One day last summer I drove with my parents to Windermere in the Lake District for our holidays. After the first lockdown we were more than eager to get away from the city and the bad news. Our sat-nav took us the scenic route and we ended up stuck on the western shore of the lake waiting for a ferry to take us across. We stretched our legs in the sunshine and stood by the water admiring the immensity and magnificence of the place. I wished I brought my swimming trunks and a towel so I could jump in.
In cities our eyes aren’t accustomed to seeing so far away with buildings surrounding us in every direction so in those times when we can see for miles upon miles without our eyes striking a bus or an advert telling us to buy something we don’t need the scale by which we see ourselves changes. There are things that are literally bigger than us.
Once we were across the lake and found a parking space we ate ice cream and chips; we drank coke and beer; we rode a cruise ship around the lake for an hour while cool breezes blew through the deck. Families and teenagers swam offshore close to a few dotted islands. The staff onboard the ship warned us to keep our face masks on despite the heat. It was a glorious day.
During the first lockdown in the spring my auntie and her wife bought a three month old cavoodle puppy who they named Peggy Sue after my auntie’s nan. We looked after Peggy while my auntie shopped for her elderly father who was confined to his house on government advice. Over the months we watched Peggy grow in size and confidence. Where once she was too small to climb the stairs or leap on the couch she now does with ease. She lifts us out of our pandemic concerns if only for short moments when she paws our legs for attention; when she bites our beards or demands we play fetch with her in the night.
The word that comes up when I read other people’s end of year appraisals of 2020 is “strange”. 2020 has indeed been strange. Covid-19 sent us to our rooms, crippled our economies and killed (and is still killing) lots of people day by day. I remember the panic over bird flu and swine flu but those diseases never spread worldwide. I think the strangeness of Covid-19 for myself is thankfully neither I nor anyone in my family has caught it and yet I see statistics of infections and deaths in the news everyday. I’m pretty sure some bias is at play there. Tell a lie – one of my other aunties caught it a month ago but I think because I only briefly saw her talking to my mother on Zoom even that didn’t feel real. Something about being isolated from other 3-D humans and instead talking to a screen for months on end. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t for one second underestimate the disease.
Still, there were other small celebrations: my uncle turned sixty; my nan turned eighty and Trump is on his way out.
Merry Christmas everyone.