The coronavirus Christmas

Christmas Day Zoom call with Dad, 94

Christmas night 2020. This has been the hardest Christmas since the war, overtaking 1973, when Britain was facing a three day week during the miners’ strike. This time the cause is COVID-19, the virus that swept the world in 2020, killing 70,000 in Britain alone so far.

Last Saturday, the UK’s governments made dramatic u-turns, ending arrangements in many areas for families to meet over Christmas. We were due to visit Dad, 94, in his Cardiff residential home just before Christmas. We postponed the trip for a week as South East England went into near-lockdown, and then cancelled it as the UK and Welsh governments introduced even tougher restrictions six days before Christmas.

Yet Christmas wasn’t cancelled. We enjoyed the planned quiet family Christmas Day (the three of us plus dog and hamster) and had a Zoom call with Dad, Bob Skinner, during the morning.

Dad has written movingly this week about his saddest Christmas memory, in 1942. His father died on 21 December that year, leaving 16 year old Bob Skinner mourning a lovely, loving father he barely knew. Dad recalls those muted wartime Christmases, with families apart, food rationed and deadly dangers facing those at home as well as those on the front lines.

Happily, today’s dangers, while real, are modest compared with Britain’s fight for survival 80 years ago. Dad hopes to receive his first COVID-19 vaccination dose in the coming week or so. Let us hope that 2021 will bring the start of better times, not least for the countless people and businesses whose livelihoods are threatened by this deadly virus. Christmas 2021 should be a time when we can hug again.

I will end with the image of my indomitable father, dressed to celebrate Christmas at Sunrise of Cardiff. Thank you to all the carers, NHS staff and and everyone else who has made us smile this unique Christmas and through the year.

8 thoughts on “The coronavirus Christmas

  1. I do enjoy your blogs, Rob, thank you.

    And of course a very happy Christmastide and new year to you and your family!

    I love your Dad’s style – the bow tie, impeccable presentation!

    Yes, Coronavirus is cruel in so many ways.

    My youngest daughter Rachel should be getting married on 28th December. An event planned meticulously before we had even heard of Coronavirus, she issued ‘hold the date’ cards to 80 or so people special in hers and Lee, her financee’s lives; then the pandemic began to bite in March this year leading to the lockdown.

    But everyone thought it would be over by the end of December. She lives in Bristol and the wedding was to be in North Somerset and as life under this (terrible phrase) ’New Normal’ it became clear that she could only have a total of 15 at the wedding including themselves, the registrar and guests. Still, she pressed ahead, modifying the event to a much more intimate affair with the promise of a bash when it was all over.

    The Tiers were then introduced and Bristow and North Somerset were in Tier 3, which meant no reception. We have, as you might imagine, had many tears about the Tiers along the way.

    As Bristol and North Somerset then dropped to Tier 2 it looked as if the event, albeit small, would still go ahead.

    Now from today, the new tiers.

    Bristol and North Somerset now Tier 3.

    Hilary and I, Gloucestershire Tier 3.

    Brenda (mum) – Tier 3 in Swindon.

    Brother James in Tier 4 (Sussex)

    Aunt, who has made the cake, Tier 4 (Oxford)

    Sister, Welywn and to be bridesmaid, Tier 4.

    Best Man, across the border in Wales, total lockdown.

    Wedding off. A tragic Christmas for Rachel and Lee.

    Coronavirus has of course affected life at every level and many people have lost family members and tragedy has stuck in many other ways – and a wedding can be postponed of course, not the end of the world. It did seem as if we would get away with a wedding of sorts but that dream now lies like confetti melting in the rain.

    Best wishes for a better 2021


    • Thank you, Ian, for your comment and for sharing your family’s experience. I feel so sorry for Rachel and Lee – a dream shattered for now, hopes raised and then dashed. I hope they have their special day reasonably soon – and that it is an even bigger celebration. PS: I have removed your personal contact details from the published comment in the interests of your privacy. Hope that is OK.

  2. What a lovely post Rob. So good to see your Dad dressed so smartly for Christmas, a true gentleman indeed. How sad that he lost his father at the age of 16.
    The smart dressing reminds me so much of my own father who died in 2008. Whenever he visited here the children would be amused at his appearance at breakfast in shirt and tie. He was in The Royal Signals and was in India and Burma and then back out to Rawalpindi at the time of partition by which time he was a captain. He returned to Bombay in 1957 to help manage the Cadbury plant out there. My twin brother and I could easily have been boarders back here but after we were born in Nov 58 my mum wanted to stay back in the UK. It was another year later before he could be home.

    • Thank you, Fiona, for your comment, especially the moving background about your own father, which I found fascinating. That generation was extraordinary in its fortitude and spirit. We owe them so much.

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