MERRY CHRISTMAS, readers. I hope you are all well and happy wherever you are spending this festive season.
Christmas is the only time of year when I am able to take a proper break from my work.
Not much happens in three weeks that span the end of one year and the beginning of the next, which means I can set aside newspapers and social media and forget all about the goings-on in the world, focussing instead on the smaller world that makes up my life.
This means that I can take some time to read books, to prepare delicious meals for my family, to meet friends, and to reflect on all that has happened in the year that is coming to an end and all that I would like to achieve in the year that lies ahead.
Looking back on 2020, one thing united us all and that was our fear of the coronavirus and the way that fear infected every aspect of our lives.
My most vivid memory of the year is watching Leo Varadkar (the then Taoiseach) address the nation on the television on St Patrick’s Day. He warned us of the storm that was approaching our shores.
He told us that we were experiencing a moment of calm before the surge that was to come. His words frightened me and, to be honest, I have felt anxious ever since.
Now, I must acknowledge that I am fortunate.
Neither I nor any of my family or friends were sick with the virus. I live in a house that has plenty of space for my three-person family.
And because we live in the countryside and by the sea, we were able to go outdoors whenever we wanted, even during the strictest of lockdowns.
So many people were not as lucky. I know one young woman in Dublin who is still working from home in the apartment she shares with others who are in the same situation.
What this means is that she spends her entire day on her computer in her bedroom, the same bedroom where she also spends her nights. She is depressed because her life has become so constrained and limited.
I have no cause for complaint when compared to the likes of her, not to mention those who are grieving because they have lost loved ones this year or others who are still sick with the virus.
Yet I have to admit that I miss my freedom and spontaneity. I miss hugging and being able to casually touch my friends and family. I miss being surrounded by people at communal events.
And boy, do I miss nights out in the pub.
Before the pandemic, I did not go to the pub very often, maybe once a month or so to meet with friends, have a few pints, and listen to music.
Looking back on it now, I long for those evenings of carefree conversation and chatter. I long for the buzz of live music and the possibility of dancing.
And most of all, I long for the sense of spontaneity, of not knowing exactly what would happen or who you might unexpectedly meet during the course of the evening.
I will have no such pleasures this Christmas. This festive season will be a smaller affair than previous years. But hopefully, this will only happen once.
With luck, the vaccine will allow us to return to happier, more convivial celebrations next year, with a newfound understanding of the value of freedom, spontaneity, and community.
In the meantime, readers, I wish you all the loveliest of Christmases and a New Year filled with happiness, fortune, and good health.
Look after yourselves and if you can at all, hold your family close.
If we have learned anything this year, it is just how much of a pleasure and privilege it is to be able to reach out to touch those we love.
That is a lesson that 2020 has taught me and it is one I hope never to forget.