As we approach the end of each year, I like to look back at my New Year’s intentions, and see how I’ve done.

Only it turns out I didn’t make any at the start of 2021 (or indeed review my 2020 ambitions). In fact between February 2020 and October 2021 I wrote just 3 posts.

The reason for this is obvious, but not really visible at all in anything I’ve written, except a passing reference in May 2020 about doing a church service from home. It is of course the Covid-19 pandemic, which started in December 2019, really hit the UK in March 2020, and is still going strong two years down the road.

By January 2020 our household was getting nervous about the disease, to the extent that we cancelled a trip we had planned to Cambridge in February half-term because of the risk, and instead went away to a remote cottage in County Durham.

On the 16th March came the “work from home” order, and minimise social contact, then on the 23rd March the first lockdown was announced; and from 26th March to the 10th May the UK was in complete lockdown. Everything is closed except for food shops and healthcare, and people are not allowed any contact with people outside their “bubble”, and only allowed outside once a day for an hour’s exercise. “No person may leave the place where they are living without reasonable excuse”. Churches were closed, so church has go to online! We used YouTube, others used Zoom. Our eldest son’s high school started partially closing from the 18th March, so that he had his final day in school before the closures were announced – his final day of year 11 happened without him realising. GCSEs were cancelled, and grades issues by teachers instead. Joe Wickes kept us fit with his daily exercised, and BBC Bitesize provided home schooling!

From the 10th May we had a new regionalised system, with levels of covid determining the rules for social contact. Schools partially re-opened in June (they had been open for key workers the whole time), but it wasn’t until September they fully re-opened. Over August things relaxed considerably, and we were able to go to Cornwall for a summer holiday – but my household were in no doubt that restrictions were going to return as we headed into winter.

14th September 2020 saw new restrictions, such as the “rule of 6”, with tightening on 22nd September to a tier system. 5th November was the start of the second national lockdown (although schools stayed open), which lasted until the 2nd December, although a strict three tier situation was in place.

At the start of January 2021, the Prime Minister annouces that everyone should go back to school. On the first day of term, we enter another full lockdown, with all schools etc closed, and a full “stay at home” order.

This one lasts until 8 March, when schools re-open, and we take Step 1 of a four step roadmap for lifting restrictions. 12 April was step 2, 17 May step 3, and finally step 4, with almost all legal restrictions lifted on 19 July (four weeks later than planned).

In the meantime vaccines had been developed, and immunisations were forging ahead – natural or artifical immunity being the only route of any pandemic.

Church was also interesting. On the 17th March 2020, the Archbishops said churches should not be holding worship services in the building, and from 26th March all churches were completely closed, and we streamed our services online. The first one snuck in from Church, but from the end of March until September all our services were streamed from our homes. On the 13th September 20202, we started having Holy Communion in-person with very restricted numbers in the building, followed by two livestreamed services; one from home still, and the other from the building. In October 2020, we switched to our current pattern, of a 9am Holy Communion and a 10.30 Morning Worship from the building, both in-person and livestreamed. In the January 2021 lockdown, we were able to continue to use the building, and have a handful of people running the service.

Some restrictions have now been re-introduced (10 December – working from home advised, and facemasks mandatory) in the light of the omicron variant, and this winter was always going to be a rough ride. I am certain we have more restrictions to come in the next few days, but my hope is that come March time we will truly be moving into “living with Covid” (in the same we live with the cold, and with ‘flu), and we will have no more need for restrictions by the summer.

The above is somewhat dispassionate, on purpose. Truth it is has been an incredibly tough couple of years for me and my family, and one that has come very close to breaking me at times. We have been blessed enough to avoid any serious illness so far (but I can’t believe that one or more of us haven’t caught it, although none have ever tested positive). Truth is this time last year I was in a pretty bad place, and the last thing I was able to do was look back at my hopes for 2020 (none of which I managed, incidentally), or set any sort of ambition for 2021 beyond surviving.

Of course it wasn’t awful the whole time, and we had some really good times too. We’ve had to invent new games and rituals, discovered new local walks, and really appreciated seeing friends and family when we were able. The slower pace of life (outside work!) was a gift a lot of time. But it has been tough, and I think explains why I more or less stopped blogging and posting photos.

I can’t promise 2021 will be better on either of those two fronts, but I do know that God walks with us.