Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s safe to say that 2020 isn’t turning out quite how anyone expected. For many of us, our normal routines have gone out of the window. And we have done things that we would never normally do.
Virtual pub quizzes. Zoom calls. Been there. Done that. Lived the cliché.
Here are seven things I would never have predicted I’d do this year – or, indeed, ever.
1. Invest in a brewery
Thatcham is a small town filled with independent local businesses. Cafes, takeaways, pubs and restaurants. Hairdressers, a nail salon and a tattoo parlour. A butcher and a baker (but, alas, no candlestick maker). Eleventy billion bookies’ shops (yes, really) and a similar number of charity shops.
It’s a genuine concern how many will survive the lockdown.
A few miles up the road on the site of an old dairy is the West Berkshire Brewery. 25 years old this year and small but successful, it’s the sort of business you want to survive. Particularly because they’ve started delivering orders for free during lockdown. Very handy.
They’ve just launched a crowdfunding round to finance their latest expansion plans. So, of course, I had to make a small investment to support a local business. Cheers!
2. Write a letter to my MP
I don’t get enraged about many things. I got very angry about the whole Dominic Cummings saga. It wasn’t so much about what he did, as such. It was more the utter lack of remorse and the bare-faced lies with which he explained away his actions.
So I did what any good, angry British person does: I wrote a strongly worded letter (okay, email) to my MP, Laura Farris. I doubt it will make one jot of difference. (I did at least receive a positive response, albeit one that stopped short of actually condemning Cummings outright.) But the simple act of putting finger to keyboard was quite therapeutic and allowed me to vent and then get on with my day. So that’s something, at least.
3. Study film-making
Isaac signed up last week to a free six-week course provided by FutureLearn. I’ve always been fascinated by the film-making process, from script-writing to production, design and editing. So I’ve enrolled too.
Three hours a week for six weeks should be eminently manageable. I’ll learn some new things. And, once I’ve caught up with Isaac, I’ll have someone to discuss it all with.
I’ve already got my eye on courses on ethics, podcasting and fiction writing. So many new things to try!
4. Celebrate a broken fence panel
One of the fence panels between our back garden and next door’s blew down a couple of weeks before Christmas. We didn’t have time to get it replaced before lockdown.
What was a minor annoyance is now a godsend. Most weekends we have co-ordinated simultaneous barbecues either side of the ‘great divide’. This has been followed by long beery afternoons and evenings huddled (socially distanced, of course) around a fire pit.
We will probably get round to replacing the panel at some point. Or we may not.
5. Joe Wicks
I was a little late to the ‘PE With Joe’ party but over the past four weeks it has been a welcome addition to my exercise routine. Although it has also reminded me how inflexible I am. There are arthritic elephants who can do lunges better than me.
6. Not visit a shop for two months
Or, on a related note, fill up my car. I last visited a petrol station on March 20th, the Friday before lockdown started. Since then, I have climbed into my car four times and covered 65 miles. (Or about the distance Dominic Cummings drove while supposedly performing an eye test.)
The last time I ventured into a shop of any description was on March 26th – nine weeks ago today. And that was a flying visit to Costcutter to return an unwanted delivery and buy some eggs and bacon.
I used to pop into Waitrose a couple of times a week “to pick up one or two things” and return £60 poorer. I love shopping and I really miss it. But here we are: nine weeks of cold turkey and a much healthier bank balance.
7. Do an online escape room
It’s impossible to replicate the escape room experience on a laptop screen in your living room. Nonetheless, we’ve rather enjoyed doing virtual escape rooms over the past few weeks. There are lots popping up online, many costing £20 or less. That’s not bad for 60-90 minutes’ worth of head-scratching entertainment.
Some rely on simple Google forms and have a raggedy 1980s computer adventure game feel to them. Others are professionally designed and look polished. Both are fun in their own ways. For a fraction of the price of a real escape room, they’re good for whiling away an evening with a bottle of wine in the comfort of your own home.
With the prospect of a slow return to normality ahead of us, I’m sure we’ll be doing more new and unexpected things in the coming weeks. What have you been doing that you never thought you’d do?