Bon Voyage, 2020

Should old acquaintance be forgot
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne!

New years past, I’ve always sung this verse as a rhetorical question which is answered in the negative. But if 2020 be my acquaintance then aye, consider ye cancelled. While 2021’s fresh start, like so many resolutions, might not be taking immediate effect, not much can equal the darkness of the last 12 months, right*? Well, here’s me looking back with rose-tinted lenses at about the only thing that I learned to love more because of 2020 – namely, the freedom that comes from riding a bike.

If reading isn’t really your bag, this post is also available in technicolor STORY MODE!

~ January ~

The first month saw us celebrating Burns’ Night in St Andrews and peddling Fife’s affable arable coast. Though the air was chilly, our solace was a delightful chocolate café in Pittenweem. I still dream of their Ginger Tom lucky cats and cherry liqueurs…

~ February ~

A sojourn-on-two-pedals to sunnier climes when I flew to Seville for a short week. (Holidays abroad. Remember them?). Gazpacho, peacocks and tequila. Strictly no tequila while riding my bike, but quite a lot otherwise…

~ March ~

Cycling as a means of mental escape. A trip skywards to the radar tracking station atop Lowther Hill. Lockdown hit and for all the downsides, we sneaked a peek into a world where motor vehicle use was at an all-time low, workplaces made adjustments overnight to reduce unnecessary commuting and consequently global air pollution was diminished, injuries from road traffic collisions were scarcely reported. Within the same time cycling saw a renaissance, with cycle counters clocking record numbers and not just of middle-aged men in Lycra. Groups of adolescents, families with young children, and older couples were all seen out in force, having dusted off their previously shed-bound steeds or procured a new set of pedals from that until recently struggling industry, the local bike shop. An accidental social experiment that put to rest that chicken-or-egg debate and proved that making roads more appealing to cyclists will bring them out in their droves.

~ April ~

A month for exploring our locale as it blossomed in the springtime. Giddy lambs, a noble blonde bullock (we called him Samson, and he’s since fathered some beautiful calves, we can tell by their angelic cowlicks). Pink-footed geese diving off the barrage into the reservoir at the top of our hill. A sign hastily erected on a boat moored in the tranquil seaside village of Kippford reads ‘Second home owners | go back to city | shame on you’. I appreciate the fear behind it, but the message still saddens.

~ May ~

The month of the COVID meme. Trips to the beach where it’s warm enough to stay awhile and make al fresco coffee. More encounters with cows, this time a curious young crowd that cover you with spittle and have names like Quintana. Dominic Cummings fails humankind by not apologising for breaking the lockdown rules while he sits behind a decorator’s table in a rose garden looking like the guy who’s about to charge you 50p to enter your school disco.

~ June ~

Bitten to shreds by the swamp-loving mosquitoes while we cycle down the boardwalk at Knowetop Lochs. We’re promised a relaxation of lockdown restrictions but at the last minute a small outbreak comes along and Dumfries & Galloway have to tough it out. Just as well our county is so fabulous…

~ July ~

A post-work excursion to the Big Water of Fleet viaduct to drink hot chocolate and spot deer in the nature reserve. A trip to Islay & Jura – our first journey out of the region since the lockdown began – is bittersweet. We’re astounded by the bird reserves and the romantic interface between Hebridean wild nature and its’ age-old relationship with the smoke, scent and folklore of the distilleries. A wholesome farewell to friends of ours moving away, the finale tempered by a face full of cold sores that erupt on the journey home which are probably due to the blistering sun of our cycle on Jura but nonetheless provoking a minor COVID scare…

~ August ~

A pedal and a wild swim with the mother-in-law over a beautiful weekend was a breath of fresh air. Leo the touring bike gets taken to the workshop to start his cosmetic surgery and me and the hubs go walking and horse riding with the first sleepover visitors we’ve had all year.

~ September ~

A helter-skelter experience into the altitudinally challenging but utterly awesome Ayrshire Alps.

~ October ~

Big miles in Assynt in the very far north west of Scotland. Days getting shorter and stags braying threateningly across the glen as dusk falls.

~ November ~

Whisky and aggressive hills warm the cockles on the Kintyre peninsula (just as well as it’s starting to get cold and it won’t stop raining). It was sad in a way, staying in a hotel we recognise for its’ jovial atmosphere and bustling bar, only to find the bar deserted and the diners spread thin behind Perspex screens. At least we’re allowed to travel again I guess…

~ December ~

The month of Galloway. My handed-down bike has returned from its’ respray and there’s a window of weather finally good enough for its’ inaugural ride. We discover spectacular winter sunsets over the Irish Sea out from Glenluce.

This blog post forms the first of a two-part entry saying goodbye to the last twelve months and making a toast to the next. Look out for part two coming soon…

* This statement was made prior to the following things happening…
1) The B1.1.7 variant of COVID-19 runs amok throughout the UK and is partly responsible for 1 in 20 people being infected with COVID-19 in some parts of the UK
2) The Celtic nations, and then the whole of the UK, is put in an even tougher lockdown than last spring…
3) ‘Patriot’ pricks storm the US Capitol building, stoked by the flames of Make-believe Merchant-in-Chief Donald Trump, leading to the death of a number of people including law enforcement officers and some of their own
4) New Brexit tariffs mean Marks & Spencer are unable to export many popular goods out of the country, including those delightful Percy Pigs jelly sweets.

9 January, 2021

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