As 2020 draws to a close and we welcome in 2021, to get myself back into writing again, I thought I’d just take the time to do a short post on what 2020 has meant for me. It has been a year of trials and tribulations, but there have been some moments of joy and excitement too.
The pandemic and resulting lockdowns have meant that many of us have not had a chance to visit the battlefields of the Western Front (and further afield) this year. After not being there since February 2020 on a visit with family, I really have come to realise exactly how much being on the battlefields means to me personally. The first time I visited the battlefields was in 2009 when I was in Yr10. I was always interested in history at school (as I’ve written about in a previous post here) and being able to finally see the places where the First World War happened was truly amazing for me. Those feelings I had when I was fifteen years old are still the feelings that I have now; I never get tired of the battlefields and the stories that they tell. I am now lucky enough to get to be a tour guide (post about my journey here) and cannot describe how grateful I am to be able to do something I love. I don’t consider it a job, because I never feel like I am working when I am out on tour. I get to talk about my favourite subject to groups of all abilities, from all sections of society. I also get to work with some fantastic colleagues at Anglia, who have become a sort of family to me. Each one means something very special to me in their own way and not being able to be around them, to give them a hug or laugh and joke with them, has been really difficult for me personally.
It hasn’t been all doom and gloom though. A personal highlight of the year was the creation of the Great War Group by myself and Alex Churchill. An impromptu chat accompanied by many alcoholic beverages was the catalyst for setting up the group back at the end of June. Since then, we have set the group up as a charity, enlisted fantastic trustees to help us make the right decisions, set up our journal Salient Points, hosted online events, set up a group research project and have welcomed many members. We have some very big plans going forward including our first conference and potential publications. 2021 will certainly be a year of new adventures for the Great War Group.
Whilst there have been highs, there have certainly been lows, one in particularly being very bad. As some will be aware, I did actually suffer from COVID-19 back in November. If I am completely honest, I’m still not over it in many ways. Physically, I get tired very quickly and a walk that might have taken me less than ten minutes before is now taking me almost fifteen minutes, which may not sound like much, but it just makes every task I do that much longer to complete. Mentally, I am still very anxious as well because I simply do not know what kind of damage the virus might have done to my internal organs. I could be completely healthy; but I could also have irreparable damage to my lungs etc. That level of not knowing, is something that I think about constantly.
2020 has been a strange, confusing and worrying year for us all. For many, it has stopped our usual activities and things we get up including work for some people. This includes myself as pre-COVID, 2020 was the year when I was really going to get into history for work: guiding, writing, getting myself known on a larger scale. But this has obviously not been the case for 2020. As we move forward in a brave new world, one facing the consequences and the unknown of a continuing pandemic and the new political landscape as a result of Brexit, we must have hope. Yes, there is no doubt that January and February will most likely be dark and difficult months, but hope is so important. The hope that 2021 will be a better year than we could have hoped for. Hope that we will be able to travel and explore the places that have become deserted in 2020. Hope that we will see our friends and colleagues that we share so many of these places with and all be together again. Hope that maybe just one day, we will be back to normal.
“Hope is important because it can make the present moment less difficult to bear. If we believe that tomorrow will be better, we can bear a hardship today.” – Thich Nhat Hanh