An Own Goal from your Own Goal

In the 1990’s, when I chose to support Aston Villa, I certainly wasn’t choosing to make my life any easier. At that time, and probably still now, Villa were an unfashionable club to support if you lived in the South of England, and I would often experience ridicule for it in school. “So what if you beat Nottingham Forest!” retorted a classmate during one year 8 Maths class in 1999, “Your shirts are still really ugly and your team is still shit.” That was the typical high-brow way in which the debates went. I responded by using my Aston Villa-branded biro with pride for the remainder of the day. Take that. My pen is better than yours.

Villa certainly weren’t about to win the Premiership any decade soon, but still, I really liked them. They were different. Understated. Interesting. To support a team which won when it wasn’t expected to, felt more special than supporting a team that just expected winning and trophies and took those things for granted when they got them. I came from a family of Spurs fans and whilst I liked them too, they just didn’t pull me in like Aston Villa did. I suppose in some ways, I also just wanted to be different, and instigate lively discussions around the dinner table about whether John Gregory was a better manager than George Graham (he was, by the way).

Anyway. Once you pick your team you’ve picked your team. I’ve followed Villa throughout, though I would never class myself as a die-hard football fan. Sometimes I even withhold from telling people, simply because in that moment I’m not up for the inevitable arduous football chat once I do. It’s fun to follow but it’s just a game, and if I took it as anything more than that then, well, I’d probably be pretty depressed. In over twenty years I’ve yet to see my team lift a trophy, and apart from an exceptional few years in the late ’00’s they’ve pretty much constantly been linked with relegation, and even became victim to it in 2016, taking two years longer than expected to gain promotion to the top tier again. They’re the sort of team who concede a late equaliser just as you start getting a bit excited, and if it weren’t for a huge financial injection from a couple of billionaires in 2018, they’d possibly not even exist anymore. Magpie-eyed supporters of either of the two Manchester sides, or Chelsea, Liverpool etc.. probably don’t realise how easy they’ve had it by comparison.

But once you pick your team you’ve picked your team.

In the past couple of years, Villa have progressively improved and these days are a team that others genuinely fear playing. In an era when the game is dominated by greed and money, there’s been something hugely romantic about supporting a team both managed and captained by boyhood fans of the club, Dean Smith and Jack Grealish respectively. It’s just not something you really see anymore, and it’s something every Villa fan takes / took (spoiler alert) a lot of pride in. You can be paid to do a job and you can do your best at it in return for picking up a wage, but if it’s for a cause or company you always believed in, you’ll not only do your best but you’ll excel, without even trying. That’s what Jack Grealish did for us. He wasn’t just “a really good player”, he was an excellent player and as a fan of the club, he was also “one of us”. Every time he scored a goal, you just knew it meant as much to him as it did to the fans.

This month, 11 months after supposedly committing his future to Aston Villa (“My City, My Club, My Home!” he waffled on at the time, as he put pen to paper on a bumper new contract), Jack chose to leave his club for the Premier League champions, a team who win things all the time. He chose to move because he too wanted to win things all the time, and whether us Villa fans like it or not we can’t argue with the fact that he’s more likely to win things with his new team sooner than he would with us.

But for myself and many others this situation prompted an ethical debate which transcends the footballing context within which it’s placed. Somebody who professed to love the club, had been a part of it for twenty years, and played an integral part in its progress, was ultimately swayed by the promise of immediate riches with a team that his historic Tweets had suggested he disliked. Grealish choosing to leave Aston Villa is not just bad news for football and any other football club trying to improve, it’s a harrowing indictment of society: victory and prestige obsessed. Willing to jump ship at the thought of personal promise, no matter how much the remainder of those on board supposedly mean to you. There’s this fixation with winning and the mistaken assumption that if you didn’t win a medal you didn’t succeed, so do whatever you need to in order to make sure you take it home. Verruca Salt’s worn out father frantically instructing hundreds of workers to spend all the hours under the sun opening up chocolate bars to find a golden ticket.

