Monday, 11 January 2021

Year In Review 2020, Part 2: The New Normal

In Part 1 of our annual Year in Review we retraced the first three months of 2020. Away Days, the launch of Kate's early years survey 5 Big Questions, a mini-tour in Ireland were all leading features in a wonderfully normal schedule. We all think about that word a lot now. Normal. How much we yearn to return to the familiar rhythm of our lives. Following ten months of the pandemic, we have reasons to be hopeful. Certainly, hearing news the Queen and Prince Philip have been vaccinated is a sign of light ahead. Last March though, we were entering uncharted territory as terms like lockdown and restrictions on our movement, on seeing our loved ones, entered our lives.

As numbers began to sky rocket and the NHS came under colossal strain, the Royal family began to disperse. Before the Cambridges decamped to Anmer Hall with the children, the Duke and Duchess paid a visit to the London Ambulance Service 111 control room in Croydon. Wearing a pink Marks & Spencer suit, the Duchess heard from those on the front line how their lives and roles had changed.

As a slew of royal engagements, tours, garden parties, Trooping the Colour, Order of the Garter, Ascot and a plethora of summer staples were canceled, it became clear the remainder of 2020 would be drastically different for the Royal family. To properly chronicle the changes of the year, I'm hoping to draw on the themes of Hold Still -- for me, Kate's finest project to date with the exception of the incredible Heads Together and its legacy initiatives. The themes were Your New Normal, Helpers and Heroes and Acts of Kindness.

Your New Normal

When we think of the new normal in royal watching, something we'll be returning to for the coming weeks at least, Zoom calls and virtual conversations became the key means of communication. 

A particularly memorable virtual call to Shire Hall Care House in Cardiff for a game of bingo. After hearing about the spirit of positivity, William said, "I've never known Welsh people not to know how to have fun." The Prince was assured he had quite a bit of that in store as he prepared to take charge of a game of a bingo with his wife. Much to the amusement of William and Kate, Joan the winner of the game joked the couple "were not as good" as they should have been. William replied, "We'll try and do a bit better at bingo next time!"

Like so many parents all over the world, homeschooling entered the Cambridges' home. During an appearance on BBC Breakfast in support of NHS Every Mind Matters, Kate revealed they've kept it going throughout the school holidays. "It's been ups and downs probably like lots of families. George is much older than Louis but they are aware. You don't want to scare them and make it too overwhelming, I think it is important to acknowledge it in age appropriate ways. The children have got such stamina, I don't know how, honestly. You get to the end of the day, you write down a list of all the things you've done in the day. You sort of pitch a tent, you take the tent down again, cook, bake, you get to the end of the day - they've had a lovely time but it is amazing how much they can cram into one day."

Adjusting to the new normal meant altering goals and changing plans and priorities, too. In collaboration with her patronage the National Portrait Gallery, the Duchess of Cambridge launched a new photography project to reflect the sense of community, acts of bravery and kindness amid the COVID-19 pandemic. In a statement about the Hold Still effort, the Duchess said, "We’ve all been struck by some of the incredible images we’ve seen which have given us an insight into the experiences and stories of people across the country. Some desperately sad images showing the human tragedy of this pandemic and other uplifting pictures showing people coming together to support those more vulnerable."

As momentum built and entries were submitted, the Duchess shared an update encouraging people to participate. "There have been so many amazing entries to Hold Still over the last few weeks. From families up and down the country showing how they are adapting to life during lockdown, through to some of the most amazing NHS and social care staff who are putting their lives on the line to save the lives of others. But it isn’t too late to take part. So please take a moment to capture what life is like for you, because together I hope that we can build a lasting illustration of just how our country pulled together during the pandemic." The Duchess was eager to share submissions. "I've seen some amazing images and I just wanted to share some of those images with you today." Below, 'We Are the Future' by Daisy Valencia.

At the end of August, Kate revealed she had been "overwhelmed" by the response to the campaign. Following 31,598 submissions, Kate said, "I've been so overwhelmed by the public's response to Hold Still, the quality of the images has been extraordinary, and the poignancy and the stories behind the images have been equally as moving as well. I wanted to say a huge thank you to everyone who has entered and taken part. And a big thank you to my fellow judges. I hugely appreciate the time and dedication that they have shown towards the project."

