The Telegraph

How 2020 made us see things differently

This was the year we acquired 2020 vision and learnt to look at everything differently. From the patch of grass outside the back door to frontline workers, from video conference calls to home schooling, we had to change the way we lived our lives for better or worse. Here are some of the ways that we’ll approach the new year differently, thanks to this one: Exercise We hadn’t even heard of Joe Wicks let alone sweat-wicking active wear. Well we have now, and we all EFH (exercise from home) and we’ve got the mats and weights and probably an online exercise class that feels a lot like having a personal trainer. This plus WFH (working from home) means there is no going back to a life of NAHBLA (Nothing at home but loafing about). Going to the hairdresser Something shifted here. Not that we didn’t appreciate how much our hair mattered (in the immortal words of Fleabag “Hair is Everything”) but we hadn’t given any thought to what we would look like after three months without so much as a trim and a T section top-up. Now we know that the process we always thought was a tiny bit of a rip off is in fact worth every penny, if not double, and we all have our hairdressers’ mobile numbers. Gardens and outdoor spaces This year you would have traded a Mayfair penthouse for any old flat with a strip of balcony big enough to sit out on, and the shepherd’s hut that was meant to be an overflow spare room became an ideal isolation unit. It wasn’t just that lockdown made us appreciate access to our own patch of outdoors, we also started to take an interest in what was out there. According to the Horticultural Trades Association almost three million people took up gardening in Lockdown 1 and their enthusiasm has kept on going through the winter. If there’s one thing you can guarantee about 2021 it is that estate agents will be selling ‘outdoor space’ and ‘windows onto the garden’ like they were selling natural wood floors, proximity to schools and transport back in the old world. And the new status symbol is your own pond/lake; if you’ve got a river to swim in so much the better. The lure of the country Versus the city. Apart from all the second homeowners high-tailing it to their luxury country pads for lockdown it suddenly dawned on all sorts of people that without the nightlife, galleries, shops, theatres, restaurants bars etc in the city, open countryside – though smelly and cold and full of church bells and tractors blocking the traffic – might be preferable. Only half kidding. As more realised that WFH didn’t just mean skiving off, the city exodus started in earnest this year (according to Savills, more than half of buyers with school age children said a countryside property was more attractive than pre-Covid) and it may well continue. The friendship bubble Who did you really need to speak to during the crunch days of lockdown? Which friends did you Zoom and WhatsApp and which did you mean to call but never quite got around to it? Sometimes it’s a divorce, sometimes sudden success or a move abroad, and sometimes it’s a pandemic that’s the catalyst for a natural deselection friendship cull. Not saying we won’t see the people we haven’t been in touch with this year, but it’s fair to say we’re now subliminally aware of WMM (who matters most). There were some surprise exclusions and some even more surprising reconnections. Consider your friendship group realigned for the year ahead. Automatic social stuff Dinner midweek with the whatsits; drinks with the other whatsits, on to dinner and home by 1am if you’re lucky. Wasn’t it actually a blessed relief to stop doing all the social stuff that isn’t absolutely essential to our happiness and peace of mind? And wasn’t the 10pm curfew an unexpected bonus (start early, get cracking, be home in time to drink lots of water and get some sleep and so avoid a hangover)? Expect a quality controlled social life in 2021. The luxury of the theatre, cinema, concert… Really any cultural event. The heaven of sitting next to strangers in the dark enjoying something together. I’m never going to complain about the popcorn rustling, or the old ladies stage whispering ‘I thought it was going to be in French’ ever again. Pubs and restaurants These have taken on a kind of mythical status. Once we were released back into them (both times) we got emotional with the waiters and our gratitude for the average food knew no bounds. Who would have guessed that the happiest we could be was being waited on by smiley eyed young pub staff in masks and visors. Eating out went from being an ‘Ok, why not’ activity, to more of an Our Country Needs US and We Really Love Being Out in a Room with Strangers adventure. That’s not going away in 2021. Food Who didn’t go foodtastic this year? Some of us did not get around to joining in the sourdough bake off but, in the interest of finding something to look forward to, we shifted from the traybake sort of cooking to the ‘Let’s surprise our tastebuds’ sort. People who never cooked, cooked. People who already cooked went to the MasterChef