The Night Before

Christmas 2020

It’s the end of the bleakest lead-up to Christmas that I can remember. Boris Johnson is touting his just-agreed EU trade deal as if it’s the best Christmas present ever, when in reality it’s the hardest Brexit short of no deal and will set Britain back for years. Thousands of lorry drivers are stuck in queues at Dover after borders were closed because of covid, when they were already racking up because of increased delivery traffic ahead of the end of transition. A new strain of the disease is spreading across the UK, with Scotland just over 24 hours from a new lockdown and UK covid cases approaching the peak of the first one. The prospect of widespread vaccination still seems a long way off.

Our kids were due back at school on January the 6th, and now won’t set foot there until the 18th at the earliest, meaning that the first two weeks back at work at the university will be a nightmare of lockdown home-schooling and working. In December, meanwhile, the university shut almost a week early as a reward for all our hard work this year, which meant cramming the usual work of December into fewer days and making it harder—no, impossible—to get it all done. Which means trying to catch up on it all after Christmas during lockdown before semester starts.

We’ve tried to maintain at least some sort of Christmas spirit, but the general atmosphere here is subdued at best. I caught the bus over to Leith ten days ago for a medical appointment, past the most low-key Christmas lights that Edinburgh has seen since the invention of the electric bulb. No Christmas fair in Princes Street; only a few desultory glowing reindeer and some boarded-up shop windows.

My sister-in-law was going to visit us from Germany, planning to self-isolate for two weeks at our end and again on her return rather than sit alone in her flat through the holidays, but Germany’s closure of flights from the UK put paid to that. Instead, we met up virtually last night to watch a Zoom pantomime together by a theatre company in Perth.

But in the next room, my daughter is maybe five or six hours away from waking up and rushing in here to see if Santa brought her what she wanted, which will make all of the bad news recede into the background for one day, at least. Merry Christmas.

24 December 2020 · Events