I keep looking back at 2019 thinking it was a really crappy year, that it was one I would like to forget. And in so many respects it really was. Except whilst looking through all the photos I took last year I realised that there were also lots of highs, points worth remembering, and that hopefully will be the bits I remember when I look back on those 12 months in years to come.
In previous years I split the year up and posted several photos for each month (72 things I learned in 2018 Part 1 and Part 2 ) but if I tried to do that this for 2019 the post probably wouldn’t go live until about March so I have stuck to one photo for each month, as a highlight of what we got up to or what I learned.
Out first day trip of the year was to the Upside Down House in Bournemouth. A bonkers idea but we loved it. And I especially loved the fish finger sandwich in the pub round the corner afterwards.
It was also the month I discovered that Toby Carvery did take away Sunday roasts. So when you really really feel you need a Sunday Roast at 4pm on a Sunday you can order it on line, pick it up half an hour later and be scoffing it back at home half an hour after that. It wont win any awards but for less than a tenner it was great.
Sadly it was also the month we said goodbye to our beloved FatCat, from thinking she was poorly to having to put her to sleep was less than 5 hours and it left us heartbroken. We found ourselves back at the vets doing similar with Chuck the Chinchilla too so January was a bit brutal.
Though a highlight was that E started her year long uni course, spending one weekend a month learning about soft tissue therapy (all whilst still holding down a full time job that often packed in 70 hour weeks)
We started off foreign travels with a trip to Iceland, somewhere that had long been on our bucket list. We were lucky enough to see the Northern Lights three times during the week and I am not too shy to admit I cried every time. If you haven’t been to Iceland I highly recommend it. The scenery, the culture, the people and the food all make it well worth a trip and if you need any more convincing here are is a blog post I wrote when we got back: West Coast of Iceland
I had a day in London at a confidence workshop and got to meet some people I had only chatted to online before (and catch up with people I hadnt seen in years). It made me realise that I really do need to venture out more and sign up to things like this. The feeling didn’t last long and I soon retreated back into my shell but in reflecting on the year it has again made me resolve to sort this out in 2020 and stop being such a hermit
That said I did get out to Stoke Park to an all day workshop on growing my brand and learning about Instagram. It was also the day I finally got to meet Lara, who I have been chatting to online for about five years.
We also celebrated my parents Golden Wedding anniversary with a big family lunch. Our present was to send them off to Iceland, a part of the world they haven’t yet to been to so they could celebrate their golden milestone by visiting the Golden Circle. It was lovely to have a big family Sunday lunch with them in a fancy hotel with lots of wine and to talk about how they met 50+ years ago. And to look back at the wedding photos!
We also dusted off our walking boots and did some fund raising for Sport Relief. i say “we”, we did no such thing. Jonnie went off and walked with the group who had come together to climb a ridiculous number of peaks in the Peak District, whilst Bruce and I carried kit, plasters and food supplies to meet them at each stop. 4G beat us at various points and we lost them but they all managed to make it safely to the end just as the sun went down. it felt good to be doing something for charity even if it was lower key than in previous years.
April kicked off with us visiting Malta for a few days. A throwaway line from Mr B who was there with work and who said “why don’t we just pay for your flight, and for you to be added on to the hotel room and you come too?”. Normally I would have said “don’t be daft” but an impending 50th saw me trying to get out of my comfort zone and having been to Malta before and seen how easy it was to get around on the bus I jumped at the chance. So I waved Mr B off at the airport when we landed, he got in a company taxi and I bought a five day bus pass. Thus turning into Dora the Explorer for the week.
May 2019 saw us at Wembley twice. Once for The FA Cup Final where Mr B saw his beloved Man City thump Watford, and then a week later to tick another band off the bucket list when we saw Fleetwood Mac live. I would have quite happily left after seeing them belt out The Chain but that would have been churlish and I am so pleased we enjoyed them to the end. Incredible to realise just how many songs they have in their back catalogue ( and to be able to sing them together when you think about the meanings in a lot of them!).
I lost my office buddy, J, this month as he got a job with a local firm that will allow him to also officially train to be a qualified accountant whilst working for them. Not a skillset he gets from me I might add. Though I am sure he doesnt miss my constant interruptions with questions about how to do something on my Mac.
