The Finalissima at Wembley – 4 April 2023

After booking tickets for the Women’s ‘Finalissima’ between England and Brazil at Wembley back in October, the day for the match finally arrived and we caught the train up to London from Beaconsfield.

We arrived in good time before our allotted entry slot and enjoyed milling with the crowds on Wembley way and visiting some of the local shops close to Wembley.

Outside Wembley, having met ‘Mary Earps’

We made our way eventually into the stadium, having successfully managed to avoid most of the rain showers during the day and settled into our seats in the fourth row back from the pitch.

Taking our seats as the stadium slowly filled up.
Pyrotechnics before kick off
Celebrations following Ella Toone’s opening goal for the Lionesses

Following an equaliser from Brazil in the 93rd minute, the match ended up being decided on penalties, which England then won 4 goals to 2.

Tense faces before the penalties take place
That winning feeling
The England team on the winner’s rostrum
The victors taking in the adulation from England fans

We eventually made our way out of the stadium at around 10:15pm and joined a well organised queue for the return train to Beaconsfield.

Looking back towards Wembley

After an hour’s queuing, we found ourselves on the platform at Wembley Stadium station and shoehorned ourselves onto a train for the return to Beaconsfield.

Standing room only, but good humour for the return journey

It had been a long and memorable day and we arrived home just after 12.30am

2020: A year in 100 photos – 2 January 2021

2020 has been a year to remember. A year when almost everything that we thought we could rely on as being constants in our lives were turned upside down by an invisible virus.

The year began normally enough, with one of my first posts on my Instagram account during 2020 being of scrambled egg on toast, made by my own fair hands, for the first time! We visited Henley during January, to look at the flooded Thames, albeit slightly underwhelming from what we’ve seen in the past. During a particularly frosty morning, I took some photos of the sunrise over Maidenhead Thicket. Sarah and I enjoyed the first of the year’s ‘Date Days’ with a visit to Cliveden with a walk in the woods and a snack in the restaurant. We saw our first daffodil in bloom and the snowdrops were looking spectacular.

During February, life also continued more or less as normal. Spring was beginning to unfurl, with the hawthorns at work coming into leaf as well as the cyclamen in flower in mum’s garden. We had another visit to Cliveden to see more signs of spring and a walk down to the river. February was also the month where we celebrated Sarah’s dad’s 70th birthday at the Fifield Inn. Sarah and I enjoyed our February ‘Date Day’ with a meal at The Cricketers in Littlewick Green.

Then in March, everything changed. We were told to work from home from 11 March and the girls’ schools closed a couple of days later, as the country went into Lockdown. The garden became something of a sanctuary and we enjoyed our daily ‘Boris’ walks, taking the opportunity to explore several local footpaths, all reached without even having to go out in the car. Sarah was soon back at work as a Teaching Assistant, helping out with the children of key workers, if only for one day a week. I’ll always remember those early days of Lockdown. It was a spring like no other. The sun shone every day and with flowers and trees emerging from winter, it really felt that, although the world seemed to be changing forever, the natural world was quietly going on as normal, accentuated by the quietness resulting from fewer cars on the road and planes in the air.

As April began, I started planting the vegetable seeds I had left over from the previous year. Fortunately, I’d been able to buy some seed potatoes, as well as ten perennials from Hillier Garden Centre in Marlow, before the Lockdown. We continued, much as we had during March, with working from home and going on local walks and, as the days lengthened and warmed, managed to fit in our first BBQ of the year. At church, like thousands of others, we’d started using Zoom in March and Easter was celebrated online, from our front room. April also included Sarah’s birthday. With many places still closed, we went for a walk to our local woods to see the bluebells and had a takeaway curry from Maliks in the evening. The ornamental cherry in the Round Garden looked perfect, against a blue sky and the annual army of cowslips on Maidenhead Thicket formed their usual ranks, providing a perfect antidote to the grim news of the pandemic.

May brought us the 75th anniversary of VE Day and with it came a memorable day in our road, as neighbours sat in their driveways and ate lunch and later mingled together, in a socially distanced manner. Again, the sun shone and it was a day that will linger long in the memories. We enjoyed more local walks, including visits to the old Maidenhead Brick and Tile Works and the memorial to 578 Squadron in nearby Carpenters Wood. Following a slight relaxation in Lockdown restrictions, we were able to venture slightly further from home and enjoyed a walk by the river at Cookham, towards the end of the month. May also brought with it a profusion of ox-eye daisies, both on Maidenhead Thicket and also on some of the uncut roadside verges. They looked amazing and were much appreciated by the local wildlife. We also enjoyed our second BBQ of the year and found a baby blue tit in the Round Garden, named Baby Jordan, by the girls. In the garden, I continued digging the new soft fruit border in the back garden.

The sun still shone in June and the month brought more local walks, including to woods in Cookham Dean, where I tried out an impressive swing, suspended from the branch of a tree. We had walks by the Thames at Hurley and Hambledon and helped dozens of baby toads to cross a road, down near the river at Maidenhead. June 21 was mum’s 80th birthday. In view of the restrictions, we weren’t able to celebrate as we had planned, but we did enjoy a Zoom call with members of the wider family, including some from Canada and also incorporating a game of Pin the tail on the donkey! We also explored Battlemead Common and had our first visit back to Cliveden since February, as National Trust properties gradually reopened with reduced capacities and booked timeslots.

