What 2020 Taught Me

2020 was full of memorable moments. Most weren’t the sort I usually reminisce over – hikes, trips away and the like – but they were memorable moments nonetheless.

Moments that sparked laughter, or joy.

Moments that, in a normal year, would be long since lost to the murky depths of my memory.

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Advent Windows

It’s December. On the quiet residential streets off Cambridge’s Mill Road, fairy lights twinkle in the windows.

So far, so ordinary.

Look a little closer, though, and you’ll see that these fairy lights frame festive scenes: nine ladies – their skirts delicate paper snowflakes – dancing; children ice-skating, snow swirling around them; a scene from The Nutcracker with the Mouse King holding his sword aloft; reindeer flying above King’s College Chapel.

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Dark Chocolate and Salted Caramel Florentines | Florentines Chocolat Noir-Caramel Salé

[veuillez défiler vers le bas pour la version française] Forget ‘I’m in the Mood for Dancing’. Lockdown 2.0 is here, and I’m in the mood for baking. (As is the rest of Cambridge, judging by the depleted shelves of flour in Tesco.) You can whip up a batch of Florentines in an hour and if you’re not keen on raisins or mixed peel, you can swap them for your preferred dried fruits. Easy-peasy. What’s not to love about these delicious, sticky, fruity and chocolate-y morsels?

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Cambridge Chronicles #6 | September 2020

I was struggling to find words to describe the past few months, to piece together how life as we know it became life as we knew it.

And then, on an episode of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? of all places, along came this quote:

‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.’

Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

I could, so easily, write off this year. I’ve seen only a handful of friends in person this year; I’ve not seen my parents or sister since Christmas. I’m still living in Cambridge (which is picturesque and rather nice sans touristes, but not somewhere I’ve ever felt especially at home). I’ve not gone on a single hike.

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Exploring Wimpole Estate

Last week was emotionally draining. A trip to Wimpole Estate was the perfect pick-me-up; the tonic to flat-hunting tedium and work woes.

Ring, ring. Long time, no see, 07:15. We’d been hoping for a lie in, but the mid-morning slots had already filled up. We ended up booking our timed-entry tickets for 09:30-10:00. (Once you’re in, you’re free to stay until closing time.)

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The Glad Game

Many moons ago, I made a list of places to go, recipes to try, hikes to fill my weekends with and the like. ‘Cairngorms.’ ‘Seven Sisters hike.’ ‘Run a half marathon.’ ‘Bake a vegetable-based cake.’ ‘See Les Misérables.’

I didn’t want 2020 to slip through my fingers.

But 2020 had other ideas.

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My Bookshelf #14 | June 2020

Blink and you’ll miss it. That’s 2020 for me – and for you, too, I imagine. (I can’t be the only one looking at a sea of blank squares on the calendar and wondering how it’s the end of June already.) Although I’ve not motored through quite as many books as usual, I’m not short of gems to recommend. Dip in – there’s something for everyone on this shelf – and share your recommendations in the comments.

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Courgette and Lemon Loaf | Gâteau Courgette-Citron

[veuillez défiler vers le bas pour la version française] Vegetables in cakes, I hear you cry. Hear me out.

Vegetable-based cakes are, in my experience, the Marmite of the baking world: some love them; others hate them. (In case you were wondering – and you probably weren’t – I love Marmite. I also, obviously, love vegetable-based cakes.) I’ve been munching carrot cake since my little legs could carry me to the top of the road where I grew up. I’ve used up leftover pumpkin innards in cakes (waste not, want not). I’ve eaten cakes with beetroots and sweet potatoes in them. Trust me: nine times out of ten you wouldn’t even know a vegetable had gone anywhere near the cake, let alone in it.

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Ready, Steady, Ride: Recent Bike Rides in East Anglia

When I first moved to Cambridge, I hadn’t ridden a bike in years. I wobbled. I panicked. I fell off (more than once). I got back on again.

Fast-forward: it’s March 2020, and exercise is one of only four ‘reasonable excuses’ for leaving the house. Cambridge emptied: first of students, then of cars. Laurence and I couldn’t resist taking to the clear roads on our bikes. We’ve found new routes (some of which have become go-to rides), discovered picturesque villages and spotted adorable baby animals, clocking up 982km in the process.

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French Raspberry Tart | Tarte aux Framboises

[veuillez défiler vers le bas pour la version française] Which of a pâtisserie’s many treats takes your fancy? A tangy tarte au citron? A chocolate éclair, erupting with creamy crème pâtissière? Me? Almost every time, I’ll plump for a raspberry tart: a delectable combination of crumbly, sweet pastry, smooth crème pâtissière and juicy raspberries, topped with a dusting of icing sugar or a jelly glaze.

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