In The Shadow Of A Virus

Considering how little happened on a day-to-day basis for much of the year, it is amazing how different my life is from 12 months ago.

So sitting down for the Travel Marmot’s annual new year post, how do you reflect on the year everything and nothing happened all at the same time?

A year ago, it was written sat on a Rio hotel bed which was full of large chunks of Copacabana Beach, brought home from the previous night’s celebrations shared with about 2.9 million others.

New Year’s Eve last year

This year, it is being tapped out at my desk after seeing in two new years at opposite sides of the globe on video calls.

Apart from the number of people sharing my new year, the shift to sitting at that desk represents a large chunk of the last 12 months and reflects a life which has altered for all of us – the rapid shrinking of our worls.

Writing that piece in Rio, the horizon was a long way off.

In The Shadow Of Christ

The next few months featured plenty to look forward to – lots more of Brazil, a stretch across the north of South America through French Guyana, Suriname and Guyana, a brief return to Brazil and into Colombia before…

The view this new year

Well, before it all changed for all of us and those horizons on a daily basis stretched no further than the four walls which enclose my front room, office, kitchen and the majority of my life.

There was a while there, between our retreat from Colombia and moving into my flat as lettings opened up, when the walls were different and at least came with the advantage of a garden as my sister and her family gave me refuge.

Imperfect Circle

Lockdown – tier four, to be honest, has not made a huge difference in many ways to my life – has not been that tough in many ways.

Am quite content to spend a lot of time in my own company and with my own thoughts.

And never been one for much non-essential shopping, although popping down the pub would be nice.

It has not done much for my waistline and fitness, which had both improved hugely in the previous 18 months or so, but that gives me something to focus on in 2021 – starting with a challenge to walk 1,000 miles in the year.

Two down, 998 to go.

Above all other considerations, have been luckier than many others when it comes to friends and relatives being hit hard by the virus.

Long may that continue.

Am thankful my return home came just in time to find a job before all those unearthed by a search for journalism vacancies pretty much vanished and redundancies created more people hunting for exactly the same thing.

Maybe our welcome to Cartagena airport was trying to tell us something

It has meant changes beyond working from home, the ability to watch Homes Under The Hammer, listen to music and make a cup of tea without getting involved in a round (although those who have shared an office with me will know how rare an occurrence that was).

Have not worked solely as a reporter and interviewer since my first few weeks in journalism – a career which, gulp, have realised has entered its fourth decade.

The move to production – designing, subbing, planning and doing whatever was needed to get a newspaper out – came almost by accident weeks into that first job and increasingly took over before becoming complete around 10 years into that journey.

Thankfully, the last 10 years has increasingly involved a lot of subbing business copy which means writing about it for the last nine months did not come as a total shock to the system.

Subbing those pages – largely written by two people who did my current job before me – provided an insight into a whole new language and world (although have played the “there are no stupid questions” card a fair few times).

Have still had to learn a whole new vocabulary to deal with covering the events of the coronavirus – and that’s just trying to make sense of government announcements in the short time between when they are usually made and our daily deadlines.

Not always the easiest job when you consider who is talking.

It has all created a daily routine – shower, hunt for stories, the obligatory morning Zoom meeting, breakfast, writing, lunch, more writing, a walk for both exercise and change of scenery, food, laptop and, at some point, the major move of the day which covers all of a yard or two from desk to sofa.

And somewhere in that evening is one more daily fixture we have already touched upon.

Exactly when depends on the time gap with Australia, but those video calls across the globe are not just for new year.

That new year missive from Rio ended with news of me finding somebody who had agreed to explore those horizons with me (and was largely responsible for bringing great chunks of Copacabana back, whatever she might say).

And that, via those daily calls, has helped expand my world beyond these four walls, given me something to look forward to, someone to talk to, confide n and laugh with (something not to be taken lightly) and reason to keep looking forward.

The inability to do exactly that, make plans and have something inked in to the calendar to look forward has been – beyond the inability to do things we used to take for granted – the most frustrating aspect of our enforced pressing of the pause button.

The sun sets on our South America adventure

Conversations with friends, which have been at a premium, have invariably touched on our long-term plans without any answer beyond a resigned shrug (which works a lot better on Zoom than on the phone).

We have come up with a very long travel list – pretty much anywhere either of us has seen on TV, read about or the other has been to and we want to explore – on top of heading back to complete that missing chunk of the South American circle from Cartagena back to Quito.

But topping that list, depending on which of us you speak to, are Australia and the UK. Short trips to start with, probably, but after that…

It is impossible to plan beyond that. Even moving between Sydney and Canberra, let alone from the UK, involves two weeks of isolation at the moment while the prospect of flying from Australia – where an outbreak of 20-plus cases sparks local lockdowns – to visit here is hardly enticing.

Our next task is to look into the process of either us making the switch so we are ready to go when things return to some form of normality.

Who knows whether that will come before or after the next new year post.

Until then, there is always video calling.

 

 

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