Whatever happened to choosing to stand by those you love no matter what personal gain you might miss out on? Is it better to lose with those you love, than win with those you feel nothing for? Somebody on Twitter put it very well (I know, I hate myself for saying that too), but what’s the point in showing off that you’ve reached the peak of Mount Everest if you took a helicopter up most of the way?

Putting football, Jack Grealish and Twitter to one side, this is a really important question, and given the nature of the responses on social media it seems that many are divided on it. “But he plays so well, he deserves his chance to win medals!” reads a very reasonable argument. “But he promised his boyhood team – the one he professed to love – that he supported their project to progress and wanted to be a part of it. The team that supported his talents and nurtured him to grow. The fans who loved him” reads a very reasonable retort. So… which is the right answer? Is there even one at all? Perhaps not, but I know which angle I sway towards.

Jack Grealish, had he stayed with Villa, would have become a club legend no matter how many trophies we won (or didn’t). Us fans had thought he was loyal and loyalty is what really pays. Loyalty is what makes one really stand out and be remembered for years to come. Instead, he’s off to win medals but become a forgettable part of Manchester City’s history, and if you don’t believe me on that, have a read-up on Fabian Delph. A few years back, he made what was virtually an identical choice, but is now still renowned more by neutrals for his time at Villa than City, regardless of the medals he won at the latter. Delph barely contributed to that success, but he still got the medals. Is that really something to be proud of?

Ultimately it’ll always be hard work and loyalty that makes you a winner no matter what jangly things you do or don’t have to show for it at the end. Taking shortcuts to the top doesn’t make you a winner, whether you’re a professional footballer or a person who cheats or buys their way to any form of success in life.

Ultimately, it’s not about what you achieve, it’s about how you achieve it. It’s how you achieve it which determines whether you are a true winner.

Song of the Day: The Delgados – Child Killers

Scotland has produced so many excellent indie bands over the years. Teenage Fanclub, Trashcan Sinatras, Belle & Sebastian, my guilty pleasure Bis, and we can add the Delgados to that list too. Their existence was relatively short-lived from the mid-90’s before disbanding in 2005, but they produced so many excellent songs during that time.

Child Killers is a classic example of, “songs you listen to over and over then forget about for fifteen years, before Spotify chucks it back at you”. It’s also a classic example of a song which has such unhappy-sounding lyrics yet remains such a beautiful and uplifting piece of music. I have loved being re-acquainted with this song. People need to hear it.



The House

Do you have any of those fleeting, pixelated memories from very early childhood, which you’ve not necessarily been able to place into the context of anything else?

I have a vivid one in which I’m stood in the doorway of my grandparents’ house in August 1989 (I only know the date because my mum has kept a family diary for decades). I’m saying goodbye to some relatives as they leave a family party. I remember it because I heard the word, “fortnight” for the first time. Through a wound down car window, they said they’d see us in a fortnight, as they drove away in their beige car. It made me think about forks and knights, and I needed my siblings to explain its real meaning. There are many other memories – all just as fleeting and fragmented as that one – from that particular house, and they always seem so mysterious and magical. Maybe just because the wider detail, and explanations, are missing.

Over thirty years later I often walk past the same house, and from the outside it looks exactly the same as it did then. The same front door. The same lion-shaped door knocker. Same bricks, same roof.

I expect, and want, to be able to ring the doorbell and be embraced by my grandad – still in his ’70’s – and a plume of sweet tobacco smoke from his pipe. Behind him, I expect to see puffy maroon sofas, wooden cabinets stacked with crystal sherry glasses and toby jugs, and pale green lampshades with tassels on the end that I can jiggle between my thumb and forefinger. I expect to smell a joint of meat being roasted in an oven.

But I won’t, because it’s 2021 and somebody else lives there now, and they probably wouldn’t take too kindly to a random 35-year old woman knocking on the door expecting to find 1989, turquoise walls, a cream cake, and some relatives who left us a long time ago.

