Brisk walks are the best way to burn off all those festive calories, especially during lockdown when keep fit options are limited. Timing is everything at this time of year. The distant sun is low on the horizon and, at its height, peeps only briefly above the tree line. A midday stroll is best, crunching through the frost, bubble-wrapped against the winds that blow across the East Anglian flatlands. Then it’s back to the cottage to put all those calories back on again.
What a year. Who would have predicted that 2020 would have brought a pandemic to strike us down and trash the global economy? Unsurprisingly, the coronavirus dominated the pansy charts this year. And there was death too but not because of the virus. Professionally, I lost a fellow author in a horrific murder and, personally, I lost my oldest friend to a sudden and totally unexpected cardiac arrest. But then came the COVID-19 survivor close to my heart and a birthday milestone, both of which brought some hope and happiness to a tragic year best left behind.
Despite the hurricane that swirled around us, Liam and I have been incredibly fortunate and life remains calm and peaceful. We know how lucky we are. The pansies remain forever perked.
Ladies and gents, both, neither and all those in between, I give you top of the pansy pops for 2020.
RIP, Lindsay de Feliz | Missing You Already! | A Trip Down Malaysian Memory Lane | Our Independence Day | Don’t Be a Twat, Wear a Face Mask | It’s My Birthday and I’ll Cry if I Want To | Mad Dogs and Englishmen | Lucky Jack | Living Angels | London Calling
The most popular image of 2020 was this fuzzy black and white photo of my old primary school in Malaysia during my army brat years. Usually it’s something smutty or a hunk in the buff.
2020 was a write-off but do I see more hopeful times for the New Year? I think so but then I’m an eternal optimist. Clearly, the vaccine will be centre-stage. With a bit of luck and a fair wind, life should start returning to normal. Wishing us all a safe and sane 2021.
Liam and I enjoy a tipple or three and we’re all for supporting local businesses. So to celebrate the end of the latest lockdown, we’ve combined both passions with a few bottles of Chet Valley wine from our local vineyard, supplied by our local farm shop, Cannell’s. Cheers!
After the original post went out, we won a bottle of wine at our local church December fair. More from Chet Valley Vineyard. This time pink, dry and fizzy!
The twin villages of Loddon and Chedgrave have ancient roots. Both are listed in the Domesday Book of 1086, that great asset register commissioned by that great asset stripper, William the Conqueror. Bill the Bastard wanted to know how much tax he could squeeze out of his newly acquired kingdom.
The earliest written mention of Loddon (Lodne or ‘muddy river’ in old Celtic) was before the Norman conquest, in the will of Ælfric Modercope written around 1042. Ælfric was a wealthy Anglo-Danish theyn (high-ranking retainer), a favourite of Emma of Normandy, consort to Cnut the Great, king of England, Denmark and Norway (and quite a few Swedes too). That would also be the legendary King Canute who tried to order back the tide. Sadly, that’s just a tall tale. Yes, I have spelt ‘Cnut’ correctly.
It’s not known just how intimate Alfie was with the serial Queen (she was the widow of Cnut’s predecessor) but he was one of the richest theyns in all East Anglia and by far the biggest landowner in old Lodne. Not that I’m one to gossip. A thousand years later, Alfie lives on with his rather butch bronze effigy standing on top of the village sign on Farthing Green.
Chedgrave’s sign features three different spellings of the village name – Chedgrave, as now, Scatagrava, the old Danish name and Chattegrava, the Latinised version used in Domesday.
The name is thought to derive from some Anglian bloke called ‘Cheatta’ plus either ‘Grove’ or ‘Pit’ (depending on the original pronunciation). I prefer ‘Cheatta’s Pit’. Sounds a bit more dark ages and vaguely pagan. I have fanciful notions of Cheatta and his kin dancing naked round a fire pit to celebrate the summer solstice. And the fact we live on Pits Lane next to a recreational space called ‘the Pits’ adds a little spice to the fantasy.
The wettest October since the Great Flood finally gave way to crisp brightness, and so to prevent the second lockdown becoming more of a lock-in, Liam pushed me out of the front door for a Sunday morning constitutional. We ventured along the Wherryman’s Way to the River Chet, past booted dog-walkers, a catch of socially distanced anglers waving their tackle about and one or two boaters disturbing the still waters.
Under the current lockdown restrictions recreational fishing is okay as it’s reckoned to be good for mental health – though the hapless fish might not agree – but taking a boat out for a spin is a bit of a grey area. It could be classed as non-essential travel but the guidance is none too clear.
We made it as far as Hardley Flood (which hardly floods, as a bit of a wit wrote on Faceache), a tidal lagoon and nature reserve which, on the day, was home to a regatta of swans. By then, though, our passage was thwarted by ever-deepening muddy puddles and we could go no further. In more normal times, we might then have headed to the local for a few sherries and a Sunday roast. Sadly, that honourable tradition has been postponed until our next independence day.