2022 December

Calendar for December 2022
Calendar for December 2022

And so the third year of my online Journal draws to a close.
For us December is our month of celebrations, as it holds all our personal anniversaries as well as Christmas and Hogmanay. But this year there are both personal and less personal reasons to stop and look back … to pause and take stock before we move into the new year that lies before us.

The national (UK wide) situation is the worst it has been since the Tories took over the government in 2010. It has been 13 years of wage freezes, savage cuts to infrastructure spending, a widening of the gap between the deprived north and the well-funded south of the country, and the creation of more millionaires and billionaires than ever. Rich and poor now live in separate universes.
Overt and covert government policies have intentionally widened the gap. And Brexit, Covid and the war in Ukraine have together turned the gap into a growing chasm. When you have highly qualified teachers and nurses dependant on food banks, you are fools if you can’t see that you have led the country into disaster!
There is so much more to say about this past 13 years, but maybe this is not the place to contemplate the grim realities of 21st century Tory Britain. This is a more personal space ….

So how are we coping?
We find ourselves doing daily checks of electricity usage, and cutting back on using the dishwasher, oven, hobs … using slow cookers and the Instant Pot (pressure cooker) and microwave. Both washing machine and baths are closely monitored too. It feel like a return to the 1950s, something I never imagined!
Of course for us the bulk of our heating and hot water is oil-fired, and that has not been capped or controlled at all. Our last 6-monthly bill was 50% more expensive than the one before. That usage we cannot control, as winter started here in October, and 24/7 heating is essential in northern Scotland.
Food bills are ever increasing too. Regular grocery shopping costs roughly double what it cost a year ago. Petrol for the car too. There is nothing that has not seen a huge cost increase. And as pensioners we cannot add to our income to compensate. The picture is bleak as we survey the month that should see us celebrating.

Together Mike and I keep ourselves alert to the outside world, and engaged with world and national events … but try to keep a perspective that will allow for us to laugh and enjoy our time together living in such a quiet, rural and beautiful part of the world. Every sunrise and sunset, seen from a garden that is full of plants, bushes, and trees … and equally full of birds and insects. A regular shopping trip that takes through beautiful countryside. There is much to value and enjoy!
For me it is the creative world of photography and painting that keeps me optimistic and gives me most enjoyment. If I can create an image that makes me smile, that takes skill and thoughtfulness, and reflects the world around me … then I am content.

The month began with us remembering last December, when Storm Arwen devastated large swathes of Aberdeenshire. We learnt valuable lessons from 6 days without power in the freezing cold.

dark nights and candles 2

This December we checked our emergency generator, power banks, stores of calor gas, coal and logs … we were determined not to be caught out again! This year it was a 10-day deep freeze that we were treated to! Temperatures down to -10c, and sunshine that melted the surface snow enough to freeze solid again overnight. Eventually we decided we had to fight our way into the cars, to run the engines for a while. Two days of chipping away at the ice got us into them … and we have kept them as frost free as we can ever since!

dark nights and candles

December was also a time to remember our losses. The funeral for David, my brother, was held in the middle of the month. We could only attend remotely, but modern connectivity allowed to watch the service. Even at a distance it was moving.

And so the year ends, and we turn our eyes towards the new year. This year I admit to feelings of anxiety, and even dread, as I wonder what lies in store for us in 2023. With a government hanging on with a deadly grip, doing nothing to improve the situation that they have created, yet stubbornly refusing to call a general election … things look to get worse!

And so on to 2023, and the year turns

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© 2022 Elisa Liddell

2020 December

December 2020 collage
A collection of images posted on Flickr during December 2020

December is month 10 of the new way of living in 2020 – living with COVID as an integral part of our lives. It is also the last month when we are, in any way, members of the EU. The long 4 year process of leaving the European UniIon is finally set to end on December 31st.

Brexit happens as 2020 ends
Brexit happens as 2020 ends

Here in Scotland we feel SO cheated. In 2014 we were threatened with being ejected from the EU if we voted for Scottish independence. A lot of people were convinced that the only way to stay part of Europe was to remain a part of the UK. Then in 2016 the UK (or more correctly England) voted by narrow margin to leave the EU, and Scotland voted over 60% to remain. And now we are being dragged – against our wishes – out of Europe. To say we feel cheated and abused is very mild description of how we feel! All we can do is stand on the sidelines as the English government drags us, protesting, like a dog on a leash!

The outlook seemed better when I turn to the pandemic. The first vaccines against COVID-19 are being produced, and the first vaccinations are taking place.

COVID vaccine
The first vaccines against COVID 19 are close to approval

It is – or rather was, the first ray of COVID sunshine since the virus began to spread across the world, and changed all our lives! In personal terms nothing has changed – yet. It will take many months, well into 2021, before we are offered a vaccine. But the speed of the research and development of a vaccine, any vaccine, has been amazing! And there are at least three very promising contenders starting production.

The caveat that has been added as December progressed is that there is a new variant of the COVID virus here in the UK that is much more ‘successful’ in that it can transmit from person to person more effectively. As I write this on Boxing Day, it is estimated that transmissibilty has ‘improved’ by about 70%. So Boxing Day sees the whole of mainland Scotland under Level 4 protection rules. The virus is spreading once again at a frightening pace south of the border, and we to the north are not far behind!
The result of the discovery and initial reserach into this variant (provisionally called B.1.1.7 or the Kent variant) suggest that it is replacing existing strains, and could mean an explosion in cases across the UK and far beyond. It appears to have started in London and S. E. England, and is spreading north quickly. So far it seems to have travelled to Glasgow and surrounding areas, so we are hoping that today’s Level 4 rules will slow its progress!

Flickr Xmas card
My Christmas card for all my Flickr firends and contacts

Christmas is the time when we try to catch up with everyone, especially those who we’ve only been intermittently and occasionally ‘touching base’ with. This year it had to be an entirely virtual experience, sending ‘cards’ I made myself, and catch-up emails. Over the years our dedicated Post Offices have been reduced to one small cubby-hole crammed into a small convenience store. No way to celebrate Christmas by risking contact in such a confined space. Phone calls and emails is the COVID way!
We have brought out the Christmas tree, and added a few festive strings to lights – but it is hard to feel festive when the battle between the mutating virus and the vaccination roll-out looks set to define our lives as the new year begins!

Hogmanay card
Looking forward to 2021 what will it bring?

Hogmanay is a bigger Scottish event than Christmas, with mass celebrations and firework displays in all the major cities. Not this year! The fear is that any relaxation of the Level rules will risk a big explosion of new cases in the weeks after. So Level 4 restrictions are coming into place as Christmas Day ends. A dark and bleak end to a difficult year, though a fascinating one too!

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On to 2021 and a second year with COVID
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© 2020 Elisa Liddell