I started writing this thinking that it would just be for a few months. But, on New Year’s Eve, here we are. If anyone’s read any of this during the year, thank you!
Yes, all right, there have been worse times. We aren’t living through a genocide, a war or a famine, or a pandemic on the scale of the Black Death or even the Spanish flu. We aren’t in danger from marauding bands of lawless mercenaries or robber barons roaming the countryside. We aren’t being packed off to prison camps to Siberia. But it’s been a rotten year all the same. 1.8 million people have died with this horrible virus, and the total death toll’s probably much higher. Many others have been left with long term health problems. Other people have lost their jobs or businesses, or are unable to go out and about due to medical vulnerability, or have had their education severely disrupted. Unless you’re lucky enough to have all your family and friends living nearby, you probably haven’t seen some of them for ages and have got no idea when you’re likely to see them again. And cancelled holidays, postponed weddings, and being unable to go to sports matches, cinemas, theatres, pubs, restaurants etc, whilst not the end of the world, are disappointing, upsetting and do nothing for anyone’s mental health. All in all, it’s been a pretty rotten year. It’s not all been bad, but a lot of it has been.
And we don’t know what lies ahead. When you’re a major overplanner (it’s a classic symptom of anxiety) like I am, that’s pretty difficult to cope with. I like the Whig history theory of life. Everything gets better. That was what was supposed to happen. OK, we knew that things would initially get worse, but then the pandemic was supposed to peak over Easter weekend, and, thereafter, things would get better. Yes, all right, all right, I’m a historian, so I do know that there are always second waves, and usually third waves and fourth waves, with pandemics. But, although the peak came later than Easter, it did look as if things were improving. By July, deaths, hospitalisations and infection rates were right down. There was genuine optimism that things would be almost back to normal by Christmas. I’m not specifically talking about the UK: I’m talking about most places.
What “is” normal, any more? Are we going to see a permanent shift to working from home (oh, please!). To meetings by Zoom rather than in person? To online shopping? To takeaways rather than eating out? To watching films on Netflix rather than going to the pictures? Just please let me get back to being able to travel abroad and go for days out …
Then it all started to go wrong again. Down a snake. The figures started creeping back up. Come September, when universities went back, they shot up. It wasn’t just universities, though. It was just the way these things go. The Second Wave. Not just here, but in many other countries too. In came the evil tier system. And then, at the beginning of November, we went back into lockdown. 7 1/2 months in, and we were almost back to square one.
But then we began to climb a ladder again. The rates dropped. In our area, they dropped like a stone. And, hooray, the vaccination programme began! Sorted. OK, not exactly sorted, with the difficult winter months ahead and only a small number of vaccinations able to be administered at a time, but the final square on the board was in sight. Maybe by Easter 2021 … ?
Nope. Down a big snake. The virus mutated. In Kent. Why, of all the places in all the world, did it have to mutate in Kent? Well, whyever it did, it did. Infection rates sky-rocketed, especially in the South East. A lot of foreign countries slapped travel bans on us. The number of deaths rose alarmingly. Some hospitals began to struggle to cope. As the year drew to a close, it felt as if things might even be worse than they’d been to start with, and that there could even be worse to come.
Then it looked as if maybe we would go into 2021 heading up a ladder. The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine was licensed for use in the UK yesterday, and, as it doesn’t have to be stored at -80 degrees C like the Pfizer BioNTech one does, hopefully this’ll speed the vaccination programme up.
But, within hours, Greater Manchester, 1974-borders-Lancashire, 1974-borders-Cheshire and Warrington were all dumped into Tier 4, which is pretty much the same as the November lockdown, along with Cumbria and a large number of other areas. Back down another snake. Maybe it’ll stop things from getting as bad here as they are in the South East? We can only hope so. After being in the eye of the storm for so long, it’s quite strange that now we aren’t … but things here are bad enough, and the nationwide picture is very worrying indeed.
Let’s just hope that the vaccines will sort it all out.
Strange, sad and uncertain times. Again, if you’ve read this, and or any of my other posts, thank you so much, stay safe, and all the best for 2021 x .