2021 – The Closing Ceremony

Whale watching in Hervey Bay

Well, hello there and happy new year.

I happen to love new starts, new ideas, new moons. It’s all about possibility. As I do each year, however, I need to do a closing ceremony on the old year before beginning the new. Bear with me, this is a long read… Grab yourself a cuppa, we’ll be here a while.

While I can’t deny it’s a relief to wave goodbye to this year, I must admit that as crappy as it was, our little triangle of three has come through it okay. 

The way I figure it, everyone had events and holidays cancelled, and many people lost and missed out on a whole lot more than that. My heart goes out to all those who were unable to say either hello (or goodbye) to loved ones, who were unable to offer support to those who needed it, who had weddings and trips of a lifetime cancelled, who lost their income and their security, who haven’t been able to find their way home. 

When you consider this, it really puts our year into perspective. Sure, trips were cancelled, and things we’d looked forward to didn’t transpire, but we’re all healthy, we all kept our jobs, we’re okay. We also took every possibly opportunity to do…stuff.

If you think you’ve read this before, you have – (almost) word for word last year. Because that’s how this year has been for me. In fact, even though I personally was not caught up in any lockdown in 2021, and life was very much business as usual, I found this a far more difficult year than last year – possibly because it was business as usual. This little clip from Sammy J says it all. 

Yet, I’m aware of how lucky I am – and it’s those things I’ll be focusing on in this review of the year that was. 

What did you do that you’ve never done before?

Wine and Clay

Very little. In fact, I really had to rack my brain, but have come up with a few things:

  1. Pottery. Part of Sarah’s Christmas present to me was a wine and clay evening. What I created was pretty crap, but it was so much fun and so mindful. I’d really love to do more…one day.
  2. I joined a book club. We’re reading our way through the Bronte backlist and will move onto Jane Austen in 2022. We host a monthly bookish link-up (What’s On Your Bookshelf – the 3rd Friday of each month) and even do an on-line baking session at the end of each book.
  3. Learned some more about Indigenus culture with some cultural tours in Hervey Bay.

What was your word for the year? How did you go with that?

While I don’t choose a word of the year every year, I did for 2021. It was Imagine – and you can read about it here. How did I go with that? I imagined a lot – what it would be like if I wrote more, exercised more, drank less alcohol. What it would be like if I sold more books and could replace my day job income with that. What it would be like if our borders were open, and we were free to come and go as we pleased again. Then I did very little with my imaginings. Hmmm.

Where did you travel to in 2021?

Urangan Pier

For the second year in a row, we mightn’t have been able to travel or have a proper holiday, but that was no reason not to make the most of some long weekends away. 

Sarah moved to Hervey Bay in January to take up a position as an occupational therapist. I was fortunate to stay with her on several occasions – I work remotely so was able to day job as normal while up there. From here I took a few local snorkelling and cultural tours.

I had a few (solo) days in Cairns in March and went back there again with Grant in July for a few days.

Mossman Gorge

I also managed a weekend to see my parents in Sydney at the end of May – and was lucky I did so as Sydney was locked down for several months very soon after that.

In September, Sarah and I took a weekend road trip up to Bargara, just outside Bundaberg,

and in October Grant and I spent a weekend at Spicers Clovelly in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland to celebrate his 60th birthday. It might have been Plan D, and we might have been just 40 minutes from home, but it was a lovely evening away. 

Did you keep your New Year’s Resolutions?

I didn’t set any in 2021 saying I’d concentrate instead on my list of 101 things to do in 1001 days. Given, though, that I last updated this list midway through 2020 it’s safe to say that very little was accomplished from it. Reading through it this morning there are items on here that I no longer care about and many others that I haven’t been keeping track of. I suspect it needs a refresh. Watch this space.

Did anyone close to you give birth?

No

Did anyone close to you get married?

No – the only wedding we were booked to attend was cancelled. Fingers and toes are crossed that it takes place in March.

Did anyone close to you pass away?

Sadly yes. In March we lost my grandmother.

How did you spend New Year’s Eve 2020?