Plus, I need to hurry home and send an e-mail about an urgent matter. One which I doubt I’ll be recalling within a pixelated memory in thirty-two years time. And what time does Morrisons close during the week?

Time is a very, very strange thing. I am always pretty mesmerised by old buildings such as this. Those which have seen so much, and changed so little, plonked within a society that zips along and changes so frequently by contrast.

They’re building more and more new houses here in Faversham. But I’m glad they’re keeping the old ones too.

What buildings make you feel this way?

A beautiful drawing by my very talented mother

Song of the Day: Smashing Pumpkins – Beautiful

My challenge to you is to listen to this song and not fall absolutely in love with it. Beautiful by name, stunning by nature. It’s the final minute of the song and it’ll do things to you. And even if you’re not a massive SP fan (I’m not) you’ll be so thankful this band exists.

#liveyourbestlife

I’m not against social media, I think it has many supportive values and can be very fun, but I do think that it needs a few boundaries to keep its usage healthy, especially among the young and impressionable.

I think one of the biggest disservices anybody can do to themselves is fixate on comparison to others, or worry too much about what people think. We’ve probably all done it, but it’s damaging – effectively a form of draining self-harm in which social media is often the weapon presented as Exhibit A. It’s very easy to look at peoples’ best bits and think your life is lacking, but don’t. Just do your own thing, put that energy towards gaining approval from yourself instead, then fly propelled by a sense of freedom and relief that only comes once you’ve unchained yourself from societal expectations.

This is a little poem I wrote about it whilst eating a biscuit:

Sometimes all I want to do is eat a Custard Cream,

and watch a documentary,

whether that’s with company, or even when more solitary.

And other times all I want to do is gaze at the land,

feel the breeze in my hair, and hear a new band.

Sometimes I lull in the depths of a food-themed daydream.

and read a big fat book,

or Google home furniture and take a lengthy look.

And other times it might be instant noodles for lunch,

not #smashedavocado or a bright #boozybrunch.

There’ll be times when I love to head out to dance,

but most nights I take much more relaxed a stance,

no #Prosecco to drink, no #Bellini to clink,

“What on earth will your peers think?!”

The hashtags may suggest that my life isn’t fun,

or that my cooking looks shite and I weigh a tonne,

but as you get older you learn how to see,

that the best way to live is #hashtag free.

Your media doesn’t define the person you are,

it’s about how you feel, not that lavish bar.

Too many people, and most of them young,

determined to showcase all that they’ve done,

but learn to obsess, less, about the way you dress,

and focus instead on what makes you feel best.

It’s perfectly okay to be a bit “boring”,

because the simplest things are the most rewarding

(Or at least they should be)

#liveyourbestlife – but by being you, being true, being free.


Song of the Day: Plone – Puzzlewood

I’m not sure what genre you might call this, or whether that even matters, but this is a nice, chirpy bit of electronica from Birmingham, UK, recommended to me by Spotify. Spot-on, Spotify.

Hello, Fluorescent Dawn


Well, hoorah!

The sun is shining, the birds are probably singing (a car outside has been revving its engine for ten minutes and so I can’t actually tell) and the lockdown restrictions are easing and easing. After a year of misery for all, it’s finally a more exciting time, an upbeat time, a time for happy reunions with everything: friends, family, indoor seating, even the dead plant in the office. There are so many reasons to feel positive right now and among those reasons, I am feeling positive that I have absolutely no intention of approaching life in the same way I did before this thing came along.