In September, the curated images were revealed as part of a digital exhibition encompassing the tender moments, frustrations, times of joy and sorrow, courage and sense of community we've all experienced and seen over the past six months.

The Duchess was joined by fellow judges National Portrait Gallery director Nicholas Cullinan; writer Lemn Sissay; Ruth May, Chief Nursing Officer for England; and photographer Maryam Wahid in choosing the final images.


Her Majesty released an incredibly warm message in support of the exhibition. "It was with great pleasure I had the opportunity to look through a number of the portraits that made the final 100 for the Hold Still photography project. The Duchess of Cambridge and I were inspired to see how the photographs have captured the resilience of the British people at such a challenging time." Kate showed the Queen a number of images at Balmoral in August. They included "Everyday Hero" featuring Richard, a postman who cheered up those on his round by delivering the post in fancy dress :)


I adored the creativity from students studying at Maiden Erlegh School. Their portraits are a response to their feelings on life at the moment. They are all aged 13-15.


'Rainbow' is a gorgeous shot Helen Pugh took of her daughter during lockdown when children all over the UK painted rainbows. Helen described it as "a moment of home, fringed by fear and uncertainty".


Children adapted to learning in new environments. Claudia Burton's 'Higher Learning' shares a glimpse of her son studying on their small outdoor space. "We live in a 2-bedroom, third-floor flat in London. Space is limited, and with schools closed we tried to make as much use as possible of the outdoor space that we have."


Those on the front lines were there for all of us every single day reminding us with their bravery and selflessness that we're all in this together.


In late October, the Cambridges had the opportunity to see the images showcased in a community exhibition. Kate wore one of her most stylish ensembles of the year with an exquisitely cut McQueen coat and Grace Han Love Letter bag.


William and Kate viewed 'The Look of Lockdown'  by photographer Lotti Sofia, who called it, "A representation of our daily dose of daydreaming that we do while we watch the world go by without us."


Another prime example of the new normal came later in the year when the results of 5 Big Questions were shared. I expect several engagements with patronages and experts were planned initially, but instead, it became a virtual event with Kate revealing the results and taking questions from the public. The Duchess was asked, "What is the early years? Help." Kate replied, "I suppose we're looking at it from pregnancy, through to the age of five, so through to children starting school." When asked what sparked her interest in early years, she reiterated a point made during her keynote speech from the Royal Foundation's online forum. "I actually get asked this question a lot. I think people assume because I am a parent, that's why I've taken an interest in the Early Years. I think this really is bigger than that. This isn't about – just about – happy, healthy children; this is about the society I hope we could and can become."


The five major insights from the survey were:

1. People overwhelmingly believe that a child’s future is not pre-determined at birth, however most people don’t understand the specific importance of the early years.

2. Answering the 5 Big Questions, 98% of people believe nurture is essential to lifelong outcomes, but just one in four recognise the specific importance of the first five years of a child’s life.

3. The reality of life makes it hard for parents to prioritise their wellbeing. 90% of people see parental mental health and wellbeing as critical to a child’s development, but in reality people do very little to prioritise themselves. Only 10% of parents mentioned taking the time to look after their own wellbeing when asked how they had prepared for the arrival of their baby. Worryingly, over a third of all parents (37%) expect the COVID-19 pandemic to have a negative impact on their long-term mental wellbeing.

4. Feeling judged by others can make a bad situation worse.

5. 70% of parents feel judged by others and among these parents, nearly half feel this negatively impacts their mental health.

The prevalence of loneliness among parents has increased notably during the pandemic. The results revealed whilst support within communities has increased overall, there are many who were unable to avail of this support or found it wasn't available for their specific needs. This has affected those in the most deprived areas particularly.

"Over the last decade I have met people from all walks of life. I have seen that experiences such as homelessness, addiction and poor mental health are often grounded in a difficult childhood. But I have also seen how positive protective factors in the early years can play a crucial role in shaping our futures. The early years are not simply about how we raise our children. They are in fact about how we raise the next generation of adults. They are about the society we will become." Kate notes early years work isn't about "the quick win" but "the big win".


Helpers & Heroes


A very important tradition developed in April which saw grateful members of the public stand on the steps of their homes and Clap for the NHS. George, Charlotte and Louis joined their parents in the effort.

On another Thursday evening, a video of the children clapping alone was shared.

