I really didn’t want to look back on the first four months of the year back in APRIL, god help us – I thought I’d try and channel those moments of positivity in a look back at the months from January to August now.
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Disclosure: I have been paid to work on the campaigns I have discussed here but this post is not sponsored by the brands involved (click here for my full disclosure).
Thankfully this year has been reasonably kind to me/us. Here’s how the first two-thirds of the year went.
My year in review so far: Life generally
Lockdown and Covid in our area
I might as well get the C-word out of the way first, and say that I am very, very thankful, grateful and lucky that neither I nor any of my loved ones have contracted Covid. I don’t want to jinx anything of course, but the South West of England has had a relatively low rate of cases compared to the rest of the country so we’re grateful for that. People were pretty good at social distancing when it was strictly 2m; everyone got used to crossing the road if someone was approaching you on the pavement, for example.
And although I would have liked to see more people wearing masks long before it was mandatory in shops and on public transport (I’ve been wearing one in shops since the beginning), I’m pleased to report that pretty much everyone wears one where we live without any bother.
But to backtrack: January and February were pretty standard fare. Nothing much to report in life generally.
The main thing for us was getting in a dog behaviourist for Suki straight after Christmas. Although we’d had her for three months, she was obviously very stressed out about being in a house with a lot of people over the festive period. She was showing signs of the behaviour we were warned about by the rescue centre and as we’d always said we’d make sure we got someone in to see what could be done to help her, that’s exactly what we did.
(I won’t go into details about her behaviour as it’s complicated to explain, but she’s an ex-racing greyhound from Ireland. Although we don’t actually know for sure about where she came from, it’s often reported that racing greyhounds are often not treated particularly nicely in Ireland. So through no fault of her own she needed some help in her interactions with other people and, especially, strangers. Thankfully she’s never been anything but perfectly happy, loving and stress-free with just Keith and I.)
Luckily for us the dog behaviourist lived a few doors down the road, and he came to see Suki straight after Christmas. In a nutshell, he gave us the training we needed to know how to deal with her and prevent the problem behaviour. He came once a week until the end of March when lockdown kicked in – and then it had to stop of course.
So although she could probably do with a few more sessions to perfect things like recall (greyhounds owners reading this are laughing and going Yeah, good luck with THAT!), the timing was perfect considering the circumstances with Covid. We’re now a lot more confident about how to deal with her, know when to take her out of stressful situations, and now don’t stress ourselves (behaviour which stresses her more). Knowing what to do means we’re calmer in stressful situations, so she’s calmer.
She’s still got a long way to go but she’s doing great considering the treatment she probably received as a racer. And yesterday was her ‘Gotcha Day’ anniversary (the day we adopted her): one year of Suki love for us has been absolutely wonderful.
Above: Keith’s 50th birthday party
Keith’s 50th birthday was right at the start of lockdown at the beginning of April. If you follow my Stories you may have seen the Star Wars fancy dress party we had [for two] – I think he was secretly pleased he didn’t have to have a big bash as he’s not one for big parties anyway. My birthday in July was celebrated with our first meal out in many months and I got new piercings in my ear for my birthday: these are the things that make life more exciting these days!
Daily routine and tasks accomplished
Come March and the announcement of lockdown, Keith and I found there was very little change to our daily routine. I work from home anyway (I’ll talk about work in its own section below) and Keith wasn’t furloughed so daily life just sort of stayed the same, albeit a lot, lot quieter and with no social aspect to it.
We did our best to get as much grocery shopping online – I don’t miss the days of staying up till midnight for the next round of available delivery slots to be released, sitting in a queue for 45 minutes not knowing if you’d get one – and I helped my parents (well, my mum) to get back into doing her grocery shopping online so she could control what she ordered rather than relying on others to go in and get it for her.
I also did a lot of prescription collections for my parents until we managed to get those set up for delivery as well… queuing outside Boots [the pharmacy] for up to 45 minutes at a time wearing a mask in all that heat we had in April/May was NOT fun. Thank goodness the queues eventually subsided and deliveries of their prescriptions started.
Other than that it was all hands on deck where the house was concerned: like many I did an awful lot of clearing up and clearing out. The house has never been as clean as it was during lockdown. The merest speck of dirt than came in from anywhere was whisked away immediately… I became a right Alice* during that period. I did a ton of little DIY jobs I’d been meaning to do since we moved (two years ago)… you know all those itty-bitty jobs that aren’t desperate, but you’ll do them “one day soon”? They are DONE. Finito. Finished.
