2020, We Stood Together but Apart

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

26 thoughts on “2020, We Stood Together but Apart

  1. For now just our very best, warmest wishes for a blessed New Year, to all of you. So glad that your family could get together. Not everybody had that particular chance. All the good that happened to you went to friends who richly deserved it. You were and are always close to our hearts. Will try to get Audrey on my computer, although I am hardly ever at it presently. But that’s my only chance to read and comment on it….. Congratulations in advance. Wishing you a great succes….
    Love your hearts’ goodness, the fact that you never give up, that you stayed positive in your attitude, that you are a loving, kind family. May you be blessed in every way and have ‘rich’ lives in your charming corner of France.
    Je vous embrasse très fort. Hugs and kisses (virtual ones for now) Kiki & Hero Husband

  2. One of the best blog posts I’ve read for years. A joy from beginning to end. Superb photos and fascinating account. I loved it! And was grateful becuase it cheered me up, made me feel warm inside. So glad that much went well for you after all that hard work. Simple pleasures – you rmind us of their value. Thank you.

  3. Lovely photos that tell stories w/out words. Bless you one & all in the New Year! We may “see us” as the Germans/Austrians love to say!xoxo

  4. What a lovely travelogue of beautiful photographs!!! Merci for sharing your family’s life with all your readers!
    Everyone has suffered in this pandemic and many of us have lost friends, acquaintances and loved ones.
    I will try to send you a wonderful “blackboard wish’ from Besancon.

  5. Susan to me this post could be termed a ‘historical treatise’ of how one family lived thru’ a year none of us will ever forget – a chapter of life which has yet to find an ending. We have been and still are apart but for most of us the time has been a learning experience in being together as at no time before. You have told your story so warmly and delightfully that I am certain not to be the only one who feels I have almost lived alongside you . . . for that I thank you. In many parts of Australia we also are as yet again on the verge of a lockdowns tho’ we have faced and at the moment do a less complicated and serious scenario. I so wish you and yours the healthiest and most contented months to come until the Monster is finally thrown off the edge of the world . . . hope you do not mind my reposting this to friends who will enjoy . . .

  6. I did a positivity post for Thanksgiving and I appreciate reading yours and enjoying the photos. Bought no brocante but did buy the Kindle of your book, so I’m looking forward to that. In the Franche-Comté they now have a 6 pm-6 am curfew and have been badly hit once again. I positively hope I’ll be able to get back for a visit later this year and that the vaccines will do their jobs. In the meantime, I continue to look on the bright side whenever possible. 🙂 Happy New Year!


    1. Do you live in Franche-Comte? Sixteen years ago we lived in the tiny village of Beaujeu about 14km from Gray/Arc les Gray.

  7. Great photos! How wonderful that you had such a beautiful home, gardens and family to enjoy during this challenging time. May your New Year open up to more travel, people sharing your cottage and prosperity and good health for all!

  8. A beautiful account of a remarkable year. I love the story about the clown truck driving through the village, and the puffy white cloud with the (almost) heart-shaped opening rising above the village.
    Such wonderful photos. I am going to read through this again, and yet again. It soothes my jangled soul. Merci. And (virtual) hugs all around.

  9. What a delightful read – and a feast of beautiful photographs! In South Africa we are buckling under the strain of the pandemic: all beaches and other water sources such as rivers and dams have been closed to the public, the sale of alcohol is banned, and the curfew is in place from 9pm until 6am. Wearing a mask in public is obligatory and the public is constantly reminded about hygiene and social distancing. We have lost friends and acquaintances to this dreaded disease and yet, as you say, it is important to remain positive and to make the most of what we have. I wish you and your family a good year ahead.

  10. A wonderful summary! 2020 was all about celebrating what we have, not what we don’t. Wishing you all a healthy, happy and successful 2021.

  11. Beautiful!

    I would like to purchase a copy of Audrey, but can’t seem to from Canada. Can it be purchased directly from you?

    Take care and all the best!

  12. I love your photos and the trees socially distancing made me laugh. Thank you for a positive look back over the past year.

  13. Thank you so much for the pictures !! I always enjoy everything & hope the New Year brings much health, happiness, & prosperity to you and your family!!

  14. Thank you, Susan, for a lovely retrospective of your 2020 year. It reminds us to appreciate what we have, right down to the littlest things. My husband (tennis) and I (Zumba classes) both exercise outside, socially distanced, but able to see and talk to friends. Our fruit trees outdid themselves this year, unlike any previous year. Here’s hoping that 2021 is a great year!

  15. Thank you for your lovely photos , so nice of you to share some beauty from your corner of the world .
    I am reminded of you as I find ways to enjoy and use the vintage French mustard jars, they are loved and enjoyed by me . They are perfect for a small , bud , bloom or twig , of which there is never a shortage of any time of year . Something outside is always there, and always interesting !
    I , too, try to be positive and hopeful for the new year and feel like we dodged a terrifying bullet by our recent election here, but we are not out of the woods yet…………. the orange menace is still terrifying us in ways unimageable and continues to spool out in a reckless way …
    Our health, our family and friends continue to be the priceless gifts we all yearn for , its what makes life worth living .
    Thank you for the time you take to post your lovely photos and share a bit of your life with us .
    Do stay well and safe , and keep up the amazing work you do . Best wishes to you and your lovely family , and all your animals , too !!! KIndest regards , to your health Susan !! Lynn Durfy

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