Is there any hope for Christmas cheer in 2020?
- Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown
This should be the time of the year when we're all starting to feel jolly and looking forward to meeting friends and family over Christmas - but this year it feels as if a real bucket of cold porridge has been the festivities.
The Brexit talks seem interminable - and while neither side seems willing to walk away and be seen as the villain of the piece, it remains very difficult to see where there can be any real compromise with the UK government feeling beholden to the ultra-Brexiteers and some European leaders being determined to show the world that it isn't easy to walk away from Brussels!
This week's news that the UK government is looking at taking a stake in Sizewell C was concerning for those worried about the future of the Suffolk coast.
But when you looked beyond the headlines in some places, what actually happened? The government confirmed what most people had known for ages - that it was considering taking a stake in the project.
It hasn't agreed to take a stake in the project. It has made it clear all its discussions would be based on it being satisfied about the need and viability of the project.
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I've always felt that it was economic, rather than environmental, arguments that would determine the future of Sizewell C in 2021 or 2022 - just as it was in 1990 when the earlier proposal was scrapped.
With the cost of generating power by nuclear now put at £60 per gigawatt hour compared with £40 per gigawatt hour for renewable energy, I'm not writing off the Eastbridge Marshes just yet!
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But it has, of course, been the grim news about Covid19 that has really brought a sense of gloom to our Christmas preparations.
Was it really just 10 days ago that people were talking about Suffolk moving into Tier 1? Now that looks like a fantasy notion from an alternative universe!
This week we saw the government basing tiers on council districts, rather than counties, in Essex. If they follow that lead when the new tiers are announced later on Thursday it is quite possible that Ipswich will move into Tier 3 - the toughest of all - as the infection rate is now well over the national average.
Then next week we are due to see the relaxation of lockdown rules over Christmas (followed by, quite possibly, a de facto national lockdown in January as the whole country is placed in Tier 3 as hospital cases spike).
I may have a very atypical circle of friends and family, but I haven't come across anyone of them who seems ready to throw caution to the wind and meet up with larger groups over the holiday period.
I shall miss seeing our daughter at the Christmas lunch table with other members of the family - and I'll miss visiting the friends and family we normally see this time of the year.
But even though the government says it will allow us to meet up, it just feels the wrong thing to do just now - especially as vaccines are just starting to be rolled out.
So we've ordered a large chicken, rather than a turkey, for Christmas - you do need to have enough for leftovers until the new year - and it will be three of us rather than the usual six round the table.
And I've heard the same thing from just about everyone else I've spoken to over the last few weeks. No one wants to risk getting, or passing on, the virus as we are about to enter the most dangerous time of the year for hospitals.
Having said that, from my talks with these same people who are looking forward to the general roll-out of vaccines early next year, I think Easter could be a much bigger celebration for many families than normal in 2021!
The government has said it isn't going to change the rules about the Christmas relaxation but then in October it insisted point blank there was no question of a second lockdown.
And I do have sympathy for ministers because they know that if they do insist on a near-lockdown over Christmas hundreds of thousands of people will ignore it anyway in a bid to see Grandma and Grandpa over the festive season.
But whatever the reason for mixing, I fear this will lead to a surge in Covid cases early in the new year. The government will be unwilling to go for a national lockdown because of opposition from its right-wingers and it will be reluctant to rely on Labour votes or abstentions.
However it will end up simply placing the whole country apart from Cornwall and the Isle of Wight into Tier 3 which will have much the same effect - and there we will stay until enough of us have had the jab and winter starts to ease in early March.