Having been blessed, or rather cursed, with a butterfly mind, no sooner had I done one thing than I was onto the next with the same enthusiasm and barely a pause for breath.
I am the first to admit I was exhausting as a child. (Probably still am). I was exactly the same at Christmas. I would spend days composing my letter to Father Christmas then worry myself sick that he hadn’t received it. Or that I had forgotten something. Not that we were allowed a long list. One ‘big’ present was all we could ask for. I can still recall the anxiety.
The year we had a gas fire installed was a particularly traumatic one. If only mum had known about the magic key for every house without a chimney it would have led to far fewer sleepless nights and far less complicated conversations before we woke on Christmas morning to discover the magic had happened after all, despite my fears that he couldn’t possibly get in.
I was always beside myself with joy. Again that is my way. It takes a lot to dampen my enthusiasm. I would rip open the presents stuffed into an old pillow case at the foot of my bed at some unearthly hour, rushing in to show mum and dad what Father Christmas had brought me.
Of all my faults lacking in gratitude is not one of them. Each gift I opened was the best one yet and exactly what I had wanted, right down to the apple, the orange and the handful of shiny new pennies.
But how did he know I wanted a red strap on my first Timex watch, or a pink dress on my Sindy doll? I asked. “Because Father Christmas knows everything”, was the reply.
I was always nearly overcome with excitement. I couldn’t understand how my brother had to be called with the immortal words “Time to wake up, he’s been!” I was onto at least my third chocolate bar from the obligatory selection box by then.
So much so that mum had to make it a rule that we at least ate some ‘proper’ breakfast before we moved onto gifts from aunties and uncles, which she would never have dared leave under the tree knowing I would have picked and poked and shaken them in a bid to guess what was inside.
As if my mum and dad didn’t have the measure of me. I could never cope with secrets or surprises. Nor did I want to know. Contrary, Moi? When we were finally allowed to tear open the rest of the presents there she was, bless her, with pen and paper to make sure whatever my speed she could mark down exactly what it was we received and from whom, to help me with the grateful ‘‘thank you’ letters that followed.
But no sooner had we eaten the turkey leftovers than I was looking forward to the next big event. A trip to the pantomime at the Alhambra, my next birthday, or the next holiday. “Christa”, my mum would say, “slow down. You spend all your time wishing your life away. Enjoy each and everything, one day at a time.”
I didn’t of course. Life was to be lived at a hundred miles an hour. It always has been. Even when I left the crazy world of broadcast news this column was the deadline I needed. But no sooner was one written than I was looking towards the next. Until this year. Because this year has been a year I didn’t want to know what was happening in the future. For the first time I planned nothing and lived each day, one day at a time.
This time last year we knew nothing about Covid 19. When we did, I set off during the first lockdown with a list as long as my arm of things I was going to achieve in isolation. I gardened. I decorated. I baked. And, yes I actually spring cleaned. But that only took me to May.
By then I was ready for every little precious moment that broke the monotony. Oh, the joy of being allowed to meet a friend for a walk. Do you remember that? The freedom and excitement of my first trip to the local farm shop when I dithered outside fearing to go in. The Thursday night punctuation of clapping for the NHS and key workers. The wonder of Captain Tom, symbolising a nation’s hopes for tomorrow being a better day.
But even in my wildest nightmares I could never have envisioned as I write this, my last column of 2020, that we would still be where we are. A few weeks and it would be over my optimistic self proclaimed. You probably thought so, too.
So sorry mum, but my butterfly mind is already at it again. And this time I think you will forgive me. Yes we are now living a day at a time because the one thing this year has taught us is we can’t take anything for granted. But we can and we will get through this, even though right now it seems impossible to imagine how.
One day we will be able to meet up, to plan trips and do all the things we loved to do. But also simpler things, like hugging. Or getting in the car and just driving somewhere without having to check the latest rules and regulations.
The vaccines will work. I have to believe that this time next year we’ll look back and remember the horrors of what has gone before while consigning it to the history books. Trust me I am a journalist. We will never forget the dark days, and there have been many, not least the news this week of the faster spreading new variant, and those who have not survived this dreadful virus. But one day we will celebrate the end.
In the meantime, I hope you at least raised a glass yesterday to better times ahead. In a few days it will be 2021.
I will continue to look ahead, determined to stay positive. It may be months away, but I am convinced we will have a Happy New Year eventually. And on that day it will be as though all our Christmases have come at once.