Interesting Times

Not, I regret, a review of the fine Discworld novel of the same title, but a reflection upon 2020. Since taking a job where my personal opinions could have an impact on my professional standing, I consciously moved away from regular blog posting and I miss writing for whoever will actually read this.

But as 2020 draws to a fevered close, I am reminded of the apocryphal Three Curses: “May you live in interesting times”; “May you come to the attention of important people”; and of course “May you find what you’re looking for.”

Well we’ve certainly enjoyed Interesting Times this year, haven’t we? My own family have lost one member to covid, and another simply to the inevitable certainty that we are mortal. As the tribe gathers together in our cave to sing our songs of lament, much more is at play in the world around us.

I am not going to pass judgment on the wisdom of removing our country from the European Union but I will observe that it’s costing people money they didn’t want to spend and time will tell how much of the rhetoric from five years ago held water. I have not yet applied for my blue passport – I am not a jet-setter and I’m unlikely to need it for much more than ID for the next decade anyway. I do think having a trade deal in place was an essential outcome but I’m not skilled or experienced enough to pass a verdict on that until the wrinkles are ironed out and the detail becomes more apparent.

As we head into 2021 I bring to mind the hill that I cycled some years ago in the Walsall Triathlon on the approach to Shire Oak lights, northbound on the A452 Chester Road. It’s an unforgiving climb, and although it eases in severity far from the traffic lights you feel the drag of gravity on you every turn of the crank. We are, now, sat at the lights waiting for a green, gathering our breath and giving silent thanks to our respective deities that we got here. 2020 has been a hard climb, on a busy road, with much traffic and noise to distract us and for many it’s been into the teeth of a rainy headwind.

As locals will know, you turn left at those lights to head for Walsall along the Lichfield Road. In a few hundred yards begins a mile-long descent from the ridge of landscape into the town of Walsall. But first there is another incline to beat. It’s not hard, nor is it lengthy, nor is it unreasonable. But after a long climb, and screaming muscles, oxygen debt and herculean effort… you turn the corner, look up from the handlebars, and just want to stare at this further climb and cry.

We are not done yet with interesting times. We have more obstacles to overcome. Vaccination, new variants of the virus, further lockdowns in sight, adjustments to international trade, the inauguration of a US President to replace the current incumbent who has executed federal prisoners in his final days because he can, who delayed signing a deal to support working class Americans, and who until recently was convincingly adamant that the election has been stolen from him. We have another 20 or so days of the tangerine clown to live with through too before his circus hits the road.

May 2021 be boring. May you have nothing to shovel, and nothing to regret, and no losses to mourn. May you find peace, and rest, and may the “new normal” be a default to recuperation and regeneration.

I won’t pretend there aren’t a hundred reasons to be fearful. Our planet is in increasing danger of long term damage. Our environment is being treated with contempt by a species who relies on it completely. We have people in power and people behind the thrones who have agendas which are not transparent and universally aligned with the greater good, and it’s getting more and more difficult to buy honey roasted peanuts in my local shop. But I hope for a year when we find ways to approach problems that don’t involve finger-wagging and chest beating.

Peace be with you.

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