Camp and Muriel came over to help us ring in the new year. For dinner I served up a Swiss Fondue, simple, tasty and very satisfying – Gruyere, Emmenthaler, Appenzeller, white wine, Kirsch, bread. I lit a fire and we all gathered around a pot of melting cheese and wine. We managed to stay up until midnight thanks to Clare’s and Muriel’s careful planning of the evening and mandatory afternoon naps.
‘Be positive,’ someone said to me the other day,’ I said, twirling my piece of bread in the bubbly cheese, ‘but being the cynic I am, I replied: ‘I’d rather be negative these days.’
‘Being positive has an altogether new meaning,’ Camp said. ‘The other truism that I hear bandied about is: ‘It will get worse before it gets better.’ Would I rather have the reverse? It’s a challenging time we’re going through.’
‘This Covid-19 really has taken over, not only our physical lives but our mental ones as well,’ Muriel said. ‘We always think about it, talk about it, read and watch TV about it and yet we feel helpless, apart from sticking to certain protocols and behavior. Most people are stoically going on with their lives as best they can and governments are trying to stop the leaky boat from sinking. Suddenly pensioners are better off than students since they have incomes and nothing to prove, no kids to raise, no long-term plans to make. Except they are more vulnerable but also more likely to get the vaccine before the younger generation.’ It was the longest speech I ever heard from Muriel who is usual succinct and right to the point.
‘Will we be able to look back on this pandemic, this year of the Covid, with nostalgic disgust, disdain and ‘best-to-forget attitude?’ Clare said, taking a sip of wine.
‘More people have died in the US from this virus than in WWII, every day more people perish than in the twin towers. It’s a total disaster,’ I said, forever the optimistic realist.
‘Yet, Australia, New Zealand, Thailand and most of South East Asia were able to keep a lid on the spread, including China which practically eradicated it by decree. It’s the free world that failed miserably, where individual rights mean more than the rights of the community, where conspiracies compete with science and politicians are in charge of healthcare,’ Camp said, trying to be upbeat.
‘In Canada at least the health professionals are able to lead the way. But in the land south of us, where billboards proclaiming: Gun control means using both Hands – and anti-abortionists believe in the right to life but not referring to the victims of covid-19; in the land of the free and the brave, they have failed miserably,’ I said.
‘When the individual is worth more than the community, the system fails. Grand slogans like: ‘together we win, alone we fail’, or ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ or ‘universal healthcare’ all allude to a community; the common good requiring a sense of altruism from the individuals. Of course, according to 70 million republicans this is just a socialist idea, a plot to take away my gun, my car and my future – and my president. I guess all those Scandinavian countries got it wrong,’ Camp said, living up to his cynical best.
‘The new year is fresh and unblemished and there is new hope on the horizon. A new president, the vaccine, the end of covid even. All in the realm of the possible,’ Muriel said, raising her glass in a toast to the future.
‘Can we just go back to talk about the environment, the national debt, universal childcare and the migration disaster?’ I said, scooping up the last of the yummy cheese.
‘You two boys need to join a club to give yourselves something to do. Maybe take up bird watching or astronomy,’ Clare offered.
‘Maybe join the brew-your-own club or take up golf.’
‘I resolve to be positive,’ I said.
‘You really know how to party,’ Camp laughed, almost choking on the last piece of bread soaked with Kirsch. ‘This stuff is lethal.’
And that’s what we did. We all managed to stay up, drank plenty of beer and popped a cheap bubbly at midnight, what my dad used to call: ‘angel piss’.
‘Any resolutions for the New Year?’ Muriel asked, almost as an afterthought.
Silence all around until Muriel answered herself: ‘I will cancel Facebook. It’s the single biggest driver of hate and misinformation, conspiracy theories and falsehoods and its algorithm is designed to give the loudest shouter the biggest platform. It does more harm than good.’
Camp and I looked at her surprised, since we had figured that out long ago and deleted Facebook and never signed up to Twitter.
‘And I will take the covid vaccine as soon as I can,’ Clare said.
We all agreed. ‘We’ll be right with you on that,’ Camp said.
‘Did you know that In the Caribbean they celebrate the last night of the year as the Old Year, unlike us in other parts of the world who celebrate the beginning of the New Year. This year however I’m inclined to kick out the Old Year with a boot to the rear end,’ I said.
We all drank to that as well as to an exciting and better 2021.