Elaine and I started this website back in 2013 when we got married. The idea was to document trips, holidays and big life events (i.e. when we moved to the UK from South Africa) so that we’ll have a ‘highlights reel’ of our journey together. However, today’s entry onto the record is going to be a bit different as I feel it’s important to remember both the good and the bad moments in life. So here goes….

I remember the New Year’s moment, we were standing ankle-deep in the snow on a mountain somewhere in Norway, watching the fireworks as we welcomed 2020. I gave my wife a kiss and said “this is going to be a great year”, unfortunately, it was only true for a moment. We often hear people talk about having 2020 vision which, in its original context, means someone has perfect vision (or eyesight) and I remember all the “2020 vision” messages I received on New Year’s Eve wishing us a perfect new year but looking back at 2020 so far, it’s been everything but perfect.

It all started back in April last year (2019) when Elaine and I found a new development just outside of London. The developer was building 20 brand new Scandinavian-styled homes in a park with the beautiful Epping Forest on its doorstep. We fell in love with the place and what followed were months of tough negotiations with the sales team and developer until, finally, we secured a home. We were over the moon as this was our first ever property and we started dreaming about the house and all the parties and barbecues we were going to host once the house was completed. As the weeks and months went by, we only got more and more excited and in November of 2019, we got the update from the agent that we’ll be moving in by mid-January. It was a champagne-popping moment for us but we decided not to share the news with you just yet as there still remained a very small chance that the deal could fall through (you can see where this is going right?).

Then came January 2020, when we decided to have one final viewing with the agent before rubber-stamping the deal. As far as the legal side was concerned, the contracts were signed, the I’s were dotted and the T’s were crossed, all we needed now was to give our solicitor the final go-ahead. We showed up on-site ecstatic, we drove away an hour later, devastated. According to the developer and the sales agent, the weather was to blame for a very wet winter which caused delays. Then at the last minute, they tried to rush through the work in order to meet our mid-January completion date and decided to cut a few corners in the process. As an architect, Elaine was quick to spot a few items on the snag list that wasn’t just defects or small issues but actual deal-breakers. We spent months waiting for our dream home just to cancel the whole thing at the very last second. We were back to square one. To add insult to injury, we also lost the flat we were staying in for the last 3 years. When the deal fell through on our house, we immediately approached our landlord for an extension but were told that, because we were supposed to move out and into our new home, they already signed a new contract with another occupant and we therefore had to vacate the property. Luckily our awesome family in Colchester opened up their house for us once more and we were able to store all our stuff in their garage and loft.

So, there we were, no house and no flat. We had to start house hunting from scratch and didn’t want to sign another 12-month rental agreement, so we decided to turn to Airbnb. Believe it or not, but since January, Elaine and I have been living in different Airbnb’s in London with nothing but 4 suitcases and our laptops. It’s actually not too bad but as you can imagine, moving to a new house every 3-4 weeks isn’t ideal either. The silver lining, if you really want to see one as we did, was that we could do extreme area scouting before buying a house. Our plan was to move to different parts of the city to ‘test’ the commute and area before looking for a house in that area.

About two weeks after moving into the first Airbnb, we found a house we liked, booked a viewing and the owners accepted our offer. This was another champagne-popping moment we didn’t yet tell you about because the deal is only final when contracts exchange (again, you can see where this is going right?). A week after we instructed solicitors to get the legal side going, the estate agent phoned me to tell me that the seller had second thoughts about the deal and decided to cancel. We really struggled to get the cork back into the bottle that night but started the house-hunting process again. A few weeks later, after seeing many houses in different areas, we found a house we both loved. We went to view the property and made an offer. This time, we didn’t even bother with taking the champagne out of the fridge. The only small issue this time was that the seller made the deal conditional to him finding a new home first and informed us that his criteria for a new house was quite strict. At the time of making the offer, the seller’s condition of sale did not bother us but as the weeks went by, we learnt that the seller wasn’t actively looking for a new home. Two months later, we had to withdraw our offer as the agent confirmed the seller has only seen 1 house in the last 60 days. As things stand today, we are still in an Airbnb and the drama of finding a house continues…(stay tuned).