Trouble is, I somehow created MORE itty bitty jobs as I was looking at the house with fresh eyes. Oh well, it’s always good to have projects on and I, for one, enjoy always having a To-Do list.
I heard many people say that being at home and not going to work meant they’d become bored… OMG REALLY?! I think I could go for about a year – if I had no job and no need to earn any money – before I might become even remotely “bored”. I have ALWAYS got some project or other on, and then I’m always looking for the next one.
*Brady Bunch reference there for those of you who are old enough to remember. In our family, anyone who cooks or cleans a lot is called “an Alice”.
New creative/business ventures
I have a new money-making scheme in the pipeline. It won’t make me rich or help me earn big bucks AT ALL, but it’ll be fun, creative and a way to bring in some pocket money (I hope). I’ll be sure to launch it here on the blog when it’s ready (in time for Christmas is the right time).
And I also started selling my excess wardrobe and homewares on eBay, something that’s been long overdue. Recently I’ve had a bit of a break from listing but that’s mostly because it’s that between-seasons time of year. I have Autumn/Winter stuff and things suitable for Christmas gifts lined up and ready to go so that’ll be the next thing I do to help get some more pennies coming in.
Watching – movies and TV
Don’t worry, there are no spoilers here in case you’re watching something I’m talking about…!! Just general chitchat about what I loved and what I didn’t.
As we rarely go to the cinema in the first few months of any given year, Keith and I haven’t actually been to the cinema together since we saw Once Upon a Time in Hollywood in August last year. I took my mum to a local showing of Judy before Christmas, but that was the last time. I know cinemas are open again (but for how long…) and we’d really love to see Tenet, but it’s a super long film and when you take travelling time to the big cinema into account we’d be gone for about four hours – we’ve not left Suki alone anywhere near that long before (and don’t want to yet).
I think we’ll save our first cinema trip for No Time to Die – you HAVE to see Bond in the cinema, don’t you…?!
Movies we’ve watched at home: Joker (amazing, Joaquin so deserved that Oscar), Jumanji: The Next Level (a brilliant Saturday night film and just as funny/silly as the first one) and Stan and Ollie (incredibly accurate and entertaining performances from both Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly as Laurel and Hardy respectively).
As far as TV goes…
For some reason – even unknown to myself – I’m rewatching Lost right from the beginning. I watched all of it the first time around, and I know the ending was silly but to be honest I never understood what was ever going on at any given time anyway (=laughs=)… I still loved it. And watching it again is like watching it with fresh eyes but with that little bit of insider knowledge, so it still gets a massive thumbs up from me.
I thought Killing Eve series 3 was very disappointing. In fact, I was so bored watching it I found myself doing other things while it was on and then realising I hadn’t watched any of it for about 10 minutes. When that happens I think it’s literally time to stop watching – so I did. I didn’t even watch the last couple of episodes – and I’m sorry to say I’m not even interested in what happened in the end 🙁
However, as we’re talking all things Phoebe Waller-Bridge, I decided to watch the second series of Fleabag. Now, unlike most who’ve watched it, I watched the first series and thought… Meh. It just didn’t do it for me. But on a day when I thought Oh let’s see what I can download that’s quick to watch, I thought I’d give series 2 a go and OH MY GOD I’m glad I did. Am I the only one who thought the second series was MILES better than the first?! Absolutely brilliant – hilarious, touching, romantic and sad in equal measures.
I’m a few episodes in of Mrs. America. I’ll watch ANYTHING with Cate Blanchett in it and so far she’s as mesmerising as always. Plus learning about Phyllis Schlafly’s fight against the Equal Rights Amendment movement in the early 1970s has been eye-opening.
I’m a huge Outlander fan and was so excited to see the end of ‘Droughtlander’ and have it return in February with Season 5 (normally it’s in the autumn so it was a long wait). However, it was a series of two halves: I found the first half INCREDIBLY boring. Like, NOTHING happened. It just plodded on and on. Then a big thing happened (if you watch it you’ll know the thing I mean!) and it totally turned around and went from Blah to OMG WHAT’S GOING TO HAPPEN I NEED TO KNOW NOW!! kind of TV. Too good.
