We can’t complain. Village life is calm and cuddly. But when the easing of lockdown let us travel further afield for the first time in around seven months, we packed our bags and were off like a shot. The bright lights of London beckoned and not even lousy weather could dampen our spirits. Travelling across the city was a slightly unnerving experience. In normal times, whatever the time of day, the Tube is nose to nipple. But we don’t live in normal times. It was like Old London Town was just waking up from a long hibernation – which, in a way, it was. Then we got to eat inside a restaurant so we supped a gin fizz to celebrate. We felt like naughty truants bunking off school.
It was a whirlwind four-day tour seeing my mother in the flesh for the first time since December 2019. These days she’s as deaf as a post but otherwise in fine fettle. She refuses to get her hearing tested which makes phone calls a bit of a challenge but it’s the kind of contrariness that has got her to 92 – that and the tea and the fags.
We caught up with other family too for a bite and a long natter, and with a gaggle of vintage pals to bid our final farewells to one of our own who died suddenly just before the pandemic placed us all under house arrest. His is a nice spot in Highgate Cemetery, made famous as the last resting place of Karl Marx and a host of other worthies, so he’s in illustrious company. It was a sweet and simple ceremony. We laughed, we cried. Then we got drunk.
I got my first jab a few weeks back but, being a tad younger than me, Liam had to wait a tad longer for his. He got his first shot in the food court at the Castle Quarter Shopping Centre in Norwich where life-saving injections rather than artery-hardening fried chicken are now on the menu.
Vaccine centres across the realm come in all shapes and sizes but none is more majestic than the soaring Gothic splendour of Westminster Abbey in London. And who better to enter stage right than Norfolk boy Stephen Fry, actor, writer, presenter, everyone’s favourite audiobook narrator and all-round gay good egg. Here he is getting his first jab by Poets’ Corner, final resting place of writers, artists and actors down the ages – Chaucer, Browning, Tennison, Dickens and Olivier, among many others.
It’s a place for national treasures like Stephen Fry.
I know it can be tough on pets and those of a nervous disposition but I do love a pyrotechnic extravaganza, especially at New Year – all that sound and fury signifying nothing but the turning of time. When London was home, I’d jump on the Tube to enjoy the spectacle from the banks of Old Father Thames along with tens of thousands of other revellers. These days I’m content to watch from the comfort of a warm sofa, glass of bubbly in hand.
For obvious reasons, we assumed the fireworks would be off this year. But the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, had other ideas. Without plug or promotion, sneaky Sadiq gave us the old razzle dazzle to cheer us up. The theatres may all be dark right now but London can still put on a show.
What a year. Who would have predicted that 2020 would have brought a pandemic to strike us down and trash the global economy? Unsurprisingly, the coronavirus dominated the pansy charts this year. And there was death too but not because of the virus. Professionally, I lost a fellow author in a horrific murder and, personally, I lost my oldest friend to a sudden and totally unexpected cardiac arrest. But then came the COVID-19 survivor close to my heart and a birthday milestone, both of which brought some hope and happiness to a tragic year best left behind.
Despite the hurricane that swirled around us, Liam and I have been incredibly fortunate and life remains calm and peaceful. We know how lucky we are. The pansies remain forever perked.
Ladies and gents, both, neither and all those in between, I give you top of the pansy pops for 2020.
The most popular image of 2020 was this fuzzy black and white photo of my old primary school in Malaysia during my army brat years. Usually it’s something smutty or a hunk in the buff.
2020 was a write-off but do I see more hopeful times for the New Year? I think so but then I’m an eternal optimist. Clearly, the vaccine will be centre-stage. With a bit of luck and a fair wind, life should start returning to normal. Wishing us all a safe and sane 2021.
Just because we can doesn’t mean we should. We usually fit in a jolly to the big city just before Christmas to see family. But not this year. Instead we’ll be hunkering down and staying put. My old girl will be one of the first in line for the vaccine as it’s rolled out, so we’ll see her after she’s had the jab. She understands. It’s the safest thing to do.