December 31st, 2020
December in ReviewDecember was a month of stress and recuperation. In the few weeks before and around Christmas many (classically) unexpected changes in the UK’s response to the continuing COVID pandemic caused plans to be rewritten in the moment. On Saturday the 19th, it was announced that, from Midnight, the five day free rein given over the Christmas break would be rescinded. For those in Tiers 1-3 this meant only allowing one day of household mixing, on the 25th. For those in Tier 4, households were forbidden from mixing at all. Earlier that day, dad had, in anticipation of this exact announcement, told me to get ready to leave at a moment’s notice. He arrived around eleven o’clock to collect me and Mars, to bring us home for Christmas. The debate between my housemates and I around what was the ‘right thing to do’ was made difficult by our hypocritical instincts to both obey the new rules (and adhere to the intentions behind them), and to go home to our families, who we knew would be semi-heartbroken by our absence. Eve and I left, Dan stayed behind, with his sister coming over to bubble for a few days around Christmas. Ollie ended up staying for Christmas Day as well, having worked in London on Christmas Eve. In the end we all had homely, contented breaks, and, having been well tested in every household, have avoided any transmission at all. Lucy and I had planned to spend New Years together at Lysia but the introduction of Tier 4 spoiled that arrangement, as travel between London and beyond, let alone mixing households began to look less and less like something we could get away with. A new strain of the virus appeared, in Kent of all places, and rightly sent the Government into a bit of a frenzy, locking down huge swathes of the country into Tier 4 as case numbers shot up, even before the inevitable effect of Christmas mixing. The new strain has since made its way around the world, exclusively carried by those leaving the UK. As usual, we couldn’t not make this whole debacle somehow about ourselves. In lieu of Lucy coming to Lysia, or the frankly morbid prospect of not seeing her at all for the foreseeable, we’ve worked out a way whereby we can bubble, thanks to the sad but very much silver-lined news that Lucy’s London housemate Nok has split from her boyfriend. With Nok going back to her family in York, the possibility opened up of Lucy moving back to Berkeley Road, and becoming a bubble with Lysia. After ironing out a few qualms we settled on a plan whereby I will move in to Berkeley too, and after 10 days of so, move back to Lysia with the bubble intact, and no risk of transmission. That is where I am now, and after one night, and one morning (the 1st of a new year), I have to say I think it’s going to be a wonderful time, for Mars being able to explore a whole house if nothing else. Games a plenty will be played, walks a many will be trod, and food by the ton with be scoffed. Not her latest loaf of bread though, it’s just baked dough. Christmas itself was a cosy affair, with just the four of us for the first time in my life. Though we very much missed the aunties, uncles and cousins it was by no means a lonely day, and we all enjoyed the more relaxed atmosphere that comes without having to worry over guests, no matter how much you love them. I count myself extremely fortunate (rule-bending aside) to have been able to spend the time with my nearest and dearest, when so many around the world couldn’t, or chose not to. Dad took a test while we were home, a friend of his in the village having tested positive. The negative for dad was a sigh of relief for all of us, not just because of his not being ill, but because we could go back to London with relatively clean consciences. The reality of having been a part of spreading the virus would have weighed heavily, and rightfully, on my mind. Much Buck’s Fizz was drunk, awful jokes were told, and charades were successfully enacted. Upstairs, shut away in Ryan’s room, mine, and our conjoining bathroom, Mars the cat enjoyed a bit of me-time, sleeping most of the day on his bed by the radiator. In the nights he would play with the things that rustle and the things that jingle till the early hours of the morning. Then, after a brief respite he’d be back at it around five, and then intermittently attempt to wake me until I would finally relent sometime between seven and eight for breakfast and general attention. As I was walking through the door on that Saturday the end of the third Hobbit film was playing on the TV, live, on the TV. A few days later I had succumbed to the sort of musical and cinematic urges one gets for something very specific and we began watching the Hobbit extended (2 DVDs each) editions, which were then followed by the Lord of the Rings extended (2 DVDs each) editions, which we finished on the morning of the 30th, just before Ryan left for London. There was some sort of month or time before Christmas, though it has already faded into the obscurity brought on by the submerging effects of the Christmas-to-New Years interim period which has the power to drown a whole year of memories with a few hazy date-less days. I went to the Tate Britain and drank some artistic inspiration there, Rothko and Turner in particular but also Henry Moore, the Year 3 exhibition, and a particularly colourful stairway. Braddy and I drove to Muriel’s with a bed from Wildwood (from Lysia) on a fun trip to Virginia Water. We had our own Christmas in the house on the 12th, with a big roast dinner, Secret Santa, party games, and the rest. I played an inordinate amount of Kingdom Rush, the tower defence game, which is just excellent. On the whole, I count myself very fortunate to have been able to take the risks I did, and to have escaped any sort of calamity. On my return to Lysia we will be going back to a stricter sensibility, which has previously served our bodies and consciences well.
©2007-2021 Benedict Esdale