What a couple of years it has been!
Here in Europe, this will be the second pandemic Christmas, the second year of cooking and baking together, watching television and Zooming, doing huge family jigsaw puzzles, and playing bridge, exercising and taking painting courses online – and generally making more of an effort to spend time together.
Is this the end of cheap global travel, or just a hiatus?
Everything is still uncertain – I was going to write up in the air, but that is just what it isn’t. Nothing can be confirmed, and plans, especially travel plans, are all on hold. The era of cheap flights seems to be over, and lockdown permanently an announcement away. Borders have become more visible, and staycations increasingly popular. But people want to see each other after so long, whether in big groups or small.
There are families who stay at home mostly and certainly avoid all public transport, and some who worry endlessly about shortages and, stock up massively on things such as petrol and lavatory paper and all staples – and even buy another freezer.
Yet others concentrate on sport and exercising – walking, jogging, cycling.
Will things ever go back to what used to be normal?
Perhaps this should be a time to reflect on how very lucky we and our families are, and commit to more selflessness and less self-indulgence, a time to cook for others as well as ourselves – elderly neighbours, or people who just don’t have the energy or the will to cook for themselves, or who would just welcome a change.
For some families the past few months have been an emotional minefield, for others a reconciliation, and for still others a great joy of togetherness. But the loneliness and isolation have been especially heartbreaking.
Build bridges, not walls.
How about seriously considering a meat-free Christmas? And promising actions instead of gifts – perhaps back massages on request for the family? Would you offer to tidy someone’s wardrobe on a monthly basis, or even to do the ironing, lay the table or empty the dishwasher regularly?
Perhaps a severe wardrobe edit – the result of which can go to a local charity shop before you start regretting anything – which will give you the space for presents to come.
Surely the past two years have given us all a greater appreciation of family life and close friends, and so most of us are rethinking priorities and values, and blessings and how to do good – so that monetary rewards do not necessarily come first any longer.
Throw off apathy
The pandemic has shown how precious, frail and vulnerable our freedom is, and how important it is to belong, and how gratitude should be the key emotion, rather than anger. A time to make the best of the holidays and appreciate the people you love.
By Clare Wadsworth – Clare lives in southwest France, where, apart from rescuing dogs, she translates from French or Mandarin to English, researches, edits and polishes books, writes and proofreads letters and articles, and is on the reading committee of a French publisher.