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OUR HOPES in 2021

By Barry Didcock

Distancing Psychological. That was the 2020 buzzword, and to conjure it up is a curious one. There was not much detachment during the months of lockout, when schools were closed and families were crowded into apartments and homes, and whether it was disagreements over who was going to use the laptop or who ate the Cheerios – or the bigger problems that separate marriages and relationships – our atomized and isolated communities frequently felt anything but social.

I would like to take the word, social distancing, next year and cut it in half. I want to throw in the back of the closet the second word and what it means, along with all the other things I don’t want to think about. It’s the first word I want to play with for the next 12 months, socially.

It’s not like I was losing out on being social. I’m not a person who is particularly social. And it’s not like I missed the company of friends either, because there’s Zoom and Skype and a lot of other channels for video conferencing. I think what I’ve missed the most, and what I would like to see back in 2021, more than anything else, is the company of strangers. The herd’s strength. For both anonymity and mutual experiences, the strangeness and curiosity of the crowd and the possibilities it offers.

I would like to collect, arrange, associate, massage. In the thesaurus, you can find other words for this, but all of them point to the same thing: I don’t want to have to distance myself. That’s what I love about going to the theatre, almost as much as the performance itself. This is what I love about the crowds at the bar, almost as much as the IPA pint at the end of the show (other drinks are available). And it’s definitely what I like most about what I missed most in 2020 and look forward to most in 2021 – going to a soccer game. A real, loud, angry soccer game where you stand in line to get in and stand in line to get out, and forget about it if you value your private space.

I was a season ticket holder when this all began. It doesn’t matter that I’m not going to say who I support. Again, not necessarily the attraction is the spectacle itself, it’s the feeling of coming together. And I mean crowds: the ruthless, endearing physicality of the pressure that pushes you through the turnstiles because the game is about to begin, the conversations that you hear only because as you climb the stairs you are jammed cheek to cheek, the delirium of arms around a stranger when you score a late equalizer, and the feeling of weary conviviality in the cramped concourse as you stand in l.

It would be an easy wish to fulfill in any other year. I hope it can come true in 2021.

Through Teddy Jamieson

To tell you the truth, these days, I’m not sure I can talk about hope. It is not really a commodity I can handle anymore, after 15 months of loss and grief and the coronavirus.

But when I force myself to lift my head, what do I want to see?

Like everyone else, I want to see friends and family. Some human contact. I’m not going to lie, a hug would be nice.

But I’d settle for small pleasures. Being able to sit in a movie theater and not worry about who is sitting behind me (and that they aren’t worrying about me either). Taking a seat in a coffee shop and having a cup of coffee and not thinking about how well the owners washed the cup I was drinking from. Or just standing on a busy street in Glasgow or Edinburgh or London or Liverpool and enjoying the sight of people just going about their business. That would be enough for me.

What we’ve lost in the last 12 months is peace of mind. A kind of unthinking acceptance of our place in the world. The pandemic has shaken us out of that. We hope that what we used to take for granted can be restored. Who knows if that will be possible?

Of course, I too have all my usual hopes; hopes that are actually wishful fantasies. That Trump and Boris Johnson disappear in a puff of smoke, that Spurs win something and Stirling Albion get promoted.

But other than that? The best I can come up with is a day without worries, a day without the trickle of anxiety, a day when I could look forward instead of looking back to imagine


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