So here we are in 2021. There were times during 2020 when it seemed like the year would never end. I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking that! I made a one-star feedback cake for the year for our tea last night!

But we got through the year, despite the financial, mental and general difficulties caused by lockdowns and quarantine regulations, and the general anxiety of living during the reign of a pandemic.

The year finished on a brighter note. We saw our daughter for the first time in eighteen long months. It was lovely to have Caiti home for Christmas – all sanitary protocols fully adhered to – although her journey here was a little testing. Hold-ups on the buses at the Irish end meant she nearly missed her plane, and then we had to travel up to Paris to collect her. A concrete beam collapsing at Gare Austerlitz caused major disruption to mainline trains running from there to our neck of the woods. So Chris and I drove up through the rain and roadworks to St Rémy les Chevreuse, the last stop on the RER B line, equipped with the necessary attestations and all the documentation we could think of to justify the necessity of our journeying so far from home during the semi-lockdown of the time.

We had a lovely time with Caiti here, introducing her to and taking her out in Precious, the camper van. We did some walking and geocaching together, and generally enjoyed having her around again. And not just because she brought gin with gold leaf flakes in it with her and introduced us to hot buttered rum, honestly.

Her journey back to Ireland was tedious but much easier. The trains were running again, so Chris and I only had to take her in the wee small hours to Chateauroux station. We’d packed provisions in case it transpired that SNCF had decided to cancel the Paris trains again, just to be annoying, and we’d be having to trek up to Paris once more. Fortunately, all was well on the railway lines.

Caiti livened her journey up by having a Covid test. We’d tried to get her one in Boussac. It wasn’t essential: she’d be able to get back into Ireland without one since their current policy is for people to self-isolate on arrival and then get tested five days later. However, her landlady being elderly, it was a considerate thing to do so that both parties knew what kind of risk Caiti might pose on her return.

The main pharmacy had quite recently started offering tests, the ones that gave you the results in 15 minutes. We called in on St Stephen’s Day morning, the pharmacy only being open until midday. This was the one window of testing opportunity within the 72 hours before Caiti’s Monday flight that was available, given that everything had been shut on Christmas Day (Friday) and would be again on Sunday. However, they told us that they only did tests in afternoons, even on days when they were closed in the afternoons. It didn’t seem to have occurred to them that it might be handy to do tests in the mornings on such days. Well, we’d done our best.

All was not lost though. Caiti happened across a testing centre whilst traversing Paris, and within quarter of an hour, and at no cost, had a document officially declaring her to be Covid-free. That was reassuring for us too, since her coronavirus status reflected ours.

Another nice event at the year end was Chris and I finding our 1000th geocache, somewhere in Indre in the company of Benj and Jackie. We took the hobby of geocaching up about nine years ago, and only dabbled lightly to begin with, so it’s taken us quite a while to reach this landmark. But we’re there now! I suspect we’ll get our next thousand rather more quickly since our intention, now that we have Precious, is to go on short geocaching breaks whenever we can fit them in around running our business.

I’m not making any resolutions for 2021, other than to play it by ear. Things won’t be getting back to normal or even normal-ish until mass vaccination has been rolled out, and we must all continue to be very careful. I’m hoping that I’ll have my interview for French nationality at some point this year, although it will be another year or so before I get the final decision on whether I shall be allowed to become a French citizen.

Other than that, let’s just all hope that it will be a better year than poor old 2020 turned out to be. It’s not getting off to the best start, what with being deprived of European citizenship for absolutely no good reason, but the only way is up.

Best wishes to you and yours.