As socially-distanced engagements began to tentatively resume in June, the royals had the opportunity to thank frontline workers and support those providing services which were all too often taken for granted before. Kate's first outing coincided with the re-opening of non-essential shops in the United Kingdom, and provided an opportunity to hear from an independent business owner about the challenges the virus has presented both in terms of adjusting to the new normal and the impact on the ground. Fakenham Garden Centre, located a short twenty-minute drive from Anmer Hall, was closed for seven weeks during restrictions. Kate was casually attired in a Fjallraven vest, aqua Jaeger shirt, Massimo Dutti trousers, Monica Vinader Siren Wire earrings and Superga Cotu sneakers.

As summer progressed, parents were in the middle of months of homeschooling and very much feeling the effects of a lack of support on the ground for their children's educational and social needs. The Duchess endorsed the national launch of Tiny Happy People, a BBC platform providing resources and support to parents and carers of children aged 0-4. Kate said, "In the first few months, there's a huge amount of support from midwives and health visitors. But from then onwards, there's a massive gap before they then start school. Hearing some of the things from the parents today, Ryan at the beginning, saying how his baby has got five different cries. He's learnt a huge amount from Tiny Happy People, and it's information like that I wish I had had as a first-time mum, but, for so many parents, it's gold dust really for families to be given those tips and tools to be able to use, particularly in these first five years."



To support those on the front lines, the Royal Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge has awarded £1.8 million in grants to support the nation's mental health through a "bespoke fund" which was set up in response to COVID-19. The grants were made to ten leading charities who have been instrumental in the battle against the virus in recent months. In keeping with the Foundation's longstanding focus on supporting mental heath, key areas were identified and chosen to benefit from the substantial sum. It was wonderful to read the response fund -- in collaboration with the National Health Service -- will provide individual grief trauma counselling from Hospice UK to all frontline workers. Additionally, a quarter of a million first responders from around the UK will have access to peer support and mental-health training from Mind’s Blue Light mental health support programme, building on the service already available.


The Pride of Britain Awards are always a special event on the calendar - a night to celebrate truly remarkable and inspiring people across the UK. 2020 was a year like no other, and in turn, the awards took on additional significance as everyday heroes came to the fore in so many ways. William and Kate participated, with the Duchess praising the "bravery and selflessness" of frontline workers, adding, "Many have had to leave their families for weeks on end, some have come out of retirement to help, while others have stepped into new roles to play their part in the fight against coronavirus. It is not just the medical teams; all NHS staff have played a crucial role through this time. During lockdown, we joined people up and down the country to applaud the NHS and our key workers each week. Their hard work still goes on and we remain indebted to them for all they do." William said, "The devastating impact of the coronavirus pandemic has reminded us as a nation of how much we owe to the thousands of NHS workers who have gone far beyond the call of duty this year. They have worked tirelessly around the clock, with humility and compassion, in the most challenging of circumstances, putting their own lives on the line to help others."


Acts of Kindness


The value of an act of kindness took on meaning as never before in 2020. Taking the time to pick up the phone, thinking of your neighbour, donating to a worthy charity -- all collectively served to raise the spirits of the nation. A memorable example of this were Princess Charlotte's birthday portraits. The Princess was pictured by her mother picking up parcels on the Sandringham estate to deliver to doorsteps. They include pasta tied with a ribbon, which she helped to prepare. Charlotte was joined by William, Kate and George on the food delivery.


The Telegraph reported recipients were surprised when they spotted the royals leaving packages for them, and while all social distancing measures were adhered to, there was time to say hello. Staff on the Sandringham estate prepared over a thousand meals per week to help support the most vulnerable in the area.


(Separately and slightly off-topic, I'm sneaking in Louis and George's birthday shots here :))


When considering Acts of Kindness, I'm also reminded me of the British retailers who joined Kate's effort to support Baby Banks over the summer. The pandemic severely affected half the calendar year of fundraising staples and events for charities who rely heavily on public support. It's been particularly challenging for Baby Banks, who depend on people dropping in donations personally, including pre-loved items, gifts they don't need, etc. The Duchess revealed she was "moved to tears" by stories of families she heard during a private visit to one of Baby Basics Norfolk's branches and was determined to help with their plight. Kate has brought nineteen leading British brands on board to donate over 10,000 items to over 40 Baby Banks across the UK. An example of the convening power the royals hold. I'm very much hoping to see Kate move more in this direction in 2021.


