Father Simon Gore peers into his crystal ball to see how 2021 could unfold for the Animate team.
Let me allow you into a secret – a look behind the wizard’s curtain, as it were. As I write this, it is nowhere near Christmas. It is barely Advent. To get the Pic ready for January, we have to write our articles a bit earlier. In ‘normal’ times I could write something about hope and what we can look forward to, but that would make me a hostage to fortune this year. So rather than even try to second-guess what it would be appropriate to be reading a month from now, I hope you might indulge me if I offer a light-hearted view of what the world might be like as 2021 breaks open. Who knows, some of this may even turn out to be true – I would never have guessed that this time last year my house-leaving ritual would expand from ‘Keys, wallet, phone’ to also include ‘mask’!
The Animate team return after the Christmas break. One team member seems to have gone grey. I take them aside and carefully broach the subject. Has the Christmas period been bad for their mental health? Have they been worried? Is there anxiety? It turns out they wanted to jump the queue for a vaccine and got dressed up as an older person and dyed their hair. The rest of the team wonder if the plan worked. A team shopping trip to Asda is later organised and I hear muted conversations about the relative merits of Platinum Pixie as opposed to Silver Bombshell.
A team member announces proudly that they are doing ‘Dry January’. They are seen shortly after sipping a chilled Sauvignon Blanc. When questioned, they respond that this is one of the driest whites there is. It is pointed out that is not really what ‘Dry January’ is about.
The day comes when it is time to take down the Christmas decorations. It is not a day the team look forward to. There is an argument put forth that we should leave them up until Candlemas. I approve of their attempt at liturgical correctness but wonder if this has more to do with the proposed new lockdown and their chance to head home and leave me with all the decorations.
February starts cold and wet. I notice the team wearing additional layers around the house. I wonder if this is some passive-aggressive way of requesting that the heating be put on, but decide it is probably more likely a new youth fashion to wear scarves indoors. I offer pastoral affirmation of this new fashion. The team stare blankly at me and go back to huddling round a candle.
14 February: A scandal almost rocks Lowe House! I announce that I have received 10 cards that day. The team are outraged and are going to write to the bishop. I calm their fears by saying most are from family as it is my birthday!
15 February: I wake up annoyed. Despite what I told them, the team had ignored my birthday. Completely unrelated to my annoyance, the heating system breaks down and icicles begin to form on the noses of the team. A birthday cake is presented to me after tea. By sheer coincidence, the heating system magically repairs itself. The team are sceptical.
The Government announces a ‘Lenten Lockdown’. I appreciate the rhetorical flourish of the alliteration and note that it will help us keep to the Lenten pillars of prayer, fasting and almsgiving more easily. I offer these silver-lined musings at the Community Mass and am greeted by non-plussed silence. After Mass the team go to the pub before the shutdown. I am not invited. ‘We are doing it for your immortal soul – you can start your fasting and almsgiving early’, I am told. Fair enough, I had that coming.
The country is rocked by the great question of the day: ‘Are Easter eggs essential food items?’ Questions are raised in the House of Commons. Letters are written to MPs. Boris is on TV with Chris Whitty and the new Egg Tsar. Boris promises to follow the nutritional science. Eggs are still freely available north of the border and clandestine operations are held to sneak into Scotland to avail oneself of a Family-Sized Yorkie egg. Rumours abound of illicitly smuggled eggs flowing into the country hidden inside rugby balls. A compromise is reached whereby Easter eggs are considered essential for Easter, but chocolate is not essential at any other time as we are fighting an obesity pandemic as well. The nation collectively sighs and opens another one.
That’s probably enough. If any of the above happens, call me Mystic Simon! But whatever does happen in this new year, I hope you and all your loved ones stay as safe as possible. It is hard to think how much the world has changed in only 12 months. But the Church has always been at its best when there to support and encourage as the world around it spins out of control. Let’s pray that we can continue to be that stabilising force, no matter what 2021 might throw at us.