Our next family do since the end of lockdown was to Liam’s lot. A fun family BBQ in rural Hertfordshire, a night or two in Cambridge and a visit to Ely, a teeny-weeny city with a vast cathedral dominating the flatlands. ‘The ship of the Fens’ can be seen for miles around, demonstrating just how important He used to be to the prince, the pauper and everyone in between. There’s been a house of God on this spot since 673.
Ely sits on a small plot of high ground at the heart of the Fens, a once expansive marsh long since tamed by dykes and ditches, and drained for agriculture. The city has a quirky feel to it and, despite being only 14 miles from Cambridge and 80 miles from London, projects an air of splendid isolation and self-sufficiency, perhaps inherited from times past when it was an island, cut off for much of the year.
Obviously, the huge church is the main event. I’m not even remotely religious but its sheer scale forces you to look up to the heavens in utter astonishment.
We can’t complain. Village life is calm and cuddly. But when the easing of lockdown let us travel further afield for the first time in around seven months, we packed our bags and were off like a shot. The bright lights of London beckoned and not even lousy weather could dampen our spirits. Travelling across the city was a slightly unnerving experience. In normal times, whatever the time of day, the Tube is nose to nipple. But we don’t live in normal times. It was like Old London Town was just waking up from a long hibernation – which, in a way, it was. Then we got to eat inside a restaurant so we supped a gin fizz to celebrate. We felt like naughty truants bunking off school.
It was a whirlwind four-day tour seeing my mother in the flesh for the first time since December 2019. These days she’s as deaf as a post but otherwise in fine fettle. She refuses to get her hearing tested which makes phone calls a bit of a challenge but it’s the kind of contrariness that has got her to 92 – that and the tea and the fags.
We caught up with other family too for a bite and a long natter, and with a gaggle of vintage pals to bid our final farewells to one of our own who died suddenly just before the pandemic placed us all under house arrest. His is a nice spot in Highgate Cemetery, made famous as the last resting place of Karl Marx and a host of other worthies, so he’s in illustrious company. It was a sweet and simple ceremony. We laughed, we cried. Then we got drunk.
Local lass, friend, author and blogger, Roving Jay, is a remarkable lady – intrepid, resilient, resourceful, on-the-ball and bright as a button. Little seems to faze her. She just gets on with it. As it turns out, she’s also quite the artist too. Not a piss artist like Liam and me, though she can sink a few with the best. No, a proper artist in pen, pencil and paint. She’s good, very good, as in people-would-pay-good-money good. Our Christmas card this year was a classic and, unlike most cards chucked into the recycling, now hangs proudly on the wall of the office here at Pansies HQ.
Jay recently travelled from the UK to Turkey and was forced to endure the tortuous tedium of quarantine. As she did so with fortitude and good humour, a Valentine’s Day card dropped on our mat.
I guess it’s unusual for a couple of married old fairies to get a romantic Valentine’s card from someone of the opposite sex but then, Roving Jay is unusual in the best possible way.
Read about Jay’s witty and informative Quarantine Chronicles here.
I know it’s a remarkable invention and has really helped many of us keep in touch and stay sane during the pandemic. But I’m so over Zooming and by that I mean this video-conferencing malarkey in general. It’s like attending a séance.
Can you see me?
Can you hear me?
Is there anybody there?
No, you’ve gone.
The whole psychic encounter is made all the more spooky by the use of cheap digital backgrounds where participants appear and disappear like ghostly apparitions. First you see ’em, then you don’t. If only we could all hold hands to contact the living.
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.
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.