Time for a different kind of Muse. Time to reflect upon the year that was 2021.
It has been a rollercoaster, as everyone grappled with the fallout from 2020 and the on-going mess caused by the pandemic. For us Brits, we had to contend with Brexit making everything just that little bit more difficult for us. However, whilst political and social commentary may well form part of this Muse, let’s begin with… well… the beginning!
We began 2021 in lockdown. For the first few months of the year my boss and I were alone at work, and we were unable to let customers in, so it was indeed pretty lonely (it’s a good thing we get along!). At times we were completely on our own, as we were entitled to days off, and being at work from 8am to 5.30pm without speaking to another soul turned the days into very long ones. Still, the lockdown was necessary, given the huge surge in covid cases over the previous Christmas period. I would not care to repeat the experience, but if I had to, I would, for the benefit of others. It left me feeling a bit meh, and that’s a feeling that would return on a few occasions. Also, I hadn’t recalled that I was writing Muses back in January?!
January brought 100,000 UK covid deaths, and I needed a distraction. I began a Football Manager Diary. It would ultimately end in tears, though not without some highlights along the way. Delving back into Football Manager did eat up time that might have otherwise been spent on another project, but more on that later. Speaking of projects, January brought me to another mission, this time being about family trees. My daughter had expressed an interest in her roots, and I wanted to help her understand where she came from – as well as being pretty curious myself! Along the way I’ve made some fascinating and shocking discoveries, and who knows what else there is to learn? Gypsy royalty, possible connections to former US presidents, and family all over the world, is the legacy I’ve uncovered so far.
I bemoaned how my first February Muse felt awfully similar to the January entries, with the only key difference being the snow that landed. I can’t remember anything else about February. Oh, I helped take apart a shower enclosure. Riveting stuff right?!
March contained several birthdays plus Mother’s Day (March is an expensive month for me!), but sadly we couldn’t make as big a fuss of the birthdays as I’d have liked, due to being in lockdown. The store remained closed to the public and it was also very cold – we weren’t allowed to use electricity to power up the central heating, so instead we relied on standalone heaters that used… umm… electricity. These little units sat under our desks and did a brilliant job of keeping our feet and legs warm… but the moment we left the desks we felt the full impact of frigid conditions. Not exactly great!
April brought open doors again, albeit not right away and not without customers demonstrating that checking information/reading websites is beyond some of them.
By this time my beloved Formula 1 had returned and the start of an epic clash between the King (Lewis Hamilton) and the Heir (Max Verstappen) begun. We lost one of F1’s most legendary figures in the warm and delightful commentator Murray Walker, and I busied myself with rewriting my book. Later in the month we lost The Duke of Edinburgh, and the Easter Holidays brought a belated exchange of Christmas gifts (very belated!). In the football world controversy erupted over plans by several of Europe’s top clubs (including Liverpool) to form a breakaway super league – plans which backfired spectacularly. A caterpillar cake delivered a weird battle between two supermarket chains.
By the time of my first May Muse my wife and I had managed to go on a date! That’s right, we were able to head out and break bread together, a rare occasion made even rarer by the pandemic. I also received what could be considered a death threat (or at the very least a threat to do me harm), from an individual who sums up the USA’s hard right. I dare say it was kind of amusing, in a dismayed way, that this guy’s response to losing an argument was to resort to cowardly threats. He would argue there was nothing I could do about it because I do not know who he really is – a few short Google searches later and I could tell you his address and link to his Facebook page. I won’t take such steps, but he’s not nearly as anonymous as he thinks, and when I dropped his real name into conversation on his blog, he scrambled to delete my comments, as he’s not got the conviction to put his name to his claims, outside of his Facebook page.
Enough about that. In May I learned more about Five Nights at Freddy’s, a video game series my daughter loves. It’s creepy and full of jump-scares and she adores it. There are many stories and toys associated with the games and she loves those too. It weirds me out!
May saw me get my first dose of the covid vaccine, and I lamented both the weather, covid deniers (still a problem) and the rise in the use of scooters.
