NEIL COUPE: Shock of the new

Picture: zhugher via Pixabay

What a strange festive period we have just experienced.

Under normal circumstances, after a busy and sociable Christmas, it feels as though there is somehow a clean break with the past, and a new start.

Not so this year, after a lethargic break, punctuated by the occasional Zoom call, a brisk muddy walk or the illicit joy of a socially distanced coffee outside the home.

We were very grateful for the public spaces we now enjoy both at Elms Field in the town centre and in the surrounding area.

January is usually the time of looking forward to whatever might be important to us, be it a new year’s resolution, a dry January or even a time to start thinking about holidays.

This year, alas, it all feels different.

So far, 2021 seems like a continuation of 2020 as we are still in the tunnel of Covid misery and the news continues to get worse. The vaccine offers hope, and a potential roadmap to a brighter future, yet somehow it feels premature to start putting anything in the diary and daring to look forward to anything pleasurable.

To plan or not to plan, that is the question.

This week’s news, delivered with alarming solemnity by the Prime Minister, on Monday evening that we are now entering the most difficult phase of the pandemic was not unexpected, yet the fact that we could be on course to experience up to 12 months of lockdown still shocks.

It was striking that the statement was couched in caveats, that we will see some improvement, but only if lots of positive things happen around the spread of the virus, the roll-out of the vaccine, and of course, if people stick to the rules.

This was not the ever-optimistic Prime Minister of 2020.


At least with a return to the constraints of last March the rules are unambiguous.

People are being asked to stay at home or if they need to go out, to wear a face mask.

It is not easy, it is not fun, there are issues around loneliness and mental health, but there are reasons for it.

I’m sure that in the 1940s some Londoners did not enjoy spending their evenings in an air raid shelter, especially if they believed that the bombs would probably not hit their house.

Certainly, they would rather be at home listening to the wireless, playing backgammon by a roaring open fire, but they conformed for the greater good. It is disappointing that some of us in 2021 seem unable to moderate their actions very slightly and help everyone else.

So, what is there to look forward to this year? I know some people have used their spare time to learn a language, others have become ingenious cooks.

Walking, while appreciating the natural environment has become de rigueur as a social activity, especially when accompanied by a recently acquired puppy. They may be simple pleasures, but at least they are pleasures and can continue.

Amid this doom and gloom, there are some positives, in that it is now relatively straightforward to be tested and to obtain the results with 36 hours. The vaccine is the genuine game-changer that gives us a potential signpost towards normality. At the beginning of the pandemic, it was unclear whether there would ever be a vaccine, so that is progress.

In the meantime, all we can do is play by the rules, look after each other, keep in touch with our families and friends and support those who may be vulnerable.

Welcome to 2021.

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