At long last, my blog has reached the final days of December, and the time has come to say goodbye to the annus horribilis that was 2020.
And about time too, I should think. The new year is marching along relentlessly and we're already more than halfway through its first month. Admittedly, nothing much has changed, and things will probably get worse before they get any better. Although the vaccine is offering us a ray of hope, it is still a feeble one, and it looks as if the pandemic will remain prominently on the agenda for the foreseeable future.
Still, there are good days as well as bad, and I keep trying to focus on the former!
But once again, I'm getting ahead of myself, as December's last three days are begging to be chronicled. So let's get that job done, shall we!
Talking of jobs, I needed to go into the office for a couple of hours on the year's last Tuesday.
We drove into Antwerp by mid morning, parking our car in the multi-storey car park near my office building. Even at the early-ish hour of 10.30 am, there was a queue to get into the car park, and by the time we left in the early afternoon, the zombies had arrived in droves.
Watching from the office windows while I finished a couple of tasks, Jos couldn't help noticing that about every car in three was one with Dutch registration plates. The Netherlands are currently locked down, with non-essential shops closed, but it's all too easy for them to cross the border into Belgium to get their shopping fix, putting even more pressure on our already far too crowded shopping streets!
Back at home, we just had time for some outfit photos before I crashed on the couch, where I spent the rest of the afternoon reading my latest book.
Tell The Wolves I'm Home is the debut novel of American author Carol Rifka Brunt, published 2012. The novel's protagonist is a quirky 14-year-old girl in 1987, whose gay uncle has died of AIDS and who subsequently develops a friendship with his boyfriend. It is a compelling coming of age story which had me gripped until I turned its final page. Now, what to read next?
The next day, Wednesday, was mostly cloudy, with the odd ray of sunshine as well as the odd shower, and a fairly reasonable 6°C for the time of year.
While Jos did the final food shop of the year, I vacuumed the downstairs rooms, and then indulged in playing around with my wardrobe, composing an outfit for our New Year's Eve walking meet-up.
My outfit of the day was based around one of my all-time favourite dresses, a bottle green Diolen Delight with a funky yellow, orange, white and biscuit coloured geometric pattern.
I couldn't believe my luck when I laid eyes on it in a charity shop in January 2017. The only thing I didn't like about it were its original buttons, but that was soon remedied by replacing them with vintage yellow ones from my stash.
I accessorized the dress with a tan leather belt and beaded necklace and a green, gold-tone and faux pearl brooch I charity shopped back in August.
Much to our disappointment, the gated stairwell leading up to the water tower's viewing platform was locked so, in order not to have had a wasted journey, we stopped off at the nearby charity shop.
It's one of the smaller shops (but still bigger than the average UK charity shop) and can be very hit or miss. I was just about to write it off as a miss when I spotted this gorgeous butterscotch Astrakhan jacket. I have no idea whether it is the real thing or not but I was sold after I tried it on, so it came home with me.
That evening, with the weather forecast for New Year's Eve predicting a 90% chance of rain, we made the sensible decision to postpone the meet-up we'd planned with our friends Inneke and Maurice to a later date.
To say we were disappointed is quite an understatement. After not having seen each other for months, we had been very much looking forward to our get-together, which would have supplied a silver lining to the year's final day.
Feeling a bid subdued, I decided against wearing the outfit I'd lovingly put together and, perhaps driven by the mood of the day, wore a pale green, grey and off white vintage dress instead.
I'd recently pulled it out of the flea market boxes, deciding to give it one more chance, as I cannot seem to decide whether I like it or not. Although it really is most delightful in person, I'm simply not feeling it. Pale colours like these are so not me, I think. I really need your honest opinions here!
In order to make it more me, I spruced it up by wearing it with a burgundy King Louie cardigan, the multi-coloured woven leather belt I'd recently charity shopped and my pink, purple and orange wooden beaded necklace. To the dress's bodice I pinned a burgundy orchid brooch and I added a pale green flower corsage to the cardigan.
I hadn't planned to wear this outfit outside the house at all, but then, after a rainy start, it suddenly started clearing up, the sun playing peek-a-boo with some drifting clouds.
Needless to say, I was in a foul mood, as it would have been the perfect day for our meet-up after all!
I'd originally planned to vacuum the upstairs rooms - I was already imagining myself chasing dust bunnies with a vengeance - but as the sun was still out in full force after lunch, it would have been downright silly to spend the rest of the day inside.
Hoping that it wouldn't be too crowded, we selected one of Antwerp's edge of town parks, Den Brandt, for an afternoon stroll.
Based around a romantic late classical castle surrounded by an English landscape style garden and undulating parkland interlaced with invitingly winding paths, it might well be one of Antwerp's most picturesque parks.
With highs of only 5°C, it was of course the perfect opportunity to take my newly purchased jacket on its maiden voyage. Additional warmth was provided by a red and purple scarf, purple beret and a pair of fingerless gloves.
Note my tapestry panelled handbag, the broken strap of which Jos was able to repair, so that it can join me once more on our outings.
I always forget to mention my sturdy chocolate brown boots and floral walking stick, which are obvious essentials for possibly slippery Winter walks.
Although we obviously weren't the only people making the most of this unexpectedly sunny afternoon, there are plenty of opportunities to veer away from the well-trodden paths, indulge in some soggy leaf kicking and pretend there's only the raucously cawing crows for company.
After circuiting the park while trying to avoid the crowds which had suddenly appeared as if out of nowhere, a view towards the castle opened up, looking rather fetching framed by shrubs and trees and with the pale Winter sunshine reflecting in the murky pool on the bottom right.
People were queuing for take-away coffee at one of the castle's gatehouses, but however tempting it was, we just couldn't be bothered, preferring to have coffee and perhaps a warm waffle topped with cream in the safety of Dove Cottage.
But not before taking a final selfie, which for once didn't turn out too badly.
So, that was it, that strangest of years, 2020, all wrapped up and packed away.
I'll be heading into 2021 from my next post onwards and cannot help but keep wondering what the journey will bring.
Stay safe out there, wherever you are!