I wouldn’t have dreamed that I’d ever find myself saying that sort of thing during the difficult Spring of 2020, but that was because there’d been no reason until then to have to review what “normality” really was. It was just: normal, something we were accustomed to, a sequence of unchallenged processes repeated day after day, month after month, year after year. Now if you were to try applying that same practice in the workplace, your organisation would quickly begin to fall behind and fade away, hence why every year we spend time reviewing every policy, procedure and strategy. We routinely embrace change in our professional lives, but when it comes to how we live there has rarely been such dramatic annual review like the one imposed upon us by COVID. There may have been the odd personal reflection here and there, whilst sat under a tree or looking out to an ocean or something, but there was nothing in the way of an overhaul to our “procedures” like the one we’ve just experienced.

When we were first told that we were pretty much barred from seeing anybody we care about, or going anywhere we like, it really hurt. For most people it was a real struggle, a lonely time surrounded by incessant quiet, incessant bad news, and incessant efforts to try and replicate every real life activity through Zoom. We craved “normality” and we felt so very distant from everything when we knew we couldn’t have it.

As the weeks went by we believed lockdown was well and truly isolating us, and by the very nature of it of course it was, but as we now sit shoulder to shoulder with “normality” again, the realisation I’ve come to is that maybe we’d been spending decades doing that to ourselves anyway. Pre-March 2020, we were desperate to live in our own separate homes in separate towns, so that we could be held financial hostage by separate bills for separate cars and separate mortgages, whilst using separate lawnmowers and cooking biannual meals in separate slow-cookers that spent most of the rest of the year gathering dust. We were consumed, mostly, by what was going on within our own four walls, mentally and physically: Home-life, work-life, social-life. Lockdown came and put fences all around us then suddenly we were each living in a fortress. On separate islands. How different could it have been if we’d chosen to live in the same fortress, though?

Pre-March 2020, it often felt like there was barely any time to really think, or any time to really reflect.  Daily life often felt like a tampered-with Waltzer ride: you’d pay a silly fee without question then rush to get on and belt-up in time, then rush to clamber off once it finished, before it started going berserk again and risk tripping you up.  Round and round, and round and round, the colorful structure would go. Eat, sleep, work, repeat. 

Lockdown forced us to take a break from the ride.  A long break.  A really long break. Not just a, “Aow I’m back from mah two weeks of bliss in Mauritius” type break, when the holiday glow would fade within only a week of returning to one of the wettest Mays on record. It was a distressing time for so many nasty reasons, and given the choice we’d all rather it had never happened in the first place, but it did, and you can either unequivocally lament that or you can choose to make something from the ingredients stuffed at the back of the cupboard.  And I’m not just talking about all that pasta we stockpiled.

Pre-lockdown, it wasn’t very often that we’d set aside a day to really sit and stare out of the windows of the homes we slept in every night.  We were too busy looking either internally, or dead ahead, at just the immediate surround: the bills we had to pay, the jobs we needed to keep and the fence panels we needed to paint. We lay heavy decisions on decaying foundations, guidance proffered through handwritten scrawls etched onto recycled paper bound together by treasury tags in beige ring-binders. Take one and pass the rest along. We set life goals around what we felt was the societal norm. We chose where to live on the basis of its proximity to our work.  We chose where to work on the basis of its reward:  salaries, satisfaction, prospects… but rarely would we choose it on the basis of how well the job and its associated conditions – like hours and paid Leave – tessellated with everything else we hold dear. 

We let our job titles define us, which is perfectly fine (and in many ways admirable) if you want it to, but it’s not fine if there are other things you care about and want to be known for just as much.

I would say that life pre lockdown was often more solitary than life during it.  Too busy stuck in traffic to take a call from somebody who obviously wanted to chat. Sorry I missed your call. Too tired to chat as much as we should do.  A busy calendar consisting of things we maybe sometimes didn’t even want to do but felt obliged to, and just like that that, another weekend would go by. Sorry, it doesn’t look like we can find a day we can both do.  Maybe we can meet next year instead?

