The one where it’s all a bit strange

There are some pivotal moments in recent history where individuals, depending on their age, can recall exactly where they were/what they were doing when they heard the event happened. Some examples include:

  • The shooting of John Lennon
  • The fall of the Berlin Wall
  • The death of Princess Diana
  • 911

But this is probably the first time in my lifetime that we can add an entire year to the list. 2020. The year where everything and nothing happened. We might want to forget it but we won’t be able to because the global pandemic has impacted on every part of everybody’s lives.

How much of an impact there has been will massively depend on an individual’s circumstances and their mental health. What I might consider disappointing/inconvenient based on my circumstances might have a tremendous impact for somebody else. Therefore, what I’ve written below is very much how I might view things but I do recognise that the events may fall into an entirely different category for someone else…

For some, the impact has been disappointing and inconvenient but not necessarily life-changing or devastating – the annual holiday cancelled, a birthday not celebrated in the usual way, missing face to face contact with friends and family, a new alien work environment based from home. 

For others, the impact has been more significant – job loss or reduced hours leading to financial worries, a holiday of a lifetime/ wedding/ anniversary/ big birthday cancelled, being kept away from a loved one in a care home.

And there are those for whom this year has been a tragedy – illness, cancelled operations, bereavement, not able to properly say goodbye to loved ones, businesses failing, acute loneliness and depression and, of course, exam results and the impact of that on college/university places or employment.

My immediate little family of three has been fortunate so far, falling mainly into that first category of a disappointing and inconvenient year: holidays, theatre trips, celebrations for my hubby’s 50th birthday and my birthday all cancelled. Zoom has been a weak alternative to meeting family face-to-face but we still have our jobs and we’ve both worked from home for several years so haven’t had to adjust to that. We have, however, had an unexpected family bereavement – not to Covid – and that was hard, not being able to rush round and give hugs. But we have been lucky and I count my blessings every day for that.

But today feels odd. Strange. Wrong. Because today I should be at my graduation ceremony.

I achieved my Masters in Creative Writing at the back end of 2019 but it was through Open University so ceremonies take place all over the country, with lesser frequency in the north. I’d hesitated as to whether to bother when the ceremony at the nearest venue to us – Harrogate – would be almost a year after graduating but hubby and the munchkin said I should definitely do it and they would be there cheering me on, as would my parents. When Covid hit, all graduation ceremonies were understandably cancelled for the foreseeable future. I have no idea when it will be considered safe to have an event like this again or how they will catch up with the backlog. Will there be any point in attending a ceremony two or three years after finishing? It feels like the moment has passed.

This weekend, I would also have started getting organised ready for our holiday over the October half term. At the start of the year, we booked a week in Portugal for May half term and a holiday cottage in Lancaster to be in easy reach of both Blackpool and the southern Lake District. Portugal was cancelled and, with Lancashire moving into a Tier 3 lockdown yesterday, that’s also cancelled. We had already made the decision not to go while they were Tier 2 as it made no sense to travel from a Tier 1 part of the country into a higher-risk zone, especially knowing we wouldn’t be able to do what we’d planned for our holiday anyway.

What am I doing instead?

I’m staying at home as usual, waiting for a courier to collect the swab kit for my Covid test. I was randomly selected and invited to do this as part of the research survey undertaken by Imperial College London and Ipsos MORI on behalf of the Dept of Health & Social Care. I agreed I was happy to participate and, yesterday, my kit and instructions arrived in the post.

Also in the post was a box of author copies of Making Wishes at Bay View from the print-run that has gone into The Works. A case of normality arriving alongside this strange new world.

It all feels very surreal. If someone had told me last year to guess why I wouldn’t be able to attend my graduation ceremony and what I’d be doing instead, I’d never in a million years have predicated this. Yet this is the new normal.

And seeing as ‘normal’ is different, is it too early to put up the Christmas tree this weekend? Yeah, you’re right. Maybe I need to wait until November. Ooh, 1st November falls on a Sunday. Could I…?

Sending hugs to anyone whose 2020 has hurt/is still hurting. Hang on in there.

Jessica xx 

The one where I should be in Portugal

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This time last year – May half term – my husband, daughter and I went to Albufeira in Portugal. It was our first visit to the country and we absolutely loved it.

IMG_6180With so many amazing places to see in the UK and around the world, we like to visit different places but we had such fond memories from our week in Portugal that we decided to return this year for a relaxing week in the same resort and same hotel; a first for us.

But, for obvious reasons, we’re not there. Like so many people, our holiday plans needed to be cancelled as the world faces an unprecedented pandemic.

I wish we were in Portugal right now but I really can’t feel sad about it. It is what it is and we really have been fortunate. So far, COVID-19 has not touched our family with tragedy so a cancelled holiday, a non-birthday, a couple of cancelled theatre trips and a few other planned events that couldn’t happen are absolutely nothing compared to what some have and are still facing.

So I wrote a little poem about it….

 

I should be in Portugal, a break for seven days

Some time out with my family, soaking up some rays

I should be in Portugal, relaxing by the pool

Jumping in the icy depths when I need to cool

I should be in Portugal, walking on the sand

Dining out on tasty food, a cold beer in my hand

I should be in Portugal, a speedboat on the waves

Searching for some dolphins and cruising through the caves

I should be in Portugal, a trip to ZooMarine

Riding on the big wheel, and in the wave machine

I should be in Portugal, a walk through the old town

Visiting the gift shops, just as sun goes down

I should be in Portugal, the place we went last May

Lovely, friendly people – a super place to stay

Instead I’m in the UK, staying safe at home

Because a nasty virus has meant we cannot roam

Instead I’m in the UK, working every day

Hoping that these tragic times will soon be gone away

Instead I’m in the UK, my heart so full of sadness

For those who’ve lost the ones they love during this worldwide madness

Instead I’m in the UK, thinking about the firms

That won’t survive the loss of funds from this vile set of germs

Although I’m not on holiday, I’m feeling very blessed

That those I love are in good health, and not feeling distressed

Although I’m not on holiday, my family are by my side

My daughter’s doing well at ‘school’, filling me with pride

Although I’m not on holiday, my books are in the charts

With stories bringing comfort, warming readers’ hearts

Although I’m not on holiday, I’m really very grateful

That a cancelled trip is the worst I’ve had from a virus that’s so hateful

Please be assured, my books are a million times better than my poetry!

I know I’ve been very fortunate but many haven’t.

My empathy to those who’ve had events, celebrations and holidays cancelled, particularly ones that have been extra special like my brother’s 50th birthday plans and those who’ve had their weddings cancelled.

Wishing a speedy recover to anyone currently fighting COVID-19, including my lovely friend and fellow-author, Jo, and her family. Hope you’ve all continued to improve this week.

Love and hugs to anyone who has lost a loved one – whether to this virus or something else – and particularly where you haven’t been able to say goodbye and celebrate their life in the way you’d have hoped.

My best wishes to anyone with a business that’s struggling, has gone under, or who has lost their job/faces employment uncertainty.

And my thoughts are with all those affected by this worldwide pandemic in so many other ways I haven’t mentioned.

Hang on in there. I’m rooting for you. We’re hopefully through the worst and we’ll be able to spend time with friends and family soon as life returns to some sort of new ‘normal’.

Big hugs

Jessica xx