A Look Back at 2021’s Happenings, Including Recent USA Trip

I’m old-fashioned and still use a desk calendar to keep track of appointments and deadlines. I also add in notes after the fact to remember births, deaths, elections, and other nationally and internationally important events. A look back through my 2021 “The Reading Woman” calendar reminded me that last January held a bit of snow, a third UK lockdown, an attempted coup at the U.S. capitol, and the inauguration of Joe Biden.

Activities continued online for much of the year:

  • 15 music gigs (most of them by The Bookshop Band)
  • 11 literary events, including book launches and prize announcements
  • 9 book club meetings
  • 3 literary festivals
  • 2 escape rooms
  • 1 progressive dinner

We were lucky enough to manage a short break in Somerset and a wonderful week in Northumberland. In August my mother and stepfather came to stay with us for a week and we showed off our area to them on daytrips.

As we entered the autumn, a few more things returned to in-person:

  • 5 music gigs
  • 2 book club meetings (not counting a few outdoor socials earlier in the year)
  • 1 book launch
  • 1 conference

I was also fortunate to get back to the States twice this year, once in May–June for my mother’s wedding and again in December for Christmas.

On this most recent trip I had some fun “life meeting books” moments (the photos of me are by Chris Foster):

  • An overnight stay on Chincoteague Island, famous for its semi-wild ponies, prompted me to reread a childhood favorite, Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry.

  • Driving from my sister’s house to my mother’s new place involves some time on Route 30, aka the Lincoln Highway, through Pennsylvania. Her town even has a tourist attraction called Lincoln Highway Experience that we may check out on a future trip. (The other claims to fame there: it was home to golfer Arnold Palmer and Mister Rogers, and the birthplace of the banana split.)

  • At the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, we met the original “Dippy” the diplodocus, a book about whom I reviewed for Foreword in 2020.

  • I also took along a copy of The Mysteries of Pittsburgh by Michael Chabon and snapped a photo of it in an appropriately mysterious corner of the museum. Unfortunately, I didn’t get past the first few chapters as this debut novel felt dated and verging on racist.

No matter, though, as I donated it at a Little Free Library.

We sought out a few LFLs on our trip, including that one in a log at Cromwell Valley Park in Maryland, where I picked up a Margot Livesey novel and a couple of travel books. My only other acquisition of the trip was a new paperback of Beneficence by Meredith Hall (author of one of the first books to turn me on to memoirs) from Curious Iguana in Frederick, Maryland, my college town. No secondhand book shopping opportunities this time, alas; just lots of driving in our rental car to visit disparate friends and relatives. However, this was my early Christmas book haul from my husband before we set off:

Another fun stop during our trip was at Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia, where we admired wreaths made of mostly natural ingredients like fruit.

The big news from my household this winter is that we have bought our first home, right around the corner from where we rent now, and hope to move in within the next couple of months. Our aim is to do all the bare-minimum renovations in 2022, in time to put up a tree in the living room bay window and a homemade wreath on the door for next Christmas!

Despite these glimpses of travels and merriment, Covid still feels all too real. I appreciated these reminders I saw recently, one in Bath and the other at the museum in Pittsburgh (Covid Manifesto by Cauleen Smith, which originated on Instagram).

“We all deserve better than ‘back to normal’.”

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28 responses

  1. Lovely to hear about your adventures. If I was to do a similar exercise it wouldn’t be as exciting! (I haven’t been on a plane in over two years and haven’t even traveled more than 150km in over two years!) But I have managed lots of online literary events, going to the theatre and the opera 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. If I didn’t have family on another continent I would never fly. I know we’re lucky to have had the chance to make these visits and do some traveling for vacations.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Love the Lincoln Highway shot! Hope all goes smoothly with the house purchase, Rebecca, and that you’ll have lots of room for bookshelves.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s Mister Rogers there on the bench with us — perhaps only known to Brits through the Tom Hanks film about him?

      Several rooms have nonworking fireplaces; a chimney breast is a good place for built-in shelves! That will be the eventual plan.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. By coincidence, we watched that last Saturday. I’d no idea who Mr Rogers was before that.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. His childhood home is still intact in the town.