I sometimes wonder about the things that never got to happen because we were too busy losing entire afternoons to pilgrimages round ring-roads to buy Ronseal and Windolene, or making up the guest numbers at some loose acquaintance’s 32 and 3.5 months birth-week party in bars where the cocktails cost the same amount as a week’s worth of groceries from Lidl. Mornings lost to hangovers. Weekends lost to sofas whilst fawning blankly at forgettable box-sets because we were too knackered from spending hours brushing Ronseal onto fence panels that were promptly shat on by birds to do anything else.

In tedious exchanges of small talk which we hoped would help expedite the socially-awkward queue at the printer, we’d frequently ask our colleagues where the year was going. It was one of those safe topics of conversation, a bit like the weather, that we’d know everyone could empathise with. Facebook newsfeeds would groan each August as somebody proudly became the year’s first to post a meme about the dwindling number of paydays left until Christmas. “At this rate, we’ll start putting our trees up in January!”, somebody else would comment, in an equally irritating honk of a response. Time would whizz by and we’d wonder how it managed to go so fast. Well, see the previous couple of paragraphs. Ronseal. Windolene. Sickeningly-priced stuff and fings funded by a perceived obligation to buy them.

We assumed that busy-ness was the antidote to loneliness when often it was actually the cause, because it was the kind of busy-ness manifested from all those procedures inked out in a beige ring-binder that, it turns out, had stopped aligning with our souls long ago but just never had the time to be re-written. Because we were too busy following it without question, just like how we paid that silly fee at the Waltzer.

It wasn’t lockdown that made us feel isolated.  It was us, and all of the habits we had fallen in to over years and years, frantically treading water to keep afloat whilst the important things slowly sank to the ocean bed.

We might soon be able to return to a life without restrictions, but there’ll be some rides I’ll be keeping away from for good.

It’s a fluorescent new dawn.

Song of the Day: Weezer – Aloo Gobi (Guitar Version)

You think you have a favourite song. You listen to it all the time. Then you hear a cover of it. Then you have a new favourite song.

Little Things I Love Pt. 3

The other day, I was taking a sunny stroll along the Grand Union Canal when a family of ducks caught my eye and made me smile. I loved how fluffy the ducklings were – like five little buns gliding across the water – and how the mother managed to keep them alongside her as they ventured to a destination that presumably only she knew.

It’s been three years since I last published a “Little Things I Love” post, to follow on from the original, and so I think it’s time to write another – particularly after the past twelve months.

So, along with ducklings and the things already written about in 2016 and 2018, here are some more of the little things I love:


…The satisfying sound of a hoover whooshing up bits you couldn’t even see but will certainly feel better without…

…Discovering a new food which you think about for days and days after consuming for the first time…

…Being so engaged in something that you forget to look at your phone for a while…

…The smell of seaweed on days when you can feel the sun against your skin…

…Sunsets on the East Kent coast, a burning peach sinking into the sea…

…The first day of the year when it feels so warm you can just slip-on a dress and be fully clothed by free-flowing fabric…

…A buttery plate from where the spread has seeped through the crumpet…

…Staring competitions with sheep and lambs…

…People who manage to craft puns out of nowhere at all…

…Applying the ink from a brand new marker pen to flip-chart paper. A symbol of meaning business...

…Victorian-style lamp-posts. Generally…

…The smell of old, family photos and fond memories they trigger…

…Moments when you lose yourself in a good piece of music…

…Big, tall pine-trees and the smell of barbecues…

What are yours?

Song of the Day: Weezer – Aloo Gobi

This is one of the best songs I’ve ever heard from one of the best bands I’ve ever loved and if I had to pick one song to listen to for the rest of my life it would be this one, which is pretty funny when you understand the meaning behind the lyrics.

Day of Reflection

Today’s National Day of Reflection marks a year to the day that we sat nervously in front of our television screens to be confronted by the directive that would change our lives quite dramatically. An issue which had been bubbling away on the side for weeks was becoming increasingly vociferous, and with that evening’s press conference in March 2020, the switch was finally firmly pressed, and the lights went out in an instant.

The resounding message absorbed within the deafening silence which followed?

