That's really all I want to say, as director of this very small publishing company, after an exact year of official pandemic (the WHO announced this on March 11, 2020).
Thank you, firstly, to all the brave, hardworking, and often unsupported NHS, frontline, and other essential workers - nurses, doctors, cleaners, delivery persons, checkout staff, soldiers, police, scientists, drivers, volunteers - who risked so much, for so little reward, to keep so many alive, or as safe as possible. We will not forget you.
Thank you to our readers, our writers, and the team here - who all kept the business somehow treading water, in a year of so many disappointments, U-turns, twists and turns, sudden lockdowns, and often closed bookshops. Thank you to our distributors, SPD, LitDistCo, and BookSource, and Ingram - and thank you also to our sales team ay Quantum!
I won't lie. The year has been tough, for so many of you, for so many of us. I know friends who lost parents, and grandparents, and could not attend the funeral. I know people who have lost siblings. I know people at breaking point, people who almost died. My neighbour, so sadly, died. We know these stories all too well.
Somehow, those of us still living have made it through so far. I am grateful for having reached the year milestone. Now is not the time to drop the vigilance. Covid-19 is deadlier than ever, more contagious, and there are still a majority of people around the world unvaccinated.
You may say it could have been worse - at least children were mainly spared - or it could have been better - leaders could have acted sooner, more robustly, with more transparency. It was in the middle, maybe, of how a world disaster had been imagined to go, in books, and film and TV. No zombies, few total collapses of civil society, maybe - but nonetheless, terrifying, isolating, unlike anything experienced for a century.
Behind cameras and screens we reached out to connect, often hiding our anxiety, depression and deep worries for the future; we binged on games, movies, TV shows, ate too much or slept too much, or drank too much - waking late, sleeping barely - or jogged further than ever - playing with cats, dogs and other fur babies who gave us love and warmth.
Sometimes, we found it all too much, sometimes we almost forgot it was different, once. We felt guilty for being well, or guilty for being annoyed with those who broke the rules. Maybe we questioned the limits placed on freedom, or started to believe the conspiracy theories. Reality shimmered like a damaged hologram. We turned to new causes, new concerns, enraged, or defensive. We voted, and changed nations overnight. Or didn't vote, or fought for freedoms, against armies, against genocidal powers. We lived a decade of concentrated fury and fear in the past 12 months.
We were never more lazy, immature and escapist - but also probably never more thoughtful, committed and alert. We grew, we grieved, we recognised ourselves in other masked strangers. We longed to touch, to hold, to be touched, to be held. We loved, we froze, we kissed, we didn't, we dated, we felt alone. We were more alive and less alive, in stasis, in disciplined form. We became science fiction characters; inhabited dystopias; saluted heroes; dreamed of a new chance.
In some ways, it has been more shocking, transformative and global, than anticipated. For others, especially the super-rich, who seemed impervious, it was almost non-existent. When - if - this pandemic is declared officially over (in 3 months, 6 months, in 2022?) - will the world be a better place? Or will lessons learned be ignored?
The challenge of our times, it seems, is to remain as hopeful as possible, yet also unrelentingly opposed to the status quo, the BEFORE COVID world. We must build a safer, more prepared world - more dedicated to cooperation, scientific discovery, and supported health systems.