This, and I write at the changeover from 2020 to 2021, is a particularly good time to take stock of life, review the days behind us and maybe in a small way (not wanting to be presumptuous) ponder on the days ahead. I say this because I believe this last year with its uncertainties, fears, and lockdowns and, more recently, new hopes, has been a year when, whether we have been conscious of it or not, awareness of ourselves and others has been brought into sharper focus.
Very often these Silver Surfer pages have been provoked by something that has just happened and maybe it is this growing awareness of ‘awareness’ nudged on by receiving, from family and old friends, those letters that appear at this time of the year, that arrive within a Christmas card, and which give a potted history of that particular family over the past year. Little snippets sometimes bring revelation of the nature of modern life (at least for some) and now, how this past year has changed that, like the friends who confessed that they had not been able to do their usual three holidays abroad!
But then, in the midst of all of this up-
Now this wasn’t meant to become a mournful meander down memory lane, more an assessment of something else of which we have been becoming aware, the variety of human experience. TV has been filling our consciousness over this past year with the difficulties that the Pandemic has brought, whether it be the virus itself, the effects it has on those infected by it, the struggles of the NHS, the mental deterioration of people shut in, or no doubt a half a dozen other stresses and strains that have arisen in this particular year, but that is not the whole picture.
Yes, there are little glimmers from time to time, like candles in the dark, like an elderly man on a Zimmer-
And then there is the view that I have heard expressed – not from introverts – what a good year this has been, being free from having to make decisions, not having to cope with the rough and tumble of modern life and, on the positive side, what a good year it has been for family life, for husbands who have had to work from home and who have had more time to enjoy the kids and, of course, the kids who have enjoyed having a dad around. Then there are the wives who have expressed their pleasure in having their partners around. I am very purposefully going to avoid the temptation of dropping back to the bad side of life, examining the homes where peace and tranquility does not reign, examining the homes where food is short and even those who don’t have a roof over their head, because this isn’t meant to be an in-
As we suggested earlier on, this year of pandemic seems to have brought to the surface this awareness of differences of experience, more often the negatives. So talk of food banks has highlighted the social weakness of parts of the way we live that mean some are living on the edge of physical comfort. Talk of mental health issues, arising by being shut in or kept home from school, has highlighted mental fragility, the way we can so easily be pushed to the edge of mental comfort. Talk of diet and fitness regimes and the danger of obesity as making us more vulnerable to the virus, nudge us to face the need to maintain physical fitness, health and wellbeing. Talk of job losses, furloughs, payments for those off-
For some we may be insulated from most of these things by being retired, say, or having a strong financial bank balance, but even we have been pushed into the arena of life’s uncertainties by this virus. When you are fighting for your life, your family background, your upbringing, your education, your training and even experience, your reputation, and certainly your bank balance, count for nothing, as our Prime Minister so ably demonstrated earlier in the year in his time on a ventilator. But for most of us it has not been that drastic but even being told how to live, when not to go out and so on, has been difficult and the experience has highlighted what we feel about life, about ourselves, about the government and about others. The spectrum of both experience and response is enormous. The Pandemic, it seems, has acted like a massive X-
As a silver surfer looking back of the panorama of the years (and I was too young to include the war and too unknowing to include the decade following it) without question this past year has been unique. I know every year is unique and many have identified the incredible changes that have taken place in our lifetimes, but this year took on something we never dreamed of and just didn’t see coming. Yes, some scientists had been forecasting it for several years but they were not listened to by those who count, and the rest of us lived on in blissful ignorance. Should we live on that long, we will no doubt be telling our great grandchildren how we lived through “the 2020 Pandemic”, like the unsung heroes we are. And they will listen to our exaggerations with tolerance.
At the time of writing two vaccines are being rolled out having been tried and tested and approved and so, should I be here, still writing in a year’s time, hopefully we may be looking back in amazement saying, “Do you remember how….” and wondering really was it that bad? It will only be the death toll and some of the other left-
And to pick up an old practice, some quotes to conclude that hopefully might lift new year spirits:
“Youth is when you’re allowed to stay up late on New Year’s Eve. Middle age is when you’re forced to. Old age is when you forget to.”
“After the year that’s just been, no more new year resolutions, no more wishing and hoping, I’ll take whatever you can give me. It’s got to be better.”
“2020 was the first time you could save the country by staying indoors, doing nothing. Let’s see how we can improve on that in 2021?”
“In 2020, the virus taught us to appreciate our pet dogs: We roamed the house looking for food, we’re told ‘no’ if we got too close to strangers, and we got really excited about car rides and walks.”