Then came February. This was the month my employer decided to ruffle up some feathers and do a restructure of the company. Whenever you hear the word ‘restructure’, you always tend to panic as you never know who will stay and who might go, especially if you’re in the process of buying a house and need to convince a bank to lend you hundreds of thousands of Pounds. For the weeks that followed, we played the conservative game and paused the house buying process until we had some clarity. My team was broken up and I was moved to a new team. Three weeks later, I was moved again, this time to a brand-new role and everything seemed okay. A few days later, I heard that a friend of mine, who’s been working for the company for 20 odd years, was told to get his CV ready and seek other employment. As the days went on, a few more cases of people being let go popped up and even though I had a new role, I didn’t feel too comfortable. The world around me was burning, causing a bit of stress of what the future holds. Of course, this is London and finding a new job wouldn’t be too hard, but when you actually love your job and believe in the products you’re selling, you really only jump ship if someone makes you walk the plank.

Then, just to prove that 2020’s craziness is kicking into the next gear, came March . On Monday morning, 2 March, shortly after 06:45 am, I picked up my phone on my bedside table and disabled its flight mode. Immediately 2 messages appeared on the screen that was sent around 03:30 am UK time and in my gut, I knew that opening these messages was not going to make my Monday any better. It was a friend in Australia sharing the news that one of Elaine’s best friends were in a car accident the previous day and that both she and her little girl passed away. Our hearts were broken. It was unreal. It felt like a terrible nightmare. Elaine and I stood in our bedroom that morning just holding each other as we couldn’t stop the tears from flowing. The last time we saw them was during our visit to South Africa in January 2019. We spent the afternoon at their house, catching up in their living room and played with their little baby. With this news, Monday was ruined. The week was ruined. Elaine and I cried together many times during that week and every time I closed my eyes to try and sleep, my mind would rush back to that January afternoon and I could vividly see the baby’s striking blue eyes looking right back at me as if she was staring into my soul. I would then hear our friend’s laughter and think of her husband that is now left behind – and the whole process of dealing with her death would start again. That Thursday evening, we were on a plane back to South Africa and the following Monday was one of the toughest days our lives. We stood next to the grave where her parents buried their first child just a few years earlier. That Monday, they were burying their only daughter and granddaughter. Seeing the two white coffins, one for mom and one for the baby, being lowered into the ground with her husband and father standing side-by-side, in tears, next to their grave as they said goodbye to one of the most beautiful people we ever knew, is an image I’ll remember for the rest of my life. This was a tragic loss of life and I can’t even begin to imagine what her husband and family must be going through. A few hours after the funeral, tough as it was, Elaine and I boarded our flight back to London. The days and weeks that followed was an emotional roller-coaster and I’ve never be so glad to see my birthday month come to an end.

Which brings us to April. Corona became a worldwide pandemic and today, more than a third of the world’s population is in lock down. Countries closed their borders and people are asked to do social distancing. In some countries (like South Africa) you’re not allowed to leave your house at all whilst in others (like the UK) you may only go out once for a quick exercise routine or to buy food /medicine. Whilst some of us can work from home and earn an income, some of our friends and family are already worried about their finances. A global recession is looming and nobody knows how long this will last for as we’re in uncharted waters.

What the heck is happening and why is 2020 so bad? And is it just me who feels completely out of control?

Well, this weekend we celebrated Easter and as a Christian, I decided to join the online Easter service with pastor Andy Stanley in Atlanta. Andy said something during his sermon that not only made me feel better about 2020 but also something that gave me hope, allow me a moment to share it with you.

When Jesus died on the cross, his disciples were scared because the man they followed and believed to be the Son of God was killed right in front of them. It was game over. The disciples feared for their lives and went into hiding because with Jesus out of the picture, they were certain someone would come for them next. If they killed Jesus, why wouldn’t they want to kill his followers? Between Friday and Sunday, there were no Christians and there were no Jesus followers because, according to them, there was no Jesus. To them, it was uncharted waters and to them, it also felt like the world was crumbling around them. After three days of darkness, Jesus rose from the dead and to this day we celebrate Him as our Lord and Saviour. For the disciples, it felt like no one was in control during that time and that all hope was lost but the good news is that this year, even though it’s been bumpy, we know that God is alive. Today, some of us may relate to the feelings the disciples had between Friday night and Sunday morning, being scared and fearing the future. Some of you may even have had a worse 2020 than we had so far, but when the world seems dark around us, let’s not forget that God is always in control. The Easter message is more relevant now than ever before and gives me hope that 2020 will indeed be a great year.

I pray that you and your family will experience the peace I have in my heart, knowing that even though things may feel out of control right now, God is fully in control of this and every other situation we may find ourselves in.

Stay home and safe,
Andre

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