During conversations with families and representatives of the charity, Kate heard about the value of the "currency of kindness" from Little Village founder Sophia Parker. Kate replied, "It's about finding new ways of still providing people with the support they so desperately need."


December brought the Royal Train Tour...


As the train stopped in Batley, we learned about an act of kindness by Kate during the pandemic. The Duchess made several calls to Len Gardner, enjoying warm conversation on topics ranging from the children to pasta. Len revealed, "She told me Prince George and Princess Charlotte were playing in the garden and she was keeping an eye on them through the window. Apparently they have thousands of sheep down at Sandringham and her eldest children couldn’t understand how we get wool without killing the animal. It was the sort of conversation I might have with anyone about their family. She didn’t mention William much. But I gabble on a lot."


During two lengthy conversations during the first lockdown, Kate chatted away to her new friend about making pasta and taking her children to watch sheep ­shearing. Len, from Batley, West Yorks, said, “Never in my wildest imagination did I think I would be talking on the phone to the future Queen of England. I will treasure our conversations for the rest of my life. Those calls helped me because they gave me something to look forward to.”


The pair chatted about their shared interest in the Scouts and pasta. The latter which led to an unexpected delivery for Len. Following a discussion about the food, Kate asked Len if he had a pasta maker; he told her didn't. Three days later one was delivered to his door from the Duchess. A thoughtful gesture which meant a great deal to Len who has had an incredibly tough year caring for his wife Shirley who is battling bladder cancer.


Before the Cambridges travelled to Anmer Hall where new restrictions would change their plans to spend Christmas with the Middletons, they attended a special performance of the National Lottery’s Pantoland at the Palladium with the children.


And that concludes our review of 2020.


In keeping with the theme of the post, I'll close with the most poignant image from Hold Still.


'Forever Holding Hands' by Hayley Evans. "My grandparents, Pat and Ron Wood, were married 71 years ago on St George's Day. In May 2020 they were admitted a week apart to the Covid ward at Worthing Hospital. At first they were nursed separately, but were soon reunited. Kind staff pushed their beds together and gave them their own room. They spent their final days exactly where they were meant to be and exactly how they had spent the last 71 years…together. Pat passed away in her sleep, lying next to her dear Ron, and he followed her five days later. Together, forever holding hands. They appreciated the tiny things and took nothing for granted. The ability to touch when they had so little left was a gift. It was the only way to show their love and devotion. I took this photo with gloved hands looking through a visor. It gives me so much comfort to know, in a world where we have to distance ourselves from each other, that they had everything they ever wanted in the palm of their hands. This was the last time I saw them."

26 comments:

  1. Wonderful post Charlotte. Thank you.

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  2. Valerie in Arizona12 January 2021 at 00:17

    Thank you so much for this, Charlotte. I love following the two labs, Olive and Mabel on Youtube and one thing their owner said yesterday in Sunday Times struck me "I thought social media initially was a good thing, people being sociable. Hasn't seemed to turn out that way...." His efforts and yours and some others, have made what could have been unbearable, bearable. As we here in the U.S. face the next two weeks, I will keep going back to the wonderful example that has been set by the efforts of your uplifting blog, Olive and Mabel, Stand Still, to remind me that there is still kindness and caring and that we hopefully will survive all this.

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  3. Your writing style is beautiful & thorough- I look at your page each day to see if you’ve written anything new. I enjoy reading the comments, although I don’t know if I’ve ever commented.

    Thank you for these 2 year end entries. It really is amazing to see what they’ve managed to do this year! It’s impressive to see both of their bigger projects roll out with Hold Still, Early Years, Heads Up campaign in soccer, earthshot Prize...and the day to day work highlighting so many incredible organizations & people.

    Fashion-wise I loved the Royal Train Tour looks and still wear my plaid masks (Old Navy) to feel festive. That red coat, plaid skirt and scarf was perfection. I also love the lighter blue coat. I can’t wait to see the red McQueen (?) tweed dress from the Zoom call in person.

    I’e always appreciated having this blog, especially now with COVID. Thank you for sharing so much about the work Kate does, with the fashion sprinkled in!

