Make a point of visiting us weekly!        Tell a friend about us. Silver Surfer Articles Return to “Silver Surfers”  CONTENTS PAGE Page NINETY- TWO

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-to-dating of news, we note in three of them news about the health struggles that are taking place, of elderly parents having to be cared for, or operations being awaited or performed, terminal illnesses being fought. There are also the quickly-passed-over references to the marriage breakups of the various children of these old friends, our friends themselves at least, managing to keep it together. And then, not from such letters, there is news that gets filtered through Facebook of the death of people we knew and then their funeral arrangements. And none of this has to do with Covid-19. Some famous person once said it is the wise who ponder on death and by this I presume he meant these things help us face not only our mortality but also the frailty of life, and the need to hold our hopes and dreams lightly. Such news arriving, either through Christmas letters or Facebook, is sobering and brings a sadness for those who are struggling either with physical ailments, operations, life-threatening illnesses, and with the loss of loved ones. None of which, as we said, have anything to do with the virus.

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-frame collecting millions, or young people doing similar things, and so on. Yes, there are these glimmers of light, but there is a whole other area we tend to forget about.  For instance there are the introverts, the people who genetically or by the pains of life, prefer their own company, prefer not to have to mingle and mix with people. I do know these and they have relished this year as they have been given a legitimate reason to be alone.

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-depth expose of modern life, more just a recognition of the varieties of experience found in our society, balancing for once the bad with the good.

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-work, of mounting national debt, all raise speculations about the economy and the future. All of these negatives that are being forced to the front of our national consciousness are a stream of issues on a tick-list of things that need facing and addressing.

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-ray machine that has revealed all, the good, the bad and the indifferent.

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-overs that will say, yes it was. But we survived, and that is a cause for thankfulness. Why? Because whatever our beliefs about life after death, we prefer to cling on to this amazing life with its so varied experiences. Have a more peaceful and hopefully healthy new year.  

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.” 

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