So it’s New Year’s Eve 2020 and this seemed like a good time to write a short(ish) post to round off the year. There is very little I could say about 2020, that hasn’t already been said far more eloquently by somebody else so I’m just going to give you my take on certain aspects of it, throwing in a few random quotes, a couple of analogies and who knows what else.
I’ve been lucky the year. I’m lucky enough to be able to list all my pandemic negatives on one hand and essentially they really boil down to worrying about others and not being able to see and touch the people I love and care about. People that you love too much to risk spending time with. People that you have to worry about from a distance, because you know that their bodies are vulnerable, even if yours isn’t. I have a couple of friends with serious long term health conditions that can’t even risk getting a cold, let alone a dose of Covid.
I’m not really a hugger. I don’t automatically hug people on arrival and I don’t do a round of embraces before I leave. A Claire hug is a bit like a Paul Hollywood Handshake. It means something. I’m not anti-hugging, it’s just more of a specific occasion thing. If I start hugging you, then you needed it. 2020 has shown me how much I have always underrated physical touch as a way of communicating. You can say things with a hug that you can’t with words and there have been so many times this year that I’ve wanted to hug people. As a grandparent it’s quite hard to stop a small child from flinging themselves into your arms, whilst they wish you happy birthday and no matter how long I live, I won’t forget how horrible it felt to stand on the path in my friend’s front garden whilst she told me the latest round of bad news relating to her health. I have never wanted to hug anybody more in my entire life, but unfortunately the risk of germs was much stronger than my need to let her know that I loved her. I’m guessing that she already knows. I don’t use the L word much, but I choose to believe that the people I love, already know about it, at least I hope that they do. When I say tell people that you love them, I don’t just mean the boy – girl / girl – girl / boy – boy romantic kind either. Your friends, your family, whoever it is that matters to you, don’t keep that to yourself. Don’t let people wonder whether or not they matter to you.
Usually we get the chance to show our love through our actions but this year has made that harder. Do people still know that you love them when they can’t see it in your face, when they don’t get to hang out with you, when you’re not escorting their drunken arse out of a taxi and safely into their front door after a night out. When we can’t do all the things we normally do, can they still tell? If not them you need to find a way to tell them. Cards, texts, phone calls, tagging them into stupid memes on social media – whatever it takes.
So far my close circle haven’t been infected by the virus, my husband is a key worker and I have one of the few jobs that I can do from home. As long as at least one of my laptops works and I have access to the internet I can still work. Virgin Media has done it’s best to kill my business from time to time, my iMac has interrupted the majority of my video calls by trying to noisily eject a Justin Timberlake CD, which has been stuck there since the spring and my MacBook has cranked the volume right up on it’s fan in a vain attempt to make me leave it alone, but despite these minor challenges we haven’t had to cope with the additional pressures of our day to day finances being decimated, but I know a lot of people who have. Getting 80% of your income on furlough sounds fine, but there are a lot of people out there who already had 99.9% of their full income accounted for.
Traditionally the run up to Christmas was busy for retailers, hospitality and the beauty industry, then after Christmas retailers had to tempt consumers with discounts to clear old stock and make up for the post Christmas dip in spending. That model has changed a lot over the last few years but this year has turned into something that nobody on earth could ever have predicted. So many things have been affected by the lockdowns and there are so many businesses that will be in real trouble by the spring. Christmas Do’s and New Year’s Eve nights out used to mean people buying party dresses and accessories, getting their hair and nails done and sometimes even hotel bookings – this year all of that has gone. Zoom is fun but it’s no match for the big end of year blow out, especially not if your business relies on it. Imagine being a beauty salon this year. Imagine knowing that your rent is due when you haven’t had weddings, proms, birthday parties throughout the year or Christmas. Imagine knowing that your rent is due when you’ve spent most of the year closed.
Running a small business has always been hard but this year will without doubt be too much for some of them. There will undoubtedly be some people who have been fortunate enough to change their operation and carry on trading, some will even have financially benefitted from the pandemic, but most small businesses have struggled in one way or another. Being self employed and able to work at home isn’t too bad if your youngest child is a studious individual in their late teens, but running a business from your kitchen table with a toddler and three other children that now need to be home-schooled is a very different proposition.
Whilst the supermarkets and a certain online retailer have never been busier, people with small businesses that haven’t been allowed to open their doors are genuinely struggling, especially those with premises whose landlords will still be expecting a rent payment for the next quarter. As ever I hope that you remember the small businesses that looked after people when the first lockdown kicked in. Whilst some companies were filling their boots with their “vital” status, small local shops with no way to conduct their day to business started to step up to make sure that people who couldn’t get to the supermarkets didn’t go hungry. It’s also a good time to recognise the cafes that started doing deliveries to NHS Staff, the small bakeries that started doing delivery rounds to make sure that people had bread. The community groups that carried on offering support to those in need. The volunteers that stepped up and did things for strangers. We can of course never forget the amazing NHS staff and the sacrifices they made this year, (I’m resisting the urge to talk about the recognition of clapping on our doorsteps whilst continuing to reward them with dismal pay) 2020 was a great year for ordinary people doing extraordinary things.
A lot of things changed this year and as a Black woman living in the UK it has been impossible to ignore some of them. My post a few months ago covers my thoughts on how it felt this summer to live through the sharp focus on race, the sudden “wokeness” of the big brands and the reminder that I’m racial minority in the area in which I live. As a result of this focus on race there have never been more Black people on television and there are suddenly a lot more films featuring Black people and telling their stories. If I’m honest I’m still too traumatised to watch a lot of them, because unfortunately a lot of stories are centred around racism and frankly after the summer of reminders of how many racists I’m sharing this island with, I’m happy to watch nothing but kids TV and rom-coms for a little bit longer. I hope that they’re still there in a few months, because I know that I’m not the only one who can’t face any more triggering images at the moment, but despite the low level trauma that I’m recovering from, it’s nice to see an increase in representation and diversity. I’m looking forward to a time when these things don’t occur as a result of murder and mass protest and it would also be nice to have Black people on TV and not have to actively avoid the comments section, but let’s just call it progress and take the positives into 2021.
“Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get”Forrest Gump’s Momma
To borrow this analogy from the film Forrest Gump, this year has been a box of coffee creams and most of them have been pre-chewed and put back in their wrappers! So many terrible things have happened since last New Year, that at times 2020 has felt like a box of chocolates where half the fillings were made of ear wax and the other half were made of dog poo. However, despite the very obvious awful bits, there have been positives in this year. Most off them have been buried avalanche style by the sheer volume of negatives but for many people there have been some positives and my hope for 2021 is that we are able to take those with us.
If the year we’ve just had has made us appreciate each other, our pets, our local businesses, our gardens, our local beauty spots or our individual health then those are the bits to take with us.
Happy New Year everyone. Fingers crossed for a happy and healthy 2021
p.s. Knock it off with the fireworks, my dog’s not happy!