Twenty memories from 2020… It was a “textured” year to be sure, but I found something to smile about in each month. Bear with me, this is a long post…
Looking back we had no idea what was to come. It was, of course, a heart-breakingly tough month for anyone caught up in the devastation of Australia’s bushfires. It was also the month that news began to emerge out of a place called Wuhan in China about a strain of pneumonia that appeared to be viral.
January began early for us. We were still in the UK and given that our little travelling party was comprised of Aussies and Kiwis, on the dot of 11am, as the TV in the pub was playing the fireworks from Auckland, we toasted in the NZ new year..and 2 hours later the new year in Australia.
We began the long trek home on January 3, landing in Sydney a couple of days later, and then began the 1000km drive home via Armidale. It was surreal seeing the smoke haze and the hectares of forest that had been burnt out before Christmas in that part of the state. There were still trees alight and spot fires flaring up in the range as we passed.
I’ve wanted to visit here for what seems like forever, and on January 2, the last full day in England, we did.
2. Ellenborough Park and a posh afternoon tea
Also on January 2, this was a bucket list tick off: posh afternoon tea in a posh place.
First up, it rained. A lot. Here on the Sunshine Coast, we had our wettest February in history. Something like 650mm of rain fell – that’s six times the average rainfall for February and half of our annual average rainfall.
With no knowledge of what was to come I wrote in my February round-up looking ahead to March:
It’s birthday month for both Sarah and me. In addition to that, and to the usual day job activities, I have a strategy and planning off-site for Romance Writers down on the Gold Coast, a long weekend with Sarah in Queenstown, and a first draft to finish.
Grant’s mother was admitted to hospital awards the end of February. None of us knew that she wouldn’t be coming out.
We travelled down to see her – and were glad we did as things went downhill quickly after that.
It was, however, an opportunity to connect with family down there who we really hadn’t had an opportunity to get to know before – a bright point at a sad time.
Grant’s mother passed away in the first week of March.
The pandemic was declared March 12 (on my birthday) and the month was largely spent cancelling travel plans – even though we’d made the decision not to take a holiday this year I had 2 long weekends in Melbourne booked, 1 long weekend in Wellington and another in Queenstown, and a working trip to Perth for RWA conference that all needed to be unwound.
It was busy in both the day job and in the RWA role as covid made its presence felt. All this while organising the funeral.
In hindsight, we were fortunate that we were able to hold the funeral without any social distancing guidelines being in place and before borders were closed. It meant that we were able to give her the farewell she deserved. My parents travelled down from Sydney for the day and this ended up being the only time I saw them all year.
On the way back from Canberra Grant dropped me off at Tugun on the Gold Coast so I could attend the RWA Strategy and Planning Session. After 2 weeks of being away from home, I had no clean clothes and my brain was an absolute mess. I’d also tripped and fallen heavily on the road the previous day and had ripped my left hand to shreds on the gravel so that was all bandaged up. It was the first time I’d met my fellow committee members and I’m sure I looked as though I’d been dragged backwards through something not very pleasant.
Sarah and I both had birthdays in March.
Because we knew we’d be in Canberra we celebrated before we left with a lovely lunch at Green Zebra in Kawana.
My actual birthday was spent working (day job) out of the hotel we were staying at, and finalising funeral arrangements. Sarah was still in Queensland so Grant and I went out for a lovely meal at Ottoman in Barton. Not only is it one of our favourite restaurants, but it’s also a place we used to take his mother for special occasions.
I arrived home the day before Sarah’s birthday. Borders had been closed in Queensland – something none of us ever thought was possible – and all restaurants were closed. We ordered takeaway from our favourite Italian restaurant and took it to the beach. Just a couple of days later the picnic areas were also closed so we got lucky.
I think we all know what happened in April.
Sarah reverted to working (and studying) from home and as the op shop that Grant volunteered at was closed, he was also home for the duration. As for me, I was already working from home, so it was business as usual.
We got creative with meals and fakeaways, and were fortunate to still be allowed to drive to the beach – for exercise purposes only. We also walked a lot more around our neighbourhood.
Jigsaws were dug out of cupboards and were both good distractions and the reason behind some family squabbles.
The neighbourhood kids decorated paths with chalk drawings and at 8am every Wednesday morning it sounded as though an orchestra was warming up as children around the area zoomed in for their Wednesday morning music classes with all their different musical instruments. It was hilarious.
5. Anzac Service
This year’s ANZAC service was held in driveways across the country. In our estate neighbourhood kids played the bugle, we all took out candles, and the service from the National War Memorial was broadcast from phones and speakers. It was the most moving service I’ve attended.
6. Covid Survival Pack
After mentioning on a day job teleconference that I hadn’t been able to source plain flour, I was surprised by the arrival of a covid survival box in the mail. It contained: a roll of toilet paper, some sanitising wipes, a bottle of hand sanitiser, a bottle of wine and (joy of all joys) a bag of plain flour.
While our state borders remained closed, we could now drive short distances for recreation and could have picnics outside (with immediate family or one other person), and use our parks and beaches for reasons other than exercise.
I began taking my laptop to the local park again – taking my own teabags and thermos of hot water with me.
By the end of May restaurants and cafes were able to open under strict conditions with up to 10 patrons.