It was in May that I also encountered a customer who I wanted to help, but difficulties in communicating (he happened to be deaf) meant he had misunderstood the price of the project he wanted to complete. I didn’t feature this in a May Muse, but it did turn up in the first of my June Muses.
I spoke of my daughter’s birthday (a May event) and also of my recovery from the first covid jab, which in fairness didn’t feel too bad anyway. The weather offered mild improvements but not nearly enough, and I moaned about gardening, which is a task I loathe. Because I loathe it I tend to leave it, and it therefore becomes an even more loathsome task. It’s a vicious cycle, at least to the point where we lose sight of each other in the garden.
A rare opportunity to have a meal out with my parents presented itself, and my wife, daughter and I took a jaunt to London for the first time since the pandemic began, though the weather was damp all day. Thankfully we were indoors for the most part, at a cat cafe! I referred to an interesting conversation on tolerance, and had one of several run-ins with the person who would later become known as TEWSNBN in the latter half of the year.
The European Championships arrived in June and they would bring some tremendous highs and some unflattering lows for England. On the pitch, the team performed admirably and reached the final of a major tournament for the first time since 1966 – off the pitch, some ‘fans’ would distinguish themselves as racist scum. England would lose the final but at least we managed to get that far, and after a difficult 18 months or so, the mood of the nation improved somewhat.
Speaking of racism, I mentioned Juneteenth (and along the way made a new friend in the form of Jill, hi Jill!), and the importance of recognising the date. To Americans – especially black Americans – we’re looking at a key milestone, though the last couple of years have demonstrated there is still a huge amount of work to do in repairing race relations.
As we moved through July we drew towards the end of a big chapter in my daughter’s life – she left her junior school, having attended the same site since she entered nursery. Despite a horribly disrupted 2020, and some unique new challenges in 2021, my daughter took it all in her stride, and we got to attend a leaver’s ceremony – as well as watch her give a great, deadpan performance in her school play! My wife and I celebrated the anniversary of when we first met, and I found a mouse in our bin outside. My wife made an amusing buttery discovery, we experienced the mother of all hailstorms and we took a second trip to a cat cafe, albeit this time in Southend.
I had my second covid jab and felt quite lethargic to begin with, but cheered up with a trip to London to see Joseph and the Technicolour Dreamcoat with my wife and daughter – it marked the first time in what felt like forever that we’d been to see a show, which of course it was. Meerkat Musings turned seven! I was excited by the release of the first Spider-Man: No Way Home trailer, we took another trip to Southend (this time to the Sea-life Centre, where we saw, um, dinosaurs), we witnessed an accident between a bike and one of those annoying little scooters, and a bottle of wine broke in my care (sob!).
August brought some painful events too, such as what happened in Plymouth (when someone went on a shooting spree and killed several people, including a three year-old girl). Comedian Sean Lock, who was incredibly funny, passed away.
I announced to the world that The Awakening had been picked up by a publishing house! Jumpmaster Press wanted to take my story and develop into something better, and I was more than happy to oblige! This process is on-going, but to call me thrilled when I got the news that they wanted to offer me a contract… well, I was more than thrilled, I was absolutely ecstatic! I can only hope that come the 2022 Muse, I am reporting on great sales and a popular book!
Twelve years married in September too. Blimey. Plus, my daughter started senior school. She is coping quite well, though she is not enjoying PE! In fairness, her father never enjoyed PE either!
I ‘met’ my publisher via a Zoom call, and in other news I spoke of how I felt the Tories were screwing us over – which is what the Tories tend to do. A theme throughout the year has been strange dreams, and September was no different – apes going to war with each other and creepy robots in warehouses were but two of the unusual dreams I had – to say nothing of a BDSM dream involving swings and cuffs!
For the first time since March 2020 I went to the cinema, and saw the excellent Shang-Chi and the Ten Rings, a film full of beauty and brilliant, sweeping fight scenes.
I continued to rally against this shockingly bad Tory government, listing some of their failures as we entered October. Sarah Everard was murdered, and yet misogyny is still not a hate crime in the UK, and women now have to wonder if the police can be trusted. William Shatner went into space and closer to home, we saw a fair bit of wildlife, including a deer!
