This summer, we are hoping to finally take the holiday we planned for 2020. But what is better, planning a holiday in advance, or improvising it on the spot? And, in the post-corona world of border checks, overstretched airports and rental car shortages, is a holiday simply more trouble than it’s worth?
Unlike the Ten Commandments, rules are not set in stone. They are often open to interpretation, fail to cover the current situation, or even come into conflict with common sense or our conscience. Yet when we decide for ourselves, we are led by our own bias and the temptation to put our needs and desires above what we know to be right. When should we follow rules, and when should we use our own judgement?
We want to believe in perfect solutions. We want better hospitals without paying taxes to fund them, safety from crime and terrorism without our civil liberties being impinged on, new technological gadgets without factory pollution. In reality, life is a constant trade-off. This is enshrined in various scientific laws, but also in simple folk wisdom: ‘There’s no such thing as a free lunch’.
Back in March last year, when this all started, I didn’t hope that it would be over soon. I expected it to be over soon. As time went on and the seriousness of the situation became apparent, my expectations subsided into hope – or rather, a string of hopes. The hope that the schools would soon reopen. The hope that we could celebrate my father’s 70th birthday together. The hope that a vaccine would be developed. The hope that the developed vaccines would quickly improve our situation. The hope – once the schools had reopened – that they would never close again. Save one, all of these hopes were dashed. And now, I am finding it very hard to frame any sort of hope.
The last few days, as we cycled around our town, we regularly passed heaps of Christmas trees lying at the kerb, waiting to be collected by the council. It’s always a sad sight: the trees that we glimpsed through windows, decked with lights and ornaments, now lying drab and discarded on the pavement. This year, with only gloomy prospects of dull lockdown days ahead, I completely understand the people who are keeping up their decorations for longer, trying to bring some light into these dark times. But I won’t be one of them.
I always find the start of January a difficult time. The house seems dark and dull with the Christmas lights returned to the attic, the living room has an empty hole where the Christmas tree was, the tree itself lies forlornly out in the street awaiting the binmen. This year the bleak prospect of at best a lengthy lockdown (and at worst, who knows?) makes 2021 gape like an endless black hole, ready to swallow me up.