Some friends from Sydney popped in on their way home, Sarah went to a party with friends, but we opted for a quiet one at home with a Hogmanay inspired dinner. I made salmon mousse with melba toasts to start, followed by a whisky and mustard chicken traybake, and finishing with cranachan – raspberries and whisky scented honey cream and oats.

How did you spend your birthday in 2021 and how old were you?

I turned 54 in 2021. It was a scheduled day off from the day job, so I had Plans. As with most of my scheduled days off this year, I ended up having to log in and do some work. I did, however, use some downtime to optimistically renew my passport. 

Sarah drove down from Hervey Bay in the evening, and we went out for a lovely dinner the following night at Honeysuckle in Buderim.

On this day I also published Escape To Curlew Cottage.

What would you like to have more of next year that you lacked in this one?

I’m not going to say hours in the day because I’d only find something else to fill them with. What I’d really like more of in 2022 is a restoration of our freedoms and the certainty to travel and connect safely. Oh, and I’d like to sell more books.

Did you tick anything off your bucket list this year?

No.

What dates from this year will remain etched in your memory and why?

Each of the days Sarah and I went whale-watching with Pacific Whale Foundation in Hervey Bay. It’s humbling and awe-inspiring to be in the presence of these amazing animals. And yes, I realise that’s cliched, but there truly is no other way of describing the experience.

Driving up with Sarah in January to begin her new life in Hervey Bay was weird. While she comes down at least once a month (and we’re up there regularly too) the house still seems so quiet and empty without her in it.

What was your biggest achievement of the year?

To be I struggled a lot from a mindset, headspace viewpoint with 2021 – more than what I did with 2020 – and don’t feel as though I achieved very much at all.

I did, however, publish 2 novels:

  • Escape To Curlew Cottage
  • The Little Café By The Lake

I also drafted the first (as yet untitled) novel in a new cozy mystery series set in the fictional village of Chipwell in Yorkshire and, as at the time of writing this, have just three chapters left to write in the revised draft of the never-ending story that is the final instalment in my chick lit series – It’s In The Stars.

As an aside, if you are interested in any of my books, all the buy links are on my book page.

While I’m finishing 2021 with another two published books, I’m no closer to my ambition of being able to afford to leave the day job behind and, to be brutally frank, that’s doing my head in. I’ve had (many) moments this year where I’ve almost given up the dream but writing sustains me – I just need to find a way of it supporting me.

Speaking of the day job, 2021 was also a massive year in the day job – dominated by property searches and relocations and, of course, issues associated with the pandemic. Hey ho.

What did you learn this year?

The same as last year – my eyes were opened to the best and worst of people’s behaviour. Some examples of selfishness and stupidity took my breath away and at other times I found myself being a lot more “judgey” than I usually am. Other than that:

  • How fortunate we are to live where we do.
  • How essential my daily walks are to both my sanity and the scales – move it or lose it
  • How essential creativity is to my mental health 
  • How essential it is to have a Plan B (and a Plan C, D, E and F)
  • How much I need a proper break – at least a week away from emails. A few days here and there has been good, but simply not enough.
  • How precious it is to take a day here, two or three days there to have a short trip away from home and explore your own state.
  • How I’ll never again take travel and freedom of movement for granted.
  • How I’ll never again allow us to run short on toilet paper, rice, pasta, and flour.
  • How it truly helps me to actively look for something good in a grey situation.
  • How when you’re deprived of the big things you can find peace in the little things.
  • How a little creativity helps you find that peace.
  • How much I’d hate the job of any of our political leaders.
  • How much I value online connections that have turned into real friendships. For someone who works from home and rarely sees other people, that has been my saving grace again this year.
3 of the 4 bookclub girls meeting up in real life in Brisbane in March

Did you suffer illness or injury?

I was the healthiest this year I’ve been in I can’t remember how long. Normally I get a head cold each winter – which usually coincides with a trip to Sydney and a visit to the office – but for the second year in a row, nothing. Not even a sniffle. 

