Review of the Year 2020

Corona, friends, the workshop, the garden and many projects

My review of the year 2020: Professionally okay, privately satisfied, a lot accomplished, but normal life and the state of mind - one tiring and cognitively dissonant strain.

My second annual review after 2019 and, as is so often the case, it's hard for me to find a beginning and then an end. (I started writing on 10 January, and now another month has passed. It became the 24.02.2021. I have to mentally finish with the last year, that's why I need this).

Review of the Year 2020 - A very diverse year is over.
A very diverse year is over.
Grown through

Westphalian ham

That's how I feel about the last year: mixed. From a personal point of view, joy and sadness often went hand in hand in 2021. At the end of the year, by great, very great luck, I got another contract that improved my financially not easy year, then three days later my cherished favourite aunt Irene Schürmann died of old age. I am so grateful that I was able to see and talk to her one more time two days before her gentle passing.

Corona and the many everyday restrictions also left their mark on my daily life. What I remember more, however, is my horror at how carelessly many politicians treat human lives. Not only with Corona and the people here in Germany, because it is imperative that schools remain open, but also with the issue of the many refugee camps in Europe, the sea rescue in the Mediterranean.

In contrast, especially in these Corona times, real friends have stood out like a positive relief from the anonymous everyday life! Friends, you who are reading this: I thank you from the bottom of my heart for helping me not to sink, for allowing me to laugh with you, for the time we spent together, whether by phone, chat, video or, rarely, in a physical meeting. Thank you!

When my aunt Irene passed away, I made many calls and realised that so many elderly people are lonely and happy to receive a call. I was able to spin new threads to distant relatives, which was a great joy to meet these people anew or again. I will definitely continue that this year.

2020 also consisted to a large extent of setting up and clearing out: I started to set up the workshop, a very large workshop cupboard in the style of a printing and typesetting cupboard was built myself, the tools could be neatly stored in drawers to a large extent, two removal boxes of slides were scanned and 45,000 digital photos were sorted and indexed.

Besides that, of course, I still worked, took care of my family as best I could, and didn't leave the garden to the left. 2020 was a year in which I got a lot done.

A great time last year

Cronhill - the blog

Maybe I'll start with one of the most beautiful activities of the last year, writing. Rarely have I written so much and so gladly in one year, and not everything written has even been published yet.

At the end of the year, I try to make an evaluation based on the Webalizer data, and these were the most read articles in 2020 (I only counted the posts in german language):

Here you can find a more detailed overview of the topics of the last year and a rough evaluation of the call-up figures:

Task and idea book

Keeping the head clear for the now

In 2019, my friend U. said to me: "Thomas, you are permanently too stressed, you have too much on your mind!". What should I do? I have created a task and idea book. This helps me to keep my head clear. At the end of the year, I make a carry-over. What did I have planned, what did I want to achieve? How many tasks did I have, how many are finished, which ones do I pursue further?

The biggest private projects of the last year were: 

  • paint my first oil paintings
  • Renovating the house, repainting the two-storey hallway and the dining room
  • Mask sewing with the family
  • set up workshop
  • acquire basic blender skills
  • build workshop cupboard
  • build garden wall (garden finished)
  • plant new garden bed
  • finish drainage strip at the house
  • clean up analogue pictures
  • scan slides
  • tidy up all digital pictures

With the construction of the large workshop cabinet, I was finally able to deepen my entry into Blender, which I started in 2019, a little.

In 2020, there were 206 projects and tasks in my taskbook, of which I completed 132, including all professional and private projects, and carried over 84 into 2021.

You can read more about the idea of the task and idea book here:

Oil paint on canvas, 2020
Oil paint on canvas, 2020
My first oil paintings

Abstract painting

At the end of 2019, I was once again very pleased, because as a result of my first participation in the WOGA, I received a commission to paint 3 abstract oil paintings.

The paintings were preceded by extensive research into abstract painters. Canvas and stretcher frames came from the wonderful Via dell'Arte in Luisenstraße. Abstract painting is a much more difficult process for me than photo-realistic painting, I basically have to let go, have no control despite good pre-planning. Both client and I are very satisfied with the intensity and power of the paintings.

The total of six boxes made of HDF fit exactly into a Besta wardrobe.
The total of six boxes made of HDF fit exactly into a Besta wardrobe.
Where to put all the stuff?

Archive analogue photos

Two moving boxes with analogue photos turned up and I had no idea what to do with them. Some of the prints still came from Foto Krüger in Bembergstraße, so I didn't really want to throw them away. But I got rid of all the prints that didn't show my family, good friends, important memories or me. So I managed to store all the analogue photos in one of my Ikea Besta cupboards. For this I built custom-made boxes out of HDF. As handles I used some leftover handles from Ikea cardboard storage boxes.

