2020 – A personal record of the right stinker that the year had become, or, how the hell have we all coped? Or, be bloody nice to one another.

Yeah, we’ve all had right stinker this year haven’t we? and no, I’m not got to tell you that my 2020 was worse than yours, but without any doubt, and for many reasons, this has been the worst year of my life.

Now this is not a woe is me story, this is a happy, uplifting story – a story of just getting on with things, a story of deep lows and enormous highs (In writing that last bit, I’ve just actually been reminded of that Austin Powers character name, and it made me smile as it always does).

‘The name’s Dixie, Dixie Normous’. Oops, there’s the smile again.

I digress.

What my 2020 story is ALL about, is friendship and support. It’s about finding the positive in a very negative series of unfortunate events. It’s the classic, love lost and love found again (except the found again bit is dedicated to everyone who has helped me rather than a lover). And it’s about the initial global loss of trust, the demise of believing in people generally and finally it’s the discovery that not all people are so deeply evil as some appear to be. Most of all, it’s about bouncing back from the deepest, deepest despair imaginable.

And it’s about how we, the decent humans of the world defend ourselves about the rotters who wish to harm us.

So here goes…

…COVID.

There I’ve said the new, super revised, equally disgusting ‘C’ word. I’ve gone and gotten it out of the way, just for you.

Personally, the year started more than well, I was in a beautiful, loving relationship, go me. Good times, really good times actually, the best of times but also the worst of times. 90% fab and 10% maybe not so. But I guess all relationships are like that, so nothing to duly worry about.

As my partner and I were not living together, (we were planning it, together with the marriage thing, but it didn’t quite happen), the lockdown in March hit my relationship hard. No popping out together. No real meaningful conversations on the phone, no cuddles to wash away the worries and lots of kicking of heals, lots of negative over-thinking and the like. And if you’re wondering, this blog is not going down the route of talking about the repercussions of what happened there, thank you so very much. It’s personal and really will be painful forevermore, and frankly, done to death. Defeat snatched from the jaws of victory.

Business wise, As lockdown approached, so the telephone rang it’s depressing tone, a cross between a wet fart and a Nelson Munce laugh.

‘Yes I understand, we’ll reschedule for the end of the year, it’ll only be a few months.’ ‘Of course, everything is uncertain, we’ll put it on hold.’ ‘Just give me a call when you are ready to go again.’

5 conversations with 5 different clients on the day the lockdown was announced is not a recipe for success, or for a jolly good boost of moral. So how did I stay positive?

Search me! I guess I didn’t deep down, I was deficating my undergarments like everyone else.

I’d been planning to buy a house in 2020. It was due to be the culmination of 10 very hard, totally debilitating, psychologically draining years. A failed marriage, and a failed long-term relationship but the discovery of ‘the one’ in 2019, the woman who would put it all right, was holding me together.

There was Hope for the future and that future started in 2020 (in hindsight, it said much about how precarious my future was – did you notice is didn’t say is? Positive huh?).

However, 2020, was starting to be a bit of a global shitstorm.

So let’s talk about it.

On the world stage of shittedness, Australia burned in January, and I mean a proper mass barbie. 500 MILLION animals died. (A pause to let that number sink in).

That global warming stuff, again and again just ripped the rule book to teeny-tiny pieces. A confetti of (hot) fertiliser covering the globe – most politicians fed on it, sticking out their tongues like children do during a snowstorm and letting it settle on their taste buds.

So the world suddenly got a taste for shit, and boy did we enjoy it without really enjoying it.

The bad orange man in America was impeached, then not impeached, then it was clear to me that we all started to lose sights of what was true and what was a lie. My head began to scramble with this petty nonsense – every day, and I worried that it would become the norm.

Then there’s the Brexit thing, you know it, the bit where we all got a little confused as to where we all left it before a global pandemic hit. Was it still on? Did it happen already? Did we dream it? Are we leaving Europe? (which might be a bit geographically difficult) or was it just the EU?

You know? That thing.

2020 is the year that not only were we dying horrible deaths by the thousands, forgetting that GB is part of Europe, but it was also the year that facts were replaced by opinion.

Yes, 2020 is the year we began to ignore the truth, the morally right, and the downright wrong, vile and disgusting elements of the human race became totally acceptable.

Covid gave us the term ‘new normal’, well for me the new normal is very abnormal – it’s as though the bubbling cesspit of excrement that has always been festering beneath us, that disgusting morally awful side of humans is now the ‘new normal’ and that frightens me witless.

Black Lives Matter emerged more prominently in 2020. Formed in 2013 it was the murder of George Floyd that began it’s expansion into mainstream protest. And completely, totally rightly so, 1 billion percent in my, ahem, opinion, however, and this is a little controversial. I’d like to now see the word ‘too’ added to the strap line.

Wouldn’t Black Lives Matter Too sound a little more ‘together’? Like we are tackling this ‘together’. Just like we should be.

I say this because a big cause I’m very passionate about going forward is domestic abuse. And that covers all colours, races and so on. With Covid, with lockdown, with families being forced to stay home together, with the pressure of no work, little income, no release, domestic abuse cases in the UK alone have sky rocketed by 49%.

And that for me, is as shocking as children going to school hungry, food banks and some people without masks.

So 2020 has been the perfect storm of problems. So where do we start changing things?

If I knew that, I’d be very famous, so all I can do is tell you where I’ve started.

That, my friends, is by the elimination of personal social media from my life, and, come to that, anything else that is not servicing my need for (a) the truth, (b) happiness (c) contentment.

To this end, these things have totally gone from my life.

The News – all news – they are now there to scare us, not to inform us

Personal Social Media – the massive divider of opinion and the catalyst for the end of civilisation as we expect it.

Liars of all types – personal, professional, media and politicians.

Anybody who will not enhance anyone or anything they come into contact with – why are you here if you’re not positively contributing?

Anyone who believes helping others is ‘not for them’. Are you actually human?

People who take and don’t give.

Celebrities – all celebrities – the likes of Gemma Collins in particular.

The back catalogue and future remixes of anything from Steely Dan.

And so on.

So yeah, 2020 has been the most dreadful year, in fact, I don’t class it as a year at all, just a shitty smudge in the margin of the history, and I think you should class it that way too as it has somehow damaged us all.

Despite all of the bad we have experienced this year, I, personally have found much solace, much kindness and the most unbelievable positive support from my friends and acquaintances. Tearfully, I shall never forget that support and I promise, here and now, that should anyone need the same level of support from me, I shall not be found lacking.

But then again, I have always had that mindset.

You REALLY have saved my life this year, very literally. From new friends to BNI, old friends to long-term muckers, without you, the events of 2020 would have gotten me and Jon Ball would not have existed past the new year. There’s a long journey ahead for me. A re-build of trust is required and I’m not sure it’ll ever be achievable, but you know what? Some of us a made of granite and won’t crumble easily despite what others deliberately attempt to put you through.

Because of this amazing support from you all, and looking back at 2020’s figures, it has ended up just £1000 less turnover than 2019, and THAT year was a record year. Difference was then, I had profit at the end, not so in 2020, but I’m very pleased as a photographer dealing primarily in hospitality, I have survived nevertheless.

So, 2021?

Who knows? But without us joining in union as the smart, kind, honest, compassionate creatures I know we can be, the new year will be another shitty smudge in the history book.

Let’s not let that happen, I implore you.

Jon

All photos and illustration by Jon Ball 2020

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