2020 was the year of COVID-19, wearing face masks in public, washing hands from bottled sanitisers, social distancing stickers on floors, walls and doors, working from home and telling your friends, colleagues, bosses and mother “You are on mute!” 😀
Rest assured it will be a year remembered forever and for Bowen, 2020 was one of our best years ever.
2020 started with a bang in our local pub the Red Lion in Bletchingley, where the nights theme was Wild West. We were an English version of Calamity Jo and Billy the kid. It was going to be a good year.
We did our first walk of the year that day with the East Surrey walkers and ramblers club.
January ended with one foot out of the EU and the other firmly placed on the “Get Brexit Done” accelerator. That night as celebrations began, there was a lovely Union Jack flag with a countdown projected on Number 10 Downing Street. We had just 11 months to get a deal or walk away with nothing. 😉
In early February we started planning our July holiday. It was going to be a special one with Jo’s Mom Jennie visiting from South Africa. We were going to do a road trip from Surrey to Austria, taking in all the sights and scenery along the way and the highlight would be watching the Austrian F1 Grand Prix in Spielberg. We booked a 4 person campervan, bought F1 tickets and a 3-night pitch in the pink zone.
In mid-February, I converted our third bedroom into an office by building two custom desks. Jo needed a space to work and the old desk format was hindering our creativity. 😀
We had a lot of rain in February and experienced our first mini flood in the back garden. Fortunately, this was the only area of our garden that flooded.
In February I had an opportunity to buy a handful of Tesla stock at $680.
Pool/Snooker Table – Bucket list Item
We rounded off February by visiting a very special showroom in Bristol to purchase a bucket list item (a pool/snooker table), with a promised delivery of end of April 2020.
Our pool/snooker/dining room table was going to be built in our conservatory, which was the perfect size for a 7-foot table.
The conservatory is a great space to relax all year. In summer it could get quite hot, which is why we had smart blinds installed to give us an easy way to cool it down.
In the winter months, the conservatory can feel like a deep freeze, but thankfully the large radiator kept the room nice and warm. While the carpet helped with the warmth, it was old and tatty, so we lifted it up and discovered a lovely tiled slate floor.
Coronavirus and our South African holiday
There was talk of a virus spreading around the world and various countries had started closing their borders and restricting flights. Projections of the spread were appearing on the news and YouTube showing a lot of doom and gloom.
On the 12th of March, we left the UK for a three week holiday in South Africa. We were going to stay at the Drakensberg Sun resort with my folks for one week. That would be followed by an Airbnb weekend at the beach and then we would go to my brother’s place for a week, which would end with my brother and his fiance getting married.
We picked up a hire car at King Shaka International Airport and drove to the Drakensberg mountains, stopping along the way at Michaelhouse, Nottingham Road and Mooi River.
For those that don’t know, the Drakensberg are the stunning mountain ranges of the eastern part of the Great Escarpment. We stayed in a lovely timeshare with stunning views of the mountains. The location was perfect and isolated.
Unfortunately, we were not isolated from the Coronavirus news on two of the national TV channels, which seemed to be focused a lot on what the UK government were doing. Within a couple of days, the UK government ordered a national lockdown. The South African government were mulling over the same plan.
We maximised our time at the resort and managed to get in a few excellent walks up into the mountains to see the vultures. We also explored the lake and the surrounding area and watched a fantastic falcon and eagle show. The folks totally outplayed us on the lawn bowls & mini-golf. Us adrenaline junkies did some zip-lining, rode quad bikes in the Drakensberg hills and tried killing ourselves on some crazy downhill scooters. 😆 The meals at various restaurants or tea rooms that we visited were incredible and so cheap with our UK pounds.
Stock market crash
With Coronavirus in full swing globally it didn’t take long for the stock market to take a massive hit and almost everything dropped big time. An opportunity presented itself on the 18th of March and I jumped right in. I increased my position in Tesla at $355 a share. Bargain! 😮
To the coast
Driving down to the coast, all we could talk about was the damn Coronavirus and what it meant for the next couple of days. Jo and I were feeling anxious because the UK government started telling folk abroad to come home.
We wanted to continue with the holiday, but at the same time wanted to avoid been trapped in a locked-down South Africa. It was quite a dilemma.
The Airbnb we booked was perched high on a hill overlooking the beach and Indian ocean. The views were amazing.
Jo and I walked along the beach mulling over what we should do next and decided it would be best if we didn’t stay there for the whole weekend; instead, we should go to my brother’s place as soon as possible.
We also called British Airways to see if we could get an earlier flight back to the UK, luckily there were seats available. We ended up staying for just one night at the beach. Telling the Airbnb host we were leaving early was gut-wrenching as there was no refund possible. 😡
If we were stressing about being trapped in SA, it was nothing compared to the anxious, nervousness felt by my brother Peter and his fiance Dani. All their wedding plans were literally falling apart as the SA government started to implement lockdown rules. 😥 My folks were starting to stress about getting back home to Knysna, which was at least a day or two drive away. It was frankly a disaster.
Still, we managed to spend a couple of nights with Pete, Dani and the kids, got to have a lovely braai, played some swing ball and enjoyed Pete’s beautiful gardens.
We flew out of King Shaka International Airport early on Tuesday morning, on one of the last flights out of South Africa 😥
A couple of hours later, Peter and Dani were married, having brought the wedding day forward.
