Today across the UK, offices and workshops are starting to close down for the Christmas break, and frankly I think we’re all ready for it. To everyone about to go on holiday – and to everyone still working or looking for work across this long, long winter – I send huge socially distanced hugs and all the best wishes for a frankly better, less-plaguey 2021.
I’m also starting to shut down in the run up to Christmas, which is why this blog post is going up today (the 18th) instead of nearer Christmas Day itself. I’ve got proofs to read in the coming few days, and have just received a bundle of other edits, but I’ve been learning about this whole ‘self-care’ thing which apparently suggests that holidays are good for your health, and I figured damnit, this sounds like the kind of habit I could get behind.
2020 has been a right stinker for the world, no two ways about it. Everyone by now knows someone who’s been hit by the pisser that is this year. Loved ones lost, jobs lost, terrifying trips to A&E or the anxiety of a positive antibody test, the constant waiting game of what if, what if, what if. Everyone is bored of the inside of the same room they live in. Everyone is missing a friend, a family member, or the freedom to escape for a few days, or even joys like meals shared or the sound of live music.
As global disasters go, I’ve been very lucky. As my friends and colleagues across the the arts watched their livelihoods vanish with live theatre and music events; as loved ones were forced to isolate for months at a time by themselves, I have been inside a perfectly nice flat with my partner, writing for my living. There’s been a lot of words written too – blimey so many words – and a lot of DIY got done too, because who doesn’t love to take control of their environment when everything else is spinning wild?
And like most people who’ve been lucky and been fine, it’d also be fair to say that December in particular has been rough. The politics of the UK right now don’t help – dear lord this government – but the sun going down basically three minutes after it’s come up and the relentless cold, greyness of the days have taken the pathetic fallacy to its logical, meh conclusion. But the prospect of a break is a big cheer, and I’ve been counting down since practically November.
Friends-wise I’m still aiming to meet up with a few loved ones in a park, as that is just about legal in London still. We will stroll at a polite distance then go our separate ways on foot or by bicycle, and I am increasingly hopeful that a vaccination means that by perhaps summer 2021 we can all meet again properly and have an enormous, incompetent basketball party. (The basketball party is a semi-traditional celebration – there is a basketball court round the side of the block of flats where I live, and myself and my friends are all pants at basketball, regarding it as little more than a bouncy excuse for more cake. This makes, I personally feel, for a very merry event.)
Though my Mum is my official support bubble, we’re still being excruitatingly careful about meeting. There will be no giant Christmas feast this year, not least as my uncle, who usually joins us, is not in the bubble and will not be travelling to London for this season. It’d be kinda daft to spend 6 hours in my Mum’s kitchen cooking in a mask, not to mention braving the supermarket to buy all the stuff that you’re supposed to have for feasts like these. Instead we’re planning on getting take-out a few days before Christmas Day proper. Helpfully Mum has a very long dining table, so we can ideally sit at opposite ends of it like a Victorian tableau discussing that shocking thing the vicar said, or… or whatever it is you discuss in Victorian family dinners. Tea and colonialism, I suspect.
Christmas Day itself will be spent at home, in pyjamas, eating maraconi cheese. And frankly it’s pretty much a dream Christmas, and I can’t wait. Traditionally the days after Christmas are all about guilt-ridden walks, although one of the highlights of the season for me has traditionally been the epic walk from Richmond to the centre of London along the Thames Path which we try to do on New Year’s Day. It is a fabulous wander from a semi-suburban grandeur past marsh and bird sanctuary into the illuminated heart of the city, usually taking the best part of a day to do properly so that you reach Westminster as the moon is rising and the lights are glowing bright. Working out what the tide is going to be doing is also a big part of the journey owing to the floods you get on the western end, and there’s usually a wonderful moment where you can almost see the waters in the river turn to stillness, then change direction entirely. However, to avoid unnecessary public transport, this year will probably be much more contained, if we wander at all.
I am not a high priority for vaccination – but then most of my agenda in staying at home has been to ensure I’m not a vector to more vulnerable populations, so as long as folks like my Mum are getting vaccinated pronto, I’m happy. But I am holding out a thin hope that perhaps by spring 2021 enough people might be innoculated that I can start to scheme again of all the things that were cancelled this year. Travel! Hell, it doesn’t have to be sexy – I just wanna see the sea again! Right now the height of excitement in my mind would be fish and chips by a gravel shore with sea-gulls dive-bombing the bag. I have never yearned to be greasy, damp and pestered more. Live music – I don’t even know if I’ll remember where the ‘on’ switch is on a lighting desk. I’m still signed up to run the Hackney Half in 2021 (a repeat attempt after the cancelled 2020 race) which means once again that the streets of London will have my name on them during the wet windy months at the start of the year. I am not 100% convinced it will happen, but I would love it if it did. It would feel like a triumphant return to something resembling normality – and people! I can’t even imagine being amongst so many people, doing something together. There are also talks of events and conventions resuming perhaps – watch this space, and everything crossed.
Until we meet again, therefore – to all and sundry – have a lovely Christmas and a Happy New Year.