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2021 - a shrinking world of small delights and triumphs

"People don't like change. But make the change happen fast enough and you go from one type of normal to another." Terry Pratchett

2020 was really the year the world changed. There were intimations at the end of 2019 but 2020 was when it all changed. By 2021 the new normal was in place, although I believe we started the year with some optimism. At the end of the year the situation was in many ways bleak, but the new normal somehow made us not quite care. Well we lucky and privileged people in Australia who have plenty of money and plenty of space because COVID had not impacted our lives very much.

This post was brought on by an annual summary from our lovely English friends which was accompanied by photographs. I can respond - and indeed have - to the letter, but the photographs are trickier as they are harder to send. So this post is going to be largely photographic with a few thoughts.

Above is one of those triumphant moments albeit a small one - my granddaughter bringing my birthday cake which she and her sister had made to our picnic birthday party. Glee and pride.

As I started to think back on the year I found myself realising how much of my life - and I suspect everybody's life - revolves around food. Currently, in 2022 we are experiencing some food shortages here - not because of the food itself but because of the lack of people to get it to us. And yet we adapt - as we did in 2020 with the shortages caused by panic buying, watching Jamie show us how to concoct delicious food from whatever we had in the cupboard. Even the Woolworths CEO Brad Banducci in his recent email to his customers explaining the shortages asked us to substitute if what we were looking for was not there. And most of us do. But alas some don't. As I stood in line at the deli counter this morning the lady in front of me asked for shredded roast chicken. Alas there was none which made her a tiny bit, and I stress the tiny bit, angry. There was sliced roast chicken available I could see or maybe it was turkey but nevertheless she just strode away in a huff. Maybe, if I'm generous, she was heading for the roast chickens to shred one herself. Maybe not. So once again let me say that I am only talking of my own privileged experience here. And let me not minimise the plight of the poor and those who live in cramped and crowded circumstances.

In 2020 as I walked around our suburb I saw very many signs of people trying to make others happy with teddy bears and rainbows and signs in windows. There are fewer of those this year, but everyone I meet still says a cheery hello and here and there you come across something that warms the soul, like this small vase of flowers above a stone with the word 'Hope' engraved upon it. I do think that people generally have become kinder and more appreciative of the plight of others but perhaps I am ignoring the few bad things that have happened out there.

So how did we fare? What small delights, triumphs and milestones blessed our lives.

Zoom. Book groups and Italian classes continued via Zoom in my world. Others have been more adventurous with dinner parties and the like. But it proved that elderly though we are we can still master new technologies. Cooking classes with the grandchildren continued as well as joint cooking occasions in the brief breaks between our many 2021 lockdowns. Victoria, after all, had the longest period in lockdown in the entire world. A policy that has been largely given up these days. We just take our chances - cautiously. Anyway - here are a few reminders of Zoom and cooking with the grandchildren - the triumph of their aioli, their enjoyment, and mine. And the cakes. The birthday cake at the top of the page, and below there is also a photo of sister and one of the many cakes she made for her family, with such a look of pride on her face. There are many more photos - so difficult to decide which to leave out. These are favourites.

There were parties - David turned 80 this year and fortunately we were in a between lockdown phase so that we could have an actual party - with another cake. My daughter-in-law's mother turned 70 and celebrated in style in another brief reprieve. I had my picnic party and our middle grandson turned 11. Well we all had birthdays, but some were more spectacular than others and some were relatively low key because of those lockdowns. And let's not forget the annual Easter egg hunt and the Christmas Eve dinner - outside this time. Small - no - large - occasions of pure joy.

Family, home, community - their importance in our lives is what COVID has taught us. This was confirmed in a tragic way when first David's sister Jenny and then later our friend Graham died. Both had been suffering for some time, and so we must hope that death was a release. And here they are together on holiday with us in France where they struck up an immediate and affectionate friendship. Two brilliantly entertaining, generous and kind people lost to us all.

The obverse is the birth of my great nephew Stanley, named for my father, the traveller, whom my niece never knew. New life in a new world. A miracle. He thrives.

The traveller - well none of us has travelled very far this year, although, of course, as I speak my younger son and his family are touring Spain, Portugal and currently France. A risk taker if ever there was one, although ironically it is my other son who is the real traveller. We of course, can mostly go nowhere unless we are brave, some would say foolhardy, like my son. And so our travels have been limited, to my walks around Eltham and to short visits to our friends in outer Melbourne, with I think just one venture, no maybe two, into the Yarra Valley. Which, due to lockdown felt like an extraordinary adventure. We began the year with the hope of travel to far north Queensland to celebrate David's 80th together as a family. The ideal house was found, flights and cars booked only to have it all cancelled. We tried again. Cancelled again. So now we just hope for late this year - the home is booked I do not dare to book flights.

"every traveller, even the kind that never leaves his armchair in front of the fire, wants to find the place where being what he is will matter. That place is home." Robert Dessaix - Corfu

So I took/take photographs to remind me of where I've been in my daily life, and of the beauty of the natural, and the not so natural world - gardens, cars, rubbish awaiting collection - a treasure trove for the photographer. A long ago now, trip to a semi- deserted Queen Victoria Market, a baby-sitting trip to the city and a walk around Lilydale Lake.

Some of them become moments in time, but mostly it's yet another creative activity that somebody incapable of the more really creative things like painting, or embroidery or anything similar is able to do. Things that catch my eye - and when all else fails, there are always flowers. Just point the camera and click.

"for every drop of rain that falls, a flower grows." Siri - lyrics from a song sung by Frankie Laine, rerecorded by The Lettermen

Of course my photographs will never amount to the sheer wonder of the work of professionals, but they do give me pleasure, not just for the results, but also for the way I now look at the world - which is much more closely, and also for the anticipation of what might there be to see today.

"that unlocking and locking of the doors of light to send momentary images from the present into the light trap of the past." Simon Mawer - The Glass Room

And food - let us not forget food. We have grabbed in-between lockdown chances to dine out - at Florentino's and Mercers - whose restaurant also provided us with a couple of Cook with Mercers meals - fine dining at home. That lunch at Dame Nelly Melba's place, meals with our friends, meals at home on our own where I devise all sorts of strategies to make our evening meal for two more interesting, and, of course, the cooking lessons and the family meals. Food is a wonderful thing to lift the spirits. Whenever we want to celebrate something we do it with food. Today, because our fresh food cupboard is relatively bare we had a joyous excursion to the supermarkets of Eltham. Yes joyous. I am looking forward to using up what we bought. Beginning with barramundi for dinner.

So yes, apart from the great sadness of Jenny and Graham's passing it has been a joyous year. And that is at least in part due to COVID which has made us appreciate much that we hardly noticed in our everyday lives before this time. A year full of triumphs and magic moments, great and small - ending with the huge surprise of the arrival of my sister and husband from England to help out with their new grandchild - out there in the west. Another slightly brave set of travellers. I have not seen them much as yet, but she is here until March. Plenty of time - and as you can see, baby Stanley grows. He is now officially a person. A new member of the ever expanding family.

The photograph below which I featured not so long ago is currently my desktop picture. I tried to change it the other day. I generally change my desktop picture every few weeks, but I could not find anything that pleased me as much. The face of the smiling girl peaks out at me beside the open windows on my desktop and it makes everything alright. A feeling that all is well with the world in spite of everything.

"Joy is to fun what the deep sea is to to a puddle. It's a feeling inside that can hardly be contained." Terry Pratchett



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