How to archive digital photos

A few thoughts and some methodology on this

At the end of the year I started a long overdue project: Sorting all digital photos into a uniform structure and tagging them all in Adobe Lightroom. I have written down here how I proceeded and why photo archiving is not only a time-consuming, but also a stressful and exhausting matter.


Good and sad

The best news last year from a personal point of view was definitely that our eldest son found an excellent apprenticeship with dual studies. He overcame the recruitment process with flying colours, convincing everyone with his personality and skills, what great luck.

The younger son is now on his way to the Abitur, a really difficult task with Corona. Since the end of the year in distance learning and homeschooling he lacks so much, friends and personal meetings. 

But all in all, the only thing that matters is that we have all stayed healthy.

Then in October 2020, my favourite aunt passed away.

My Aunt Irene Schürmann, 2019. Quote: There is much fulfilled life despite many unfulfilled wishes, Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
My Aunt Irene Schürmann, 2019. Quote: There is much fulfilled life despite many unfulfilled wishes, Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
She has given her whole life

My great aunt Irene Schürmann

Last year, my favourite aunt Irene Schürmann passed away at the old people's home in Finnentrop at the ripe old age of 87 on 30.10.2020. A remarkable date in retrospect. The world had already set a great date of birth for her, 6.6.1933. She was born into Germany's darkest hour and not only for me she became a real figure of light. Yet she did not have an easy life. At the age of 16, she started working in a hotel near Attendorn, was completely exploited there, and later managed the kitchen there. It was not until her mid-twenties that she started anew, training as a family nurse at Caritas in Brilon. After that, she helped out for weeks or months at a time with many families in the Sauerland region on behalf of Caritas when the mother or someone else in the family was absent due to illness. No work was too hard for her, no task too burdensome. The children and the children's happiness were always the focus. I have spoken to some families after Irene's death, they all say unanimously about her: Good Irene, everyone in the family remembers her and all the good things she did for the family and the children, we will never forget her.

To us nephews, too, she was always sweet and warm, a great support, a fair, honest, trustworthy, generous aunt, basically always praised us and assured us that we were doing everything right. She always had time, was happy about every visit. I was never allowed to be strict with my own children, "You must love and praise them", she always said. She was generous and you could steal horses with her, talk about everything. Like us, she loved gardening and still took care of everything in the garden and the house until she was 85. After her retirement, she started travelling, even as far as Norway, and only when her eyesight deteriorated considerably did she unfortunately have to give it up, just like driving a car.

Because of Corona, I was unfortunately no longer able to visit her from March onwards, so we spoke to her on the phone as often as we could. In autumn, we realised that being alone was taking its toll on her and that she lacked a real perspective on life. Her old age and the lack of contact with her beloved family, her nephews and grandnephews, probably caused her to give up in October and to weaken rapidly. Two days before her passing, my wife and I were able to visit her once more and talk to her. Wish her well, reassure her that we would take care of everything on her behalf, that we would look after ourselves and be kind, fair and just to ourselves and our children. Just tell her that we will take care of us even when she is gone.

On Friday, 30.10.2020, she really did - and her face also gave this impression - fall asleep peacefully. She was very lucky that her best friends accompanied her on her last journey and sat by her bedside around the clock. These lovely people deserve my deep thanks and respect!

After her death, we had to take care of everything, of course, and the undertaker Geueke in Serkenrode was a deeply humane and friendly support. I designed the death letters myself, as well as the death note which is distributed to the memorials at the funeral service. It was a certain amount of trouble to provide all the entries in their telephone book with addresses, which led to funny phone calls to identical telephone book entries in Sauerland, but even the complete stranger like me was always helped very kindly. If I got a wrong number, everyone in the house was asked, and then someone remembered which Franz Tebbe might be meant, then I got a number where I immediately asked if it wasn't a house number with three digits.

I had very nice and friendly contact with numerous relatives whom I had spoken to for 20 years or never before. I also met new, very nice and dear people in their non-family environment. Visiting them will be the first thing after Corona. A lot of very nice bereavement letters came, even a very personal one from her car dealership that was so nicely handwritten it made me cry. I answered all of them personally and handwritten, which took a whole day. Talking to these friends and relatives in the many phone calls did a lot of good, I was able to learn a lot about Irene. I would like to write this down in the course of the year. I would like to pay more attention to everyday people, to give more space to remembering them.

That is a task for 2021.

Die neue, leicht gewölbte Gartenmauer, 2020
Die neue, leicht gewölbte Gartenmauer, 2020
The garden is ready

A little further every year

The decision to buy exactly this house in need of renovation in 2004 was easy for us. Since I had to become self-employed on the side (sic!) in 2004, time management has been the biggest problem over the last 16 years. My wife and I agreed from the beginning that we would never stress about implementation. The plan for the garden was already ready in my head in 2004 with the planting of the vegetable patch. And finally, in 2020, we were actually able to complete the last construction phase after 16 years. Originally, a small raised pond was to be built in the place where the garden is now, but due to climate change, the increasing danger of mosquito plagues from open standing water, and the rather time-consuming maintenance, we decided against it in the end and to build another bee-friendly flower bed.

