“If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” – my Mum
Back when I worked for a living, I used to reassure my clients that as bad as things seem, not everything is broken. With that in mind, here is our list of the top 10 positive things to come out of a challenging year:
- Once we finally left Cartagena in late July, we had the Mediterranean almost to ourselves. Anchorages normally jammed with charterers and holidaymakers had plenty of swing room. We hopped along the Balearic Islands without a care in the world. Dive shops were happy to see us. Sailboat repairmen were happy to see us. Even car rental agents were happy to see us. Rounding Sardinia, sailing across Sicily and traipsing up Italy’s west coast in late autumn proved cathartic. Being a rare bird, Aleta attracted an international slate of wise and discerning sailors who admired her beauty, and occasionally invited her crew for drinks.
- There is nothing like living on a boat at sea for weeks to make you appreciate exercise. Then there is nothing like walking around a marina for five miles a day to make you appreciate exercise in the countryside. Just about the time we thought we would turn into hamsters, travel restrictions lifted enough for us to explore the state parks near Cartagena. No one was more excited to be tramping in the pine woods than Marlon.
- Although our comprehensive exploration of Spain was put on hold for a few months, we still managed to cover a great deal of the country. From watching flamenco in Seville to paragliding in the Pyrenees, we took in as much as we could. Carol’s hard work finding the best bed and breakfast that would take a dog at the last minute meant we stayed in some amazing out-of-the-way places. We also grew to love our morning café con leché and tostada con tomate; dry toast with a spread of olive oil, topped with crushed fresh tomatoes. Salt and pepper to taste.
- The Earth got to breathe again. With nearly all flights canceled, local travel restricted, and businesses shuttered, the air over Spain cleared. Even in the dusty south of the country where we were holed up the skies turned a deep, Persian blue. Driving for a veterinary emergency in the middle of lockdown, we crested the tall ridge outside of the city of Murcia and could see three mountain ranges, one behind the other, fading away into the distance. On a normal day it is hard to see past the city.
- Our friends came to visit. Lauren and Wade dropped in in March and spent a couple of weeks exploring southeast central Spain before rushing back to beat a travel ban. They endured my driving as we found some of the prettiest and windiest roads in the country. With no particular itinerary in mind, we discovered towns like Cuenca, jammed with fabulous history, challenging hikes, and an amazing modern art museum. In late summer we met up with Natalie and Myles and their daughters in Mallorca. A week before it was: will they, won’t they take a holiday? In the end they did, and we had a brilliant few days in our extended bubble.
- Our families continue to thrive thanks to various degrees of social distancing and self-isolation. Tai, Aleta’s wayward petty officer, made her first big career move and joined a global semiconductor manufacturer as a metrology engineer. Her work on Aleta’s engine was no doubt valuable preparation for dealing with a sub-micron clean room. We kept in touch with Carol’s kin via monthly Zoom calls, and with our sibs and kids by phone and Signal messenger. Having worked remotely for 30 years myself, it is good to see the rest of the world embracing communication technologies once the domain of geeks and high-tech execs. Carol’s weekly meet-ups with her gal-pals helped keep her sane through the darkest days of the lockdown.
- The peal of bells in Gaeta when Joe Biden was announced as the winner of the US presidential election was a happy moment. America listened to its inner voice and didn’t like what it heard. Change is never easy, but change is good, or at least inevitable. From a distance it seems the country is moving beyond denial and now working through anger.
- Carol did some charity volunteering and read more books than ever before. Meanwhile, I founded a new country, a virtual state, with the help of three cohorts. You can read more about it at https://virtual-state.org
- A special thanks to our new sailing friends for all their help and support. Anita and Fred for guiding us through Italy’s waters and giving us a taste of Italy from the galley. Tony and Gunilla for keeping the faith and the beer flowing. Simon and Bev for weathering storms with us on Menorca. Robin and Bob for being our guides to Gaeta. And Nicolò for putting his extensive network of contacts at our disposal and helping us navigate Italy’s officialdom.
- Throughout it all Marlon has remained a bastion of consistency. Giving love unconditionally and sitting, staying and laying down when there’s a treat at stake, Marlon has been a terrific ambassador for our journey. Breaking through language barriers and encouraging people to give him luvvies, Marlon has brought us closer to everyone, everywhere we went.
Thank you, our loyal readers, for sharing in our adventures. As Pete Townsend said, Got a feeling ’21 is going to be a good year, especially if you and me see it in together – [Bunny]!