You can’t see your family or your friends until further notice, and no, there’s no time to just go back and fetch your jacket. Settle down and get comfy; you’ll be here a while.

I umm and ahh about how much I want to include in this post. I documented most of my thoughts here at the time, in order to refrain from turning totally insane during the period when the only people I spoke to face to face were dog-walkers or shop assistants. I think we’re all suffering from pandemic lethargy too much at the moment to really go over those things again; but one day, when we’re much less muddy and feeling more confidently in the clear, it’ll certainly be an interesting few months to reflect on.

However I think it’s important today to differentiate between the lockdown and the pandemic – hand in hand though they may be. A lot of us will think of this past year in terms of the myriad of effects on our day to day lives. We have missed out on so much, and it has been utterly heartbreaking at times, but I don’t actually think all of the effects of lockdown have been negative, and I will write about why another day.

For now though, for today, it’s about reflecting on and respecting the worst affected victims of this pandemic. The ones who don’t get to reflect back over the past year at all. The ones who were unable to live as fully as people should be able to, before they had to leave. The hundreds of thousands (or millions worldwide) of their relatives who lost somebody special this past year in the cruelest of ways, who couldn’t grieve in the way people need to, who couldn’t say goodbye or hold hands a final time, and who couldn’t feel the comforting hugs of friends and relatives as they mourned alone.

The other effects of this pandemic, heavy though they may have often felt, somehow also feel so light against this.

Thinking of everybody who has been affected in such a cruel way today, and wishing that each individual within the startling figure we have seen rapidly rise over the last twelve months, will be remembered as exactly that, an individual.

Going Sno-where

There’s something so rare about heavy snowfall that each time it happens, you recall vivid memories of the few occasions you’ve experienced it before:

  • A canal-side walk with my older brother one late Sunday afternoon in the early 1990’s, and watching him pound away at the ice with his heavy black Doc Martens to show me how easily it could crack.
  • Careering down the steepest verge of a snowy hill on a sledge circa 2000 – in an awful effort to impress some boys – and whacking straight into a tree, before limply falling out of the side of the flimsy plastic transportation and groaning on the ground for ten minutes whilst said boys crowded around in an embarrassing concern.
  • Meeting a friend at her house during a lunch-break from my temp-ing job – and her revision-break for her Law exams – and making a snowman with blueberries for eyes, in 2009.
  • Sliding down the grassy verges of the Dane John Gardens with some friends one Friday evening in January 2018, after several beers in a cosey pub

The older you get, the more wary you become of snow. It’s dangerous to drive in. It’s perilous to walk on. It wreaks havoc with public transport and it makes everything wet. At thirty five, the thought of heavy rain washing all of the snow away fills me with some relief when as a child it could make me cry. That’s exactly what happened this week; a Winter Wonderland flushed away overnight, the snowman over the street now a beheaded ball of black ice alone on a bright green lawn, and no more fretting about the need to walk anywhere.

But, my word, did it look beautiful during its short stay, making the town look like a Christmas cake with Viennetta footpaths and glacier mint waterways. At a time when we’re tethered to our homes, the snow was a welcome distraction from the reasons behind that, which have dominated our lives for the past year.

The snow was a reminder of a few things, really. How an alluring appearance can sometimes conceal danger. How different things can suddenly look after a few conditions collide, and then how quickly the things we like can melt away.

The Pandemic Snowfall 2021. One which won’t be forgotten in a hurry…

To Be A Cat in a Pandemic

This little fuzzy face has absolutely no idea that there’s a global pandemic happening at the moment.

She wouldn’t even know what a “pandemic” is, let alone any of the things that come with it:

Lockdown? Fine by me. I don’t really venture beyond the sofa or back garden anyway.

Isolation? Also fine. Can’t stand other cats. They make me hiss.

Furlough? Is that when my fluffy coat starts malting in the heat?

Vaccine? Ah… know of that one, sadly, but fortunately my next trip to the vets isn’t for a good while yet.