Masterchef Australia was on telly and we “goggle boxed” every Sunday night with my brother and sister-in-law over Facebook – them watching from the Central Coast, us from South-East Queensland. It quickly became the highlight of our week.
Grant and I celebrated our 26th wedding anniversary (and 31 years of being together) and had a picnic at Noosa Botanical Gardens. Beautiful.
7. Mother’s Day
Gathering and distance restrictions were relaxed enough that we were able to take a picnic to Mary Cairncross Reserve for Mother’s Day. While the park was busy, everyone seemed aware of what a privilege this was so stayed in their family groups and practiced good distancing.
Sarah finished her final placement for uni and even though she still had a semester of learning to go, with restaurants allowed more patrons we celebrated with lunch out at Honeysuckle in Buderim.
Inter-state borders were still closed but travel restrictions within Queensland were lifted. As the advertising went: Queensland is good to go.
8. Weekend in the Country
We spent a lovely weekend exploring the South Burnett region of southern Queensland. The country air did us both good and it really felt as though it was the first time either of us had switched off since Grant’s mum had passed.
It felt weird, but life in Queensland was (cautiously) getting back to normal. The borders were opened between Queensland and other states briefly in July – before being shut again weeks later as a second wave of the virus began in Melbourne.
In the interim, however, strange scenes were at border points where people had queued for hours in order to come north into Queensland.
Sarah and I took a long weekend to Cairns instead of our usual winter long weekend in Melbourne. It was an absolute highlight of the year. We snorkelled in the Great Barrier Reef, drove up to Palm Cove and Port Douglas, and caught the scenic rail to Kuranda. While we sure squeezed a lot into our few days, it was the stuff lasting memories are made of.
Also in July, Grant came out of retirement and secured a role with the charity he’d been volunteering for.
8. Cairns, Palm Cove, and Port Douglas
9. Snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef
A bucket-list ticked, this was beyond awesome.
10. Scenic rail to Kuranda
Melbourne is back in 6 weeks of stage 4 lockdown, with the rest of Victoria in stage 3. The 6 weeks is extended and Victorians aren’t released from these tight restrictions for some months. Queensland’s borders are again closed after visitors to the state are caught falsifying border declarations.
My revamped author website was unveiled, and RWA held its first virtual conference – in lieu of the physical one we’d had to cancel. It was an outstanding success and the team responsible deserve every accolade under the sun. We also held the annual awards ceremony virtually.
11. Strawberry Picking
So much fun.
12. Whale Watching off Mooloolaba
It’s such a privilege to spend a few hours out on the ocean with these animals.
Yep, borders are still closed. Sigh.
We held the RWA AGM over Zoom and also managed the Strategy and Planning day via Zoom. I injured my calf muscle and spent most of the month in pain and hobbling about the place like a woman twice my age. In fact, I think women twice my age could probably move more easily than I was able to do.
Father’s Day reminded me yet again how long it’s been since I last saw my parents.
13. Father’s Day
We celebrated with Grant at The Boathouse on the river in Noosa. Fabulous food and a great view from our table too.
14. I Want You Back
Launch Day for this book baby was September 30.
15. Sarah’s job in Hervey Bay
Sarah secured a role for when uni is finished and will be commencing work as a qualified occupational therapist in Hervey Bay in January. Before she accepted the role we took a drive up there.
16. Cuddling Camels
Sarah and I spent a fabulous morning at Q Camels – plenty of cuddles to be had.
17. Grant’s Birthday
Grant’s birthday was marked with another yummy lunch at Green Zebra in Kawana. It’s his last year in the fifties… I even made a cake to mark the occasion.
There’s talk of borders opening again after both NSW and Victoria are clean. It’s been a few months since there was community transmission in Queensland. An outbreak in Adelaide throws a spanner in the works but its quickly controlled.
Sarah celebrated finishing uni with a holiday to Airlie Beach on the Whitsunday coast and Grant and I spent a long weekend in Cairns.
18. Daintree Rainforest and Cape Tribulation
Some more ticks on the bucket list. There really is something very special about Far North Queensland.
19. Careful What You Wish For
This book baby was launched in mid November.
Sarah and I began the month with a weekend in Hervey Bay to look for accommodation – which we were fortunate to secure for her. We drove up again before Christmas to collect the keys. This view is her back yard. Not bad, eh? The unit isn’t flash but the view more than makes up for it and the location is excellent.
Borders with NSW were opened at the beginning of the month and family were finally able to confirm they’d be up to see us after Christmas – we’re planning a second Christmas dinner. Because of covid safe rules in my workplace I still can’t go into the office and have commitments which mean I can’t get to Sydney now before Christmas. Sarah, though, went down in mid-December to see Mum and Dad and deliver the Christmas presents.
It’s fortunate that she went when she did as another outbreak in Sydney just a few days later meant that borders were closed again – throwing holiday plans across the country into chaos just a week out from Christmas. Sydney was under tightened restrictions for Christmas and some suburbs were in lockdown. These restrictions have been further tightened for New Years Eve.
We had a lovely day – quiet and super chilled. The day began with brekky at the beach and then we faffed about at home for a bit before heading into the hinterland for Christmas lunch at the home of some friends.
The day wasn’t too hot and there was a lovely breeze coming up the valley. Just glorious.
And that was my year – month by month.