2021: Making the Best of It

This will probably be my last post of 2021. Planning it, I thought I’d write a retrospective piece, focussing on the highlights of the last 12 months. Well that wouldn’t take long, would it, given that there haven’t been any highlights. It’s true that 2021 hasn’t been quite as bad as 2020, but not by much. On balance it’s another year I’d rather forget. But, thankfully, there have been a few compensations along the way.

Without the company of visiting cats Malteser (above) and Milky Bar, our 2021 would have been a whole lot bleaker

That was the year that was (all jabbed up, with nowhere to go!)

When I left work in 2018 the plan was that we’d do a lot of travelling, see more of the world and the UK too. And for the first 18 months it worked out just fine, with big trips to the USA – centred on Yellowstone National Park – and New Zealand, as well as shorter stays in various corners of our own country. But since Covid struck nearly two years ago we’ve spent just a couple of nights away from home, in the nearby county of Rutland. Retirement wasn’t meant to be like this!

We enjoyed visiting a few historic buildings in Derbyshire and surrounding counties. In the 19th century, Shibden Hall (above) was home to the extraordinary Anne Lister, aka ‘Gentleman Jack’

But at least we’ve had our jabs. Two doses each during the spring, and more recently booster doses to counteract the threat of the omicron variant. We remain healthy and feel safe, but the restrictions and continuing uncertainty surrounding the pandemic have so far deterred us from planning any trips next year. Seems like we’re all jabbed up, with nowhere to go.

A canal-side stroll at Bugsworth Basin allowed us to escape briefly from our everyday suburban existence

So, with our passports gathering dust all year and our UK horizons severely restricted, we’ve had to resort to simple pleasures.

Simple pleasures

One of the few bonuses of Covid has been that, with long distance travel out of the question, we have found ourselves exploring much closer to home. We’ve finally visited some places that have been on our list for years – decades, even – but never made it to the top. And others that we were totally unaware of, even though they’re in our own backyard. So it’s not been a wasted year, but not at all what I would have predicted when I started drawing my pension in 2018.

Yorkshire Wildlife Park is part of a European conservation initiative to protect the endangered Amur Tiger. Early next year I’ll write a post about our multiple visits to the Park during 2021.

The internet has made lockdown life much more tolerable than it would have been had Covid struck before the world went online. During 2021 I’ve spent a lot of time on the web listening to folk music, an interest that dates back to my childhood. We’ve also attended several online gigs on Zoom, and every week I’ve listened to several regional folk music shows via online catch-up radio. We even plucked up the courage to attend one day of the Derby Folk Festival in person, and enjoyed seeing Ninebarrow – a folk duo we discovered online during the first lockdown – perform live.

All manner of surprises were on offer in the sculpture garden at Burghley House. I’ll share some more of these in 2022.

But more than anything else the thing that has made this year bearable has been the company of our visiting cats, Milky Bar and Malteser. Being at home just about all the time has allowed us to get to know them much better than before, and they’ve repaid us by spending lots of quality time here, sleeping, playing, making mischief and eating any treat we’ve put in front of them. Our Covid experience would have been a whole lot bleaker without those two fabulous felines.

Visayan Pigs (aka Warty Pigs) are another of Yorkshire Wildlife Park’s impressive conservation projects. Post to follow in 2022.

So that’s it, that was the year that was. Of course, it could have been been much, much worse. But I can’t pretend it’s been a bundle of laughs either. Let’s all hope 2022 will be a whole lot better.

Christmas gifts

Christmas is a time for gift giving, and in that spirit I’d like to present you with this link to a recording on YouTube of Benjamin Zephaniah reading his wonderful Christmas poem that invites us all to Be Nice to Your Turkey this Christmas.

Benjamin was born and raised in Birmingham, England, and is a celebrated dub poet whose work “is strongly influenced by the music and poetry of Jamaica and what he calls โ€˜street politicsโ€™.” Many years ago Mrs P and I were thrilled to attend one of his gigs. It was nowhere near Christmas, but his performance of this poem still brought the house down. If you’re not familiar with his work do click on the link and listen to the man do his stuff – it may well be the best two minutes and eight seconds of your whole Christmas!

My second gift to you is Joan Baez singing The Cherry Tree Carol. I’ve already observed that my interest in folk music dates back to my childhood. My father loved Joan Baez’s singing, and had several vinyl albums of her work. I grew to love them too, and remember playing and re-playing her records on our ancient radiogram (anyone else remember radiograms?) until the grooves were worn away.

Although dating back in some form to the early 15th century, the Cherry Tree Carol as we now know it was collected by Francis James Child (1825-96) during the second half of the 19th century and included in his famous anthology of English and Scottish Popular Ballads. I am not a religious man, but the spirituality of this song moves me deeply. And who can possibly listen to Joan Baez’s fabulous folkie voice without getting a lump in their throat? Listen and enjoy!

And finally …

Thank you for reading my blog, and for sharing your comments with me from time to time. With Covid restrictions curtailing travel opportunities and limiting our social interactions, I’ve really appreciated exchanging ideas and experiences with WordPress pals from across the globe. You’ve helped make a difficult year more bearable.

I wish you all a happy, peaceful Christmas, and a healthy and fulfilling New Year.

The Festival of Christmas Trees in Chesterfield Parish Church helped us get into the festive spirit.