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  4. Beautiful post, especially the last image. Certainly reminds us of what’s important. Thank you!
    Nelaina
    Hawley, MN

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  5. Thank you for the summary! Even with Covid-19 postponing or eliminating a lot of events Kate still accomplished a lot from the 5 Big Questions to Hold Still to helping Happy Tiny People. I hope the Covid-19 pandemic will end soon! Everyone who can please get your vaccine!!! I am still pouting about the face we didn't get a birthday portrait from the duchess. With so few royal events I was really looking forward to a new picture. Oh, well!

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  6. Reading through the two posts, they seem and feel like worlds apart. And I guess that’s the reality of life. So wish we could wave the magic wand that will take us back to the time of Part 1.

    I have been fortunate not to have contracted the virus ... so far. And while I haven’t needed the assistance of hospital frontline workers, I have a different set of frontline workers who have helped me to keep on keeping on.

    You have been one such person. I’m sure you have not only struggled at times to write, but how to write so that you can adequately express your heart. So thank you for that.

    Wishing you a’ better New Year!’

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  7. Alejandra Campos12 January 2021 at 04:21

    Hi there! Love how you divided the post according to the photos!
    It truly was a year where William and Catherine came out of their shell, and proved the world what a mighty force they are.

    Thank you for all your hard work! Keep on with the incredible effort, info and photos.

    BTW, your blog doesn't show any posts from 2011-2012. They vanished from one day to another 😥💔

    Take Care and Stay Safe!

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  8. Kate did a lot of good things last year but Hold Still campaign is the one that will stay with us for a long time. I won’t be surprised if some of the images end up in museum collections or books in reference to the pandemic.
    For all these years in the public eye Kate has never ever made it about herself and last year is no exception. I hope she continues to shine and grow into her role as a future Queen consort.

    E from G.

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  9. A wonderful post. Thank you, Charlotte. So much hardship and so many changes, and I have been grateful (among many thing) for your coverage of William and Catherine. Catherine has conducted herself over and over in a true manner of a real Queen. Kind, beautiful, well mannered and brilliant. My admiration for her has only grown this past year. She and William and their family are a breath of fresh air and a joy to see.
    Thank you again for this blog.

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  10. Caroline in Montana12 January 2021 at 15:38

    Dang Charlotte, I was so choked up by the end I was almost crying at my desk. I hope that even after things get back to "normal" that more folks will have kept on with the giving and thoughfulness that comes to light in these challenging times. It could really be such a better place and starting with the children is the right idea. Thank you charlotte for being a bright spot.

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  11. Tammy from California12 January 2021 at 16:56

    "Six and two, tick-ity-boo"

    The last picture should be the picture in history books. It says it all.

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  12. Firstly Charlotte, I would like to wish you and your family a happy and safe new year. Thanks for all your hard work during the year and in particular during our current crisis. I feel it is very important to highlight the work that the Duchess has been doing. One can draw strength from the kindness and goodwill in all Kate does. Be it delivering pasta to something as important as hold still. Her work on supporting the front line workers at all levels has been amazing. She looks stunning in red and tartan on her "unwelcome" visit to Scotland. We were lucky enough to have a visit from the Duchess just before Christmas. Absolutely beautiful in our national color green and very much welcome here. I'd expect her back at work next week. Doing her very best for Queen and Country.

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  13. Katarina in Bratislava, Slovakia12 January 2021 at 19:00

    Dear Charlotte,

    I have been following your blog ever since Kate married William, but this is the first time I comment. Thank you for your blog (and the MAM blog, too), you never disappoint. You’re always incredibly fast and thorough and remain the most reliable source of information on Kate and Meghan. I particularly appreciate your empathy and compassion.
    These past 10 months were very difficult for everyone, especially for frontline workers, people who contracted the virus and the families of those who lost their lives to Covid-19. People often found themselves isolated and lonely and needed something to cheer them up. So did I. Your blog and the comments section helped me overcome this terrible feeling of isolation (I never comment, but I read the comments and feel like I already “know” the readers that regularly post comments, if that makes sense). And I’m sure I’m not the only one.
    Throughout the years, there were several occasions when I wanted to thank you and let you know how much I appreciate your work. If this pandemic has taught me something, it’s that people need to be kinder to each other and show their kindness to others, not just keep it somewhere deep inside: Do you like something/someone? Do you want to thank someone for something? Do it! Say it! And maybe you’ll make their day :)
    So here I am, nearly 10 years since I started following your blog, and I want to thank you for starting your blogs, for keeping us informed, and for creating a space where we can forget all our worries for a few minutes. No one really knows when we’ll be able to get back to normal, but your blogs will certainly make the waiting feel shorter.
    Happy new year to you and your loved ones and all the readers of this blog. Stay safe and healthy!