We also of course had one of several trips to the polling station this month, has there been more voting in a year than we had in 2019? Thankfully it is within walking distance and is another excuse for a #DogsAtPollingStations photo with Mr Cheeks
May was also a month for a week of daily hospital visits as E spent longer than anticipated in our local one after being taken in by ambulance. Seeing your loved ones in pain never gets any easier does it?
We got out and explored a bit in June. First of all in the Cotswolds where we stayed at the Cotswolds House Hotel , managing to book it for a weekend when there was a local festival literally on the doorstep so we were treated to Morris Men and Carnival Queens whilst drinking gin on the hotel’s front step.
I also got to meet up with a lovely family friend who was over from Canada, and who I hadn’t seen in about 10 years which was lovely.
We also managed to sneak off to the Taste event in Regent’s park, The Vyne and Horton Lodge with our cameras to spend some time taking pics and wandering aimlessly with no agenda. If I take one thing away from this year it will be that we need to do more of this. Maybe my words for 2020 should be “no agenda”
Yesterday was released in the cinema and we were lucky enough to see it before release. First of all at an industry screening and then at a press event where actual Richard Curtis and Emma Freud attended. Both of whom we adore. Obviously.
Then the travels and weekends away continued with another weekend in Dorking. I am so pleased we did these weekends because before each one I was tempted to cancel. Every other weekend was visiting Mr B’s parents and so going away to fancy hotels was something we felt we could do without sometimes (I know that sounds ridiculous but we just couldnt face packing another suitcase). Looking back though they were the perfect thing to do because they were escapism. We didnt need to think about what to cook for dinner or who was going to walk the dog for 24 hours and that was heaven.
So much excitement this month with a new carpet. I know I shouldn’t get excited but we have wanted new carpet in the lounge for years so to finally get around to it was a huge relief and felt like a massive achievement.
Even more exciting that that was Lady Barrow having a rather special birthday. Jim’s favourite carer, Barbara, was back from Poland and made the most extraordinary cake for Pat. It showed such thought and kindness that it moved all of us to tears. This summer was hard, particularly for Pat, as Jim really was quite poorly and needed much more care and attention than previously which put huge amounts of pressure on Pat and the carers. These small signs of kindness really were hugely appreciated.
As was friendship. Whilst travelling up and the down the M6 I was never far from a text from a friend sending love or support. Asking how we all were and if they could do anything. Sadly in the middle of August we got the calls we had been dreading, that the doctors thought Jim was getting more poorly and that it might be wise to head up. Very difficult for Mr B who was in Dublin at the time but, again, the kindness of strangers helped hugely. The taxi driver who tried to find a flight for him direct to Manchester, and the airline that changed his flight at no cost. It all meant so much to us.
Sadly on August 12th 2019 Jim passed away. I have a blog post in draft that is my tribute to Hopalong but I haven’t had the courage to publish it because I can’t finish it without crying. It was an honour to be there at the end, and how Mr B and his mum stayed strong I shall never know.
Or how Mr B made sure that a week later my 50th wasn’t overlooked. It wasn’t the big event we had thought we might originally plan but as my mum said “you are 50 for a whole year” so maybe we will have a party in the spring. It was lovely that Lady B was able to come down for a couple of days to spend some time away from home with us. And that she also got to see the new house that C and D had finally completed on earlier in the month. Exciting times for them as they got onto the property ladder.
And I am grateful to my BFF Annie for taking me out for lunch for my birthday too and for mooching in West Green Gardens with me too. Knowing there wouldn’t be much talking but reassuring me she was there if I needed anything was very much appreciated.
We almost cancelled going away to France to learn how to cook curry. It seemed so frivolous when there was so much else going on. But like the weekends away in June, we are so pleased we went. It was lovely to have a change of scenery and pace. To meet up with a group of complete strangers and to make new friendships. We talked about Jim and how much he would have loved being in France eating curry, maybe jumping in the hire car and disappearing off to explore nearby towns. It was hard to think of him in the past tense. When we started plotting as a group to return in 2020 we suggested that Lady B should come with us too. We can’t wait to return
I also ended up on the BBC red sofa in Manchester at 12 hours notice to discuss the Jesy Nelson documentary about online trolls. A reminder to say yes to these things but it is always interesting to do something different but that I should probably consider the logistics a bit more carefully next time.
