Tired. It seems as the most prevalent state for 2021. Tired from 2020, tired from working from home, tired from covid19, everybody has a valid reason to be tired. Or beyond tired. Exhausted. 2020 marked the loss of human touch while 2021 seemed to mark the loss of our sense of smell through the wearing of face masks. Smell is a very powerful sense linked directly to our emotions and memories. Smelling can take you right back to a place, a person, an incident, just like that, and you can even fall in love with a person just by their scent. So, what did life smell like in 2021?
Many of us were saying goodbye to 2020 and hoping that the New Year would bring back some sort of normalcy, whatever that was. Turns out that covid19 had nothing to do with our calendar and keeps doing whatever it’s doing and just four days into the new year we were found on our third national lockdown. At the same time, most European countries were complaining about the vaccine paperwork, while Italy and Greece were out of needles and Trump was trying to visit Scotland to play golf!
Joe Biden became the 46th President of the United States in a smaller-than-usual ceremony and most importantly Kamala Harris became the first woman and the first person of colour to be sworn in as vice president, while Trump delivered a defiant and unapologetic farewell speech in a 20-minute video.
While all this was taking place in the world, I got a notification from the UK government about my settled status which gave me the indefinite right to remain in the UK, but most importantly, it gave me a huge sense of relief and much needed certainty.
Sir Thomas Moore who raised almost £33m for NHS charities by walking laps of his garden, died at the age of 100 from covid19, while in a parallel Universe Harry and Meghan were interviewed by Oprah Winfrey, making it one of the most searched google trends in history.
On the 20th of March, just three days before a very grim anniversary for the UK I finally stood in line at Ellesmere Port Civic Hall for the first dose of my vaccine. Standing in line and finally getting the jab made me quite emotional I must admit. I guessed because of what it symbolised. If the side-effects were a sample of how I would feel like if I had covid19, it was definitely worth it. And around about that time, a new trend emerges, the vaccine selfie! I did a bit of research and found out that this is not the first time in history for vaccine selfies to be a thing. Apparently, one of the most famous is a 1956 shot of Elvis Presley, then only 21 and a full-fledged teen idol, looking dreamy with his sweater pulled up to get his polio jab. The year before that, a line-up of French models was caught poised to receive their smallpox vaccine, grinning and flashing a bit of shoulder.
In April, I had to fly to Athens for a family emergency and nothing was flying from the Northwest, so I had to take the train to London and take a flight from there. It was my first flight since the pandemic started and what an experience that was. Covid19 AND Brexit. It reminded me of traveling to Nigeria in the 1970s just because of the mere paperwork I was carrying with me.
During the same month, after 175 days of “maximum stringency level” government restrictions, people in England rushed to hairdressers, pubs, gyms and stores craving some level of normalcy.
Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer, was found guilty on all three charges he faced in the death last year of George Floyd, capping one of the most-watched trials in the U.S. in recent memory. And while I am standing at the queue again for my second dose, 17th of May marks the date that hugging was again allowed in England, while the Friends cast reunite for a special episode on the orange sofa. A series that has been and still is the anti-depressant for many.
During the months of August and September it felt as if all hell broke loose. As southern Europe grapples with one of its worst heat waves in decades, there were over 100 fires at some point burning around Greece and people were instructed to remain indoors. Hundred thousands of acres of pine forest were destroyed and more than 20 countries offered assistance to what was declared as a natural disaster of unprecedented dimensions. A record-breaking heat wave that has touched temperatures of up to 46 degrees Celsius, had also set off wildfires in Sweden, Finland and Norway, in yet another episode of extreme weather brought on by the man-made climate change that many scientists have concluded as irreversible.
We also witnessed one of the worst humanitarian crises when Afghanistan was deserted in its time of need. Nearly 24 million people have been pushed into acute hunger with the combined effects of conflict, droughts, COVID-19, and economic crisis. An estimate 3·2 million children younger than 5 years could have acute malnutrition as I am typing this sentence.
The world is full of extremes and antitheses and while in the UK we were queuing for petrol in September we are at the same time facing a potential knickers’ shortage as pants and PJs crisis was about to begin in run-up to Christmas. I know people who had completed their Christmas shopping before Halloween was over.
The Paris Agreement was finalised at the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow between Oct 31–Nov 12, 2021. COP26 concluded with the Glasgow Climate Pact: nearly 200 countries agreed to keep alive the hope of limiting the increase in the global temperature to 1·5°C, as extreme weather and climate events showed the risks to health and wellbeing.
And then Omikron appeared… just in time before Christmas. A new variant, cleverer than its predecessor as it’s now much more easily contagious but doesn’t kill its victims because it needs them. If everybody is dead, it will be dead too. Clever, isn’t it?
And while some of you are enjoying the Squid Game, which I haven’t seen by the way, I went for something lighter… Just Like That… unfortunately I had not done my homework so Mr Big’s death in the very first episode came as a shock to me. Those of you who know me will also know why.
Hmm let’s see, what have I left out? Work! Yes, what will happen to work? Who knows?! Will it be hybrid? I am reading so much at the moment about having a purpose, being inclusive, focusing on well-being but what is actually happening in practice? I am not so sure as I am getting mixed messaged from organisations. According to the Guardian, author and journalist Sarah Jaffe, in a recent podcast about the new phenomenon on the great resignation she said the following: “What a lot of people realised during the pandemic is that their boss doesn’t care if they die.”