Stock-piling? Never heard of it. My servants take care of all of that sort of thing anyway and if I’m still hungry I can either stare at them long enough for them to question whether they’ve already fed me, or just catch another mouse or bird.

Why are all the human things looking so glum on the television? Why do I never get the house to myself anymore? I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m loving all of the additional snuggles and cuddles, but in a year I’ve seldom had the opportunity to crawl across the kitchen worktops in the quest for any edible scraps. Anytime I try now I just get spotted quickly, and snapped at.

Strange times indeed. Better take the twentieth nap of the day. Had a great dream about a frog earlier. Hoping for something similar this time.

Pandemic? Purr.

2020 – Pardon?!

January: So much needs to happen this year, and it’s going to happen this year! Bring on the new decade! ***multiple muscley arm emojis***

February: All of your plans are going to be thrown into doubt by storms and floods. Get stranded in the North due to Storm Ciara, necessitating the need to buy awful, over-sized emergency underwear from Primark – and an extra room for the night – and believe it’s the most stressful thing ever.

March: Keep well away from everybody and get used to being over-zealous with the hand sanitiser. Gaze at a brand new toilet roll with the same awe you would a golden ingot. Batter remaining storage space on phone with a sudden wealth of necessary new Apps and awkardly log-in to random Houseparty rooms a thousand times by accident: “Oh err hello!”

April: Have around three conversations with people face-to-face in the whole month: two shop attendants, and a lady walking her dog by the allotments who’s anxious about the fact a nearby alleyway is less than two metres wide.

May: Hearing the couplet of words “online quiz” is beginning to feel akin to having rusty nails dragged across your eardrums.

June: Begin meeting friends again, but only outdoors and at a distance. Nonetheless, it feels like the greatest liberation ever. Re-learn how to be around people, just like a toddler at their first ever session of play-group, hiding behind a chair and waiting for the biscuit break.

July: Three hour walks every evening to try and experience at least some semblance of Summer 2020 whilst reflecting upon damage to mental health over the past four months.

August: Head out for a pizza with the family. It’s cheaper than normal to buy five pizzas this month, but best sit outdoors just to be safe. Have a Summer holiday in the UK, and it’s lovely, but the journey provokes a lot more anxiety to normal. Newport Pagnell Services is not the nicest place at the best of times, let alone when people aren’t distancing. Master the art of keeping the cubicle doors on public loos closed shut with one’s foot, rather than having to touch the lock.

September:
Just get on with it. We’re getting back to how we were. This IS the new normal. We’re through the worst.

October:
The third month where things feel normal-ish, but it’s difficult not to be aware of cases rising ominously in the background. Birthday month. Have a nice meal (outdoors!) and swap the usual group outing to the pub for many beers with a bottle of Sauvignon in front of a bunch of faces on a laptop.

November: The second national lockdown. Everything is suddenly off the leisure menu once again, except for walks. Where would we have been in 2020 without WALKS! Order a tub of Bacon Dust off the internet to try and feel better about life. And it certainly does lift things a little, because all the smallest things do at the moment, and there’s a long-term lesson in that.

December:
Clutch on tightly to heavily weathered elements of positive mindset:
“The one good thing about lockdown has been the ability to save money on going out”
*Notification pops up of puncture in still relatively-new car tyre prompting treble-figure repair bill*

Scream two days later when Christmas gets cancelled leaving you with all the festive cheer of a dead haddock.

That’s 2020.

Song of the YEAR: 11 Acorn Lane – Claudette

I discovered this complete ear-worm of a song in May and the clarinet loop has pretty much been stuck in my head at some point during every day since. That’s not necessarily a great thing, in fact quite an irritating thing after too long! But it may explain why it was towards the peak of my personalised “Your Top Songs of 2020” playlist on Spotify. I’m not sure the tone really matches that of 2020, but it’d probably be hard to find a song that truly does.