If you are ever considering going off to start a new life in a new place where you know nobody (and you actually should consider it, as there is nothing like the satisfaction of carving out a new niche for yourself somewhere different) it is probably best to consult your crystal ball and see if there is a pandemic on the way.
My new, new life hasn’t been too successful.
I recently came across a piece I wrote (but didn’t post) at the end of last year, where I celebrated the sheer bliss of reinventing yourself in a new city, discovering new places and meeting people with no preconceived ideas about you. I outlined all the things I was going to do in 2020.
I did none of them.
Travel in 2020
I’ve taken a few trips; I was in Dubai at the start of the year (blissfully unaware of what was to come) and then I took a couple of short jaunts into Europe in February and March (Montpelier and Rotterdam). I made a trip to Sardinia at the end of the summer whilst the virus was taking a little rest.
I can’t say any of those trips were particularly inspiring. Travel for me has been about making some kind of connection to a community, travelling to different worlds and interacting with people there. Without that, this has been simply me walking around looking at stuff. My interest in travel is nothing to do with ‘taking trips’. I’ve missed real travel.
I have spent most of the year holed up inside my little flat in Brighton, on the south coast of England.
We have just entered another lockdown. They’re calling it ‘tier four restrictions’ but call it what you like it is still a lockdown.
I thought it would be easier this time, because we’ve done it all before, but somehow, if anything, it seems harder.
I do try to use my time productively – reading, writing, doing my art and my yoga/mindfulness – but I have this kind of depressive brain fog, zapping my energy and leaving me staring blankly at Netflix.
I’d like to believe that the incoming year will reactivate my motivation, but I fear it will take a return to something resembling my old life before that will happen.
Things I have learnt this year
I started online French classes. Learning something new gives you a feeling of achievement but I’m going to park it where it is for now. It’s got to the point where the course is racing ahead too quickly for me and I need to spend some time actually using it, rather than learning more and more complicated grammar structures. But take it as a warning that you can expect lots of France-related content on the blog when we do get back to some kind of normality.
I finally admitted defeat and gave up on Photoshop. I really don’t like it and paying for it every month started to really bug me.
In its place I discovered Procreate, which has a one-off payment and suits my needs a lot better. I am spending this second lockdown designing greetings cards and wedding invitations, although I still haven’t found the confidence/energy to actually attempt to sell any of my designs yet. This is my goal for the forthcoming lockdown.
In October I moved house. With little income and no government assistance available it was untenable staying in the big basement in the pink house by the sea. I debated moving to France, but France had already entered a kind of semi lockdown by then and I was worrying about how Brexit would change my access to health services if I needed them. I debated moving to Scotland, but Scotland also was starting to lockdown, making home viewings difficult (also I was worrying how I’d cope with the extra hours of darkness involved in the Scottish winter). In the end I stayed in Brighton, but moved to a much smaller flat in Seven Dials.
I made the wrong decision; not in moving (I needed to pare down my expenses) but I should have taken the chance to move overseas whilst the borders were open.
I arranged a little trip to the Canary Islands for New Year and January; nothing too spectacular but I needed to escape. ‘Aren’t you scared of being trapped there?’ Someone asked me. Well no, that doesn’t scare me half as much as being trapped in the UK for Lockdown and Brexit. Then the border closed anyway just days before my flight, so it looks like I will get to experience the whole horror of a UK January after all.
I’m not optimistic; our hospitals are already full and there is a new strain of the virus that is apparently 70% more efficient at spreading itself around. That is before we even get to the fallout from the Christmas revellers.
Warning: Brexit rant ahead
And don’t even get me started on Brexit. BoJo has been prancing around like he’s Santa Clause, bringing us this wonderful deal. We all know what he’s doing: losing the economic fallout from Brexit in the chaos of the pandemic.
I’m still so angry about this. Our rights to live in the EU, to work in the EU, to fall in love in the EU (these are all things I’ve taken advantage of during the past few decades) have been brutally cut. Student exchange, reciprocal healthcare, index linking on pensions taken to Europe and even the ability to use employment contributions made in Europe towards UK pension and benefits are all under threat (yet to be announced/decided as I write this).
And seriously don’t start me on the potential erosion of our employment rights.
Time has not mellowed me; I am still just as hurt and angry as I was four and a half years ago sat in a hotel room in Bolivia watching the referendum results come in.
I will continue with occasional updates on the blog, like maybe one a month or something, until there is some sense of normality restored. I’m unlikely to be doing much over the next few weeks, but I shall put up some life updates (if there are any) plus maybe some politics, book reviews or some of the little stories I wrote over the summer, just to keep the blog ticking over until I am back having new adventures.