Looking back on 2020, a year we’ll never forget. This time last year we were all celebrating the start of a new decade, everyone was talking about the roaring twenties, the decade that would be incredible, amazing, the best. So this year, I’m starting off far more cautiously, but the word I keep coming back to and I insist on using is ‘positivity’/pɒzɪˈtɪvɪti/noun: the practice of being or tendency to be positive or optimistic in attitude. This is how I am looking at 2021. And following along with that vein of thought I want to kick off the first blog of the year with a look back at the best parts of 2020. Our year in photos, not perhaps the ones that were instantly popular on social media, but the ones that really tell our personal story, about our family and our life here in a small French village. So get yourself a cup of coffee, a warming tea, or a glass of wine and enjoy the show. I hope above all else this brings a smile to your face and encourages you to also be positive and to look on this year as a year of hope, with many positive steps.
2020 dawned as it often does, seemingly unremarkable in any special way, just another winter’s day.
A time for warming soups and home made breads for lunch.
Then suddenly there are bursts of yellow at every turn, and yet amazingly it’s only the beginning of February. Spring comes early to this part of France, starting with the mimosa and then hot on its heels the daffodils. Meanwhile in 2020 the world was starting to panic, but we still did not know what was in store. Our second daughter was in Vietnam, we watched the news endlessly for every bit of information we could glean.
There was talk of lockdown and panic buying took over, supermarket shelves were stripped bare. Our eldest daughter in London sent me these photos, we were scared for her on her own in a tiny apartment with no outdoor space. Millie, our second daughter, had returned early from Vietnam at vast expense, and was safely tucked away in the Channel Islands.
And then France was in total lockdown. Overnight everyone became a recluse within their own small enclave. In so doing we stood together, but safely apart.
It happened so fast, everything we took for granted seemed to disappear, slowly we cancelled guest house bookings, one by one we had to contact and turn people away. The cottage stood empty.
We were allowed to exit the house for walking the dogs or exercise, one hour a day within one kilometre of the house and only with a signed attestation.
But our lockdown life was blessed with the warmest spring days on record. We knew we were enormously lucky, we had space to roam and we had five out of seven of us at home. We scarcely left the property, we picnicked in our own garden to change things up a little. Once a week one person would collect an online ordered shop for the basics and visit our local greengrocer for fresh produce. A local family had gained permission to drive trough the village in their truck each evening, playing loud music and dancing in the street outside houses where young kids lived. 8pm each evening, little children would be giggling at their gates, super excited to see the clown truck pass.
Roddy built me a mini greenhouse from old windows donated by our neighbour, the morning before lockdown commenced. And our little seedlings thrived.
We gardened as a family, starting new projects, involving our three teenage children who were at home with us. Schools were all closed and the classroom was our kitchen table.
Our hens were laying prolifically and the garden flourishing.
Our baby chicks hatched
and the hoopoes made their annual return for their spring courtship.
The days were long and warm, evenings spent eating outside under the stars.
And then by mid May we were finding our way again under the new rules of deconfinement. It felt strange to walk free from the house without any attestation, there were still plenty of restrictions and we were enormously careful. But slowly we ventured just a little further afield. A cycle ride to a neighbouring village; it was amazing how different everything looked, the last time we had seen these country lanes and houses the trees had been bare!
We started to reap the rewards of our hard work in the vegetable garden, newly extended with an extra bed under the wall.
And all the time, you, my amazing followers kept on buying brocante from us. Even during lockdown with post offices closed, you ordered, happy to wait until we could ship. We were and still are so enormously grateful for all of your incredible support.
By now it was the beginning of July. Our eldest daughter had been furloughed, like so many. She finally felt able to travel without risk to others and came to join us after months of waiting until case numbers were low enough. We celebrated with a giant brunch on the terrace!
By mid summer everywhere was putting on its most colourful show. These are the tiny French villages which surround us and every day make me pause to take a photo, to capture a moment, and so frequently make me late! Because all around there is so much natural beauty in the simplest of things. A half closed shutter, an errant vine, roses, hollyhocks, peeling paint and old stone.
Our leisurely wander to the Sunday morning village market.
Our new village boulangerie finally opened, welcomed by everyone and just a couple of minutes walk from our house.
The new cutting garden, a first time venture, began to pay dividends. The cosmos flourished, other things not so. It was a steep learning curve.
At the beginning of September the Tour de France came within a few kilometres of the house. Our first time we had seen this in real life. We cycled to an out of the way spot, and waited. A spectacle that passed by so fast when it arrived that I wished I had just watched and not photographed, but the noise of the wheels and the sheer excitement was amazing.
And slowly the summer came to a close as autumn nudged her out of the way. The leaves started changing colour and the first began to fall.
And still we stood together and yet well apart.
Squash and pumpkins appeared in stalls at the market. Our daily salads for lunch started to be replaced by soup.
Once more France went into lockdown. This time more businesses remained open, although anything public related was firmly shut, including all non essential shops. The attestation for leaving the house came back into force. The maximum one kilometre rule from the house for walking and exercising was once more one of the rules.
Mid November, we hosted our first online virtual brocante. Spread over two days, we chatted live on Instagram and talked to so many people. We never imagined it would be so successful. It was so much fun and it was really great to be able to show people specific items, talk about them, have you join us for a glass of wine. We’re going to make this an annual event and we’re already planning the next one!
By the beginning of December the weather was still mild, leaves clung to branches and finally we could walk slightly further afield, within a 20 kilometre deadline.
And then by Mid-December thoughts turned towards the Holiday Season and Christmas. Shops reopened and the lockdown was replaced by a nighttime curfew.
Our decorations were very simple and very natural this year, it felt the right thing to do. It was such a hard time for so many people, a Christmas without family, without loved ones.
As the year drew to a close, we had a moment of great personal excitement. The release of our first book. A collection of 8 short fictional stories all based in France. It took us all year to get this off the ground, along the way there were far more hiccups and problems than we had ever anticipated, but we’ve had so many positive comments that we’re really delighted. If you haven’t bought a copy yet, it is available on Kindle from Amazon worldwide. To buy from Amazon.com you can click here. For other countries simply type in Audrey, Susan Hays into the Amazon search engine.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my look back over the past year. Now I want to wish you all the happiest of New Years. Stay Safe and above all STAY POSITIVE. Together we can do this. Big hugs and lots of love xx