The headline on the front page of the Daily Mail on January 24 hinted at what was to come. ‘Is the killer virus already here?’ we wondered. It certainly was — and unknown to everyone back then, it was here to stay.
This has been a year like no other, with an unpredictable pandemic plunging the country in and out of punishing. Families lost loved ones, career paths were dashed, cherished hopes and dreams had to be sidelined. Meanwhile, the hardships and heroisms of everyday life came sharply into focus. Healthcare workers, teachers, emergency services, police and fire services earned undying gratitude for working selflessly through it all — heroes every one.
We became familiar with new phrases, such as lockdown — previously only used when prisoners rioted. We bumped along together in support bubbles, we self-isolated as instructed and, when not isolating, we were furiously social-distancing. Or masking up, washing our hands, staying indoors. It was exhausting.
There were times when all the days blurred into one — Blursday — and when Covidiots roamed the country, annoying everyone. Here is my list of heroes and villains of 2020…
Captain Sir Tom Moore would top any list of 2020 heroism. He wanted to raise £1,000 by his 100th birthday by walking around his garden.
Tom ended up with £33 million and a knighthood. A bus, train, police puppy, powerboat, garden and a horse were named after him. Also heroes are the war generation, who went through six years of much worse than this. Plodding on. ‘We’ve just got to get on with it,’ as my mother says.
Captain Sir Tom Moore (pictured) would top any list of 2020 heroism. He wanted to raise £1,000 by his 100th birthday by walking around his garden. Tom ended up with £33 million and a knighthood
RETIREES: Take a bow all doctors, nurses and medical staff who came out of retirement to help. There are no medals big enough for you all. The Government also wanted 250,000 in the NHS volunteer army but three times that number joined to help relieve pressure on the NHS, supporting 1.5 million people considered at risk. You are the very best of us.
THE QUEEN: Her coronavirus broadcast in April was only her fourth special address to the nation in 68 years on the throne — and it will perhaps go down in history as her best.
‘Today, once again,’ she said, ‘many will feel a painful sense of separation from their loved ones. But now, as then, we know deep down, that it is the right thing to do.’ She added: ‘We should take comfort that, while we may have more still to endure, better days will return: we will be with our friends again; we will be with our families again; we will meet again.’ The speech was recorded in the White Drawing Room at Windsor, with a rotary phone at her side that caught the imagination. It was vintage with a lovely tone, just like her.
THE QUEEN: Her coronavirus broadcast in April was only her fourth special address to the nation in 68 years on the throne — and it will perhaps go down in history as her best
LISSIE HARPER: PC Andrew Harper was killed in the line of duty in 2019. The 28-year-old was responding to a report of a burglary, after which he was dragged behind a car causing his death. This year, three teenage males, who laughed throughout much of their trial, were convicted of manslaughter and received sentences of 16 and 13 years’ imprisonment. In August 2020, Andrew’s widow Lissie put aside her grief to launch a campaign for a new law, which would require life imprisonment for criminals whose actions result in the death of any police officer, firefighter, nurse, doctor or paramedic. Respecting these vital workers is one thing. We need to protect them, too.
PETER LOGIN: The BA pilot who lost his job due to the pandemic and signed up as a Tesco delivery driver. He is now delivering goods to self-isolators. His spirit embodies everyone else who had to change direction because of Covid, but kept on going.
AMANDA HOLDEN: Hundreds of complaints were made to Ofcom about Amanda’s choice of revealing outfits on Britain’s Got Talent — and not all of them were from her agent. I think she deserves a medal for services to showbusiness in the face of adversity. ‘There’s no way I’d step out in my pyjamas or rock up without a lash,’ said the 49-year-old. Amanda’s job is to bring a bit of old-fashioned glamour to primetime telly — and she does it in style. Who else would dare?
MOGULS WHO DID THEIR BIT: The furlough scheme was launched to stop major businesses collapsing and leaving millions unemployed. Yet some big-hearted moguls, including Simon Cowell and Duncan Bannatyne, funded the payroll out of their own pockets.
James Timpson of The Timpson Group also dipped into his own account, topping up the furlough his staff were paid. ‘It’s worth every penny to help our colleagues and their families through some tough times,’ he said.
CHER: The singer and actress flew to Pakistan last month to escort Kaavan the elephant on his journey to salvation. Kaavan, dubbed the world’s loneliest elephant, finally escaped his cage in an Islamabad zoo and made his way to a wildlife sanctuary in Cambodia a few weeks ago. Cher has campaigned for his freedom for years.
CHER: The singer and actress flew to Pakistan last month to escort Kaavan the elephant on his journey to salvation
PRITI PATEL: For daring to be unpopular and do the right thing about wrong things, for being unafraid to tackle difficult issues. A Home Secretary to reckon with.
JOE WICKS: The 35-year-old fitness star, also known as The Body Coach, was recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours after helping millions of families keep active with his online PE lessons during lockdown. Good for Joe!
He also raised £580,000 for NHS Charities from his online workouts. ‘If you met me as a little boy you’d have thought, he’s not going to go anywhere, he’s not going to do anything great,’ he said recently. ‘But I turned it around.’ He sure did.
