2020: Sopranos, mezcal … and a global pandemic

2020: Sopranos, mezcal … and a global pandemic

Evening all, and welcome to the final post of 2020.

I think it’s safe to say it has been somewhat unusual. Twelve months ago I wasn’t necessarily expecting human civilization as we know it to be ripped inside out almost overnight. But that is of course what happened in the spring when the coronavirus escaped from China and surged its way across the rest of the world. As this invisible killer wreaked havoc, panicking governments held crisis talks. They held daily briefings in a (failed) bid to convince the public things were under control, and took questions from the media via video conferencing technology. Meanwhile, borders closed and international travel ground to a halt. Live entertainment, in all its previously known forms, froze. Offices shut their doors and employees worked from home. And a global pandemic – the worst of its kind in a century – was declared.

Social distancing. Tier Four. Lockdown. Asymptomatic. Super-spreader. Face mask. Contact tracing. Flatten the curve. Herd immunity. PPE. Self isolation. Zoom. Quarantine. Most of these terms had never been heard before March. They are now integral parts of modern lexicon.

It has been a tough year for everyone. I have been comparatively lucky. At home, my girlfriend and dog have provided me company, comfort and calm. Over 86 episodes of the Sopranos, no fewer botched sourdough-baking attempts and countless Uber Eats deliveries, we have grown stronger and closer.

Far from suffering my work has, if anything, benefited from the chaos. People want to know what is going on and offer their opinions – that is good news for journalists and reporters. I have been working from home since 2017 and so transitioned into the lockdown with relative ease.

But I have also found it tough at times. More than anything, I miss people. I twice had to cancel planned trips home and now haven’t seen my family and friends in the UK for two years. Like everyone else, I have been locked in a seemingly never-ending cycle of video calls, quizzes and poker games. There was even an alcohol-fueled virtual karaoke session for my brother’s birthday in May. But, while technology is clearly better than nothing (imagine if this had happened 20 years ago), it doesn’t come close to replacing physical contact. In a world that has stopped moving, Mexico City and London feel impossibly far away.

I also miss clarity. Naturally quite an anxious person, a global pandemic and all the concerns that come with it have done nothing for my peace of mind. The spread of misinformation – yet another contender for word of the year – has been overwhelming at times. I have self-diagnosed myself with COVID-19 on at least 358 occasions, and yet returned nothing but negative tests. I still have no idea how worried I should be if I do get it, so high is the mountain of conflicting advice available at my fingertips.

There have, however, been some real highlights this year. By a strange quirk of fate, one of my school friends was visiting Mexico in March when the pandemic hit. He ended up staying until November. I haven’t spent so much time with him for 15 years and it was awesome. We ran – a lot – and played tennis and squash and golf. We went rock-climbing in the Sierra Madre mountains and surfed the Pacific. We drunk too much mezcal and laughed about the impending apocalypse.

In between gargantuan Netflix binges and greasy pizzas, I have also managed to be productive at times. I have learnt Portuguese, to a relatively competent level. I have added a few dishes to my (still limited) cooking repertoire. And I led Arsenal to three-successive Champions League titles on Football Manager. All three will surely stand me in good stead as I await whatever challenges life serves up down the road.

And finally, I have written. Somewhere around 91,000 words across 90 posts, in fact (depending on how long I take to wrap up this article). From the bottom of my heart, thank you all for being here and supporting the site. While this outlet has been immensely therapeutic for me this year, I hope it has provided you some light, non-pandemicky entertainment. I look forward to continuing in the new year when sport – with any luck – will return to something resembling normality. Bring on 2021!