In November Glasgow was supposed to be hosting the COP26 Climate Change Conference, but before that the UN was supposed to be voting on ambitious plans to make a third of the world's oceans marine protected areas.
Greenpeace were championing this and lats year I'd been in London when the Esperanza had set sail on a pole-to-pole voyage to promote the treaty. Now we were in the final furlong and we planned a series of events in the run up. First up was a series of exhibitions across the country, including Manchester. We had big glossy pictures, we had a 3D viewer type thing, and we had a Greenspeaker presentation. All we needed was the actual treaty which we were fairly confident we'd have by the end of summer. Then along came Covid.
the Prime Minister saw an opportunity for the free market to make a killing (he wasn't wrong there) I started treating a visit to the supermarket like an expedition to the Moon.
Meanwhil,e life went on as normal. I made my annual trip to see the snowdrops at Hopton Hall, which officially marks the start of spring, and I went to see the Mongolian band The Hu at The Ritz, who were great despite only knowing five words of English between them. Little did I know it would be a while before I went to another gig.
I also got to go on some secret Greenpeace training as something fairly large was in the pipeline, but I couldn't tell anyone what.
The teams would get up very early in the morning (of course) and superglue the locks shut on as many branches across the country as possible. Then the front would be decorated with some incredibly hard to remove sticky posters. Finally, there'd be a bit of spray painting on the pavement.
There were also to be several mobile displays that would pop up at selected branches. I was team leader on the Manchester branch saboteurs, and also Legal Liaison for the Manchester mobile display. However, Greenpeace being Greenpeace I could tell either team anything about the plans the other team had.
It didn't quite go like clockwork, but it was near enough. Three Manchester Barclays were decorated and then the mobile unit appeared on Market Street. The police were friendly enough to the people that came with the caravan, until they found out what the secret squirrels had done, after which they arrested anyone. Whilst I waited for them to be released, I got to see the unique site of the police helping people break into a bank.
It was the early hours of the morning before everyone was released, by which time I had been awake for 24 hours. Fortunately, we found a hotel prepared to admit them at that time, and fortunately they had enough gumption to get themselves all back home again once they'd had a night's sleep. I bid the team goodbye, and then four hours later I was back in work.
Halfway through March I turned fifty. The government still hadn't announced a national lockdown, but I cancelled my party anyway. As I had a bit of spare time on my hands, I took the opportunity to make this little video instead.
And then we went into lockdown. 24 hours after being told by my boss I was panicking about nothing the office was evacuated and we all became home workers.
Activism took a bit of a back seat in April, mostly due to lockdown, but also because I was seconded to a hospital discharge team. It was a surreal experience. Covid patients don't really need Social Workers, as they usually either leave on their own two feet, or else feet first. Instead, I was trying to keep hospital beds free by moving on non-Covid patients ASAP.
The Covid crisis continues, and Manchester hospitals reach peak crisis, at least for the first wave, which keeps me busy.
Lockdown ended, but we didn't return to normality, but instead we entered a strange Covid world.
However, there were up sides. The oil price had effectively gone negative, with oil tankers sailing round in circles as nobody wanted to buy the stuff. We'd celebrated the ending of fracking in Lancashire last December, but it was not clear it wasn't coming back any time soon. This is my, admittedly biased, view of how we won.
With fewer cars on the road, and 'pop up' cycle lanes around Greater Manchester, it was great to be a cyclist in the city. Although we wanted Covid to be over we didn't want 'normal' back. We wanted to keep the clean air.
Local councillors across the country had been telling us that whilst they were getting pushback on low traffic schemes from the car lobby, but weren't getting the support they needed from the Greens. So, Greenpeace gave us some stencils and we bought ourselves some chalk and went off to have some fun leaving sustainable transport messages on the road. Some of them disappeared overnight, but some stayed visible for several weeks.
We pitched our tents in the Eden Valley, just outside Appleby, one of my favourite little places.
We aimed to climb Scarfell Pike, Britain's highest mountain. Getting to the mountain was an adventure enough. The drive from Appleby took us over the Kirkstone, Wyrnose and Hardknott passes. This usually a fun drive, but this being summer and foreign holidays being out, they were full of people in oversized SUVs failing to negotiate the narrow roads.
Eventually we started on the climb, taking the slightly more interesting Mickledore route, which also avoided most of the crowds. We met them again at the summit, but the weather was good, and we had the rare sight of looking down on Great Gable with all the peaks of the Lake District spread out below us.
However, others were not so circumspect and in the days before the surprise announcement, at an online press conference run by the Royal Astronomical Society, it was fairly obvious what was happening as Venus by Bananarama and the quote "Life finds a way" by Jeff Goldblum's character in Jurassic Park were trending on astronomy Twitter streams.
Less than thirty scientists in the world knew about this discovery, but they failed to keep the secret for less than two years. How the keep the climate change conspiracy going for so long I've no idea.
Whilst we'd all been in lockdown ranchers in Brazil had been burning the rainforest in Brazil, resulting in the worst fire season for a decade. Also being trashed was the Cerrado, Brazil's savannah. The chief villain was JBS Global, the world's largest meat company.
The reason was animal agriculture. Very little of the actual beef came to the UK, but a lot of the soya animal feed did. About half of that soya was being imported by just one company: Tesco. So, they were our target.
However, the Manchester Greenpeace Group have a crack team of 'secret squirrels' and the Market Street branch was done not once, but twice, whilst the oblivious staff stacked the shelves inside and GMP rounded up rowdy revellers just metres away. We also visited some of the branches out in the suburbs, but they were a lot easier.
With almost every Greenpeace group in the country doing the same thing, and a visit by the national NVDA volunteers to Tesco's HQ, the company was feeling the pressure. They begged the government to step in and pledged a 300% increase in their animal-based food. However, the big demand, that they drop JBS, they still held out on. We will be trying again in 2021.
All activities were online again, including the Manchester Greenpeace Group taking on the Merseyside Group in a quiz. As my family come from both Liverpool and Manchester, I was the neutral host and the end result was a very neutral draw.
The bigger news in November though was that Joe Biden won the US Presidential election. Suddenly the prospects for the delayed COP26 next year looked a lot brighter.
Greenpeace had us out and about again celebrating low traffic infrastructure. We visited the famous Manchester CYCLOPS, but found it was almost impossible to photograph unless you had a helicopter. However, we found some other spots to take our pictures.
So that was my year. A lot less activism than usual, but enough to pay my rent on planet Earth, I hope. The Manchester Greenpeace Group did enough for me to make the annual video, and here it is.