Not the year we wanted, but the one we got anyway
2021 was often touted as the antidote to 2020. Things will be better in the new year, they said. COVID won't be an issue next year. We'll have a vaccine then. Trump won't be president then.
Well, it turns out that it takes a little more than buying a new calendar to solve the world's problems. And whilst there is value in turning over a new leaf, giving yourself a fresh start, and distancing yourself from whatever calamities, catastrophes and another noun beginning with C you experienced in the year just gone, some things just can't be left behind.
In the UK, COVID measures bled into 2021. They gradually waned as Spring approached, and by Summer there was a bizarre feeling that things might be returning to normal on a more permanent basis. You don't need me to tell you where we stand now in December as I'm sure you're all too aware, but I would like to take this moment to reflect on my 2021. Although it's brought with it a whole host of 2020-esque doom and gloom, there has been much to celebrate this year.
There were many, many social events that were simply wiped off the calendar last year. As a result this meant that I didn't get to see nearly enough of my family and friends, which I think was the toughest part of 2020 for most people. Once restrictions began to lift this year, there was a real sense amongst my family and friends of wanting to get back together. Whether it was catch-ups over coffee (or something stronger), or trips away to a multitude of places across the country, it was pure catharsis to see so many people in person rather than settling for our entire social interactions to take place through the laggy, pixelated frame of Zoom. It took some getting used to initially after digital-only hangouts, but all of my highlights of this year have certainly been when I've surrounded by pals.
Speaking of trips away, it was similarly cathartic to experience significantly more than just the four walls of my flat. And while I didn't get to go abroad, I did get to experience many pockets of the UK that were undiscovered to me. City breaks and days out in the likes of Nottingham, Birmingham, London, Oxford, Kenilworth, Milton Keynes, Northampton, Stockport, Bournemouth, and two holidays in good ol' Blighty. A week in Falmouth and a week in the New Forest; thankfully we were blessed with plenty of sunshine for both weeks, and on both occasions it was it was a very welcome change of scenery and an opportunity to disconnect, reflect, kick back and enjoy some excellent company.
I'm a big fan of trips to the cinema, and it was one of the things I missed most during lockdown. I certainly made up for it though, with a plethora of trips to the silver screen. The Courier, No Time To Die, Last Night In Soho, The Last Duel, Dune, The Green Knight, Spider-Man - so many stellar films were released this year, many of them held up by the closure of cinemas and all set free at once in a cinematic burst of glory. A trip to the cinema is always an exciting experience for me, and I had sincerely missed it. You can bet I'll be back shortly for The Matrix.
It was a similarly excellent year for video games, with a glorious return to form for Metroid. Mario started the year off with a bang with the excellent Bowser's Fury, and there were some great indie hits like Sable, Eastward and Kena: Bridge of Spirits. Oh, and Halo is back. From incredible ongoing support for the Master Chief Collection to the triumphant Infinite, it's been a good year to be a Halo fan. Animal Crossing got an enormous content update and an expansion that I've barely even dipped my toes into yet. PlayStation got Ratchet & Clank and Returnal, and Psychonauts 2 finally launched to critical acclaim. The Mass Effect Trilogy got a great remaster (and the GTA trilogy got a hilariously poor one). No matter your tastes, there was something special for everyone in 2021.
After a cancelled festival and five cancelled gigs in 2020, it was nice to be able to finally experience some live music again after so long. Kasabian came back with a bang, and Dodie absolutely serenaded my soul, supported by the excellent Will Joseph Cook, who have quickly become one of my new favourite bands. I even attended a few small-scale pub gigs including my Uncle Laurie's own Bring on the Swing. As I've said, music is medicine, which I suppose makes live music equivalent to a full-on spa day for the soul. I've got another three already set for next year so far, and I am sincerely hoping that they go ahead.
But - our annual journey around the Sun wasn't perfect, as we all well know. From an insurrection attempt on Capitol Hill and endless Tory sleaze and deceit to waves of highly-infectious variants and a worsening climate emergency, there have been far too many troubling world events and pandemic-related woes that have either put a stop to plans or cast a dark shadow over our days. I myself have struggled with my mental health this year. I was wiped out for over a week with COVID. I've had days where I've sat inside feeling sad, drinking in darkness to myself. I've had days where I haven't wanted to leave bed at all. But - I've also helped family and friends move into wonderful new homes. I raised £350 with the support of generous peers in aid of Movember. I ran a 10K against all odds after falling off the wagon with my running and suffering long-COVID symptoms. I got round to finishing up a few creative projects I'd been working on. I've walked more this year than any other year of my life, adventuring off the beaten path and discovering new places. I've laughed, caught up with friends new and old, spent time with family I'd been previously forbidden from seeing, and tried to make the best of whatever cards we were dealt. And absolutely none of those things would have happened if I'd simply accepted defeat and stayed in bed.
I think, now more than ever, we've got to be there for each other. Be kind, champion mental health and wellbeing, stay in touch and check in with your friends and family; and for goodness sake, get yourself vaccinated and boosted.
Much love to everyone who helped make this a year to remember - I am truly lucky to have such a wonderful family and so many wonderful friends. Here's to the next one ❤️
Below is a selection of just a few highlights of my 2021. And...If this is what constitutes a bad year, then I'd love to see what a good year looks like.
It will be all right in the end.
And if it's not all right, then it's not the end.
- Someone wiser than me