and what have we done…….
Christmas is a time for looking back, taking stock and preparing to celebrate for a few days in the deep, darkest days of winter. It is also time to look forward to a new year but after the year we have had we can be forgiven for taking time to gasp in amazement and think ‘ did this really happen?’ So here are some thoughts and reflections, a kind of covid Christmas advent list if you will.
- Shopping. The year started with panic buying in the shops, firstly for toilet paper. Concerns about covid made people very anxious about having enough paper to wipe themselves after defecating. Why? So anxious that they fought over it in the aisles of supermarkets. It was a kind of herd mentality where you glanced at someone’s shopping trolley and thought – ‘I should be buying more toilet paper too’. This anxiety later spread to pasta and tinned goods. Fighting over fusilli was common and there was no flour for baking for weeks as people comforted themselves with trying Great British Bake-Off recipes. It also served to highlight the weakness in the supermarket supply chain of so-called ‘ just in time’ logistics. Panic buying took its toll. Lessons were learned
- New Words. New words were coined like ‘lockdown’ and ‘bubble’ to explain aspects of our new lives. An old word took on new significance. It was ‘chumocracy’ a new word suggestion in the Collins dictionary going back to 2016. The covid pandemic has seen staggering examples of this in terms of procurement of contracts for PPE equipment and test and tracing paid for by the UK government. Undercover of the pandemic procurement rules appear to have been put aside and large multi-million-pound contracts given to people because they were a ‘nice chap who runs the local pub in my constituency’ allegedly.
- Lorries stuck in traffic. Images appeared in the media of long lines of lorries on roads in Kent when the French authorities started testing the new procedures for receiving goods at the border. A massive lorry park is being created to deal with the build-up of vehicles and hundreds of portaloos have been ordered. Effectively part of Kent is now classified as part of the EU and the lorry park is England’s new border with the EU and will be a customs clearance depot for up to 2,000 trucks at a time. Locals are now complaining that they have become the toilet of England but the roadside caravans selling bacon rolls and burgers will be doing very well. More on this story in January I fear.
- Not yet it’s only November. Those same supermarket shelves were heaving with chocolates and sweets as soon as Halloween was over and we were being nudged by marketing forces to ‘buy for Christmas’ too early as usual. Some people really love Christmas and put up their tree early. I don’t mind this especially if there are children but generally, for me, mid-December is about right and definitely not November.
- Buying ‘stuff’ on the internet.Bad internet purchases deserve a mention. While buying online has been invaluable for groceries and other essentials I would bet that there are one or two things you have bought that have turned out to be completely useless. Our browsing behaviour also shadows us like a hawker in a marketplace, offering up things in front of us because we have glanced at them. Sometimes I think they can read our minds.
- Fakers and fraudsters. Linked to this is online fraud. I have been amazed at how easy it is to become a victim and also how low people will sink to exploit other people online. In the early part of lockdown, it was fake hand gel and even fake testing kits. The fraudsters adapted to our online behaviour to trick us. Like the fake email from a well-known delivery company that tells you they could not deliver your non-existent parcel and then wants to charge you money to redeliver it. Police Scotland has just launched a new campaign to stop it.
- Finding kindness.This year we learned the importance of being kind. In so many ways I have seen people be more kind than ever before. Not just in the public sense of clapping for the NHS but in the interpersonal sense of showing love and solidarity with each other. We found ways of reaching out to people with new technology and in doing so highlighted the social isolation that was there before covid struck. There is a greater awareness now of the need to stay connected by whatever means but we need to follow this up with practical support. Taking part in a local community response let me see the diverse range of people stepping up to be kind. I will never forget the humanity that was on display.
- Unseasonal weather.I might sound a bit of an Ebenezer Scrooge but I am not. One of my disappointments at this time of year is what you might call unseasonal weather. I would love there to be snow at Christmas, just for a few days, instead, we usually get rain and lots of it. Global warming means wet and milder winters on average. Nothing wrong with a bit of frost and snow at Christmas.
- Classic Christmas movies. Choosing Christmas movies is now made easy as there seem to be whole TV channels dedicated to them. Viewing them too early definitely spoils things and the best ones should be kept for times when they can be watched in full and without interruption. Preferably not straight after a huge meal accompanied by lots of alcohol and kids running about high as kites on sugary drinks and chocolate. The Christmas Movie done well is an art form in itself and choice is highly personal. From ‘It’s a wonderful life’ to ‘Die Hard’ you pay your money and you takes your choice.
- Politicians ‘saving’ Christmas. Rules were announced by UK politicians to allow people to meet up inside a ‘Christmas bubble’ these rules apply in England and cover things like Carol Singing. Joint rules have also been agreed with the devolved nations to agree to permit traveling to form ‘Christmas bubbles’ across the UK. This is amidst the second wave of covid infections and areas are just coming out of lockdown in all parts of the country. The Prime Minister clearly thinks the coronavirus is a sentient being and is going to be a good chap and take a couple of weeks off. I think not. Politicians can’t save Christmas. This one was already doomed and most people know that.
- What else could go wrong in 2020? On December 21st which is also the Winter Solstice, a great planetary alignment will occur. Saturn and Jupiter will align and appear as a double planet. What could go wrong? Without wanting to sound alarmist this is often the way some alien invasion movies start. Usually follows up with some fairly innocuous meteor showers and then some people in white lab coats find out there is something strange coming towards Earth.
- Don’t mix if you don’t have to. Small family Christmas’s are fine. It is what people did for years before Christmas became this massive commercially driven entity it is today. We know the coronavirus is still out there in our communities. Why take the risk? We are so close to a vaccine being rolled out now. Stay safe this Christmas and stay socially distant with those outside your own household. Stay connected with loved ones any way you can. Fancy a plain chocolate coated Brazil nut?