The pandemic has made some good things happen too

I feel that the pandemic is turning me into a grumpy old hag. I seem to always be an eye-rolling, sarcastic and ranty person. I really dislike it, because that's not who I am.

Last year was a good year but the tone of this blog still tended to be on the less cheerful side even then, because I was so worn out after the move abroad and all the work with house renovations and my university course. At least I didn't feel my posts were particularly happy posts, and I planned to change that during 2020. But we all know how 2020 went.

In recent years - also before the pandemic - I've had my doubts about the future of this planet and humanity because of politics, anti-science movements,  environmental disasters and more, but I normally have a quite positive mindset. I  look at the positives in a situation, enjoy what is good and try to make the best out of it. But I guess it's different when the situation is a true threat to life, at least for me that's hard to handle. My way to cope has been to totally focus on something else. Creative activities have always helped me during hard times, and so also now. I've kept myself busy... very busy!  But this time it's been a good kind of busy. No stress, just lots of things to do.

Good things I did during the spring

In the spring I learned some about flash photography and other photography skills, did morning strolls in our garden to look for new flowers or buds, and took photos of hoverflies. I experimented with macro photos of bubbles, without great success but it was fun and I'll definitely try again. I also built some resource pages on my Irish whiskey blog, did lots of networking on the whiskey Twitter community, engaged in virtual tastings and livestreams and started some research regarding career paths.

Hoverfly
One of "my" hoverflies I photographed in the spring of 2020

Online courses were cheap because course providers wanted to help people who had lost their jobs. Perhaps these courses have always been on discount to make people buy more courses, but to me the prices were excellent and I was delighted. I started with some writing courses but also purchased the Essentials of Adobe InDesign to finally learn to use it properly, I've used it for years but only learned by trial and error. This course was very hands-on and useful from the beginning, it made me realise the vast potential of the Adobe CC suite, and it also encouraged me to get myself into the world of graphic design - I have some interesting plans now!

Good things I've done (and continue doing) during the autumn

October was a tough month because of the sharp rise in Covid-19 infections. The development in Ireland brought us into a new lockdown, there was bad news from all around the world, shattered hope that the worst was behind us, and the winter was around the corner. I went into crisis mode again but then decided to refocus and put my energy into something productive. I started building pages to collect links to Irish online shops, to make it easier to support local indie businesses, and then went back to my online courses and other projects.

Blogs, coding and other tech

During the autumn, I've finally found a way to blog with Ghost again. I coded some themes almost from scratch using documentation and a skeleton theme - my designs may not be perfect and I'm missing certain functionalities but I'm so proud of these themes! Now I just need to duplicate and modify them because having nearly the same design on all blogs is quite boring.

coding

My husband has set up an old computer as a local server in the kitchen, installed Apache and some other tools you need with it, so I've been learning command line with it. I've managed to install MySql, a number of PHP addons, and got Wordpress up and running with a database I set up entirely with command line. That made me feel proud! :D I've also installed some other tools I could need for my websites, and some others that I've installed just for the sake of learning and practicing command line.

Graphic design courses and more

I've recently started on the Graphic design masterclass on Udemy. The first part of it is quite similar to another course I did during the spring, with basic design theory including colour theory, typography, grids and more. But in this course you also learn the basics of Adobe CC tools instead of Canva and other free resources. I've just entered the introduction of Adobe Photoshop - another software I use with the trial and error method. I've already learned lots of useful things and I'm really looking forward to the rest of the course! After this, I have some more in-depth courses about Adobe Illustrator, then UI & UX design, Adobe XD, and a few others.

So you see that creativity and productivity is flowing in this house!

Music, friendships and more technology

My bluegrass guitar project probably wouldn't have happened a normal year. I would have been too busy preparing songs and tunes for the weekly music sessions, and going to events and festivals.

I've learned good guitar fundamentals and - to some degree - seven fiddle tunes and I have a few more in progress, plus I try to play some solos on songs as well. I'm not brilliant but I've improved so much during this time, now I actually there is some hope for my playing! And I've invested in a very nice guitar too.

Martin guitar

During the summer we were invited by a friend in Sweden to join an online music session, that takes place every Wednesday night. We now do it on Zoom and it's very straightforward and very enjoyable. It's a social event more than anything else and we have lots of fun playing and singing for each other, sadly even with a good internet connection it's not possible to play together because the sound is not in sync. But it's still a great thing to do, it inspires us all to keep going with our music and to dig into new songs or tunes to have something new for future sessions.

We have also connected a bit more with a guitar player we know from the music sessions in town. I contacted her in early August because I was looking into buying a smaller Martin guitar and I knew she had one. It turned out her guitar was exactly the same size as the one I had seen online that was for sale in Dublin. We went to buy it a couple of days later and when we went to our friend's house to return the other guitar, we ended up playing and singing together for a couple of hours. This was in mid August and it was the first time we played music with other people IRL since early March.

A week or so ago she started a Whatsapp group for the regulars at another music session that in normal times takes place once a month in a pub outside of town. The goal was simply to reconnect, keep in touch and share tunes and songs. Now we're all super inspired and are practicing the other people's tunes and songs so we can play them together when trad sessions can start again. And as a result, we will get to know each other better and likely become good friends.

Isn't technology fantastic? I may dislike much of today's technology (although that's just a matter of unethical business models, rather than the technology itself) but oh, how isolated we would have been without Whatsapp, Skype, Zoom and whatever tools we use to keep in touch with people.

2020 is a horrible year,  but...

Don't get me wrong. 2020 has been a horrible year. I've never had so much anxiety and mood swings in my life, and it's far from over. But, I must admit that it's been a very productive year and the need to stay away from other people has made some other good things possible. Many of these things will be useful in the future and some could even lead to a new career. But more importantly, they have helped me live a good life also during the pandemic.

O'Neill's bar in Butlerstown, West Cork
How I miss gathering with the lovely people in this pub

Nothing will ever replace social life, seeing friends IRL for a coffee or a couple of tunes, or being able to go to concerts and other events. When we can get together again I'll appreciate it more than ever. But I'm also thankful to be able to look back and see that also this year offered many positives - just a different type of positives.

So, are we creative and productive all the time in this house? Of course not.  Many evenings, instead of - or after - playing music, we have been (and still do) binge watching older and newer Star Trek series on Netflix. Star Trek is relaxing for the brain - it lacks realistic awfulness or dystopian stories about life after the deadly virus or nuclear war wiped out humanity. Who needs that in 2020? Real life is already a sci-fi thriller this year so for entertainment I want something simple and, well... entertaining.

What has brought you joy or inspiration this year?


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