As the shit show otherwise known as 2020 clatters to a grizzly conclusion, with among others NHS workers and funeral staff still rushed off their feet, I realise that I have not made the best of the pseudo lockdowns we have endured. I used the first one as a golden opportunity to get even more depressed again, thus requiring the services of yet another therapist. Deprived of any kind of holiday, other than a single overnight stay in Hay on Wye, I could have done so much more. But I didn’t.

I could have changed to a healthier diet but instead snacked a lot more. I should have taken more exercise, if only extra mind-numbing walks around places I already know better than the back of my hand, but the motivation just wasn’t there. And I should have read more, especially as I have several Everest style mountains of books waiting to be read. But again, the motivation wasn’t there as wasn’t any serious level of enthusiasm or concentration to make it happen. I just allowed the year to drift by. God, it’s been awful.

My book reading is primarily for holidays and lengthy spells of time off where I can polish off a decent paperback inside two days, maybe much quicker. I could easily buy a Kindle but I love books, just like I like physical music. But the virus overwhelmed me.

Oddly, having done next to nothing all year, I find myself exhausted, both physically and mentally. The former is due to a combination of things, ranging from a lack of exercise, to comfort eating (and drinking) and general old age. The latter, the growing shadow of the black dog, turning light into dark as each day blended seamlessly and miserably into the next. The joy of reading became a couple of pages at bedtime routine. In the end, I was forcing myself to read in a vain attempt to maintain what ‘s left of my sanity.

In the end, reading, albeit at a glacial speed, was a bit of salvation. Stuart Maconie’s forensic take on broken Britain, The Nanny State Made Me, offered not just a grim overview but it provided solutions which are in our own hands. And Searching in the Sun for the world’s greatest unfinished song by Dylan Jones is a stellar ride through Jimmy Webb’s Wichita Lineman. Each took me weeks to read, despite them clearly being unputdownable. But put them down, I did.

2021 couldn’t be any worse, could it? Well, I don’t know about that. But then, I’ve learned not to look too far into the future as this pandemic has turned life upside down. I long for my old boring life when I could sit in the garden and read a book, sit on an aircraft and read a book, lie on a sun bed by the pool and read a book and sit on the veranda of our holiday apartment and read a book. Do you see a pattern here? No, nor me. It’s a desire to read some of my warehouse-sized collection of unread books, which I love to do, and a return to a more ‘normal’ world AKA my boring old life. And for ‘read a book’ also add see my friends, play golf, go to the pub and give people a firm hug or a lusty handshake.

Next on the list is Barack Obama’s A Promised Land. The way things are going, that could take all of next year and maybe some of the year after, too. As Joni Mitchell said, ‘you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone’. I certainly didn’t.