Finally: The Walking Dead, Season 10. I think I’m only a bigger fan of TWD than I am of Outlander, so having that season 10 finale episode not airing until next month (due to production not being able to finish it due to Covid) has made it a loooooooong wait. I know a lot of people abandoned TWD a few seasons ago but Keith and I hung on in there and good lord it’s so good again.
(Let me know if you’ve been watching any of these shows/movies and what you thought of them in the comments!)
My year in review so far: Career
I think for most people work has been crazy this year, and by that I mean ‘What the hell is going on’ crazy, rather than necessarily being crazy-busy. Some people couldn’t go to work. Some people had to work at home. Some people had to go to work and found it incredibly busy and stressful (and, in the case of essential workers, incredibly high-risk as well). Some people – especially those who are self-employed like me – were able to work but had no jobs coming in.
The beginning of the year started as normal, a bit quiet after Christmas. I normally get a healthy number of jobs coming in from about March time. But of course, that all changed with lockdown. I had three SS20 collabs lined up but they were put on hold till the end of the year, and two of those I’m still chasing and trying to get an answer back from (all gone quiet from their end, hmm).
And although I had ZERO offers of work coming in between March and August, things kicked off again last month with two major, major campaigns in one week. I’m pleased to say that in terms of offers I have currently coming in, it’s as if there’s no pandemic and nothing is any different.
I did receive both SEISS (Self-Employment Income Support Scheme) grant payments that I was eligible for, which was a HUGE relief. The mortgage and bills have been paid as normal and Keith wasn’t furloughed (he had to continue to go into work throughout all of lockdown) so we’ve been okay financially. We know how lucky we are where this is concerned and to have a financial crisis at this worrying time is unthinkable.
Anyway, the jobs I HAVE worked on…
Above: JD Williams photo shoot
Above: JD Williams photo shoot
JD Williams photo shoot
On a very cold day in January, I did an all-day shoot with two other lovely bloggers for JD Williams to create lots of social content for the upcoming weeks and to promote the new season pieces. JD Williams is a great company to work for and they always make for such a fun day. We practically did the styling ourselves – there was a stylist of course who made suggestions, but we were given free rein to put the outfits together ourselves so it was a lot of fun.
Above: The Fantasie W&H magazine ad
Fantasie/Woman & Home magazine feature
Although this campaign was shot in November last year, the launch for the campaign was in February (my last job in London before lockdown) and the campaign was run online and in Woman & Home magazine over the course of several months. I was featured on the inside front cover(!!) of the May edition, and it was a bit of a thrill to see a full-page spread of my face like that. I think it was a really fabulous campaign and the photos were beautifully shot.
Specsavers photo shoot
No photos for this campaign as nothing has come out yet… I’m not really too sure what to expect from this one! The shoot involved about 8 or 10 models – mostly regular people and influencers. Specsavers always chose a really diverse mixture of ages, sizes and colours to represent the brand in online, instore and possibly on TV(?). Due to the way it was shot I’m not sure how much of my face you’ll see (I’m not really allowed to say more than that), but it’ll be interesting to see what it’s like when it comes out.
This was the first campaign I’ve worked on since Covid hit, so I had to travel to London on the train and work in a socially distanced studio environment. The train was practically empty – rush hour at Paddington on a weekday weirdly felt like a Sunday evening at 11pm – and all the people working on the shoot were in full PPE and social distancing. Normally at shoots there’s time to hang around, have a leisurely lunch together and chat… none of that happened unfortunately, and we had to be in and out as quickly as possible to minimise contact.
So it wasn’t as socially enjoyable as shoots usually are, which is a shame. It’ll be nice when they get back to normal and those sorts of measures are no longer needed, but I get the feeling it’ll be a long time before that happens, sadly.
Hair dye in progress for the Olia at-home shoot
Olia by Garnier shoot (a new one)!
Two days after the Specsavers shoot I worked on another major campaign: another hair colourant ad for Olia by Garnier! The ad we shot last year in Prague has been on TV a lot this summer, and to tie in with the trend for making “raw-looking”, footage-shot-at-home adverts, Garnier asked me to film myself dyeing my hair at home for them to make another TV ad. (I’m being joined by a few other ladies doing the same so I’m not sure how much I’ll feature, but I doubt it’ll just be me in an ad this time.)
Don’t be fooled by me saying “they asked me to film myself” – I described it as raw-looking because this was still a MAJOR production with the whole team from L’Oréal, a director and producer involved.
