Just as I thought I had seen everything in 2019 and was (sort of) getting out of my house ready to face the world again, the universe had a different view… Those of you who know me, also know that my work has always been my go-to, my safety net, the one thing in my life that has never betrayed me and would always be there for me. Having starred death in the eyes I thought nothing can affect me anymore. I started working and realised that incidents that would have thrown me off balance in the past, would now leave me completely indifferent. I was done with death and wanted to face life. The year, however, began with more death… of an estimated 500 million animals in Australia. Still, no one knew just yet what would follow.
I remember early in the year reading about some virus that seemed to be deadly in a city called “Wuhan”… I didn’t think much of it at that point and it also seemed so far away… Over here we were more interested in the Harry and Meghan story and how they were sick and tired of the Royal Family and wanted to be independent.
From March onwards, time seemed to merge into one. Italy placed 16 million people in quarantine more than a quarter of its population, in a bid to stop the spread of COVID-19. A day later, the quarantine is expanded to cover the entire country, becoming the first country to apply this measure nationwide. The first cases are now reported in Greece as well. Has my father understood the rules? In our calls, he would keep repeating to me, “we survived cholera in Nigeria in the 1970s, we are going to survive this”. The World Health Organisation declares the Covid-19 outbreak a pandemic. In the UK, we were one of the last countries to go into total lockdown and new habits soon became part of our lives. Like the Thursday clapping for the NHS. It seemed to be the highlight of my whole week because I would get to see the neighbours AND hug Poppy (the Neighbour’s dog) who was the only living soul I could hug for such a long time. Mr Eddy Wigglebottom Thunderpaws had not arrived yet. The Thursday clapping ritual was also a milestone of time as it had all merged into one and that was a clear bookmark. I wasn’t sure what I was clapping for… beyond the obvious (NHS) because each time I had tears in my eyes without fail every single Thursday. I could not help NOT thinking about 2019 and what it would mean if those events happened this year… would I be able to visit the Hospice? Would we be able to have a proper funeral? The thousands of people who lost loved ones and couldn’t even say their good byes… it was doing my head in.
Almost all of us wrote or received at least 5 emails that included the phrase “unprecedented times” – I hold my hand up for that one too. Our vocabulary got enriched with scientific jargon like the R number and the flattening of some curve, and social distancing of 2 meters apart (how many feet is that anyway?! Just as I was getting used to the imperial measurements in the amusement of my friends, or should I say my support bubble?. Conspiracy theories were on the rise because the brain needs structure and also needs to make sense of what’s happening around us. Our brain has a strong negative bias so when we don’t have the information, we make it up and think the worst. Are we all going to die? And oh my word… the pavement is too narrow … and there is a runner coming towards me all huffing and puffing… is this thing contagious in the air too? So, yes, everything changed. Commuting for those who kept working became really short, from the bedroom to the kitchen table or the lounge. Dress became anything you liked and pandemic hairstyles (including facial hair) emerged. We went out and bought toilet paper like mad, which gave us the illusion we are doing something about something that is otherwise completely out of our control. Pets were ecstatic and unlike us, they embraced randomness, while we kept fighting it. Children were confused too, and the younger ones couldn’t get their heads around whether we are on holidays or not and why do they still have to do homework. If an adult’s attention span is as limited as 12 minutes on a zoom call, what would a six-year-old’s be?! Home-schooling became an obsession for some and a nightmare for others, trying to structure the day around work, taking the dog out, and taping the children on the floor for the 53rd zoom meeting… or is MS Teams? What platform am I supposed to be on?! You are on mute and no we can’t see your screen. I confess…. I wrote all my Christmas cards in one of those meetings where I was a participant and the person leading it must have thought I am keeping a lot of notes! We took the digital world to unconceivable lengths with experiences that were between funny and tragic. I have never used social media so much in my life and even created a Tik Tok account. We all have mastered new skills like opening doors or using a cash machine with our elbows and other body parts previously underused. Amidst the confusing and conflicting instructions, of going out but not out-out, of wearing masks that were initially not considered necessary, which then became necessary, or maybe disinfectants work? According to Trump they probably did…
We thought that we had time in our hands and some of us embarked on all possible online courses that were on our bucket list like learning Chinese, finally clearing out that stamp collection in the loft or painting furniture in a futile attempt to reproduce pieces from the “Escape to the Chateau” programme like another Dick Strawbridge and Angel Adoree. The alternative would have been to face our demons … and many chose that path too.
Our mental health has suffered more than ever before, and I don’t think we have a clear view on the real impact just yet. Lack of touch, isolation, and unresolved grief will eventually catch up with us.
While we are all busy in trying to get a grip of the new reality somewhere across the pond protests erupted after word got out that George Floyd, a black man, was killed in police custody after a white police officer, knelt on his neck. And the protest movement grew in size all over the world with the #blacklivesmatter movement.
In the meantime, in my micro-world, I had finally found a possible doggie to rehome but due to the covid-19 restrictions I was able to have him after several months of waiting. He arrived on the 15th of June and the truth is that he rescued me, not the other way around. I was lucky because he is such an affectionate soul (probably starved from love) so he didn’t mind my hugs and kisses. Summer arrived and we all embarked in more DIY jobs and took gardening to different heights. Some countries in Europe completely lifted the restrictions which led to the second wave and second lockdown. This time we didn’t have the element of surprise, however, we were all exhausted and fed up.
While the Kardashians decide to stop making “Keeping up with the Kardashians”, the global pandemic still dominates the news and Brexit starts stealing some of its thunder. At the same time, we have various politicians and other public figures in several countries not walking the talk regarding the covid-19 rules. The good news is that we finally got rid of Trump and we have the first ever female VP in the USA, Kamala Harris even though Trump still believes he “won the election by a lot”. Another great news is that several pharmaceutical companies announced promising vaccines and we eventually had the first rollouts this month and seem to be effective with the new variant of the virus as well.
The year has not ended yet and I dare say I am scared to wish or say anything as I am ready for anything and wasn’t surprised even by the intimate kiss between Anna Vissi and Despina Vandi during a Christmas show, which means nothing to my friends in the UK but means a LOT to my friends in Greece. If there is one lesson for me to learn in 2020 is that we control nothing. And to embrace randomness. Weird… thought I had done that one… apparently not enough… Chaos often breeds Life, when Order breeds Habit (Henry Adams). Many want to forget 2020 altogether but I want to remember it because it was a really good kick up my backside and got me into gear for a real re-start at so many levels.