Our first lockdown in the UK was actually quite nice. There was a lot of negativity about, not helped by the hourly Covid death rate updates on all the news bulletins. We found a lot of positive things happening. The road traffic for one completely disappeared, the road and air noise vanished and the bird song became loud and beautiful. Everything that wasn’t essential, shut down completely.
No more expensive car parks or train commutes into London, or crowded pavements to walk along or expensive morning coffees. It all ceased. Fortunately, we had two lovely desks we could do work on. Video conferencing and “YOU ARE ON MUTE!” or “CAN YOU SEE MY FACE?” became an everyday affair. 🙂
For the first time since we moved to Bletchingley, Jo and I were able to walk around the golf course. The Bletchingley golf club had some stunning scenery, tracks, dams and greens and the birdlife was amazing. We walked a lot, not just on the golf course, but also in the surrounding countryside.
We also shifted our spending habits and started to support local shops and farms and of course Amazon Prime 🙂 There were lots of pubs doing take away meals, which we supported big time.
Formula 1 was cancelled
The chaps in charge of Formula 1 had started cancelling the first 10 races of the season and it soon became apparent that we were not going to be able to campervan to Austria or see the Formula One. And if that wasn’t enough, Mom’s air ticket got cancelled and replaced with a voucher. 😕 We managed to get a full refund on the campervan, F1 tickets and campsite pitch. 🙁
May was the month of the Coronavirus memes and silly hashtags such as ➡ #StayAlert #StayHomeSaveLives #FlattenTheCurve
On the 7th of May we celebrated VE Day. There was social distancing rules in place, but it didn’t stop us having fun in the garden with our flags and banners.
The pool table got delayed because of Coronavirus. 🙁 It was so frustrating waiting for it, especially during the lockdown when we had all this extra time.
We took a short break to Walberswick, Suffolk for a couple of days. We stayed in a lovely self-catering room, which was close to the beach and within cycling distance of a lovely village called Southwold.
The pool table was installed on the 1st of July. Take a look at the time-lapse I made of the table being built.
The Pool / Snooker table is amazing. It fitted perfectly in the conservatory, and there was plenty of room around the table to pot balls.
The table came with a lovely solid oak tabletop, which protected the felt when not in use. The cats simply loved lying on the table in the warm summer afternoons.
Unfortunately, there were some problems. There were a few scuff marks on the ball tray. One of the pockets hadn’t been seated correctly and it was lifting up. There was also an imprint on the felt, that clearly wasn’t going to fix itself and after a couple of days, we noticed a large crack in one of the legs. It was very disappointing. 😡
We let the company know straight away about the problems and they were very understanding. They promised to fix everything, but after a couple more calls to them, they told us they would replace the table, but only in November when they had new stock. In the meantime, we could enjoy the table and not worry about it further, which was fantastic news.
Not having to take the train into work and back every day saved us at least two hours a day, which meant we got to do a lot more walking around the village and neighbouring farms.
August turned out to be a very hot month in more ways than one. It was unbearable in our small upstairs office. We used USB fans to cool ourselves. I really missed the London office this one and only time.
We also had a social-distanced watering party in our Croft. Someone had planted wildflowers next to the golf course and they needed watering. We all turned up with our hose-pipes, cooler boxes and chairs.
Tesla to the moon
On the 8th of August at 8:15 pm, we bought some more Tesla stock at $1390. The stock market was a buzz because of an imminent announcement of a stock split. Tesla wanted to make the stock price more attractive for an anticipated invite into the S&P 500 Index.
$TSLA stock had risen steadily every month since March 2020 and I had been buying shares whenever I could muster up some cash from other stock sales.
That night Tesla announced a 5:1 stock split. The after-hours price and subsequent days and weeks rocketed Tesla to $2295 or $459 post-split. 😆
In September we visited Wakehurst, a large house with hundreds of hectares of trees and plants. We took a day to walk and explore some of the property. We saw some lovely birds.
I cleaned the paving on our driveway, of course, it was a messy job. You can read all about it here – Paving blocks cleaned with a high-pressure Kärcher hose pipe.
Not much happened in October, in spite of more local lockdowns. The only way to escape all these lockdowns was to walk in the countryside, which we did a lot. Clocking up the miles in Strava was easy. We discovered a lot of history in our local area, just by wandering down various public footpaths. We also saw some downright dumb fencing. 😀
Gosh, November came around quickly enough. The weather turned cold and we had many days of low, lingering fog. It would roll up the hill and block out the view. Quite spooky.
We did a massive 13-mile walk to Happy Valley on a cold, bright autumn day. The walk was moderate, through farmlands and fields. The scenery was incredible and we discovered a lot of history along the route.
It was one of the best walks we have ever done. We literally arrived back home in pitch darkness. With only the Bletchingley golf course fairway as a guide home.
At the beginning of the month, we received our replacement pool table and to our relief, it was perfect. We would really like to thank Home Leisure Direct for their fantastic customer service.
We had a new desk and bookshelf built under our staircase to maximise the space.
Goodbye Nissan Qashqai, hello Tesla Model 3
We traded-in our six and half-year-old Nissan Qashqai, which had served us well over the years for an electric car. It was a no-brainer once we decided on a new car.
After our 20-minute test drive, we knew it was the right decision. Buying a Tesla in the UK is super easy and all done online. Within a couple of days, we received an email telling us we could pick up our Tesla on Christmas Eve. The best Christmas present ever! And you know what they say about red cars? 😎
And that was our 2020.
We wish everyone a happy new year and hope 2021 can get back to some normality.