Regular visits to the chiropractor, regular walking and the addition of twice-weekly strength training have also seen my problematic back in as good a shape as it can be (while supporting the excess weight it does).

What was the best movie you saw all year?

I didn’t go to the movies this year – nothing unusual in that. I did, however, indulge in some romcoms on Netflix – none of which have left lasting memories, but which provided some much-needed escape.

What song was on high rotation this year?

While I listen to a lot of music, I didn’t listen to anything more than anything else this year. 

Where did your money go this year?

Books. Again. One day I’ll learn to restrain myself…but where would be the fun in that?

Compared to this time last year, are you:

Happier or sadder?

About the same – despite what’s gone on this year. It might sound trite but every night before I go to bed, I’m grateful for our house and every morning when I walk, I’m grateful for where we live. 

Thinner or fatter?

Fatter – Over the last two years, I’ve regained almost all of the 11 kilos I lost in 2019. I know what I need to do, but my head gets in the way.

Richer or poorer?

Financially we’re better off this year and purchased a new car in September and a townhouse in Hervey Bay in October for Sarah to rent from us. She had some landlord issues and some health issues this year because of mould problems in the unit she was renting. Knowing she has a safe and secure place to live is priceless.

What do you wish you’d done more of?

Writing, exercising, marketing and selling more books.

What do you wish you’d done less of?

Beating myself up for spending too much, eating too much, drinking too much, not exercising enough, not being productive enough and not marketing enough to sell more books.

How did you spend Christmas 2021?

Grant was unable to take time off so, with continuing border uncertainty, we decided to spend Christmas here on the Sunshine Coast. As it turned out, that decision was the right one – although again I missed family.

We took it easy with breakfast (potato scones, smoked salmon and champagne) – although not at the beach this year as it was raining – followed by a late and extremely relaxing lunch and afternoon in the country with friends. It was lovely.

The trifle

Due to a covid scare we were made aware of on Boxing Day (we were close contacts), we self-isolated for the remainder of the Christmas break – although given that I was working it really made no difference.

What was the best book you read?

My 2020 bookish round-up will be out soon. While it’s tough to narrow it down to a single book, I have listed my faves in there.

What TV shows did you watch?

I watched a lot of cooking shows (no surprises there) and loved Masterchef and Celebrity Masterchef this year. Great British Bake-off remains a fave; and Clarkson’s Farm was a real surprise (in a very good way).

The new series of Shetland left us with an OMG cliff hanger, and there were a few new episodes of Midsomer Murders(but not nearly enough). 

In terms of free-to-air viewing, as always ABCTV and SBS had plenty to offer. I loved The Newsreader, the 2nd series of Total ControlOperation Buffalo and The Manhunt; and Fisk was one of the funniest things I watched all year.

Other high points were the second series of All Creatures Great and Small (Britbox), a new series of CB Strike series (Foxtel), an updated My Life Is Murder and Miss Fisher’s Modern Murder Mysteries (both on Acorn). I also enjoyed Dalgliesh and Whitstable Pearl (both also on Acorn).

In terms of event TV, Mare of Easttown and The Undoing (both on Foxtel) were both well worth watching.

Who did I miss this year?

As a result of border closures and lockdowns in the southern states, I only saw my parents once this year. We’ve missed catching up with friends in NSW, Victoria and New Zealand and I haven’t physically seen my work colleagues (or set foot in the office) since November 2019. 

What kept you sane this year?

My walks along the beach with hubby followed by coffee on weekday mornings are the highlight of my working day. It sounds trite but having the physical reminder of sunrise is actually a really positive thing.

What has 2022 got in store for you…so far?

