2020 - The Year In Review

Well......that was interesting eh? 

To be honest, the year of 2020 Anus Dominoes wasn't that bad in overall terms in this particular household. Thankfully, and gratefully, there were no deaths of loved ones, serious illness or injury, unemployment or massive financial hardship to endure, unlike millions of others who have suffered loss in all its forms throughout the year. Countless families and households are in dire straits, and under massive pressure because of the effects of some bumpy particle things measuring a mere 60 nanometres across.

As I write this, the next "lockdown" has just started, and I'm looking at another blank order book, with only one job in the diary. As this is strictly a review of last year, that'll have to wait until another time however. So without further ado, let's get to it:

My favourite property of the year:

One of the things I have to swallow without complaint in this job, is spending time in houses that I couldn't afford to heat, never mind being able to buy. It sometimes seems as if the entire population is living in luxury, constantly moving up the social ladder, so I regularly have to remind myself that I'm simply coming into contact with the top 1% earners on a daily basis. Inherited wealth can often bring my own situation into sharp focus, and the indifference of grown-up children to suddenly possessing an empty £1m house can be quite dispiriting. My favourite house of the year was such an inherited property situated a short walk from my own (rented) house in Warkworth. This was a traditional, but not huge gaff in serious need of a modernising refurbishment. It stood on top of a bank, with a large drive, a lovely big family garden, and a path down to the river Coquet. the five bedrooms were light and airy, and the reception rooms were big & beautiful. Some modernisation would create the most beautiful family home. It went on sale for 800 grand, and after a massive surge in enquiries, the price was lifted to £1.1 million - just like that. Pictures follow:

Most expensive property of the year:

This gigantic house on the ultra-exclusive Ramside Park development in Durham was shot in mid-summer, and sold pretty quickly at it's £2.25m asking price. Flanked by footballers, captains of industry, and scores of people with multiple, wanky Range Rovers that the Geordie Shore cast would have, you can be confident in the fact that you've made it if you reside here. The owners of this particular house were lovely, and had made an extremely selfless contribution to the efforts in combatting homelessness in the midst of their pandemic-related commercial property business hiatus. A modern classic this one:

My least favourite property of the year:

"Lazy holiday lets for sale" shine through in this category, with Sack House in Warenton, Northumberland being the ultimate example. I shoot scores of beautifully presented holiday rentals annually, and the successful ones are kitted out with lovely furnishings by the owners  to ensure a welcoming environment for their guests. There are others who couldn't give a hoot about anything except raking in cash from a guaranteed succession of one-off visitors desperately seeking last-minute accommodation in the peak months. The location of this grim building has loads of potential - it's planted right next door to a lovely mill conversion comprised of mixed-use apartments. There are plenty of permanent (generally retired) residents alongside the inevitable holiday rentals, and the adjacent Budle Bay provides a spectacular base for exploring some of the glorious Northumberland coastline. My family day-trip of choice is at this stretch of the beach - which boasts an incredible expanse of rolling sand bars and warm saltwater-pools when the tide rolls out to Holy Island.

Upon entering this Soviet-era, utilitarian money-maker, it just screams "I couldn't be bothered". I could just imagine the sinking feeling as you walk in the door after parting with best part of two grand for the week - looking at the kids jumping up and down with excitement, but knowing that you're all stuck in something that looks like a hospital family room on a cancer ward - except with condensation. Of course, it sold for way over the asking price within days in order that some other Londoner could benefit from the two grand a week without any effort for the time being. 

