So, here we are – galloping towards the end of the strangest of years.
Do I hear a collective cry of: ‘And good riddance’?
I certainly know lots of people who can’t wait for 2020 to be over. And I’ve felt that way myself on occasions. But now I’m feeling more reflective and recognising that despite the trauma, and the tragic – and often unnecessary – loss of far too many lives, and the limitations we’ve faced, the last 12 months haven’t been all bad. We’ve learned new skills and gained fresh insight into how we think and act in a crisis, and we most definitely know things that we didn’t know this time last year. I also believe that many of us have re-calibrated what really matters in our lives and what doesn’t. So, there are positives, and I’d like to use this column to record what I’m most grateful for.

We had the most wonderful spring. I don’t know how we would have fared if our initial lockdown had been in the dark, wet of autumn. But we were blessed with glorious weather from around mid-March. And we noticed it in a way that might not have happened in normal times. This made our ‘allowed’ excursions for exercise a pleasure and connected us to nature in a way that felt real and touching. We enjoyed the flowers, the birdsong and the fresher air, and these basic elements reminded us that life goes on no matter what. It was comforting.

We adapted remarkably swiftly to a simpler way of life. The world didn’t end because we were unable to go boozing on a Friday or get our roots done at the hairdresser. We rediscovered board games and formed quiz clubs. Many people grew their own vegetables for the very first time. And families took to cooking and baking together. It was like living in a time warp and it was calming.

There’s a great song by Andrew Lloyd Webber called ‘Love Changes Everything.’ I don’t think anyone would disagree with that sentiment, but what the crisis did for many of us was to reinforce exactly who we love the most and why. We now know for sure who it is in our lives we can depend upon to listen, to enhance and energise us, and to wrap us in their love – and we also know they look to us to do the same. These are the people we cannot do without. And our attachment to them and our bond with them has never been stronger and will remain in our hearts forever.

Like many adults I suspect, I always liked the idea of local – and regular – fresh food shopping, but all too often before the pandemic I would abandon my good intentions and head for a superstore where I could get everything quickly under one roof. However, local shops and their owners looked after us during lockdown and I’d like to express particular gratitude to the fruit and vegetable paradise called Ford in Gloucester Street in Norwich. The staff there worked day and night to feed the surrounding neighbourhood, and they did it enthusiastically and with a welcome smile. I used to email my weekly order, then, suitably gloved and masked, walk down to collect it at an agreed time. As I trundled my wheelie bag home, laden with healthy and colourful produce, I felt as though I’d won the lottery! Small pleasures have counted for so much. Let’s never forget our local shops. They’re our lifeline.

Next, I’d like to thank the BBC. They really upped their game and made all sorts of marvellous, classic series available on iplayer. These gems kept us going when cinema, concerts, music gigs of all kinds, and theatres had to close. I indulged myself with the entire ten series of Spooks, which cheered up many a solitary evening. But they also showed the most innovative of programmes in the shape of Staged with David Tennant and Michael Sheen. This was real, laugh-out-loud stuff, especially the episode with Dame Judi Dench. In addition, BBC radio was fantastic and became my constant companion. We sometimes forget that we have the best television and radio in the world, but we really do.

Finally, there’s been an unexpected bonus to us keeping our distance from each other and the constant washing and sanitising of our hands. Not only has that been our best protection against Covid-19, but it seems to have helped us avoid the usual health niggles that punctuate our year. I for one haven’t had a cold, a sore throat, or tummy upset since all this started. Well, no one coughs or sneezes over us now, do they? They wouldn’t dare! I’m not suggesting we wear masks for the rest of our lives, but it would be good if we could retain our new hygienic habits, don’t you think?

So, there you have it – some of my favourite things from 2020. I hope you’ve got plenty of your own. See you next time, and meanwhile have a safe, healthy and happy festive season.