Coronavirus, George Floyd, Donald Trump, Brexit: 2020's been the best year ever

The tree is up, the baubles are twinkling. The tinsel is mostly on the pictures, and partly up the vacuum cleaner. The first batch of mince pies has been baked, and the letter to Santa has been agonisingly written, then ceremoniously sent up the chimney to the waiting elf.

And it’s still November. But then, we’re ready for Christmas, aren’t we? Some sort of joy, at the end of a year that, as we can expect the Queen to tell us with her classic understatement, “has been a little trying for all concerned”.

Because 2020 has not just been about a pandemic, wildfires, Brexit, stock market crashes, ill-judged assassinations and widespread panic, fear, and bereavement.

There’s been a lot of brilliant stuff, too. And most of it happened only because of the more awful bits.

“Seriously, kids, there’s some good stuff in here. Wait ’til you unpack it”

Let us concentrate, then, on the good news.

Boris Johnson has already lost the next election, and he did it about 5 months after winning the last one. The government has agreed that we were right all along, and that Scotch eggs ARE a substantial meal.

And what’s more, a government that for the past 4 years has pretended Russia barely had dial-up has finally devoted a crack Army digital unit to tackling Russian disinformation.

All a bit late, of course, but what else did you expect from Johnson? Get cracking, lads.

And thanks to the pandemic, social media giants started being more responsible. YouTube took down videos falsely linking 5G phone masts to coronavirus, Twitter started flagging Donald Trump’s tweets, Facebook began deleting the anti-vaxxers and their pseudoscience.

Santa Claus
“No presents for Putin this year – he’s on the naughty list again!”

Despite all the rowing by those with the loudest and more annoying voices, most of the people in the UK are concentrating on what Christmas really means, rather than the excuses it provides for debt, gluttony and being an arsehole to your loved ones.

People are shopping local in a more dedicated and determined way than they have since the Victorians invented the High Street, and along with it the objectively-crazy idea of spending all your money in it.

Thanks to all the determination and expertise of the world’s car experts, it is now possible to crash your vehicle at 140mph, split it into two, then burst into a fireball as the plastic protecting your face melts just an inch from your nose, and survive mostly-intact.

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Coronavirus took many people before their time, but it also took out the Yorkshire Ripper and did for Trump’s election hopes. It destroyed many jobs, but it gave Sir Phillip Green a kick in the yacht, too.

The Nobel Peace Prize went to the World Food Programme, rather than the obese Oompah Loompah who begged for it, because people are starting to realise that our conflicts are rooted in poverty, and can be fixed with things we can easily afford to share.

We’ve found water on the moon, sent a spaceship to visit the sun, and the Voyager spacecraft are out in the interstellar winds getting nearer to the Vulcan home world all the time. This species was reverse-engineering a bundle of DNA a month after a new virus was discovered, and has made such technological leaps that we’ve got three different sledgehammers able to smash it in less than a year.

Can chimpanzees do that? Can they heck… well, all right, one of the vaccines uses a denatured chimpanzee virus, so they HELPED. Have a banana.

Grinning: Chimpanzee
“You’re welcome, coz!”

The government that wanted Brexit, cocked up Brexit, tried to shut down Parliament so it couldn’t complain about Brexit, and has tried to threaten a No Deal Brexit all along, is now in such a dire economic and reputational situation it has no real option but to settle for whatever deal it can get, which might finally shut everyone up about Brexit.

Lockdown, for all its horrors, does seem to have worked. Twice. Back in April, the NHS was not overwhelmed, and now in November there is evidence that lockdown-lite has sent cases of coronavirus plunging. It’s worked particularly well in those bits of the country which were worst hit, like Greater Manchester, and the R rate is thought to be around 0.88.

Granny got online. She said for years she didn’t understand it, didn’t like it, couldn’t see the point, but is now whizzing around the information superhighway like a boy racer in a digital Corsa. She has cheaper rates for her electricity, gas and telephone, more connections with friends and family, and more money to spend on herself.

“One is THRILLED! And also, off to browse the betting sites”

And we’re probably all glad to have learned that being married to someone richer than the Queen does not necessarily mean you’re any good at spending money, otherwise Rishi Sunak would just have paid everyone a Universal Basic Income back in March and saved us all a trillion pounds.

There are some prats. A couple of them are famous. But Rita Ora and Laurence Fox are the celebrity version of Dominic Cummings, doing a great job for public health by reminding us all what a pillock looks like.

Besides, you can get arrested for being an idiot now. Only idiots call that a dystopian nightmare. The rest of us call it About Bloody Time.

Roughly speaking, there are 66m people in this country alone who know more about virology now.

In the years to come, we’ll still be careful of handwashing around our elderly relatives and small children, some will shield every winter, or keep the mask and wear it for every flu season. Governments won’t let the PPE stockpile rot in the warehouse again, and pandemic experts will be listened to a bit sooner, next time.

And let’s not forget – the world’s biggest bully is now the world’s biggest loser. Money can’t buy karma like that.

At the start of 2020, if you’d said that black lives matter, you’d have got mostly shrugs and hmm-mms and so-whats. After George Floyd’s murder, millions took to the streets to make the point more loudly than they felt the need to before. That the police shot rubber bullets at peaceful protesters, that white supremacists took to the streets with guns, merely radicalised the relaxed, liberal majority who thought this battle had been won already.

Now, there’s not only broad agreement even in the seats of power, but a determination that bubbles under the surface of many lives to ensure there’s no more silence.

Racists still need educating. But they’re still being educated, too.

Jesus was black, fools

You may be living on your own, caring by yourself for a loved one, or just plain lonely. But this year, more than any other, because of all the above, you know you’re not alone. If you enjoy your solitude you can stay in it, but if you reach out a hand – virtually or in real life, to a friend or to a stranger – there is someone prepared to hold it.

So no, it’s not a normal Christmas. Because normally we don’t have a year that leaves us with the sensation that most people are ace, that capitalism and socialism work well together, or that humanity, as a species, has more in common, and can do better things, than we are usually led to believe.

In what other year, apart from 2020, could we have ever seen the proof of all that? It’s a year in which, finally, all the things we take for granted are now precious beyond all price.

Here’s to Covid-19 – may we never forget what it did.


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