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Somehow, I suspect few people will be glad to see the back of this tumultuous year. It was always going to be a rocky one due to Brexit, but who knew that the next letter in the alphabet would come along with an even bigger challenge? Covid has pretty much cancelled out 2020 as its decimated the calender from March onwards, expunging events, holidays, jobs and even people. It’s been a year of terrible losses and anxieties, but there have been bright spots and positives too.

Not that it felt that way when the Covid storm arrived. I could see the way things were going and that a lockdown was imminent back in March. I managed one last job in Birmingham visiting the HS2 high-speed railway construction site at the end of March, just a few days before lockdown was announced. Then everything dried up. As a freelancer it was a bloody awful time. All the events I can normally rely on were cancelled outright or postponed indefinitely with no realistic chance of them being rescheduled so my income dried up. To make matters worse, the plummeting markets wiped out a large chunk of my investments. I’ll be honest, when you see £44k disappear in the space of a few weeks it causes some sleepless nights! Our good fortune was that Dawn’s job was secure and she continued working throughout – albeit based at home. We converted a corner of the living room into an office so that Dee could work downstairs whilst I worked upstairs. What saved me was the fact that I have more than one string to my bow. I’m a writer as well as a photographer and RAIL magazine gave me a string of commissions that kept me busy scribbling (and sane). The other project that’s kept me busy has been scanning 1000s of old railway and travel slides. The lockdown’s have given me the space to plug away at getting them onto my website and into the public eye – in some cases over 30 years after I first took them! Now, I’m within sight of the finishing line and expect to have them all finished by summer 2021 at the latest. If there’s one positive from Covid, it’s this! Plus, I still have several writing jobs to keep me occupied, so even if lockdown is re-imposed I can survive. This year I’ve managed to add over 6,200 rail and travel pictures to my Zenfolio website, which is a record – despite the fact I’ve spent so little tine travelling. You can find the most recent additions by following this link.

Gradually, as the year went on, my investments recovered. Ironically, this is partly due to Brexit! Because I could see what was likely to happen in 2019 I consolidated all my investments back with a new firm who were very proactive and who’ve done an excellent job managing them throughout the economic shit-storm caused by Covid. At least now I can be optimistic about 2021. The people I really feel for are the ones who haven’t got any financial cushion and who were living from one pay-check to another. These really have been tough times and they’re not going to get any easier for the foreseeable future.

As for Brexit, well, what can I say? The positive is that I was one of the many who could see what was going to happen so I’m not under any illusions. No doubt there will be some people celebrating tonight but they’ll be the really dim ones who think blue passports are a ‘win’. Sadly, a lot of our media have done a very poor job of explaining what Johnson’s deal with the EU means. Some (like the Daily Mail) have outright lied about it – but then so has Johnson himself. It’s been left to the media outside the UK to do the real analysis, along with some UK bloggers. Here’s some of the home truths the New York Times explained to its readers.

Sadly, it’s going to take quite some time for the truth to dawn on a lot of people. There’s not going to be one single revelation that will make folk see that the promises the Brexiters made were lies. Remember this one?

Or this?

Nor is tomorrow the ‘end’ of Brexit, it’s actually just the start of years of wrangling over trade with the EU and other nations who we no longer have trade deals with. The Tories, the party who used to boast about making ‘bonfires of red tape’ have now tied us up with masses of it – and with absolutely nothing positive to show for it. So, 2021 is going to be an interesting experiment in ‘lightbulb’ moments as those who so enthusiastically cheered for Brexit start to understand what ‘Caveat Emptor’ really means. Sadly with a lot of those people I’m afraid the lightbulbs are rather a low wattage…

A blogger who’s explained the realities of Brexit at great length is Chris Grey, Emeritus Professor of Organization Studies at Royal Holloway, University of London. I’d urge you to read his blogs, starting with this one “So this is Brexit?”

The fact that we have such an incompetent and lying Government led by a lazy and incompetent liar for PM doesn’t exactly fill me with high-hopes for 2021, but then the great things about having low expectations is that you can’t really be disappointed. I’ve got plenty to look forward to in 2021 so that’s what I’ll be focusing on and keeping my head down and cracking on with other stuff in the meantime. The news that the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid vaccine has been approved and will start to be rolled out from Monday is excellent and brings hope that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Personally, I expect things to get worse before they get better (another reason for keeping ones head down) and it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if things don’t start to pick up until Easter. But I’m prepared for that.

I’m also looking forward to catching up on some blogging in 2021. 2020 has been a record year. I’ve had 40,000 visitors reading over 83,000 pages of my rambles and spleen venting, so thank you for having nothing better to do! I hope I can keep you even more entertained in 2021. Thank you one and all!

Right, it’s time for me to go. We’re not doing anything exciting this evening other than staying in with the TV. We did get out for a ramble in the snow earlier, but now I’m on cooking duties and I’ve a pickled chicken curry to prepare.

I hope you all have the best year possible, wherever you are – as I’m amazed at how many countries appear on my readers list. In fact, some of you will already be in 2021!

Happy New Year!

Paul

PS, picture of the day will return tomorrow.

I’ve a favour to ask…
If you enjoy reading this blog, please click on an advert or two. You don’t have to buy anything you don’t want to of course (although if you did find something that tickled your fancy that would be fab!), but the revenue from them helps to cover some of the cost of maintaining this site – and right now (because of Covid), us freelances need all the help that we can get. Remember, 99% of the pictures used in my blogs can be purchased as prints from my other website –  https://paulbigland.zenfolio.com/

Thank you!