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  3. A lovely read, thank you for sharing it with us! I hope you didn’t happen across the stuffed “real” Misty in Chincoteague (a friend did a while back). And Dippy! Dippy was at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, weirdly while my friend from New York was staying, the only time we’ve met.

    PS I’ve just read two books featuring a particular something in a row but I CAN’T SAY on my blog as it gives a plot away. Argh!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh dear, I didn’t know Misty had been stuffed. We found the island nearly deserted in the off season and really struggled to find anywhere to eat.

      That happens sometimes, that the same sort of plot twist happens in more than one book but I can’t really discuss it in a Book Serendipity post!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Congratulations on the house purchase! Hope the move goes smoothly.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you! Finding a house and the purchase were quite stressful. We’ll have a lot of DIY to learn as we go, as well as hiring in some renovation services.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Such wonderful photos! I didn’t know you went to school in Frederick. I lived there (well, in Jefferson) for several years when our kids were little. Our favorite thing to do was to stroll the boys around the historic downtown, get a soft pretzel, buy a book. The theatre there is where I saw Billy Collins, a rare moment when I was away from my twin infants for a couple hours. It was fabulous!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yep, I went to Hood 🙂 I never took enough advantage of Frederick while I was a student there; the campus was my world. There are a lot of neat shops in the downtown now. Some of the restaurants I remember from my time are still around.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. And many congrats on your new home–very exciting!

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  6. Congratulations on the house!! Also, I used to love Misty of Chincoteague!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! It was a relief to find a place; we’re fed up with our current rental situation, mostly the landlady who never fixes anything.

      I was a total sucker for horse and pony books growing up. Did you also read the Saddle Club series?

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  7. It sounds like a pretty adventurous year to me, and full of satisfying achievements. Good luck in getting your new home just perfect!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! We’ll need the luck — we have no DIY skills at all. We have neighbours who are very keen, so they will probably help with what we don’t pay to have done professionally.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh dear. We are horribly 1950s. I can cook, and ‘im indoors is great at DIY!

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  8. Congratulations on the home purchase! Have fun moving all your books!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Paul! We just picked up a batch of boxes from a neighbour. Some of them look the right size for books. I think I’ll be surprised by just how many boxes we will fill…

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  9. Pleased you’ll be having your own house soon, there’s something soul-draining about rented accommodation as I know from past personal experience and those of others. Having your own place, for all the potential worries it may bring, is something else, and having somewhere where potentially you can have permanent bookshelves is heaven!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s exactly right — we’ve been renting in various places in southern England for nearly 14 years now and it’s dispiriting to think of all the money we ‘wasted’ in that time because we weren’t in a position to buy. Also, our current situation has us fed up because of the landlady’s unwillingness to pay for necessary repairs.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Loved your pictures and I’m glad you had such a good trip. Good luck with the new house – congratulations. You’d be surprised by how much you can learn about home repair from Youtube. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha ha, that’s just what my sister and brother-in-law said!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. What a delight to step into your shoes for a trip through some of your year’s memories.
    And how ironic that you just caught me up on your news yesterday about the new house, only to find it here the next day in my online visiting.
    Do you know Lettice Cooper’s The New House? I know she’s not necessarily your kind of backlisted reading, but it’s a tender story and I read it when we move house (apartments) because it’s comforting but not entirely light either (a little Shields-ish, but obv from an earlier time).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hadn’t heard of Cooper, but I admire circadian narratives. And I’m actually reading a different Persephone book now! (for book club) You’re right, those sorts of classics rarely make it onto my stacks, partly because they’re not widely available. My library only owns 6 Persephones in total, but I’d happily read them all.

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      1. Ohhh, then you would love this one, I’m fairly sure of it. I think I’ll be rereading that one this year too!

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  12. I love reading about your adventures! I’m so glad you were able to go home for a visit, despite the pandemic.
    What a beautiful Little Free Library that is!

    Liked by 1 person

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