2020 is finally on the way out, like the nightmare house guest you thought would never leave. If only for that reason, this New Year’s Eve, more than any in recent memory, is surely worth toasting with something crisp and bubbly. I’ve decided that optimism has to be the rule here. I’ve written several drafts of this post and all the others degenerated into me grumbling about Christmas and lockdown, which is neither original nor helpful. In fact, it’s probably best not to look back at all, but to look resolutely forward, and to be hopeful, as far as possible. Things may not be back to normal next week or next month, but vaccination programmes are rolling out across the globe and, by the summer, we can reasonably hope to be able to visit family for a weekend, or go to a wedding, or even take a holiday abroad. There are other things I long for too: the chance to rummage around second-hand bookshops again; opera performances; pub lunches in the middle of long country walks; and days out at National Trust houses with cream teas in the cafés. Tell me: which things are you most looking forward to doing once the restrictions are lifted?
Again I must apologise for having fallen off the wagon, repeatedly, this year. Some people found that lockdown inspired them to settle down with a book but, as I’ve said before, the opposite happened to me: my attention span dwindled and I read far less than I normally would. I was too busy worrying. My partner has observed that I’m like a moth to a flame as far as worries are concerned: if there’s something to be anxious about, no matter how implausible or irrelevant, I’m on it. However, I’m happy to report that in recent weeks things have taken a turn for the better. I’ve recently finished two wonderful books, on which I’ll be posting first thing in the New Year: The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie (how on earth did it take me so long to read that?) and Spinning Silver, by the reliably brilliant Naomi Novik. Let’s hope I find many more engaging books to take me into 2021. And let’s hope for other goodies too: some new opera recordings to watch, perhaps, and in due course some new exhibitions to visit in London, when the restrictions are lifted enough to allow that. Things will get better. It’s just a matter of time.
So, let’s look ahead and keep our fingers crossed that this year brings good things for all. I hope you and all your loved ones have a happy, prosperous and, crucially, healthy 2021. And, this time next year, let’s hope that we’ll be looking back on a wonderful twelve months, full of old pleasures and new freedoms.