To be honest, 2019 was a far worse year for me than 2020, but then the past four haven’t been great. I lost Mum in 2019 and that pretty much made it one of the worst years imaginable, despite the many stresses that had been related to, and that preceded it (yes, 2018 was right down there with the worst of them, too).
I lost quite a few friends to Covid, and others through different causes; I saw friends and family lose the people closest to them; I watched a US election in despair as the narcissistic creature who is not worthy of the office still refuses to acknowledge defeat.
So, I’m going to focus on some good things that happened during 2020 for which I am so grateful and that would never have happened, had this ghastly plague not been visited upon us.
- I started to talk in ridiculously over-the-top Biblical language such as “this ghastly plague not been visited upon us.” But it got me looking up what might have been worse, had we lived in Old Testament Egypt. Here goes: water turning to blood, frogs, lice/gnats, wild animals/flies, livestock pestilence, boils, thunderstorm of hail and fire, locusts, three day darkness, death of firstborn. Try finding a vaccine for that little lot. We don’t know we’re born. See (inadvertent joke about the 10th plague)? You’re feeling better already and it’s only January 1st.
- In July, I took up residence in Beacon, technically a city, but more of a town, 90 minutes outside Grand Central on the train. The journey itself is a joy, and I’ve met some wonderful people, particularly in the Roosevelt Bar in Hudson Valley Food Hall, where owner Marko and his family, in addition to several others, have become friends. I love having more space than in my city apartment and I enjoy commuting between the two places. I have had to learn to love green things, like grass and trees: not easy for someone for whom a lettuce poses an existential threat.
- I brushed up on my French and started to learn Italian and Spanish (again). The Italian has been going quite well; the Spanish less so. But given that I lived in Spain for 10 years and got no further than “taco” and “Don’t kill the f*****g bull!”, that’s hardly surprising.
- I touched base with friends I haven’t spoken to in years – decades, in some cases. Life takes us all on such different routes, but it’s good to discover that the things you liked about people when you first met them are still there. And I healed wounds with others, not least through the realization that we waste too much time sweating the small stuff.
- I made new friends, mainly through Facebook, which has been my comfort and joy through so many tough times. We have all shared so much, good and bad, and I have met with more kindness than I could ever have dreamed of. True, I had to sack some people who became rude or aggressive and picked on me and/or my friends, but there’s nothing wrong with separating the sheep from the goats. It’s in the Bible, so it must be okay! And I ended up with more sheep (I think they were the goodies).
- I’ve spoken to my brother Nigel and his wife Kim probably more than we have in any other year. I love them both so much and am incredibly lucky to have them in my life. It’s been tough since Mum died and having someone so close who has been going through the same thing has been of invaluable comfort. It made me think how tough these things must be for single people with no siblings.
- I started my own website, thanks to Jayne Gould, a brilliant designer who I met when we first worked on the London Evening Standard in the late Eighties. She is truly amazing, and I learn so much from her every day. Her main task is to stop me pushing buttons, buying up domains that I am convinced are going to earn me my fortune. I’m not sure she signed up to be my internet life coach, but she carries out that task extremely well.
- I’ve always loved cooking, but I did even more and took it to my YouTube channel, Jaci’s Box – another addition to my internet repertoire. I just love talking to a camera, but then I already knew that. I once did a TV show for which I was required to live a healthy lifestyle for two weeks. On day one, the director left me with a dozen VHS tapes, as I was required to deliver my feelings to camera every night. She made me promise over and over that I would comply, because most people forgot, or were reluctant to do it. On day two, she turned up and, having talked my way through the night about anything that took my fancy, I proudly handed over the pile of tapes – all 12 of them. “They were for the fortnight!” she cried.
- I made a huge decision to give away most of my belongings that had been lying in storage in Cardiff. Yes, there are days when I regret it, mourning for the beautiful china and glasses that Mum bought me, the expensive furniture, the presents that friends and family gave me for special occasions. But it was the right thing to do: it’s the past. That was then; this is now. The items have gone to good homes and have helped out young people starting out in life. It’s as it should be: stuff needs to breathe and enjoy life, too.
- I will never again underestimate the benefits of overstocking on toilet paper.
Happy 2021, everyone!