I’m exhausted!  Just back from Primark where I queued for six hours with hundreds of others, arriving at 5am.  Hypothermia?  Forget that, has anybody seen my mind?  Brits at their best.  So much to be proud of …

So much to be thankful for, too!  As if we haven’t had enough to deal with, winter has arrived.  Freezing temperatures, ice, snow, driving rain, floods, gale-force winds – and that’s just in the last 24 hours.  Whilst an excuse not to expend energy washing one’s hair, coupled with the minimum hours of daylight – as I said, so much to be thankful for.  What’s that?  The vaccine?  Or, more precisely, the centrepiece of the most driven PR campaign ever!  Every second word.  ‘Charismatic’ scientists propped up on Zoom, day and night, just waiting for the cue to plug – because that’s what it amounts to: plugging.  Yes, everyone was aware that a vaccine was imminent but, produced in ten months, there was never going to be blanket acceptance.  In reality, the wave of scepticism has been such that it is a case of all hands on deck and, miraculously, everyone questioned is in favour!  I did laugh, last night, when Tony Blair – on some political programme following Question Time – was asked if he would be agreeable to having the vaccine, live, on camera.  His face was a study.  He almost aged another twenty years, as if he isn’t virtually unrecognisable already.  Successfully, avoiding a direct answer, however, he claimed, instead, that he was always willing to help – still got it, Tony!  Meanwhile, it seems that former Presidents Obama, Bush and Clinton have, all, volunteered to have the injection on camera.  How jolly decent of them, taking one for their country, but I demand an independent party be on hand to verify the authenticity of the syringe’s content …  What has happened to me?  I’ve morphed into the ultimate cynic!  In truth, though, nothing adds up anymore.  Instead, what is abundantly clear is a movement to negate the fundamental right of the individual; the right to choose.

I have no wish to devote any more time than necessary to the subject of the miracle vaccine; one whose ‘rider’ (as in celebrity demands) is virtually impossible to fulfill.  However, the familiar adage, ‘one doth protest too much’, comes to mind.  This pandemic has curtailed life as we know it; destroyed so much in its path but that is largely due – certainly in this country – to its chaotic mishandling.  A mishandling deserving of the mistrust which, now, abounds.  There is no escaping the speed at which this serum has been expedited; however, unlicenced, it has been approved by the MHRA (Medicines & Healthcare Regulatory Authority), supposedly subject to the obligatory stringent testing.  Two questions, then: what of possible long-term side effects?  Vaccines, routinely, take between six and ten years to develop thus allowing for any delayed complication.  No guarantees possible, in this case.  Then, finally – and of critical importance – why the need for any changes to the Human Medicines Regulations prior to rolling out the COVID-19 vaccine?  Paying special attention to point 3, ‘Extending immunity from civil liability’, I am, particularly, reassured by the following:

Some respondents expressed concern about the individual’s rights if they are harmed by a vaccine.

The government will look to ensure that, should an individual be harmed by a COVID-19 vaccine, they would receive the support they need.’

Grammar aside, can’t say fairer than that!  In which case, absolutely nothing to worry about so arms out everybody!  No need, whatsoever, to threaten making it mandatory thus denying each and every one of us the fundamental right to freedom of choice.  Well, at least, no need to be transparent.  Ladies and gentlemen, introducing the COVID Passport … or, in layman’s terms, the Get Out of Jail Free card!  (Good job this isn’t Facebook as, apparently, any negative posts about the vaccine are, now, to be blocked or deleted.  Whatever happened to honest debate?  Could it be a case of too much to lose?)

As Christmas approaches, there is an urgency to decorate, apparently.  For the past four years, we have been lucky enough to escape, in every sense of the word.  Escape the miserable weather and, moreover, a country which, increasingly, just gets it wrong.  The queues at Primark, this week, say it all.  In the main, it’s just tack; commercial tack – as in tacky.  Panic buying and excess on every front.  No need to, actually, deck the halls with boughs of holly – pay someone else to do it!  How sad because the true magic of Christmas lies in simplicity …

For me, Christmas is St Wolfgang, that little village in Austria nestled on the lakeside beneath the snow-capped mountains.  The painted alpine houses adorned with tradition, the narrow winding streets sparkling with stars and lined with Advent huts selling local fayre, and the village square below the 11th century pilgrim church where the brass band plays Stille Nacht as we sip our Gluhwein …  Christmas magic.  No flash, no brash just centuries of tradition upheld culminating in the Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve.  For, Christmas Eve is Christmas!  The trees are decorated on the 24th and simple gifts are exchanged in the evening before attending the church service to give thanks – and reflect.  It is so beautiful with the power to strip away all meaningless veneer in light of what is truly important.  Attending for four years now, there is a feeling of acceptance by the locals as we intrude upon their innermost sanctum.  A privilege we shall never take for granted …  So ends the celebration of Advent.  Come the 25th, all is quiet.

Why do I torture myself?  Christmas is cancelled.  There is no Austria for us this year.  2020 has stolen much and there will be no great finale to bid its farewell.  Instead, beleaguered and emotionally drained, we shall, merely, pause, acutely aware of our blessings – and our hopes for the future.  Austria awaits us in 2021, as does the Eternal City.  Too long away from our friends and the places we hold dear, we cling to the future cleansed of all but the meaningful.  There must have been something good …  found it!

Once you choose hope, anything is possible.’

Christopher Reeve

This is Trish, signing off.