Here we are, in the second week of January 2021 already and how things have changed in the last 12 months, and 2021 is already shaping up to be not quite as full of hope and optimism as usual New Year’s tend to feel.
Last January, personally, I was looking forward to moving house and getting married and hadn’t thought much more beyond those Q1 2020 major milestones. January involved packing boxes upon boxes, having clear outs of things we didn’t need any more and buying new things for the new house in the sales. We had some viewings on our house in December and out of four viewings had three offers. As we were part exchanging for a new build property we were not dependant on the sale of our home, but it was encouraging to see how much interest it had and that a quick sale would be on the cards with someone ready to move in once we had moved out.
Bad weather had delayed the completion of our garage at the new house, so our hopes of moving in at the end of January/start of February were dashed, but thankfully the delay did not go on too long and we finally moved in on 21st February. We both ended up getting nasty colds so were unpacking things and putting together flatpack furniture while feeling pretty lousy before having a couple of days off sick to rest and recover. We are not ones to live out of boxes for months so pretty much within a week of moving in, we were all unpacked and fairly settled. Then two weeks after that – we got married!
We had settled on the location for our small wedding celebration last July, it was the first and only place we went to visit and we both just knew it was perfect for what we wanted. We got married at The Three Daggers at Edington near Westbury in Wiltshire.
The wedding ceremony, reception dinner and evening drinks were all held in the Brewery there, with the family guests staying both in the lovely inn rooms in the pub, or in the amazing six-bedroom cottage just over the road from the pub. The location also had a spa barn near the cottage where myself, my husband Paul and some of our family members received lovely relaxing treatments, and situated up the hill slightly from the spa barn, there was a hot tub, plunge pool and sauna and steam room. Then further along from there was the “man cave” type hut where there was a dart board and a fire pit.
Above photographs – Darby family collection
We had a lovely relaxing weekend, a meal all together on the Friday night in the pub after some spa treatments. A great breakfast in the morning followed by more spa treatments, then the wedding ceremony, canapes and drinks in the spa barn and then back to the brewery for the main meal, which was amazing, then off to relax in the house or use spa facilities or play darts and drink and chat before an evening buffet. Sunday morning breakfast, packing up and heading back home. It was a really special weekend.
Then on the Monday after the wedding Paul and I headed away for our honeymoon to stay at Peacock Cottage on the grounds of Kirby Hall, an English Heritage property in Northamptonshire. Closed for visitors at that time of the year, we had the run of the grounds, just the two of us. We spent a sunny afternoon enjoying our favourite place together, before heading off the following day to Belton House in Lincolnshire – a National Trust property. The house itself was closed but we had a “below stairs” tour and a bit of a walk around before heading back to the cottage.
Above photographs – top left – Peacock Cottage, top right – Kirby Hall, middle right – Belton House, bottom the Palladian Bridge at Stowe Gardens. Photos all by Alex Darby.
The Coronavirus pandemic news was starting to increase with talk of restrictions being put into place to curb the amount of people able to come in contact with one another, and we watched the news unfold from the cottage, starting to feel a bit uneasy and unsure of what was coming. On the Wednesday we had a day at the cottage and Kirby Hall, it was a grey drizzly day. We went to a pub for a meal in the evening, it was quiet, only a few other customers there.
Thursday was our last full day at the cottage and we travelled to Stowe in Buckinghamshire for a lovely walk around the gardens for a few hours. On the Friday the announcement came to close all pubs and restaurants as we headed towards a full national lockdown. We made our way home, stopping to buy provisions from a few places on the way back, finding that we couldn’t get an online supermarket delivery slot for weeks, managing to organise a veg box delivery and some other items to help us in the initial weeks. That Sunday I collected my laptop from work and haven’t returned to the office since.