So far, the following is (optimistically) booked in:

  • My mother’s 80th birthday in Sydney in January (I also need to be there for an office relocation I’ve been managing)
  • A French cooking class at Spicers Tamarind, Maleny in February
  • A wedding in Sydney in March
  • A few days in Queenstown at the beginning of July
  • My Kiwi bestie is visiting in July (5th time lucky)
  • Four weeks in the UK in October – including a Cunard cruise for my friend’s 60th on the Queen Victoria out of Southampton and up through Norway to see the Northern Lights. (Yes, the same trip we were doing this year with that same friend but for Grant’s 60th)

In terms of novels, I hope to publish at least two:

  • The first Chipwell Antiques mystery
  • It’s In The Stars

My aim is to write another two – at this point, these will be a return trip to Brookford for the follow-up to Escape To Curlew Cottage, and an Aussie Christmas novel starring Ainsley St James from I want You Back and Careful What You Wish For. There may also be another one I’m collaborating with a friend on.

Okay, so that was my year. All that’s left to say is thanks for your support and for following along in 2021. Cheers to 2022. 

Closing Ceremony 2020

Closing Ceremony 2019

Closing Ceremony 2018

Closing Ceremony 2016

Closing Ceremony 2015

Author: Jo

Author, baker, sunrise chaser

25 thoughts

  1. This is a very thoughtful reflection with much insight.
    I’m not sure how I would answer some of those questions myself.
    I am super excited about the books that you will be releasing in 2022 and I can’t wait to add them to my reading list!

  2. I so enjoyed your Closing Ceremony for 2021, Jo. I am so grateful that my life has not really been affected by COVID and fingers crossed it stays that way. I love the photo of the three of us – we just need to photoshop Donna into the photo. Congratulations on your writing and can’t wait for your next two releases in 2022. Such an accomplishment. Can I come to the French cooking class with you????? I agree you need a longer break but you also had some quality time away albeit short trips and created some amazing memories. I wish you, Grant, Sarah and Kali the very best for 2022 you have some great travel plans to look forward to, my friend. xx

  3. Hahaha I like that part about imagining and ending up not doing much with them. I am somewhat like that, and I’d love to take more action. Maybe the word for 2022 should be ‘action’, eh? Anyway, thanks for this post and all the best for the new year!

  4. I always love these posts Jo and have again used your questions (approval given last year) and am writing mine as we speak! It’s been great to re-live some of your high points from the year and doing bookclub with you has been the best fun. Your books are fabulous and can’t wait to read your new ones – hoping you can retire to write sometime soon! Happy New Year to you Grant and Sarah xx

  5. Jo, your year looks pretty awesome, despite the lingering cloud of doubt that hung over every plan. I hope your UK trip happens this year. We have four days in Tuscany followed by a cruise planned for September so it is not likely that we will rebook the Cotswolds for November. That trip was one of our 2021 casualties. Rebounding seems to have been everyone’s WOTY last year, whether it is recognized or not. Like you guys, family and short trips kept us going. As always, this was an enjoyable read. Wishing you a healthy and prosperous New Year!

  6. Love this post – I might have to borrow the format next year with your permission – what a great way to review the year. I can’t believe you’ve published 2 books this year – what an achievement! My reading was slower than snail’s pace in 2021 but Curlew Cottage is next on my list. Very excited about your trips to Sydney – I hope you can squeeze in some dumplings – if you’re tight on time, don’t worry I’m a fast eater!

    1. Go for it – I probably borrowed from someone in the first place. January will be difficult – I’m out at Penrith for the office move for a week and then have Mum’s 80th, but March is absolutely a date!

  7. Hi Jo – a very full and robust year for you (all things considered). And I must say that your nest might be empty, but you certainly haven’t really sent her off into the wilds – esp now you’re her new landlords! I hope the books start paying their way soon – how do you get on Oprah’s book recommendation list? That would make them fly off the shelves and set you up for life – or maybe Ellen before she throws in the towel?

  8. So enjoyed this post. The prompts are thought-provoking and had me examining and reviewing my 2021. For richer, for poorer…poorer financially, richer in family and relationships. Anything I wish I had done more of? Less of? Wish I had done so much more of so many things. Ugh.

    Appreciate that you spent money on books!! Great investment. I am trying to spend less just about everything but still find myself buying clothes with great abandon.

    You certainly took some stellar photos over the year. Those pier shots took my breath away. Just gorgeous.

    Really enjoyed this read. So much so that I came back to reread it!!

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