The "Oh Shit" moment of the year:

On the 27th November, I received the inevitable positive Covid test result from the NHS test and trace service after my third visit to the Great North Park facility. Tina, the missus copped for it about a week prior to me after dealing with numerous children at her school who had to be taken from classes after starting to display symptoms, & then looked after until their parents could collect them. The teachers, under union instruction, wouldn't go anywhere near the kids, so it was up to the cannon-fodder support staff to assume responsibility (same with the current in-school testing). It was inevitable that I would then become infected in due course despite my precautions at home. Obviously, our own nippers had to be cared for as usual, and we may never know if they actually contracted the old Covid as well, as they both had no symptoms throughout the period of enforced isolation. I wasn't particularly worried about the virus finishing me off, and seemingly if you're not an OAP, & in good general health, you've not got too much to worry about statistically. The personal panic and paranoia still persists though, because of the total unpredictability of the whole thing. I'm diabetic, and luckily got through it in a couple of weeks with a few aches, plus a loss of taste & smell. (which is thankfully coming back now). I took an experimental run of a couple of miles yesterday, and there were no unpleasant consequences (apart from realising that I'm pretty unfit). I'm also now registered as a blood plasma donor, so am looking forward to perhaps helping the less-fortunate in overcoming their more-serious challenge.

Financial results vs the previous year:

The original shutdown in March took it's toll for a good while. Year on year sales were only down by about a grand, but my gross profit dropped by three grand due to the extra expenditure on PPE, replacement of damaged gear, massively increased petrol costs, and the ridiculous expense of an essential new desktop computer. I was thankfully eligible for the first self employed income support grant which helped a bit, and along with some brutal cost-cutting (insurances, mobile phone, website costs, etc.), I've managed to stay afloat and pay myself a teenager's wage while working 90 hours a week consistently. Can't complain.

Favourite media of 2020:

Obviously the range of entertainment productions has been curtailed during the year, and programming has been limited, but despite the constraints, the visual & audio media outlets have managed to roll out some fantastic content at a time when people have been forced to stay inside for long periods. My TV consumption has been limited to about an hour before bedtime, and perhaps a bit of viewing on an iPad in the sack here and there - inbetween the marathon shagging sessions obviously. Here are my highlights:

The Sopranos - I was late to the party for the TV series regarded as the mother of all subsequent episodic dramas, but became hooked immediately. The pilot had a slightly different feel to the rest of the episodes, but once it got established, it was a masterpiece in all aspects. If you've not indulged yourself, do it soon, and thank me for the line "he's an interior decorator".

Star Trek Discovery & Picard - The Star Trek franchise is evolving constantly, and the latest incarnations, both set in different era's are some of the most engaging things on TV. 

BBC News 24
- Katty Kay and Christian Fraser have become two names in the world of broadcasting to provide a degree of humour to the depressing matters unfolding in the US. Lovin' it.

- The London-based talk radio channel boasts some of the most controversial presenters ranging from the "common-sense pensioner" Nick Ferrari, ex-Islamist extremist Majid Nawaz, "raging Leftie" David Lammy MP, and the inimitable purveyor of logic and evidence based debate; James O'Brien. Guest presenters are common, and the station represents pretty much everybody in the UK at some point during the day. The callers are the stars, and give us a good idea of the state of the Disunited Kingdom of GB. 

Despite music being constantly played through all of our 3 Amazon Echo's, a pair of Bose NC headphones, a Samsung Smart TV, and the tinny speakers of my long-suffering Nissan Nana, I can't profess to having any love for a 2020 album release despite listening to almost every single one via the Amazon Music HD Unlimited streaming service. I think this is a product of me being stuck in the 1980's and 90's rather than a lack of quality in contemporary offerings. Grime says nothing to me, EDM is all a re-hash of greatness that once was, Indie music is the same old bands doing the same old thing, and the trillions of "singer-songwriters" put out the same breathy shite that has simultaneously plagued the music-literate, and delighted the brain-dead youth, who tend to be more interested in their hand-held block of metal with a screen than anything else in the world. It's a shame that is.

Plans for 2021:

You need to watch this space, as there may be something happening in the first few months of this year that will change my life for the remainder of the time I've got left in the workplace. Otherwise, it's a case of survival, and building on 2020. I'm not getting any younger, and working 90 hours week in, week out, without holidays, weekends, sick-leave, or appropriate compensation is really getting tiresome. Time will tell!

And that's that. Happy new year to everyone, and I hope the universe treats you with favour in 2021.

Brian Young shoots all aspects of the built environment for a range of clients throughout Northern England and the Borders.


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