A very personal reflection on 2020


Looking back on 2020 it is tempting to focus on negatives – there have certainly been enough of them, and it’s impossible to minimize the impact of the pandemic. 2020 has been a horrible year for so many people –  for those who have had covid; those who have lost family members to the virus; those working on the ‘front line’, who exhaust themselves to look after  others; those isolated and lonely; and those fearful of what will come next for their family or their jobs. 

But as I began to think about writing this it struck me that for me there is another way to look at the year –

2020 – the year of  ‘Just in time’

January –  Just in time (1)  

5 days before I was due to visit, my lovely dad was ‘called home’ to heaven.  It was and is a loss for us, but as a family we are all grateful for God’s timing – sparing him from all the difficulties of Covid and allowing us to have a joyous thanksgiving service with 220+ folk packing the church, as we remembered dad and thanked God for his faith-filled and faith- fuelled life. 

February – Just in time (2)

Despite the faint rumblings of a virus in China, a writers’ retreat week I
organised at Abbotsford (the home of Walter Scott) was wonderful. Good food, good company, lovely accommodation, and so conducive to work that I managed to both start and finish all the paper and computer-based research for a new novel (now sadly stalled due to inability to do ‘on location’ research).  There were just seven of us – including Alanna Knight – who, at 97, was the life and soul of the party (slightly eclipsed on one evening by a visit from Sit Walter himself). You may have seen her recent obituary in the Guardian.  I had the choice of a February week and a March week – boy was I glad I’d plumped for February. A bit of a gamble weather-wise – and we did have snow – but as it turned out, our last hurrah before lockdown. 

Also in February Just in time (3) London Book Fair was cancelled only 2 weeks before it was due to take place – despite disappointment, most folk realised it would have been the worst kind of madness to have 25,000 people from all over the world concentrated in one building.

March – Just in time (4)

Our first grand-daughter – Esme Grace Skea – was born on the 10th March and we scooted up to Inverness the next day to see her  – she’s beautiful (of course) and with three older brothers who totally dote on her, we almost had to make an appointment to get a cuddle!  

We were so glad we’d made it – lots of grandparents haven’t been so fortunate. 

April – Just in time (5) A new family had joined our church in December 2019 and though we didn’t realise at the time, it gave the husband time to get to know us all a little, before taking on the essential role of organizing the technical side of running church services on Zoom.

Dave Gillies

May – Just in time (6)  I found a fabulous narrator for my Scottish trilogy and while I couldn’t write anything, I concentrated on proof-listening to the audio files.  

June –we found out that our daughter, stuck in a severe lockdown in Kurdistan, and wanting to come home, wasn’t on the Foreign Office list of UK nationals. And Just in time (7) they were able to rectify that and supply her with a ‘letter of request of passage’,  so that she could make the four hour journey to the one airport still open for special flights. Just in time (8) a seat became available on an American repatriation flight to Dubai. Two more flights later and we had her at home on Scottish soil. 

July – Just in time (9)After a long fallow period following the stalling of my new novel, when I’d begun to despair of knowing what I should write instead, along came a request to talk about a possible commission.  Creative non-fiction is a new direction for me  – but a challenge is good – right? I hope to start preparing for that in January.

August – Just in time (10) our alterations to make our church building covid secure were finished, just as restrictions eased sufficiently to allow us to recommence services, though with restricted numbers.

And Just in time (11) we managed another quick trip to Inverness before hospitality was shut again.

October  November – we were needed in Inverness, but of course couldn’t stay with our family, but Just in time (12 +13) a friend and then a friend of a friend successively lent us an empty house enabling us to go.

On the 30th December the last Just in time  (14) as the AstraZenica (Oxford) vaccine was approved in the UK and will start to be administered next week.  Great news, not just for Britain, but also for the world.

And while I don’t look back on my own brush with covid with any pleasure, it’s been helpful to also focus on some of the positives of the year and to look forward to better things for 2021.

Finally, the Bible reminds me that ‘At just the right time, God sent his son’ and in the words of one of my favourite carols:

‘Who would have thought,
One born so small,
Would grow from a child to a king
And become Saviour of all.’

Tidings of ‘comfort and joy’ – exactly what we all need as we leave 2020 behind and look forward with hope for a much better 2021.

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Angela Lane

    Such perfect words for this night! The weave of our lives requires light and shade, but if we cannot see the gold threads in the dark material, we will never realise what a rich life we were living. Xxxx

  2. Raymond Walker

    A lovely soliloquy on a mostly miserable year. I too have been lucky but find myself thinking darker thoughts. Here is to a better year for everyone in 2021. I will raise a glass and wish everyone good cheer.

    1. margaretskea

      Here’s to a better year, indeed – some light at the end of the tunnel – but we’ve still a wee way to go. Take care, Margaret

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