In July, we managed to visit more local National Trust properties, including Hughenden, Greys Court and The Vyne as well as another visit to Cliveden at the end of the month. July was also the month for Rebekah and Emily’s birthdays, although with restrictions still in place, their celebrations were somewhat muted. At the end of the month, we had four nights away, down at a self-catering cottage in Rye.

We were still on holiday for the first few days in August and managed to visit Bodiam Castle and the site of the Battle of Hastings as well as exploring Rye, spending time on the beach at Bexhill and stopping off at Sissinghurst Castle Garden on the way home. Although masks had to be worn on occasions, things seemed a little more relaxed, perhaps too relaxed, given the recent resurgence of the virus! Towards the end of the month, we had another walk by the Thames at Henley, this time down to Temple Island and found time to do some restorative work in clearing undergrowth away from my grandparents’ grave in the cemetery in All Saints Road Cemetery. We also had a somewhat inclement outing to Basildon Park and finished the month with a walk and BBQ with friends up from Devon and another visit to Cliveden.

After children had been home-schooled since March, September brought the return back to a new world of class and year bubbles. Holly had her first football match, playing for Maidenhead United under-14s Girls team. Sarah and I managed our first ‘Date Day’ since February, with a visit to The Savill Garden. Later in the month, we visited Runnymede and saw the JFK Memorial.

October was a quieter month, with most of our Saturdays taken up with taking Holly to football matches. Towards the end of the month, we had a walk by the river across the bridge from Ray Mill Island, to see some of the autumn colour alongside the Jubilee Channel.

As October turned to November, we visited Burnham Beeches, for a walk in the woods. We had another visit to Cliveden and another Lockdown birthday, as Holly celebrated reaching fourteen with some party games and glow sticks.

Finally, we reached December with all its usual festive busyness. Sarah and I fitted in some Christmas shopping and I celebrated most of my birthday alone, while the girls were all at school. I did manage to put the Christmas tree up during the day and we had an excellent takeaway from The Jasmine in the evening. I hosted two carol services via Zoom, for the first time and Christmas Day itself was very different to usual, due to the updated restrictions for the new Tier 4. We had lunch at home and Zoom calls in the afternoon with the wider family. As December came to an end, the Thames was once again threatening to overspill its banks at Cookham and Henley.

So 2020 draws to a close. It will be remembered the world over as the year that Coronavirus changed everything. I think, as a family, we coped reasonably well overall. We made the best of the restrictions imposed upon us and enjoyed time out in the garden and out for walks, as we were allowed.

It’s difficult to remember, even nine months down the line, exactly how worried we were, as our lives appeared increasingly restricted. Children are remarkably resilient and the girls quickly adapted to having exams cancelled and the initially somewhat limited efforts of our home-schooling. I’m still working from home and don’t envisage that changing any time soon. Although vaccines are now in process of being rolled out, today saw a record number of people testing positive for the virus (57,725) and increasing strain on the creaking National Health Service, whose nurses and doctors have done such an amazing job.

As we move into 2021, it would be easy to find negatives to dwell on, but instead I choose to look forward positively to lighter evenings, spring on the horizon and I try to pass all my worries and concerns to God to deal with. One of my favourite verses from the Bible is Psalm 56:3 which reads simply: When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. I try not to worry too much about the future. God has it all in hand. He brought us safely through 2020 and will guide us into 2021 as well.

Below are my hundred favourite photos from 2020, from my Instagram page, where I managed to add a new photo every day of the year.

2019: A year in 100 photos – 1 January 2020

I thought I’d make a rare blog posting to include a few of my favourite photos from 2019.

It’s been a busy year, including a number of ‘Date Days’ with Sarah to Cliveden, Ham House, Stonor Park, Waddesdon Manor, Cogges Manor Farm, Loseley Park, Greys Court and Kew Gardens; an excellent week away down in Dorset and the wedding of good friends Hannah and Lewis.

In the garden, I constructed some raised beds and filled them with vegetables and work has continued in developing the ‘Round Garden’ at the front of the house.

We enjoyed various days out, including trips to Bournemouth, the Aston Rowant Nature Reserve, where we had a picnic lunch overlooking the scenic M40, an open air theatre production of The Wind in the Willows and a day in London, including seeing the London Transport Museum and Christmas lights.

Sadly, we only managed to complete one further section of the Thames Path, which takes us as far as Lechlade.  We’ll definitely try and do better in 2020!

2019 was also the year that my mother made the sad flight to Canada, for the funeral of her sister, who had passed away after a short illness.  I also bid farewell to some good friends from work, whose career paths took them in new directions, including overseas to Australia!

The year ended with the usual Christmas festivities and family gatherings.

I’m hoping that 2020 will bring further posts on here.  In the meantime, I wish you a very Happy and Peaceful 2020.

If you enjoy the photos, feel free to follow me on Instagram.