Some silver linings in a terrible year

As New Year’s Day approaches, our attention turns habitually to a review of the year. While few would argue that 2020 has been more than just a little disappointing, most of us can find something to be grateful for – the silver lining to a very dark cloud, the nugget of positivity that keeps us all going.

There’s a firm belief that challenging circumstances have brought out the best in many of us. Research conducted by sanitiser brand Zoono revealed that almost 40 per cent of South West respondents had felt encouraged to help and support others in some way over the last 12 months, while a quarter had been moved to tears by a random act of kindness.

The most touching moment of 2020 was Captain Sir Thomas Moore raising money for the NHS on his 100th birthday, followed by the weekly clap for NHS professionals, seeing key workers reunited with their loved ones, and an abundance of rainbow paintings in home windows.

Socially distanced VE Day celebrations and Joe Wicks’ daily PE lessons for home-schooled children also feature in the top 10. More personal highlights included being reunited with loved ones after lockdown, receiving a phone call from someone they hadn’t spoken to in a long time and supporting small local businesses.

We probably don’t need a survey from a hand sanitiser company to tell us these things. I suspect we’re all well aware of how we’ve learned to value our lives more, appreciate the little things, and to be more caring and considerate to others since March. We’ve spent quality time with the family, reconnected with loved ones and friends, built up our resilience reserves and feel less rattled by small problems. Many of us have made life-changing decisions – to move house, get married or divorced, start a family, change career.

We’ve baked and grown our own, and reconvened with nature. So here, for the record and in no particular order, are my personal highlights of 2020 – the Magnificent Seven, if you will. I realise I’m coming at this from the privileged viewpoint of someone who has lost neither loved ones nor employment, and am deeply grateful.

1 The times Daughter and I learned something in home school. (Let’s not think about the times we almost killed each other). Memorable moments included reading together

each morning, a Mayan day of clothes, cookery and music, and we’re still studying French to this day (here’s hoping, post-Brexit, she’ll still have occasion to use it).

2 The moment our wi-fi was fixed after six months and three engineer visits. Each one replaced a different piece of ancient kit – the final offender was a DIY connecter with a 30p Trago Mills sticker on the back. Classy.

3 The two post-lockdown hair appointments, after months of floppy, shapeless “style”. Add to this the day we cut the other half’s hair with the kitchen scissors in the conservatory. If that sounds like a Cluedo scenario, it was indeed a crime against hairdressing (as was the day Daughter cut her own fringe).

4 Post-lockdown visits from old friends, on which occasions we packed in all the walks and attractions we’d been storing up for months. The vertiginous new bridge at Tintagel, Doc Martin country in Port Isaac and St Agnes’ stunning coast path all lifted our spirits on beautiful sunny days.

5 Chinese “takeaways” courtesy of my father-in-law, whose cooking is second to none. We usually eat there every weekend, and during lockdown, it was a pleasure to take delivery of a plate of homecooked special fried rice, chow mein or char sui pork for three. My mouth waters at the memory.

6 The day our cat fell in the bath takes my daughter’s top spot by some margin. An over-fed long hair, Charlie climbed through the bathroom window oblivious to the full bath beyond. A tremendous crash/splash was followed by a sodden feline trying to look inconspicuous, while dragging his sopping tail along the carpet. Charlie gave us much entertainment during lockdown, mostly by jumpscaring his smaller sister on the lawn. He had a sixth sense as to

when we would be having lunch or elevenses, and would appear as if by magic for a titbit. As a result, he is now on a diet and needs two teeth extracting, at great expense. Lesson learned.

7 A summer holiday of furlough and family. There is no doubting that a six-week break with brilliant weather is something I’m unlikely to repeat, so we tried to make the most of every minute. That we were able to do so without leaving the county (bar a weekend in Plymouth and Dartmoor) is a blessing in itself. I could go on, but I will leave you to ponder on your own positive moments from 2020.

Here’s hoping that 2021 brings more of those, and far fewer of the other sort. Happy New Year!