• Helen Ferguson

My Little List of Joy - 2020

My Little List of Joy (in spite of 'you know what') in 2020

Well, 2020, you tried your hardest to be an absolute pain in the backside, you really did!

You kicked off with the bush fires here in Australia.

We were living in a ‘State of Emergency’ and breathing some of the worst quality air on the planet, whilst valiantly trying to sing ‘Auld Lang Syne’.

Straight after the fires, we got the floods; the storms with hail the size of golf balls, and then, by the middle of January, we began to hear disturbing news of the growing pestilence…..

World wide, pandemic proportions, once in a hundred years, unprecedented bloody pestilence!

Fast forward to late December and we're going to be soooo glad to show you the door.

Cheers 2020, you’ve been a grueling, relentless, dog-fight of a year.

I will, however, always try to see my glass as half full, whenever I possibly can.

I could dwell on the negative, but I much prefer to choose celebrating the positive.

So, I present to you, my little list of joy: the things that, in spite of 2020 and her sick little ways, kept me occupied, amused, informed and grateful.

To Watch

Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist (NBC/Stan)

This glorious ray of sunshine nearly passed me by!

I'm a devotee of Musical Theatre, yet somehow, I’d made an assumption that this was some sort of teen-angst drama, until I saw that Emmy Award winning Choreographer, Mandy Moore, was linked with it.

Sign me up!

The 12 episodes of season 1 were all excellent pieces of storytelling entertainment in their own right; top notch singing, dancing and acting, but the overall package of the complete season was bittersweet and exceptionally, toe tappingly, heart warming.

Season 2 has been announced for release in January 2021 - Hurrah!!!!

Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist - NBC.com

The Queen's Gambit (Netflix)

Hello massive hit for Netflix!!!

At one point in November The Queen's Gambit seemed to be the only show that anybody was talking about.

I heard Wendy Harmer on ABC Sydney telling listeners that she’d ‘never watched anything better.’

I’m not a Chess player, so I had to trust that the production was handling that side of the subject accurately.

The story angle was fresh and enthralling...Chess; who knew?

For me the show’s design standards; the attention to detail showing the passage of time through the use of fashion, interior design, technology, cars and headlines, were all mind blowing.

No spoilers here, but Beth’s final outfit, in the last episode… Oh my word, there was not one single stitch that I didn't love xxxx


Staged - Michael Sheen, David Tennant (ABC iView)

If there is a positive to be found in the lock downs and isolation of the Covid Era, for me it has been the inventiveness and willingness to try something new, that has seen so many performers and artists take their talents on-line.

Staged is the story of two highly successful British actors, playing versions of themselves, attempting to keep rehearsing a play and 'carry on' during the initial UK lock down.

The whinging, sulking and conniving were hilarious.

Season 2 will be released on January 4th 2021 in the UK (Australian release date pending)

Staged : ABC iview

Hannah Gadsby - Nanette and Douglas Netflix

Australian stand-up; and yes, I'll say it, bloody genius, Hannah Gadsby set the world alight in 2018 with her incredible, thought provoking one woman show, Nanette. It broke records, preconceptions and stereotypes left, right and centre.

In 2019 she toured and filmed her follow up show, Douglas, with great success.

It arrived on Netflix early 2020 and was eagerly welcomed and devoured by me and many millions of others.

'Puffer fish' became the emoji of the moment.


NT Live at Home

For years I had been in the habit of popping into the City every few months, to a shabby-chic Art house Cinema, to watch filmed performances of hit productions by the National Theatre in London.

They made the Gold Standard of theatre available, around the world, for the price of a movie ticket.

I saw Benedict Cumberbatch’s ‘Hamlet’ in a cinema next door to the Sydney Opera House.

I watched Billie Piper in ‘Yerma’, from a comfy beach side seat in Cronulla.

During the early days of global home isolation, they made 1 production per week available online, free of charge, and it was a magical,very welcome distraction.

Back to business as almost usual,(fingers crossed) these days there is an annual subscription service or one-off rental service available from the comfort of your armchair; or when Cinemas are open, they are back on art house rotation.


Other viewing that saw me through a year of no live theatre and uncharacteristically few trips to the cinema:

Mrs America

Cate Blanchet and Rose Byrne (Foxtel)


Dead To Me

Christina Applegate and Linda Cardellini (Netflix)



BBC dramatisation of an unfinished Jane Austen novel (Foxtel/BBC)


To Read

Untamed - Glennon Doyle

My battered, well loved copy

This is the first book that I have read by Glennon Doyle, and it has prompted in me several 'light bulb moments', and at other times, clarified and described a feeling that I had not fully nailed down.

When You Are Engulfed in Flames - David Sedaris

Oh David Sedaris; you dry, sarcastic delight! Every essay, every social gaffe, every moment of outrage, embarrassment, judgement and confusion. I'm right here for all of it.