The rest of March was an odd time, setting up a way of working for both Paul and I to do our jobs from home. In our day jobs Paul is a Programme Test Manager and I am a Project Manager, so thankfully they are both roles that can be performed from home with no real issues. Our projects were still very much in full flow and if anything it felt like we were busier than ever. The weather improved and in April we were able to get our back garden landscaped from a patch of clay, to having a paved patio, borders, a patch of grass and an area behind the garage earmarked for my fruit & veg patch. It was wonderful to have the ability to start sitting outside properly for fresh air, enjoy the sunshine and the views from our new home, revelling in the sounds of the birds around us, seeing buzzards and red kites flying around. However there was still a lockdown, daily news filled with terrible statistics of numbers of cases and numbers of deaths, increasing week by week. It was hard not to feel anxious. For six weeks after the wedding we didn’t see Paul’s kids, to make sure that neither of us had any symptoms etc. His eldest son was due to sit his GSCE exams that summer and they had been cancelled.
April and May went by with me splitting my time between work, gardening – putting in new plants to a blank canvas of a garden and decorating the new house. It was a blessing to have moved house before lockdown, to both have the space to work in, the boys having more space, and living close to the countryside to get out and have walks in.
Above photos – the back garden in clay mud patch style, then having been landscaped and then finally some fence paint having been done! Bottom two pictures – Cherhill Downs in Wiltshire and Paul and the boys heading home from a walk near our house. Photos all by Alex Darby.
June and July passed with yet more gardening – watching the seeds I had scattered blossoming into life as lovely meadow flowers, as well as seeing the once empty borders slowly filling up with plants. We went on more walks, had heat waves which were ease by sitting in a paddling pool of cold water on the patio to cool down. I enjoyed learning to play darts too. With lockdown having eased up, we were able to see the odd friend here and there while still being pretty cautious. Unlike the people who rushed down to the beaches on the hot days, masses of people ignoring the virus pandemic, just to lie on the beach in the sun – along with hundreds of other people.
Above photos – some meadow type flowers in our garden, Lake up at Hill Penn Nature Reserve, and the boys and Paul up near Morgan’s Hill near Calne. Photos all by Alex Darby.
In August we brought home a new addition to the family – our kitten Squid. Born in June we collected him once he was 8 weeks old and brought him to his new home. An absolute loon of a cat, but is also pretty adorable. Paul’s eldest son got his exam results – thankfully not affected by the results algorithm debacle experienced by A-Level students a week or so before. He had to wait a little longer for his BTECH results but his teachers had provided some solid great results for him – which reflected the hard work he had put in over the last two years and he got what he needed to do the A-Levels he wanted to do. We managed to see my sister and her family a couple of times, coming over for a BBQ.
Squid – left photograph taken by Paul Darby when Squid was several weeks old and right photograph taken by Alex Darby during the first weekend he came home.
September saw the boys both returning to school, the eldest embarking on a new journey at a different college for sixth form. It was still an anxious time with having been home schooling between March and July and suddenly being back in a large group. There were a number of occasions of other students testing positive and some groups having to self isolate. The boys stepfather had to have a Covid test but thankfully it was negative. We saw my parents for the first time since March who came to see us during my Mum’s birthday weekend. We had a nice dinner together, they stayed over and we went for a nice walk in the morning and had breakfast at our local café. Since then we have only seen them via video chats.
My workplace started to open up in September with a strict booking process to keep attendance numbers low, but after a few short weeks the cases were creeping up again and local restrictions were put in place which meant the office had to close again in October so I never ended up going back in.
In October we continued to work hard, and feeling a bit fatigued with our workloads. Teams calls back to back, and long hours, school half term holidays and then back to work, with the clocks going back to give us an extra hour in bed which felt like it was gone in mere seconds.
In November our household was watching the details unfurling around the US Presidential Election. For the last four years we have watched President Trump undermine democracy, unpick the agreements and processes put in place by his predecessors and generally give the voices of the far right a larger mouthpiece. We paid more attention to the interesting set up of the US electoral system, getting our heads around electoral college votes and understanding which states were now flipping from Republican to Democrat leaning states. We were also seeing the baseless election fraud claims coming from Trump’s team off the back of Joe Biden’s success, the strangeness of it all. The wild notions of Sidney Powell, initially part of his legal team, then they distanced themselves from her, yet she then appeared to be back in the fold. The quaint oddness of a press conference in the parking lot of a landscaping company, and later sessions in court with hair dye running down Giuliani’s face.