JOE WICKS: The 35-year-old fitness star, also known as The Body Coach (pictured), was recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours after helping millions of families keep active with his online PE lessons during lockdown
ETERNAL FLAMES: Sophia Loren, 86, starred in a film this year, while Jane Fonda, 83, climbed aboard a pair of age-defying over-the-knee boots, while still campaigning for what she believes is right.
Sharon Stone, 62, defied everything, including gravity. Pamela Anderson, 53, married veteran film producer Jon Peters in January but the marriage was over by February. (In a touching romantic coincidence, it was the fifth marriage for both of them.)
On Valentine ’s Day, it was eureka for Ulrika, when the 53-year-old announced her five-year romantic drought was over. ‘I’ve had sex,’ she bawled in an interview, after meeting a man through a dating website. ‘Like a penny dropping, like being given a good shake, like coming round from a long anaesthetic and being given a shot of caffeine’, is how she described her sexual reawakening. Lawks!
SOPHIE ELLIS-BEXTOR: The singer gave us all a lift with the Friday night kitchen discos streamed on her Instagram account. Five adorable children, a garden festooned with fairy lights, and an endless supply of sequined dresses, Sophie made isolating at home with her family into a bit of fun for all. And she ended the year by taking part in The Masked Singer! What a good sport.
SOPHIE ELLIS-BEXTOR: The singer (pictured) gave us all a lift with the Friday night kitchen discos streamed on her Instagram account
LOCKDOWN HAIR: We all suffered, even the men. Even Brad Pitt! Months without a proper haircut left the 57-year-old actor with a wild and matted barnet, complete with dark roots showing. It would look a mess on any man — or woman — but Brad emerged looking like a lightly-tousled rock god about to take to the stage.
Bonus points to darling Sir Bernard Jenkin, who chaired the Liaison Committee, sporting the kind of severe home-grown trim that suggested he razored his skull with blunt sheep-clippers in the dark after too many cognacs. Bernie looked like a charming convict, as so many Conservatives do.
MAGGI HAMBLING: Thank you Maggi, for giving us all one of the biggest laughs of the year. Her statue of Mary Wollstonecraft, erected in a North London park, caused uproar among feminists. They objected to one of their heroines being depicted as a tiny naked silver doll with a thrusting Barbie bust and luxuriant, broccoli-esque pubic hair. ‘She is supposed to be everywoman,’ Maggi fumed.
KIM KARDASHIAN: Oblivious to the suffering around the world, in October the reality star shared pictures with her 190 million online followers of her Gatsby-esque 40th birthday celebrations on a private island. ‘This is 40!’ she posted, under photos of herself paddling along a beach in a terrified bikini.
Kimmy spent a million dollars on chartering an 88-seat Boeing 777 to fly her dearest friends and family to an atoll in French Polynesia. How sad they weren’t all quarantined there for the foreseeable.
KIM KARDASHIAN: Oblivious to the suffering around the world, in October the reality star (second from left) shared pictures with her 190 million online followers of her Gatsby-esque 40th birthday celebrations on a private island
AIRLINES: Those that charged customers extortionate fees and high penalties to those stranded or desperate to get home before coronavirus lockdowns. Some airlines made life difficult for passengers trying to get refunds for cancelled flights and holidays. If they want public sympathy in difficult times ahead, they have to try harder.
KNIGHTS OF THE REALM: Such as Philip Green, who were quick to get the Government to pay some of their staff payroll instead of dipping into their own billions.
THOSE FOR WHOM THE RULES DO NOT APPLY: Such as Scottish Chief Medical Officer Dr Catherine Calderwood, caught making repeated visits to her second home, after telling everyone else to stay indoors. Maybe she was worried she’d left the iron on. Disgrace!
Dominic Cummings for undermining the entire lockdown policy by breaking the rules he had helped to make — then refusing to apologise. At least Nicola Sturgeon had the grace to say sorry, after momentarily forgetting her mask while attending a funeral.
Covidiots everywhere… you are still on the naughty step.
THOSE FOR WHOM THE RULES DO NOT APPLY: Dominic Cummings (pictured) for undermining the entire lockdown policy by breaking the rules he had helped to make — then refusing to apologise
STEVE COOGAN: The comedian with a personal fortune of around £10 million who used the furlough scheme to pay a gardener and housekeeper at his £4 million country home in Sussex. Beg pardon, M’lord Coogan, but this is not exactly what Rishi Sunak had in mind when he announced the scheme back in March.
EXTINCTION REBELLION: Simply infuriating, especially when life for millions was difficult enough. The ‘activists’ were to be found gluing themselves to buildings, stopping newspapers from being delivered, causing disruption in major cities — and all because — well, what?
‘Because society and democracy are under attack — from a failing government that lies to us consistently,’ they bleated. What rot.
The UK may have its faults, but it’s not North Korea or China. So please grow up. Now medical heroes have found vaccines, perhaps they can develop an anti-glue solution, which means these pests can no longer plaster themselves onto trains and roads, stopping hard-working citizens from going about their daily lives.
EXTINCTION REBELLION: Simply infuriating, especially when life for millions was difficult enough