20 comments

  1. Thank you for taking me back to the days of the old radiogram when my dear old Dad would have a dummy spit because the house would shake when my music was too loud ๐Ÿ™‚
    Joan Baez performed in Brisbane 5 or 6 years ago. Took my daughters ( in their 20’s) and we were seated close to the stage. Her voice had not changed and even with the short cropped silver hair she looked stunning. In between songs she would tell stories, stories from the 60’s and 70’s and how her songs evolved : Martin Luther King, protest marches, first negro enrolled into a white school in America. Both daughters were mesmerised…..Great memories. Taaaaa. Merry Xmas to you and yours Mr P.๐Ÿฅ‚๐Ÿพ๐ŸŽ„

    Liked by 1 person

    • Platypus Man · December 22

      Wow, what a magical evening that must have been, hearing Joan reminisce about her experiences in the those far-off days when revolution was in the air and social justice appeared to be within reach! She’s a very special lady, and will have an enduring place in the cultural history of the 60s and 70s.
      Incidentally, I love the phrase “dummy spit.” We don’t have that here, although the meaning seems quite plain. Our nearest equivalent, I think, is to have a “dicky fit”, in other words a fit of temper or an angry outburst. Don’t you just love language!
      I hope you and your loved ones have a wonderful Christmas.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. postcardscribblesblog · December 22

    Thank you platypus man. The enjoyment of scribbling something is enough; the added bonus via WordPress is that your thoughts could reach others – even more than one other maybe!
    Happy Christmas and may 2022 be better.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Platypus Man · December 23

      You’re absolutely correct. For me too the real pleasure is in the writing, and in the research and fieldwork that precedes it. The fact that other people read what I write, and sometimes tell me that they like it is icing on the cake. Hope you have a wonderful Christmas, and a happy and healthy 2022

      Like

  3. The June Journal · December 22

    Thank you, Mr P๐Ÿ™ I enjoy reading your blogs, which I have learned interesting history and stories about UK. We had our booster shots too, try to protect ourselves from Covid as much as we can. I wish you and Mrs P merry Christmas and happy new year of 2022๐Ÿ’๐Ÿ’๐Ÿ’

    Liked by 1 person

    • Platypus Man · December 23

      Thank you, June. Its been lovely to get to know you – and Oreo and Calie too ๐Ÿ˜บ๐Ÿ˜บ๐Ÿ˜บ – via our respective blogs. I wish you a wonderful Christmas, and a happy and healthy New Year.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. tanjabrittonwriter · December 22

    Dear Mrs. and Mr. P,
    I am convinced that fostering gratitude for all the good things in our lives is much healthier than bemoaning what could have and maybe should have been. In this spirit I hope we can all find blessings in the little presents that surround us every day.
    Wishing you continued good health and a joyful holiday season.
    Warmly,
    Tanja

    Like

    • Platypus Man · December 23

      Thank you, Tanja. I think that in the affluent West, in the 21st century, many people have convinced themselves that life should be wonderful all the time, and feel aggrieved when it’s not. But that’s just not realistic. Life inevitably has its ups and downs, and, without the darkness of the night you can’t truly appreciate the beauty of the stars. It’s been a tough year, but my parents – and yours too, I guess – experienced years just as bad, albeit in a different form to the Covid pandemic. Although I wish none of this had happened I’m grateful for the little compensations along the way, some of which I touched upon in this post.

      I hope you and your family have a fantastic
      Christmas, and wish you every happiness – and lots of spectacular birdwatching! – in 2022.

      Liked by 1 person

      • tanjabrittonwriter · December 25

        Thank you, Mr. P, I agree with all you said. And I’m returning all the good wishes to you and Mrs. P for the coming year.
        Warmly,
        Tanja ๐ŸŽ„

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Paddy Tobin · December 22

    Best wishes for Christmas and the New Year.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Platypus Man · December 23

      Thank, you Paddy. I hope that you too have a wonderful Christmas, and that your snowdrops are more splendid than ever in 2022!

      Like

  6. Marie · December 22

    Wishing you a lovely Christmas and here’s to a better 2022 for us all!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Platypus Man · December 23

      Thank you, Marie. I hope you too have a wonderful Christmas, and that 2022 ushers in a new beginning for us all!

      Like

  7. Laurie Graves · December 22

    Thank you, thank you, for the lovely gifts, especially the gift of your blog. You are so right that the Internet has made pandemic life ever so much better. Happy holidays to you and yours. May 2022 be better than 2021. I hope you will soon be able to gather your passports and hit the road.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Platypus Man · December 23

      Thank you, Laurie. Your kind words are your Christmas gift to me, and I thank you for them. I hope you and your family have a wonderful Christmas, and a healthy and happy New Year.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. thelongview · December 23

    Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, Platypus Man and Mrs P! I love Joan Baez and will listen to the song as soon as I have some internet! Yes, our animals make life so much sweeter, and don’t forget the platypuses and Devils you got to see before Covid hit.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Platypus Man · December 23

      Thank you. May your Christmas and New Year be equally joyful. I think about the platypuses and devils often, and can’t quite believe I ever saw them in the flesh. And also wombats and echidnas, similarly improbable creatures that also caught our imagination. Nature, in Her wisdom, has created wonders that science fiction writers wouldn’t have dared invented for fear of being accused of terminal madness.

      Like

  9. ThoughtsBecomeWords · December 24

    Thank you for your wonderful, informative posts. Wishing you a happy holiday season and see you in the New Year!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Adele Brand · January 1

    It may yet be that omicron’s enormous wave helps bring this disaster to an end – in the meantime, I, too, am thoroughly vaccinated and yet reluctant to predict any travels. It has been a difficult two years and I hope 2022 is better for all of us. Looking forward to more of your posts.

    Like

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