I realise that it is conventional to send out an end-of-year letter at the end of the year, rather than finishing it towards the end of January, but perhaps the lateness is symptomatic of the type of year we have just gone through. I will never be able to hear the expression "20/20 vision" again without a deep sense of irony.
I was fortunate to have a few months to practise working at home before the lockdown. I was required to 'retire' from Mintek at the end of December 2019, upon reaching the age of 60 (after 37 years of service), so the year 2020 was always going to look a bit different for me. I was very glad that my first consulting job came about in the middle of January, and I have had a steady stream of very interesting jobs for seven companies all over the world since then, without having to leave home.
I have enjoyed the relaxed lifestyle of working from home, but have also really missed the personal and technical interactions that were so easy to take for granted in life before lockdown. So it has simultaneously been extremely easy and extremely hard to deal with the extended lockdown caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. This disease has taken a terrible toll on so many people. I lost my 53-year-old cousin (Keith Hall) to Covid-19, as well as losing a number of good friends in this past year. Virtual funerals are no replacement for the real events, but we are grateful that this allowed us to participate to some degree from a distance. A virtual wedding celebration of the daughter of very close friends (Greg and Sandy) was another new experience.
This year saw some major events in our larger family. My sister Lynne got married (to Des) in January, before the lockdown. But we had to celebrate my Mom's 90th birthday in May via a video call, and weren't able to be around when (my nephew) Jason and Tamii's son Seth was born in June. There is no doubt that, for us, the hardest part of the lockdown has been not being able to see much of our family. We have missed out on so much of Nicholas's first year, and have really missed Benjamin's happy and busy company. During the few times we were able to see David and Vou, and Sarah and Stephan, we really savoured those moments.
Our children have both bought their first houses this year -- David and Vou in Bryanston (Johannesburg), and Sarah and Stephan in Fish Hoek (Cape Town). During the lightest stage of lockdown in September, we were able to drive to the Cape and spend two weeks enjoying the lovely scenery and seeing Sarah and Stephan's new home.
Many of the events planned for 2020 didn't happen, or happened in a very different way. 2020 was meant to see the commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the arrival of the 1820 Settlers in South Africa. My earliest South African ancestors arrived in the ship 'Aurora' at what is now Port Elizabeth on 15 May 1820. Interestingly, Debbie's earliest South African ancestors arrived on the same ship from London. Another event that we had hoped to travel to was a conference in Toronto where the Metallurgical Society of CIM had kindly named a chromite processing symposium in my honour. Instead, I had to give my talk on 'A brief history of chromite smelting' by video link to a conference that was held 'virtually' for the first time.
I have managed to do a lot of running this year, despite the cancellation of parkruns and other events. I have really missed my usual running companions, but Lexi (our border collie) has been very happy indeed to run almost every day. During the beginning of the strictest lockdown, I spent half an hour most days running about thirty laps between our front gate, through our lounge, and around the table on our back patio. In all, I completed the equivalent of a Comrades Marathon (90 km) doing this, but was very happy when we were finally allowed to run outside our property again. Other running highlights (on my own, with Lexi) included a Virtual Comrades run (your own course, your own time, and a selection of distances) and the four-stage Spruit Marathon (along the Braamfontein Spruit -- a pretty river that runs through Johannesburg).
It has been quite a hard year for Debbie. She had a major shoulder operation in January that incapacitated her for a few months; and she fell and injured her ankle rather badly in October. Before the lockdown, she looked after Benjamin every day, so it was a massive change, and a real emotional struggle, when she was not able to do so for much of this year. However, we are very fortunate to have had each other's company during the lockdown. We got quite good at a game called Bananagrams (like a free-form version of Scrabble), and went on day drives to local game reserves (Rhino & Lion Park; Rietvlei; Dinokeng Game Reserve; and Pilanesberg National Park) when they started opening up from June. Debbie also created a number of lovely craft projects, including a crocheted blanket and a crocheted table runner.
We think of family and friends very often, and really look forward to seeing you again when conditions permit visits again. Best wishes to all of you.
Rodney (and Debbie; David and Vou, Benjamin, and Nicholas; and Sarah and Stephan)