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    1. What a thoughtful post Katarina! I think that 'kindness' is the operative word of the day, maybe even the mantra of this new year, and as somebody else mentioned, it seems to be what Kate embodies and inspires. So happy to welcome a new voice to this wonderful blog that Charlotte has created, and you are 100% right that we shouldn't wait to thank someone for something, let them know now. So thank you Charlotte for allowing us to have a voice, thank you DKB community for listening, and thank you Katarina for sharing. cc

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    2. Zora from Prague14 January 2021 at 12:31

      Dear Katarina, how wonderful to hear a voice from Slovakia! 😍 Thank you for your beautiful comment and your words about kindness. I echo what you say about DKB helping readers to overcome this difficult time - it really is a source of positivity and hope. Happy new year to you and yours and stay safe! 🍀

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  14. The warmth and kindness of your comments is greatly appreciated. I know how much we all look forward to better times ahead. X

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  15. Dear Charlotte, thank you for both the year in review posts. It’s always nice to stop and reflect on events and achievements. A small pause before the next year sweeps us along!

    Thank you for your kindness and care that underpins this blog and your MAM blog. You lead by example and set expectations of online kindness so thoughtfully.

    Happy new year to you and your family. Hope all readers stay safe and healthy.

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  16. Susan in Florida13 January 2021 at 03:02

    Thank you so much Charlotte , this is a beautiful post with your writing and photos. Your hard work makes this blog a wonderful place to be .

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  17. Kitty from Kansas13 January 2021 at 09:01

    It is a good thing 2021 is on a good roll such that we can be assured of more posting from Lottie. I'm usually busy to comment but quite positive i'll do so more in the times ahead.

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  18. thank you for the both reviews post it's nice and I love reading these blogs MAM Blog your blog become my stress reliver in past year I'm looking forward to 2021 I hope it's will good year for as all hope you and your families and all readers are stay safe and healthy

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  19. "Year In Review 2020, Part 2: The New Normal"
    Charlotte - Thank you for refreshing memories of images of 2020.

    I hope it is ok to copy an image. I had to copy and save the priest with the images of members of the congregation. In times of good, bad, daily, weekly and holiday normal, a place of faith/worship is a place of hope, gratitude, comfort, knowledge, community, forgiveness, new beginnings, and of course worship - a connection to God. Even this almost accessible to all foundation and connection was usurped by this pandemic. A person can pray any other place and find that connection, but there is a different cleansing of the spirit to have a physical presence in a church (at least for my faith as a Christian / whether one is a sinner or striving towards being a good and practicing Christian). Most likely many other religions were also “denied” of such access for the sake of their safety. I can only imagine how the priest was feeling at that time.

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  20. The Preview button doesn’t seem to be working properly. I'm going to try going straight to Publish this time. Just wanted to thank you Charlotte from another housebound Canadian, for this delightful post! It has certainly perked me up, as well as reading the comments from other posters. Thanks again and let’s hope the New Year will turn out to be a happy one.

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  21. What a special post. You always do such a wonderful job of making the events not about Kate but about the cause. This post is the perfect example of that - so thoughtfully and sensitively put together. It is probably the best year in review post ever - and who would have thought we could say that about 2020! I think Kate's thoughtfulness about the work she does and how she mindfully approaches her contribution has been clearly evident this year - from Louis' rainbow painting to Charlotte delivering food parcels to spearheading the documentation of the pandemic. There is a "realness" and an attention to detail in everything she does. Thank you so much for summarising it for us.

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    1. I think you said this very well, Solange, there certainly is a "realness" about Kate and it's so refreshing and comforting. She never appears anything less than sincere.

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  22. Thank you, Charlotte, again and again.
    --Marci

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  23. I recently saw a newspaper heading “The face of positivity” next to a picture of Kate and that really says it all. She managed to be the face of positivity without taking about it, while also not seeming out of touch with reallity, not an easy feat in 2020.

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