MP Sir David Amess, who worked not too far away from me, was brutally murdered, in a completely unnecessary act of violence. I broke down how Amazon pay their staff and concluded they could easily pay people a good, living wage, whilst remaining comfortably profitable. I dealt with difficult kids who wanted to cause trouble in the shop, and got my dinosaur costume in time for Halloween! Let me tell you, that thing is difficult to walk in, and see in.
I shared my Halloween experience, and I also recounted, to my great personal delight, one of the finest football matches I have ever seen. When Liverpool travelled to the Old Trafford home of their great rivals Manchester United, I expected a tough game, despite United’s failings. Instead I witnessed an epic display of ruthless football, as Liverpool cut United apart, winning 5-0 in a game I will savour for a long time to come. United have since replaced their manager and I don’t expect them to be so easy to defeat the next time the two sides meet.
I had an unusual and quite vivid dream about getting a commercial plane to Mars. Not only that but we were walking around on the Martian surface without any form of protective gear and we were absolutely fine. I took a look at MP pay and expenses and concluded they do not live in the real world when it comes to money. They love to present themselves as hard-done-by, but the average MP salary is more than double that of the average UK salary. They don’t live in the real world, yet their decisions hurt real people.
In early December I had my covid booster jab, though it wasn’t the same vaccine as before. For much of the month and since the vaccine I’ve had a weird pressure headache, mostly behind my right eye though sometimes behind my right temple, and sometimes a sensation of pressure in my nose and ears. Whether this is related to the vaccine I don’t know, but vaccination remains by far the safest and best option for dealing with the pandemic. I do not regret getting vaccinated.
I bore witness to a dramatic and controversial ending to the 2021 F1 season, had a good time at a low-key Christmas do, and could not help but feel unsurprised that the Tories had been holding Christmas parties during a time when said parties were not allowed. I also started making virtual videos – more on that at my YouTube channel. Christmas was on my mind, mostly for the right reasons but as ever I felt somewhat anxious – I want to get Christmas right, and I find it stressful because I worry a lot that I won’t. I guess that’s the burden of adulthood at Christmas – you get the pressure, something that kids don’t have to consider.
Christmas itself brought a trip to my parents just before the big day, and I got to see my brother, sister-in-law, nephew and niece. We exchanged some early presents and I found myself receiving the gift of hot sauce, which will present an interesting challenge. I have several new books to read (I have no idea where to start, especially as I’m still getting through my birthday books), and lots of new clothes. There’s also another tattoo voucher to contribute towards my desired ink. My daughter squealed at some of the new books she got, and she was delighted by the PS5 (as was daddy!) and the enormous FNAF plushie went down well. My wife’s collection of Loungefly bags expanded, and we all did well out of the day.
From there we had but a small march of days remaining in 2021. A return to work for the winter sale beckoned, and there was the hope of getting in several good sales, though with covid cases rising, there was also the chance that further lockdowns might interfere with the sale for the second year running.
Whatever happens, it is what it is, and the year will end with a sense of… hope? Focus?
How about love? Let’s end 2021 with love in my heart.
At the end of last year I expressed hope that the vaccines would see a restoration of some form of normality from the pandemic. A year on, and two years from when covid-19 first began to spread, it appears an end remains out of sight, just over the horizon, dangled before us as an intangible force. Globally speaking, 46% of the population has been fully vaccinated as per the 14th of December, which still leaves a lot of work ahead. Anti-vaxxers have found it easier to be vocal in the era of easy internet access and social media, and this has created new challenges. Confronting fake news will ultimately be a bigger challenge than the virus, for it causes all kinds of problems across all kinds of fields.
Personally, I am looking forward to a family holiday in August, and aside from that… well, I am hopeful for a promotion at work, though it’s not guaranteed by any means. All I can do is quietly hope that the world starts to get back to some form of normality over the coming twelve months.
To that end, I wish you all a very Happy New Year.