Looking back on 2021

I must confess, I was feeling pretty sorry for myself as the year drew to a close. We’d had big plans for the school holidays. But just 30 minutes before we were due to leave for Scotland where we due to celebrate Christmas and enjoy a week of winter walking and time with my family, Alex tested positive for Covid-19. And so, in a horrible repeat of our 2020 Christmas, we found ourselves isolating at home over the festive period again. Sophie followed suit, testing positive on Christmas Eve just like I did last year!

This time round, with triple vaccinations, regular LFD testing and hopefully some antibodies from catching it previously, Matt and I have stayed negative and were at least able to escape the house to fetch supplies and maintain our sanity with walks and runs! But it’s still been a really hard fortnight. Far too much screen time when we really needed a proper break in the outdoors.

On New Year’s Eve, I was dwelling on how our isolation was a typical end to a really crappy year. But then I made a start on our 2021 photobook. And while this has been an unbelievably challenging year that I’m glad to see the back of, there have been many special moments along the way. Over dinner on New Year’s Eve, we talked about some of our highlights of the year and found ourselves with quite a long list. So rather than continue to beat myself up about how I’ve not been able to keep my blog up to date in the last few months, I’ll share some of their favourite moments of the year below so I remember the best bits in the future!

Alex’s highlights of 2021

Alex had so many favourite things to share – he’s had a great year where he’s really growing up and finding his own passions. Top of his list is joining his first rock band! He’s been learning guitar for a couple of years, and rather than studying classical guitar has focused on learning his favourite songs so he can accompany himself singing along! When his guitar teacher mentioned that some of the other boys he teaches had formed a band and were looking for a teacher, he jumped at the chance.

And so he found himself the lead singer of Hardillica! They meet and rehearse (very loudly) in a recording studio every Saturday, working their way through classics from ACDC, Queen, Guns N’ Roses, Eagles and Rolling Stones as well as their own songs. All of the boys are in the same year as Alex – and they are so so good. Just before Christmas they did their first live performance in a local pub as part of his guitar teacher’s termly concert (without their drummer) and are doing their first full group session at an open mic concert in January.

Alex singing in his rock band alongside two guitarists and a bass guitarist

Next of Alex’s highlights was cycling. After getting a road bike last Christmas, he hasn’t really looked back and now cycles whenever he gets the chance. That’s seen him on long weekend rides with Matt down into Kent:

Alex on his road bike about to cycle up a country lane surrounded by green fields.

He also joined the Windrush Triathlon Club, training with them a couple of times a week and hoping to start racing in 2022, as well as going to track cycling sessions at the Herne Hill Velodrome which we are lucky to have on our doorstep. He goes so fast on the track I can’t bear to watch! Here he is leading the way at one of the sessions:

Alex riding at the front of a small peloton of riders on a velodrome track.

Sometimes he cycles slowly enough to let Sophie and I go with him – and we’ve enjoyed several family bike rides this year, including the lovely Wandle Way from the River Thames down towards Croydon.

Alex and Sophie hugging each other in front of their bikes by the River Thames.

Another top point of the year for my boy was his birthday celebrations in September – I still can’t quite believe he’s 11 year’s old now! He has a fabulous group of friends and they spent a day paddle-boarding in Beckenham Place Park to mark his birthday. They lucked out with the most brilliant weather and had a great time falling in, racing and occasionally looking relatively competent on the boards (before eating a vast amount of donuts afterwards!)

Alex gathered with his friends smiling at the camera by a lake where they are about to paddleboard.
Alex and Sophie standing on their paddleboards.
All the partygoers racing on their paddleboards

Also to mark his birthday, Alex and I went to the theatre together to see one of my very favourite shows, Come From Away. It’s becoming an annual tradition that we hit the West End on his birthday which I whole-heartedly encourage!

Alex and Pamela smiling together outside a West End theatre.

Finally, Alex has been on some brilliant adventures with Scouts since moving up in September. He’s immediately signed up to the Dragon Challenge which means he needs to camp out in every calendar month of the year – so he’s slept in a hammock in the woods and hiked with all his gear to a December camp where he and his fellow Scouts cooked a full Christmas dinner:

Alex posing with a huge backpack on his back and his Scouting scarf ready to go camping

He even camped out in our back garden with a friend to tick off November!

Alex and his friend standing by their tent in our garden ready to camp out

Sophie’s highlights of 2021

Sophie’s top highlight of 2021 was her horse-riding birthday party. Originally scheduled for October 2020, it was delayed by repeated lockdowns until June 2021. But it was worth the wait! She had the most wonderful couple of hours with her friends learning the basics on some beautiful ponies:

Sophie and Alex sitting on brown and white horses

Another highlight for Sophie was getting to have a go at trapeze! One of our local parks sets up a huge trapeze frame every summer which she’s looked at each year longingly. This year, her best friend had a trapeze birthday party so she got to fly high herself! Here she is loving every minute:

Sophie swinging high on a trapeze against a bright blue sky

Sophie also remembered Halloween as one of her favourite parts of 2021. She designed and created her own costume at a holiday club and proudly brought it home to wear trick or treating. Here she is as the ‘Evil Duck of Doom’. I’m still not entirely sure what the inspiration was for this – but she made a lot of people laugh in our neighbourhood when they opened the door to her! Alongside her and her friends below is an epic cake that Alex made for Halloween that saw him win a local Bake Off competition!

Sophie dressed up as a duck in a bright yellow costumes alongside her brother and friends ready for trick or treating

Sophie updated her bedroom this year, and a top day was helping to build her new bed with Matt! They worked hard all day to put together the complex bunk bed – and it’s still standing six months later!

Sophie building her new bunk bed

Alex regularly joins her for sleepovers (and indeed has slept in Sophie’s room for the entire school holidays so far!)

Alex and Sophie sleeping in their bunk bed

Finally – Sophie loved playing with her friends enjoying sleepovers, park trips and many many play dates! Here she is alongside her best buddies Flora and Una on a trip into London and Hyde Park at the end of the summer holidays.

Matt and my favourite moments

Most of our favourite bits of 2021 (beyond those mentioned above) were the few times we managed to escape the city and our laptops. We had two brilliant holidays during 2021 which are filled with absolute highlights for us both.

The first was a week in the Peak District in May. I’ll share photos from that in a separate post as there are too many for here – but it was a week filled with walking, cycling, stunning views and fresh air (and it totally cemented my desire to live there one day!). Here we are on a picnic break in the middle of a long bike ride

The second holiday was a long road trip around Scotland in July/August – and again, I’ll post about that separately as I want to make sure I record the places we visited so I don’t forget them. But just to share a couple of my favourite snaps from that amazing trip – here’s Sophie and Matt climbing Ben Nevis on the most glorious day:

And Alex and Sophie enjoying a beautiful sunset together on the Black Isle near Inverness.

So – after looking at all those special days – it’s clear that we did manage to enjoy 2021 despite all the work, home schooling, cancellations, LFD tests and worry. Here’s to more family fun in 2022.

Happy New Year to you all xxx

2 thoughts on “Looking back on 2021

  1. Pingback: A family reunion in Crieff [Scottish roadtrip 2021] | Diary of a Herne Hill mum

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