With this last project in the garden we closed the gap between the wall of the herb bed and the stairs.

More information and pictures here:

Drainage strips before and after. The separation was made with a strip of corten steel.
Drainage strips before and after. The separation was made with a strip of corten steel.
Drainage strip

Order on the yard

Around our old wooden shed we already put in perimeter insulation and a drainage strip a few years ago. I don't think gravel is nice, so we trenched it in drainage tile. It just didn't look nice on top. Since we try to use as few materials as possible in the garden, we once again used a strip of corten steel to separate the split from the drainage gravel. This gets a nice patina with time and is easy to set in concrete. The whole thing was filled with lime from the local lime works. Fits.

Book drawers with a housing made of MDF boards, colour is Osmo hard wax
Book drawers with a housing made of MDF boards, colour is Osmo hard wax
Shelf recycling

Small cabinet with old drawers

A few years ago, H&M in Barmen got rid of some of the furniture. I was able to save a few pieces and made a small utensil for my wife out of these beautiful book drawers. The surrounding is made of 10 mm MDF boards.

Happiness is me ...
Happiness is me ...
A beautiful gift and inspiration

Set up my workshop

A few years ago, I was able to save two beautiful set cupboards from the bulky waste / got them as a gift from a good friend. Thank you, dear T. They stood around unused in the workshop for a few years. With the completion of the room for WOGA 2019, there was now space and I have now converted them into workshop cupboards with a height of 88 cm so that they fit under a 4cm beech worktop. This gives a total height of 92 centimetres, which I find very comfortable to work with.

Unfortunately, over the years that the cabinet was owned by the print shop, many typesetting drawers have been lost. I have rebuilt a few, replaced some with larger drawers with ball bearing guides. To make it easy to distinguish new from old and original, these are painted in RAL marquee grey, which is basically the secondary colour in the workshop.

From the children's rooms, after the renovation of the same, there were still some heavy Ikea birch office cabinets left over from Ikea's high-quality solid phase. I converted these into tall cabinets with a depth of 40cm. I built 2 drawers under each of the tall cupboards, where most of my tools now go.

Since I always prefer to reuse materials, the wall unit doors are also a recycling project. The wood and the fillings come from former wooden spint doors that we were able to get for free during the renovation of the changing rooms of a paper envelope factory in Wuppertal. One spint door each made two wardrobe doors. The hinges were replaced with 95 ° self-closing hinges and small black knobs were screwed on as handles.

There will hopefully be a longer post on the construction of this arrangement later this year.

Werkstattschrank, Buche, 2020
Werkstattschrank, Buche, 2020
Private masterpiece

My new workshop cabinet

In 1994 I bought two second-hand drawing paper cabinets from the Vorwerk company. Today, one of them is in my office, where I keep all my papers, pens and paints. The second one was first stored in a friend's unheated shed, and later we used it to store our handicrafts.

It was supposed to serve as a workshop cupboard, but the thin sheet metal cannot support my small lathe. After the successful repair of the printer's cabinets, I decided to give up the idea of using the sheet metal cabinet. My friends A.& E. could just make good use of the cabinet, they are now the third owners. Quickly the transport was organised and space was made for a great project: A drawer cabinet made of solid beech in the style of the printers' cabinets, but with a different layout and the possibility to store hand tools and small machines in addition to small tools and small parts.

With the design of the cabinet I got deeper into the software Blender and so at the beginning of the work the cabinet was available as a 3D model and as a technical drawing.

It turned out beautifully, I think, and it is the most difficult and most beautiful project I have ever built as a carpenter dilettante.

I hope to document the construction of the cupboard here in the course of the year.

Was there anything else?

Professional and so

Hard to believe, but besides all these activities I also worked in my own agency, took care of my family and my mother, threw away a lot of stuff and sold it on eBay, visited a friend in Tönning, renovated part of the house, grew great vegetables, framed pictures for a friend.

And like every year we visited Schloß Dyck with very good friends on 1 November, that was especially nice this year, great pictures were taken by and of all the kids (young adults). We went to Domburg by the sea for 2 days when it was still possible, that seems like years ago. My need for a holiday is now extremely high, but when I see and read, experience who all falls ill with Corona and dies, how many people have to endure and live with the fact that a good friend, mother, father or their own child has died, then my demands become very small and I only see the happiness that this year has given me.

Thank you 2020!

tl, dr;

The year 2020 was like Westphalian ham: grown through. Professionally, it was so-so, my favourite aunt passed away and of course Corona overshadowed everything. Nevertheless, 2020 was a year in which I got a lot done, especially in the workshop and around the house and yard.

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