I just had to do it alone at home (with Suki asleep in the background, though she wasn’t visible, lol) and do everything via a group Zoom call and my laptop and an iPhone 11 (not mine). I had all the filming equipment sent to me at home and was talked through the set up via Zoom. It took a whole working day. It’ll be fascinating to see how it turns out because it’s literally me, in my bathroom, dyeing my own hair. It’s due to be ready at the end of the month so of course I shall share when it’s out.
Thankfully I’ve managed to secure a few more campaigns for the upcoming months for which I am VERY grateful and am very much looking forward to working on. As with many (most?) freelancers, bloggers have generally had a hard few months in terms of securing work so the support of my readers and followers is greatly appreciated. All the comments, likes and shares that you pass my way all help towards the success of my collaboration with a brand and hopefully secures future work with them.
The paid work allows me to continue to provide free content and continue blogging as a full-time job, so thank you for all that support in advance!
Strangely, Covid has been a blessing in disguise in terms of work-life balance for me (and, I hope, for many others). It’s made me realise what’s important in life, and yes, we all have to work to earn a living, but it doesn’t mean that it has to be the be-all-and-end-all in life. I’ve made changes to my routine that I’m sticking to, like always having lunch and then dinner early rather than my old habit of stopping work at around 7-8pm (and then not eating till 8-9pm). I now stop work at 5:15pm on the dot. I then make dinner for 6pm each weekday, and Keith makes the lunches and dinner on the weekend when he’s home (we both love cooking so it works out really well). It gives us plenty of time afterwards to walk Suki, clear up the kitchen and then have an evening together every weekday.
Little changes like that have made so much difference to our everyday lives and I feel that it’s a hugely positive change.
My year in review so far: Health
My health: January – April
The year didn’t start off brilliantly for me in terms of my health. I was extremely sluggish after Christmas and the fitness regime I’d begun the previous year had definitely started to slip away from me. Christmas is ALWAYS hard to bounce back from, but if I’m being honest I’d let things slip a bit by about the middle of November. In fact the pounds REALLY started creeping back on by March, and in a way lockdown gave me the kick up the backside I needed.
The warmer weather and longer days meant I felt renewed and I got back into walking every morning, not just once or twice week when the weather was favourable. Which, to be honest, was a miracle as we had the wettest and windiest February on record this year. Winter was FOUL. I fact there was a period of about four months where it rained Every. Single. Day.
Not ONE dry day for weeks upon weeks upon weeks. It was a winter to remember for all the wrong reasons.
And of course, just as Boris announced that lockdown was starting on 24 March, the sun came out… and stayed out. I did my daily allowed walk. (I walked Suki too of course – probably not strictly allowed but we live in a town that’s on the edge of the countryside so few people were ever seen.) I also got back into my daily weights routine and eventually got my strength back up and the pounds slowly but surely started to shift.
Tennis elbow woes
The gorgeous spring weather meant we finally got out into the garden and finished landscaping our front garden, but would you believe it… it came at a cost. After a whole day’s digging (in order to sew new grass), I had a super sore right arm the next day (and I’m right-handed). The pain in which never went away.
In fact, that was Easter weekend and I’m still suffering from chronic pain in my elbow SIX MONTHS later. I remember someone saying to me at the time that they had tennis elbow for three months and I was shocked that it could take that long to heal. As it happened right at the beginning of lockdown I could only talk to the doctor via video chat and couldn’t go to get physiotherapy or see an osteopath. The doc gave me exercises and suggested all sorts of things, and although it got slightly better it hasn’t really improved all that much. Once the osteopath was accepting patients I went to see him (he was recommended to me by someone who saw him once and was cured of the same problem instantly), but that session did nothing for my arm unfortunately.
Something that many people have suggested to me is a steroid injection, but the doctor has strongly warned me against it as it’s only a short-term solution and can cause lots of problems down the line. So it was a Nooooo thanks to that option.
I’ve had a few excellent massage sessions with a sports therapist who gave me what seem to be much more effective exercises to do at home with a looped resistance band. I’m also waiting on a physiotherapist to get in touch after I went back to the doctor to say nothing’s improved, so that’s the next stage. It’ll be on the NHS, hence the wait.
The things that cause me the most pain are cleaning my teeth, putting on makeup, lifting a mug of tea and, of all things, TYPING. Not great for my job, and I have to limit how much keyboard work I do each day. Doing anything where I have to use the muscles in my hand/forearm (clenching my fist in other words) at the same time as bending my arm is unbelievably painful. But I can hold my weight with my arm, so when exercising I can do planks or hold weights when doing lunges, but I can’t do bicep curls for example.
