By Abby Gilchrist
To say that 2020 has been rubbish is an understatement, but I was determined to end this year looking back at all of the wonderful things that managed to find space in amongst all the suffering and lockdowns. I hope you enjoy these stories as much as I do!
January: January itself had enough disasters to last us the entire year, but in amongst all the horror, I was able to find some good news. On 31st January, an all-female crew completed their crossing of the Atlantic Ocean. The crew, called the Oarsome Foursome, completed the crossing in 49 days, 13 hours and 49 minutes to complete the 2019 Talisker Whiskey Atlantic Challenge. The women made history during their 3,000 mile crossing when they became the fastest female trio to make the crossing (the fourth team member Linda had to pull out after suffering from extreme sea sickness), as well as crew member Mo O’Brien becoming the first deaf woman to make the crossing. The ladies managed to raise over £10,000 for three charities: Cornwall Blood Bikes, CareFree and Exmouth and Lympstone Hospisecare.
February: Bee populations in North America were reported to have risen due to an odd reason - the increased farming and production of hemp plants, aka weed. In a study published in the journal Environmental Entomology, the report stated that the pollen produced by hemp plants is 'attractive to a range of bee species’ and that, ‘because of its temporally unique flowering phenology, hemp had the potential to provide a critical nutritional resource to a diverse community of bees during a period of floral scarcity.’ I think that’s grounds enough to legalise weed in the UK, right BoJo?
March: March was the month where the UK went into its first lockdown, and so the country went into overdrive with finding ways to stay active, motivated and connected. A video from a care home in Wales went viral after the residents recreated a human version of ‘Hungry Hippos’. The residents of Bryn Celyn Care Home in Wales, all in wheelchairs, are filmed being pushed into the middle of a circle and, using what looks like upside-down baskets on poles, they attempt to collect as many balls as possible. This looks like a game to recreate with drunk friends once we can all see each other again. https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=204605300797071
April: To celebrate his 100th birthday, World War Two veteran Captain Tom Moore set himself the challenge of completing 100 laps of his garden and raise £1,000 for the NHS - he has now raised over £32 million for the NHS and received a knighthood form the Queen.
Two giant pandas in a Hong Kong zoo also successfully mated for the first time in ten years! Glad someone was getting some action over lockdown.
May: Costa Rica became the first Central American country to legalise same-sex marriage. Alexandra Quiros and Dunia Araya were the first same-sex couple to tie the knot. It is fantastic to see love conquer in a year such as 2020.
June: Kathryn D. Sullivan, a former NASA astronaut and the first American woman to complete a spacewalk in 1984, became the first woman to reach the deepest point in the ocean: the Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench in the Pacific Ocean. Since I have an irrational fear of deep, dark unending spaces such as the ocean and space, neither of these feats are something I can imagine most people jumping to achieve, so I take my hat off to you Kathryn for showing us how it’s done.
July: While lockdown has forced us all to pause and take time off travelling, the lack of travel worldwide has had a hugely positive influence on wildlife. In July, the Bombay Natural History Society estimated that 150,000 flamingos flocked to Thane Creek and Talawe wetlands in Mumbai, an estimated 25% increase from last year’s numbers. Rhul Khot, the assistant director of the BNHS stated that lockdown ‘is giving these birds peace for roosting, no disturbance in their attempt to obtain food and overall encouraging habitat.’
August: Over the last year, many pubs, restaurants and dairy farms had to do the unthinkable and throw away millions of pints of beer and milk. I personally shed a little tear when I heard this news, and when I heard accounts of local landlords attempting to drink their way through their stock before it went off, I wished them luck on their challenge. However, one wastewater treatment plant in Australia was able to come up with an alternative use for the wasted beer. The Glenelg wastewater plant in Adelaide was able to use the expired beer to power the treatment process of the plant, producing 654MW of renewable green energy in one month - enough energy to power 1,200 houses!
September: American actress (and personal inspiration for myself) Zendaya became the youngest Emmy winner for ‘Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series’ for her performance in the HBO series Euphoria. Zendaya, 24, won for her portrayal of recovering teenage drug addict Rue Bennett. The role is a complete turn from her typical Disney-esque roles to date, and this was a performance I myself thoroughly enjoyed watching - yes, her acting was amazing, but so was the insane cinematography, soundtrack, wardrobe and makeup which I have since attempted to imitate. Let’s just say I’m still practicing the makeup. You can watch Euphoria on HBO or Sky.
October: A personal favourite moment of the year for me - Harry Styles (who is referred to as ‘our boy!!’ by my mum) released the music video to his single ‘Golden’. Seeing Harry run around in a flapping oversized white shirt was it for me. Bye Tinder, I’m just going to have this on repeat for the rest of the year. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P3cffdsEXXw;
‘Back off Scotland’ took off on my Instagram feed, campaigning for the right of women to access sexual health and abortion clinics around Scotland without the abuse of anti-abortion protesters outside. Their aim is to set up a 150m buffer zone around clinics which provide abortions in Scotland. It is intimidating enough to go to clinics without the abuse of people who have no idea about what you’re going through or why you are there (many of these clinics also provide standard sexual health advice and treatments as well), and so to know that there are people out there willing to defend me should I need such help is heart-warming and inspiring. Find them on Instagram @backoffscotland and sign their petition (link in their Instagram bio!)
November: Scotland becomes the first country in the world to provide free sanitary products. Being a woman at the University of Edinburgh, this is something I have really started to notice around university buildings, even before the law passed in November. The university has been providing free sanitary products since at least the start of 2020 (if they were there before, apologies - I normally rush in and out of loos with my eyes down at the floor). This law was spearheaded by MSP Monica Lennon, who has been campaigning for it since 2016. 1 in 4 women struggle to access period products, and so to see this brings absolute joy to my heart.
December: Following the devastating wildfires which ravaged Australia at the beginning of the year, it was feared that close to 3 billion animals had perished. However, this month, some miraculous news - the world’s smallest possum, the pygmy possum, was found on Kangeroo Island, the first seen since the wildfires.
A photo of two widowed penguins appearing to embrace one another was named the winner in Oceanographic magazine’s Ocean Photograph Awards. The photo was taken in Melbourne, Australia by German photographer Tobias Baumgaertner.
Yes, 2020 as a whole has been a bit of a shocker, but it wasn’t all bad news. Many people have used the time to learn new skills, discover a new hobby, or, like me, dye my hair and watch the whole of Netflix. But many have continued working under the hardest and most stressful conditions - whether in hospitals, care-homes, post offices or supermarkets. Thank you to all of you and here’s to a happier 2021.