In December the US election fun and games continued and we followed the news stories closely, at the same time here in the UK the Covid-19 infection rates and in turn, death rates were rising again. We prepared for a subdued quiet Christmas. Initially the UK government were going to open up tier restrictions to allow for people to spend time together over a 5 day period for Christmas. It was never going to be a good idea. It then changed to only be allowed on Christmas Day. We knew we weren’t going to see anyone, we had the boys for a few days before Christmas and then again for a few days after. The extent of our contact with other people for the last few months has just been seeing the kids every other weekend and a few extra days during the school holidays. Christmas came – we enjoyed our time off together, relaxing, eating nice food, enjoying the time with the boys.
Above photos all by Alex Darby – Christmas Lights in Calne, Christmas Squid, Toasting in the New Year and a Winter Walk along the track near our house.
Also just before Christmas my ex-husband got married to his partner, not quite the wedding they had planned as they just had a simple ceremony at a register office, with a plan to have a proper celebration next year when they can. I am glad they managed to get something organised after having to postpone their wedding plans from earlier in the year.
New Year’s Eve came around and we spent it with the boys, playing games and having a Chinese takeaway. Instead of toasting in the new year with a bottle of prosecco as we had planned, we ended up toasting it in with cups of tea. The night sky was thick with fog, we could hear some fireworks but not actually see any.
And then it was January, the boys were gearing up to return to school and then another full lockdown was announced, with a return to home schooling for those children whose parents are not key workers. In the same week, Trump incited his supporters to storm the Capitol. Horrendous scenes of violent protesters and a much pared down police response to what had been seen earlier in the year during a Black Lives Matter protest march. The protesters were almost handed the keys to the Capitol Building such was the level of resistance they encountered. They were armed, broke windows, stormed into offices and temporarily halted the process of Vice President Mike Pence confirming the electoral college votes in order to certify Joe Biden’s win in preparation for his inauguration on 20th January. Five people died, four protestors and one police officer. The events were unprecedented and have shocked many across the world, witnessing Donald Trump using far right supporters to essentially stage a coup because none of their legal challenges to the election result could stand up in court due to lack of evidence.
As I write this the House of Representatives have voted to impeach Trump for a second time, the first time in US history that has happened. It feels odd to be living through events that will likely one day be taught in schools for lessons in history and politics. If the Senate proceeds to prosecute him under that impeachment he stands to lose his presidential benefits he would be entitled to and would be forbidden to run again for president, something I strongly believe should happen.
And what about Genealogy – the subject of my blog and my business I run from the sidelines? Well, I did research work for various clients over 2020, but my day job took centre stage. Longer hours meant I didn’t want to carry on staring at a computer screen longer into the evening or during the weekends, so I haven’t actively pursued work like I would normally do. Plus I appreciate that getting family tree research done might not be the top of people’s priority lists right now.
However I have continued to progress more with my own tree research and on Paul’s tree. I have had some work undertaken by the museum of the Royal Electrical Mechanical Engineers to review my paternal grandfather’s very minimal WWII service record to try to help provide me with more information about his service. I ordered rather a lot of death certificate pdfs from the General Register Office to help provide more information about many of Paul’s ancestors which is always interesting and useful. I’ve made some good discoveries and enjoyed helping others with finding some answers to some curious brick walls in their own trees. I have managed to write several blog posts in 2020 and hope to keep it up writing more about Paul’s ancestors and perhaps some more research advice related posts.
I hope that 2021 brings me a bit more time to do more work for clients, that it provides me with more resources for my research with new record sets becoming available. However, most of all I hope it brings some more hope and positivity. With Covid-19 vaccines becoming available, hopefully things will start to improve by reducing the numbers of people contracting the virus and indeed dying from it. I want to be able to see my family again, to go out for a meal, to go shopping properly, to not feel anxious about an invisible unknown anymore. I want to go on a holiday, to relax and enjoy somewhere that isn’t my own home and back garden!
For me 2020 was a year to remember, for many reasons, new home, getting married and adjusting to a different world.
I wish all my readers a better 2021 – may you all keep safe and healthy. What are your 2021 goals? Any genealogy related aims? Are there any research advice areas you would like to see me write about that might give you some guidance in your own research? Let me know!