I’m basically now used to having chronic pain in my right arm, in much the same way as I got used to the chronic pain in my leg five years ago. At least this time it’s not a mystery, and I have read that tennis elbow often goes away by itself… but sometimes it takes as long as 18-24 months to heal =she pulls a horrified face=
I’m six months in. Time will tell.
My health: May – August
This is where things got decidedly better (we’ll ignore my tennis elbow as that’s still a problem!). By May I was fully into my exercise and cleaner eating routine, with early dinners and lots of walking and strength training. In contrast to a lot of people, lockdown was a brilliant time for me to get fit.
And get fit I did, with bells on. I had no sponsored work coming in so had no deadlines to meet at all. Although the blog itself took a backseat (I’d fallen out of love with it a bit and wanted to concentrate on my well being for the short term), I relished the extra time I had to get back into a regular fitness routine. I started running again. I was regularly managing 15,000 steps a day and doing my weights workout.
I took advantage of the detox retreat Slimmeria in North Devon opening back up again in July and went for the fourth time in August. I’d steadily been getting fitter up to that point so didn’t go to drop pounds and pounds, but as always it’s chance to reset, refresh and get fitter. I love the retreat AND Ilfracombe so much and I’m grateful that Keith fully supports me going. He took a week off work to look after Suki and work on various house and garden projects.
Left: June 2019 / Right: September 2020
Basically I have, in the last six months, got my sh*t together where my health and fitness is concerned. Since June last year (so in 15 months) I’ve managed to lose just over 2 stone (31 lbs/14 kg), and that’s nearly all the weight I’d put on since my “leg injury” at the end of 2015. I actually feel like a different person. I’ve noticed my face has slimmed down massively since last year, which is always a sign of losing pounds. I’ve always been a naturally slim person with small bones (I was the skinny child with twiglet arms and legs), and at my heaviest I was on the border of healthy weight and overweight.
Extra pounds have never sat well on me – literally – because they all go to one place: my legs and thighs. And I have to work extremely hard to shift it from those places.
When I put on extra weight (and I can’t stress this enough), for me, it makes me extremely sluggish, lethargic and despondent mentally. While life certainly isn’t perfect right now (when is it ever?!), feeling healthier, fitter and more mentally alert makes a huge difference to my life. I fully intend to keep it up this time because I know I ABSOLUTELY cannot head into my 50s feeling as terrible as I did 18 months ago.
My year in review so far: Family
This is probably the touchiest subject for me as things haven’t been great in the family due to lockdown and not really seeing anyone – as it has been for most people I’m sure.
(When I talk about “my family” I’m talking about my parents, siblings, nieces and nephews and their children, not just my little family unit of Keith, Suki and I.)
Without going into too much detail for privacy’s sake, lockdown has hit my elderly parents hard and exacerbated some serious health issues. Like I mentioned in this week’s #iwillwearwhatilike post, it might be that I have to drop everything to be there to sort certain things out for them and therefore blog work has to take a back seat.
I can cope with lockdown and curfews and not going out to the pub or the cinema. I can cope with not going abroad for goodness-knows-how-long… Keith and I have had four holidays abroad in 20 years because we only go when we can afford it, so we’re not in any great rush to get on a plane. I can cope with not seeing friends and enjoying time together socially. It’s not a problem. But seeing parents who thrive on social interaction when that’s what keeps them active and mentally stimulated (and physically to some extent – amazing how having to shield means their ability to exercise breaks down) is hard. REALLY hard.
But the family has rallied round and we’re doing what we can. It’s for this reason that I hope they find a Covid cure soon and we can all go back to normal where socialising and family gatherings are concerned. I miss the endless birthday parties. I miss the impromptu summer barbeques. I miss the hugs and kisses with my parents and relatives. Hopefully my niece’s wedding – postponed from April – will be able to take place in 2021.
I know we’ve got six more months of Covid measures in place after Boris’s announcement this week, and it doesn’t surprise me that infections are on the rise. The preventative measures are easy: wash your hands, wear a mask, keep your distance. It’s the rest of the crap that’s going to be the challenge…!
Fingers crossed for a “Let’s hang in there” end of 2020 and a better 2021.
How has your first third of 2020 compared to the second third? How are you and yours coping? Tell me in the comments…
Stay safe, XOXO
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