Journalist Mattew Condon reflects on the year that was 2020, and looks forward to 2021.
You sit, weary, the television news drifting to you from the other room, and simply close your eyes. Record November temper atures across Australia. Sixty-two bush and grass fires in NSW. Fraser Island ablaze off the Queensland coast. Almost 60 towns across Australia – from Andamooka in South Australia’s far north to Broken Hill in outback NSW to Devonport in northern Tasmania – sweltering through record-breaking temperatures. Then those words and phrases that make you wince. Advice. Watch and Act. Emergency Warning. You don’t need to check your mobile phone for the Fires Near Me app that you downloaded at precisely this time last year. It and its terrifying graphics are still there. The tilted squares with the flame symbol in the middle. The chilling statuses – under control, out of control – that were branded on your brain last summer. You feel exhausted before the holiday season begins. The world has been tipped up on one of its points, like those bushfire flame symbols.
If 2020 has a theme, it is mortality. This pall of death over the world and your country and then where you live right down to the supermarket you shop in, your neighbours and you seeing the shadowy shape of a figure through the frosted glass of the front door and wondering: Is this person
infected, and if I turn that handle, could I too be infected with Covid-19?
And while life as you once knew it is slowly seeping back, it’s returning in fragments and ghostly outlines, when it’s solid footing you’ve been looking for all year. Not bits and apparitions. Right now you’re one leg in and one out. Is it over? Is it safe? Can we come out now?