Well here we are, at the end of another strange year, and at the end of another year of the Wish You Were Here project – our 8th and final year. It’s been a beautiful conversation of images with some incredible artists, week in, week out, through travels and adventures, and so much more. Global connections and friendships have grown through it and the library of images as we’ve shared over the weeks, months and years is just phenomenal.
How do I sum up 2021? More of the same madness as 2020, just different? A brain constantly boggled by logistics, in multiple different countries. Good times, bad times, indifferent times. Despite the pandemic still swirling around us we started out in a good place – a place called Fujairah. It’s an emirate of the UAE that’s sparsely populated compared to the cities, it’s mountainous with stunning beaches and history and culture. The perfect place to hike, camp and explore whilst keeping away from other people! So we soaked up it’s treasures and spent our UAE winter mostly outdoors while the temperatures were good. The time difference to India meant a 6am wake up for the girls to do online school instead of the crazy 2am starts while in Yorkshire
All the while though we were waiting on word from the kids school on when they might open in Delhi, knowing that once I was vaccinated we’d head there so the girls could finally go back to in person classes. At the end of March we were ready, and so despite knowing, ever since we landed in UAE, that this day would come we heartwrenchingly left Tommy behind there and set off to a new place, another unknown.
We hit Delhi with a crash, or should that be a wave? After an initial quarantine period the girls prepared to go to school. To finally meet friends. To hang out with people other than their mum and dad! And then the Indian covid 2nd wave washed over us and swirled around us, before finally catching up with us and we barely left home for the next 2 months.
The enforced time at home was full of contradictions. Peaceful yet fraught, slow yet frantic, quiet yet full. As images of India gasping for breath were beamed around the world we got sick, as did the whole of Delhi. But we were safe, in a little bubble in our apartment. And so many others weren’t safe like us, so we set about organising an online art sale to raise funds for covid patients and to provide oxygen. And we raised £3,500 thanks to the incredible generosity of our friends, family and so many other incredible artists who joined us in either donating or purchasing. It was overwhelmingly heart warming at such an anxious time and we are so immensely grateful for the huge hug of humanity we felt from every corner of the world.
After flights to the UAE were stopped and 5 more flights we’d booked got cancelled, we eventually managed to get a flight back to the UK, a tense 11 hours in a metal box with hundreds of others who were making the same journey. Not really wanting to leave India, but knowing that if we could go, and therefore not add to the pressure on the health services we should. And for us, the thought of seeing out the brutal lockdown in Delhi with summer holidays approaching was a motivator too. A privilege I am acutely aware of, but Delhi lockdowns are not like other lockdowns. Non essential goods can’t be bought, not even online. We couldn’t leave home, even for exercise. And my bank account hadn’t yet been reactivated which meant I had to buy everything with cash, and it was rapidly running out. I’m quite chuffed that when doing the maths I found, rent aside, the girls and I lived on under £5 per day during the lockdown! A true lesson on only spending on what’s essential!
We hotel quarantined in the UK. A physically difficult experience in a postage stamp sized room, but with many bonding moments of hilarity in so many other ways. We got “extra time” as a positive test came back – none of us was sick, but likely it was a false positive from having had covid in India.
And on our escape we headed north, via family to collect our car, then on to Scotland to see Grandparents – a trip I’d been planning since Indy was just 2 months old, to the Cairngorms where I used to go every May/June to see my own Grandparents when I was a kid. I was so desperate for the girls to have memories of this area of Scotland as they grew up – and yet school holidays had never aligned, and in 2020 our original planned trip there hadn’t been allowed, so despite lockdowns and quarantines we managed a blissful 5 days before heading for a few days on Skye, just us girls with ocean air in our lungs and wind in our hair. And then we sailed across the Irish sea for wonderful family time with their other Grandparents.
We went back to Yorkshire for a rest, and to collect our thoughts on the whirlwind 6 months we’d had. We hiked every day, and soaked up sunshine and showers. What incredible privileges and how grateful we were. We climbed the 3 Yorkshire Peaks in a week, having done them over 3 consecutive weekends last year, and then decided what the hell, why not just try the challenge? And we did all 3, 24.5 miles in 10 hours 29 minutes, narrowly missing out on the family best set by my Dad and brother!!
Our final few days in England were spent with lots of cousin hang out time and a couple of days in London where the girls got their Christmas treat, a trip to see SIX the Musical. We had seats on the very back row and that meant we could dance and sing (behind our masks) to our hearts content – it was brilliant!
We flew back to UAE and finally got reunited with Tommy again, had a blissful few days holiday doing nothing more strenuous than hanging out in the pool and then online school started again. The girls got vaccinated in preparation for our return to India and to actual school and off we went again, back to our apartment as if no time had passed and our summer escape hadn’t happened. Finally they were allowed into classes, only every other day to keep the school at 50%. And masks and social distancing needed at all times. But the relief after a whopping 829 days of school at home (and on the road in 2019-2020) was simply wonderful. And for me, the bliss of a coffee in peace was something I can’t quite explain after having them there ALL THE TIME!! Still, “normality” has not returned here in Delhi and by the end of the year the girls had only been into school for 29 and 27 days each.
Despite the fear of a third wave in Delhi we entered festival season and embraced the fun, colours and expectant spirit in the air, not to mention sampling all the festive food. We managed a short break to wonderful Jaipur too, and lots of time at weekends to explore our hometown now we were able to get out and about. Tommy managed 2 trips over, one for Diwali where we embarked on a road trip to Uttarakhand and fresh air in the mountains, and then he came back for Christmas which was very low key, and followed by a few days in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.
The year saw some achievements. Indy won all sorts of photography awards, including the youth category of Travel Photographer of the year, again, and I was invited to become a National Geographic contributor – something I doubted at first and actually emailed them back to ask if they’d contacted the right person, but apparently they had! Saffy got to perform some of her drama GCSE pieces albeit socially distanced, and Indy got to have a zoom call with the Dalai Lama! I presented photography classes and mentored students, and Tommy kept on with his work project, putting one foot in front of the other dealing with his own unique challenges.
But I think it was the together moments that we cherished the most when on December 31st we looked back on the weird yet wonderful year. It’s been hard parenting alone again but I have so many fun memories of deep chats, silly giggles, shared jokes, dance parties and exploring – and of family time all together camping and hiking and preparing meals in a kitchen we could all fit in, or just sitting on sofas all in the same room – those totally ordinary moments take on a special meaning when they’re not an everyday occurrence.
So, that was a lot. A summary, but still it felt like a lot!! And here are the 52 pictures that summarised our year week, by, week, by week…..
And so we move on to 2022 and see what that brings. GCSE’s and beyond, Delhi, UAE, and maybe the UK. Together, apart. New waves, I hope not, only a receding wave and good waves to our loved ones.
I think I’ll continue to keep a folder on my hard drive with a photo a week. 8 years of doing it has become a habit and it makes for a beautiful way to sum up a year in images. And in continuing to do so I’ll keep on wishing you were all here too…. Love, Kirsty xx