The 23rd March is our Welsh anniversary. I can honestly say that when I decided to move to Wales, I had no idea that I’d arrive on the cusp of a national lockdown. We made it by ten-hours.
Driving on the motorway, we all received a text message from the UK government telling us that from midnight, a lockdown would be enforced. I was literally in a liminal space when I received the message. Travelling some 270 miles from one place to another, and being in-between homes. One sold, the other yet to be purchased.
So many questions.
The first one on my mind: will the house sale go through? And if not, then what?
It was a relief when the estate agent gingerly passed our new keys through a crack in the office door.
We had one smallish van full of our stuff. We had no furniture and we’d downsized a lot.
I had no idea how we would furnish our home. Would deliveries still be allowed? If not, could I sleep on the floor for an unspecified time without my bones giving up on me?
Home deliveries continued. Within a week, we had a mattress, a washing machine and a fridge-freezer.
Furnishings took longer. We wanted to buy preloved items which meant waiting. It took four months to get a dining table and chairs. We didn’t finish finding the furniture we needed until December – on the cusp of another national lockdown.
I will never take furniture for granted again.
All good plans…
When we decided to move, we had so many ideas on how our first year of living in Wales would look like.
We’d join in with community events. Make friends. Go places. Explore.
And we’d travel back to Hampshire to see the people we love there too. I had workshops and speaking engagements booked in. I’d visit my son in London, taking advantage of the high-speed train link.
Those plans were replaced with ‘stay home’ orders and a year of being isolated.
Luckily, as a family of introverts, we didn’t need as much people-time as other people do. But still, even introverts need some connection. There have been pockets of loneliness but phone calls and Zoom have made a big difference. And letters, you know, the snail mail kind.
Time flies and the world still spins
It’s interesting to look back over a year of being in a new country (even if it still is in the UK) and being in lockdown. Time has taken on its own, strange quality with not very much appearing to happen personally but days and months zooming past.
And just think that a year ago, Brexit wasn’t a done deal. Trump was still president. There was no vaccine for Covid. Black Lives Matter and #MeToo hadn’t happened yet. Peaceful protests hadn’t been given the heavy treatment by the police and Sarah Everard was still alive.
In a year, I’ve experienced queuing outside supermarkets and empty shelves once inside. I’ve seen panic buying and people hoarding out of fear (remember when toilet rolls were worth their weight in gold?). Making sure you have a face mask when going out is now the norm.
We took advantage of those small pockets of time when we weren’t under a national or local lockdown. Some of the places we visited:
- A self-guided historic walk around Rhos-on-Sea. It was one of the best days out ever.
- Llandudno and had a wander about town.
- The Pontcysyllte aqueduct.
- The North Wales Mountain Zoo on my daughter’s birthday.
Every opportunity we took, we were grateful. I still am grateful.
My father-in-law died during this year as did a few members of my husband’s extended family. We had a chance to make memories but others were not so fortunate.
Sanity by the sea
I walked over three million steps in my year in Wales. Most of these were from walking the local beach. It’s been my happy place throughout this past year and the subject of many, many photos.
I bought a second-hand DSLR camera to learn ‘proper’ photography. It hasn’t gone out much but I did use it to capture a mama seal and her pup. This is one of my favourite photos from our time in Wales so far.
With everything apart from essential shops closed, my husband and I took date ‘night’ to the sea. We go to the takeaway coffee hut on Sunday mornings. We sat on the seafront on our anniversary in -3C weather with a cup of coffee. We said, before we moved, that we would enjoy Wales whatever the weather. We’ve been good to our word.
Lessons and insights
This year has made me appreciate the present moment. It’s all we have and it’s ours to savour. We can’t control external forces or situations but we can choose to experience life as it unfolds. The future is not yet written, the past has already gone so we are left with only the present. It’s a gift that won’t be mine or yours forever.
Life is too short to do things you don’t enjoy. I’ve reflected and healed a lot over the past year, and have used this time to begin redirecting my life’s journey with purpose.
Your physical environment is important to your well-being. I feel so blessed to be here in Wales. I have the sea, the mountains and a little house I love. I know that external things don’t make you happy but it is easier to find peace if where you live nourishes your soul.
The pandemic has brought out the best and worst in people. Judgementalism has been high and tolerance low.
Fear is the general default setting but most people don’t realise it.
Kindness is always the right decision. Always.