side. Several people decided that, what the hell, they were going to eat like kings at Christmas every day. Almost everyone got better in the kitchen, and we can’t unlearn that. FOMO (fear of missing out) Tom Hollander said that Lockdown was a relief for actors like himself because for the first time in memory they didn’t have to worry about missing out on a job. The same was true for us to a lesser degree: we all let go of the feeling that we should be rushing somewhere else and learnt to slow down. It’s hard to say whether the new less is more serenity will stay when the world gets up and running. Maybe not. Respecting each other’s space That’s been one positive result of the virus: the two-metre rule has forced everyone to take a step back, literally, and give way much in the manner of a 19th century gentleman. You don’t bow any more but you might nod and scrunch up your eyes above your mask to indicate that you are willing the other person well and a safe journey. It’s nice. Also in the recovered manners bag is not assuming it’s OK to pat a stranger’s dog or baby or pregnant stomach. This will continue in the post-virus world, if we try. Hygiene Don’t want to overdo the bonuses of hygienic living but we also don’t want to go back to the days when someone would happily sneeze, wipe their nose with their hand, and then use that hand to support themselves on the overhead rail in the tube. Sneeze containment was at an all-time low, let’s face it, as was handwashing and general cleanliness. Now we’re all more aware, let’s pray that a new standard has been set. Seeing each other up close It’s hardly surprising that divorce boomed in 2020 (the highest percentage increase in 50 years): never in the history of marriage have so many couples spent so much time in such close proximity. Not many couples get to see each other at work every day (we did); or at the gym (we did) or looking like they’d spent a year in a cave (we did). Certainly there are a lot of people out there whose secrets have been outed (the pretend natural blondes, the Botoxers, the shouty bosses). But if you made it through without consulting a lawyer, the flipside is that you have bonded and are good for another 10 years. Neighbours Polite contact before, now we’re in full blown sharing mode, whispering about our other halves, the extension going on at Number 11, Number 20’s very annoying cat and so on. Isolation has made us less isolated. The pointless stuff purge Will we ever again buy a spiraliser-type gadget of the month, a novelty soap dish, a cashmere wrist-warmer, a charming Moroccan teapot? Since the first weekend of lockdown we have been on a mission to rid our homes of all the pointless stuff we’ve accumulated and, honestly, it feels like we will never again be tempted. Then again we haven’t been to a brocante for a while… Hugging, kissing, touching Don’t hug granny, Chris Whitty warned, and none of us has so much as crossed pinkies with our oldest relatives for months. Naturally post-virus we’ll get straight back to plenty of human contact but time’s up for the two-cheek peck greeting of everyone all the time. (That said, have you noticed some people have got very ostentatiously kissy huggy as in ‘We are just too loving and fabulous to not envelop every single person we come across’. So, who knows?) Crowds Will we rush back to the big gathering, the giant wedding versus the manageable family-and-close-friends-only wedding? 2020 has brought on a small degree of social agrophobia. It’s a bit like when you return from Venice and traffic scares the bejesus out of you. We will be weighing back into the crowds soon enough, but it could take a bit of time. Division of labour As in between the sexes. If you were Scandinavian you won’t have noticed the effect of Covid on this aspect of life. But for the rest of us, huge strides have been taken and, in retrospect, the cleaner being banished got us to where we needed to be (almost). Dogs Never mind a puppy for Christmas; a puppy for lockdown became a lifejacket for families on the brink of meltdown. Now a dog is not just a pet, it’s an emotional rescue aid, a reason to go for a much-needed walk, a tension absorber, a security guard and isolation companion. It’s a lot to put on the poor things, but oh well. Naturally these dogs are going nowhere in the new year. Environmental concerns Weirdly this one has gone backwards this year, what with the endless one use only everything. Still, 2020, everyone agreed, gave nature some space to breathe and us some time to appreciate it. There was more growing, more composting, more using up leftovers, more looking out of the window and walking – some good habits have been formed. Celebrities The signs are that we’ve lost none of our instincts for ogling the rich and famous (Mr and Mrs Dominic West have borne the brunt of a gossip-starved nation, for example) but aren’t we just a little bit less interested in them? Aren’t we a lot less impressed by nothing but a bottom and an eyelash extension? For this one we’ll have to wait and see.

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