The top two most exciting sporting events of 2021 were Euros 2020, followed by Tokyo Olympics 2020.
To an alien visiting Earth for the first time this week, the above sentence would sound absurd, but to the rest of us it sounds perfectly normal. This says a lot about how far we had come since it all began.
Back to the two events. At the end of the first one, football very nearly came home, which felt very nearly fantastic. A couple of young players missed the penalties in the final shoot-out, but it was alright, because one of them had made sure that schoolchildren were being fed during school holidays, so in order to deflect any abuse hurled at the players in the immediate aftermath of the penalties they had missed, we all decorated our social media profiles with temporary frames declaring we stood firmly with the three lions. That was nice. Were we becoming nicer in the summer of 2021? Some of us? Answers on postcards, please.
I do not remember much of the Olympics, except a very young child winning, or was it nearly winning, a skateboarding competition and Tom Daly knitting a Union Jack sock for his medal.
What else happened? Meghan Markle gave an interview on Oprah in April, or was it June? Luckily for Meghan, somebody made a short video parody of it, which showed a bird pooping on her dress moments before the interview, which made Meghan tearful. Luckily, because there is now a good chance that in a couple of years time this might be the only thing people will still find worth remembering about that ghastly interview.
Traditional spring events got delayed until the autumn, which meant both the London Marathon and the Chelsea Flower Show took place in October. Did Wimbledon happen at all? Ascot? Emma Raducanu won US Open, so that must have happened, but was it US Open 2020 or US Open 2021? I have no idea.
It was hard to keep up with what was going ahead and what wasn’t. Weeks and months passed without a single lasting impression, and it all felt like a repeat of 2020, except schools stayed open. I never thought the day would come when I welcomed the sight of teenagers blocking the pavements at 3pm again, but welcome them I did, as they helped to restore a veneer of normality to the world. With bus stops, and top decks of buses, train stations, corner shops, and supermarkets reclaimed once again by noisy packs of children and teenagers, you could have been forgiven for thinking it was 2019 or another carefree year from the BC (Before Covid) era.
2021 turned out to be the second year in a row when my passport did not see the light of day. We chose Scottish staycation for our main family holiday, which meant we not only stayed away from the stresses of tests to release and passenger locator forms, but significantly reduced our risk of premature aging due to sun damage at the same time.
Meeting up with friends continued to feel like a guilty pleasure in 2021. Do we hug, do we fist bump, do we awkwardly raise hands in robotic hellos? Hugging a friend after a long absence felt like a defiance, immediately followed by sadness that it should feel that way. Vaccine status was nearly always mentioned at some point during those rare encounters, somewhere between reciting a list of cancelled plans and pondering the uncertainty of just about everything.
Today, as I prepare to say goodbye to the low key non-eventful 2021, in a low key non-event in my living room, I am allowing myself to hope that we will not see too many 2020 flashbacks in 2022, and will dare to dream of the return to the old normal.
Happy New Year!