We also had another weekend away, in Henley where we got to hear Gyles Brandreth chat for an hour about his new book, and to spend the afternoon drinking gin and eating curry with dear friends we don’t see nearly enough of. Reminding us again that we must be a bit more social this year
Finally Granny’s bungalow sold. The deal that had been happening for what felt like the whole of 2019, that nearly collapsed twice, was done and the keys were handed over to a very relieved new owner called Shirley. I hadn’t grasped the enormity of saying goodbye to it for the final time, it was the final link to my granny and as I left the keys inside and closed the door it broke me, something I really wasn’t prepared for.
We could finally let the cat out of the bag and tell the world that C and D are having a baby! They told us by presenting us with mugs congratulating us on our promotions, mine to Grandma and Mr B’s to Grandad. We couldn’t be more thrilled. So much so that I have already registered Granny Barrow
We had to keep quiet for a while until we met up for my mum’s birthday lunch as that was when C and D wanted to tell them they were about to be elevated to Great Grandparents. It took a minute for the penny to drop when they first saw their new mugs but once they realised what was happening they were thrilled. It really was one of those fabulous family celebrations you look back on and smile.
I got to celebrate over lunch with Annie at the Pig in the New Forest, something I had wanted to do for a long time. She and I normally go out and wander as we take photos so to “just go out for lunch” was a rare treat and we left absolutely stuffed after our four courses.
I also got to spend an afternoon have a lovely tea in Cheshire, feeling like a Real Housewife, as Lady B’s guest. It really was a lovely afternoon. Afternoon tea is much overlooked I think and we really should do more of it!
November 2019 2019 2019
In a real break from tradition we started Christmas shopping! I don’t really know what came over us but we even went out to Kingston and didn’t just do it online. I can’t say we bought much mind you, though we did hit Hema hard, but it was good to start being organised for a change.
Talking of getting organised we realised that our Christmas gift from Lady B and Jim was about to expire so we asked Lady B if she would like to join us and experience brunch at the Gherkin with us. She had never been either and it was lovely to share the day with her, even if it did rain and make the view pretty dire. It was the run up to Jim’s birthday and it felt appropriate to do something to remember him too so I am really pleased we managed to organise this so that Lady B could come along.
We made the most of her being down and squeezed in another afternoon tea with C and E one afternoon and then the two of us went off to London to see the Hogarth exhibition at the Sir John Soane’s museum. A glorious sunny day in London that made wandering though parks all the more enjoyable as we ticked off something else from Lady B’s list of things she wanted to do.
We ended the month at a charity ball. Getting dressed up and feeling like Cinderella for the night, with my Prince Charming. I think the gin had to got to my head by the time the auction started as I seem to have ended up bidding, and winning, a three night stay in Germany to visit an aircraft factory.
No, I have no idea either.
And with that 2019 seemed to have flown by. I didn’t really know where 2019 had gone until I sat down to write this post and realised just how much we had crammed in.
I managed to sneak off and do more mooching around local National Trust properties with Annie, mornings that always make me smile. I seem to have got into the habit though of taking hundreds of photographs and not doing anything with them, something I should sort out next year! On average in 2019 I took 1500 photos a month apparently, and that is just on my phone, not including all those on my camera. Maybe 2020 is the year I learn to categorise them on Light room and delete from the Cloud a bit more!
I did however spend a day with a professional photographer taking “proper photographs” of me that I can use on here and Instagram (see above) as I haven’t really perfected the art of the selfie enough to capture anything other than my face.
And E’s course ended. Battling health issues and train strikes she still managed to do weekends in London to attend Uni and to submit all her coursework. Just the practical stuff to do now and then she can graduate. Like her boyfriend E who was awarded a degree this year after all his hard work (some of it done whilst visiting E in hospital too).
Christmas 2019 was a difficult one for me as the realisation set in that our table that used to be set for 12 was now only being set for 7. Whilst I kept telling myself it was only a roast dinner with a cracker I still wanted to make sure we had everything to make it the perfect Christmas, yet somehow still feel like I failed. I had been organised early on with lists, pre-booked supermarket slots, sharing out people’s wishlists and doing all the present shopping but by the middle of December I was exhausted, had an ear infection that just wouldn’t shift and just ran out of steam.
The table wasn’t set with anything pretty, and dinner seemed to be over in ten minutes. Part of me often thinks that maybe we should go out for Christmas dinner this year but then what do you eat on Boxing Day if you don’t have leftovers?
So goodbye 2019, hello 2020
Image of me with the Christmas tree, courtesy of Terry Joshi