The Body: A Guide For Occupants - Bill Bryson

I'm still working my way through this book.

I've long been in love with Bill Bryson's work, I've even been to see him in live Q&A events twice over the years.

Some of his books are very easy reads for me, zooming through his quirky observations about travel or language and chewy nuggets of facts.

Coffee splashes and thumb marks!

I'm finding that The Body is slower going; mostly down to the fact that my brain doesn't quickly embrace mathematical or scientific information. Such data rich pieces of writing need to be absorbed carefully and deliberately, so that I can enjoy the pay-off at the end, when Mr Bryson cracks a joke or makes a play on words to reward me for my diligence.

I'll always be a fan.


Lost in the Alleyways Blog: a recent discovery, I have enjoyed reading the interesting opinions and observations from an Australian woman, Katrina, who’s living, working and raising her family in Indonesia.


The Small Things Blog: Beauty, Hair, Lifestyle videos or written pieces by Kate from North Carolina USA. She's younger than me and in a very different stage of her life. I stumbled across her video tutorials when I was attempting to learn how to do a 'smokey eye'. (Don't ask, moving on)

She has a clear and engaging way of describing how to do the small things in day to day Working Mum life. I find her very likeable, and I'll often watch one of her videos even if I'm not the target audience for a particular item.


To Listen

The Things That Made England Podcast

Podcasters, Roifield Brown and David Crowther choose a topic to debate in each episode, such as cups of tea, regional accents, Margaret Thatcher or Ska Music and decide if said item has indeed contributed to the fabric of English life.

I love their laid back banter and I learn something new every episode.

I listen on Spotify, but available on other podcasting platforms also


Mamamia Outloud Podcast

3 Women who each work at Mamamia Media Group, Australia, deliver 3 episodes of this podcast every week, where they discuss ‘What Women Are Talking About’.

Current affairs, Pop Culture, News, Politics, Feminism and Lifestyle are all on the table.

I listen on Spotify, but available on other podcasting platforms also


The Global News Podcast (BBC World Service)

The day's top news bulletins from the BBC World service, refreshed twice per day.

I listen on Spotify, but available on other podcasting platforms also


To Eat

I love dining out, I enjoy the pizazz and decadence of fine restaurants; the extravagant and descriptive menus and the attentive staff.

In recent years though, I have really come to delight in finding little, independent cafes that are blatantly targeting the enthusiastic foodie in the middle of their day to day life.

My job means that I am out on the road, visiting clients, so I make many coffee stops all over the wider Sydney region. Often it’s a quick dash for a Flat White to Go, but if I do have some time up my sleeve, I really enjoy the chance to sit quietly by myself, and see what the cafe menu has to offer.

A recent lunch stop at Smoke and Soda in Heathcote NSW delivered the most gorgeous, flavourful toasted sandwich that I had ever had - The Brisket Toastie!

Smoke and Soda has shelves groaning with tempting pastries, a breakfast and lunch menu that is punching well above its weight, and cabinets and tables filled with jars and bottles of sauces, jams and dipping sauces to take home for your pantry.

If you're heading through Heathcote NSW, it’s definitely worth pulling over and taking a break in there.


To Visit

Chang Mai - Thailand

Our family holiday in January 2020 was to Phuket and Chang Mai.

It was the first time in Thailand for all 3 of us.

We didn't hear a word about 'you know what' until the day we returned to Sydney, so we were experiencing this new and astonishing place with no anxiety or concerns.

Chang Mai stole my heart completely, the food in particular, but absolutely everything in general;

The Tuktuks, the street markets, the food markets tucked away in a thousand different courtyards, the ability to get a massage every single day if you felt like it.

All of it.


Loved it.

I can not wait for the day when I can return and see those gorgeous people and taste those incredible flavours again.


Van Gough Alive

I do not have a working knowledge of the art world, I have no expertise whatsoever, but the opportunity to visit this fully immersive, multi sensory exhibition, when it came to Sydney in 2020, was too tempting to miss.

We were allocated an arrival time and mask wearing was mandatory, so we all felt very Covid Safe and well cared for.

The exhibition was like nothing that I had ever experienced, and I found it thrilling and very moving.

I resolved to make more of an effort to attend exhibitions because it doesn’t matter a jot what I do or don’t know about art. What mattered was how it made me feel, and being involved in something that made people look outward, away from their phone screens.


Counting Down to 2021

Who knows what on earth 2021 is going to throw in our masked up faces?

I'm not going to dwell on what may or may not unfold.

I'm going to concentrate on looking for the joy in front of me, and pay attention to the things that I have some control over.

Wishing you all a safe and healthy 2021

Much love, Hx

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