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Dates for the diary?

There are annual markers. Some are in our diaries year on year and we cannot shift them; just like the Mother’s Day of last weekend or the up-coming change of the clocks. There are other regular events which we might not diarise but we welcome none-the-less; the biennial Comic Relief (Red Nose Day) or the decennial National Census (as an old Human Geographer I do get quite excited about the National Census). And, of course there are the new annual moments of reflection and recognition; next Tuesday marks a full year since the first ever national lockdown and what a traumatic year it has been.

And so, in some sort of order:

  1. Mother’s Day: I hope you made the best of it as a mother or as someone who wanted to recognise or remember a mother. It may seem like a commercially constructed bit of annual fluff but, in most cases and for most people, it is a relatively harmless moment to do something good for our mums, or for us to remember what mums have done for us – whether they are still with us or not.
  1. Clocks ‘spring forward’ Sunday 28th March. Usefully, although we may lose an hour of sleep we do that on a weekend when we can catch-up on our sleep over the Easter break. And to cheer us further we pass the threshold of 12 hours of darkness this weekend. From now we get more daylight than night time – until September at least!
  1. Comic Relief: That’s up and running all day today. The lockdown and COVID has meant that we see fewer ‘whacky characters’ doing fewer ‘whacky challenges’ – no David Brent like character dressed as Bernie Clifton with an intent to raise a few quid. It’s interesting that the legendary Lenny Henry has recognised that giving this year, for some people, will be much harder than in the past and, in light of the year we’ve had, he has suggested that those who can give do so and those who can’t just watch the programme and have a giggle. I know, more broadly, we do not and should not find the crisis funny but finding something funny to lift the spirits in a crisis is permitted and thoroughly encouraged. During our first lockdown, last spring, I used an element of the weekly message to point you all to some classic British sitcoms, designed to encourage some of us to find some of that lightness, through those early days of the crisis; a deflection or distraction, not an attempt to deny.

As I am of a certain age I can remember Comic Relief starting back in the mid-1980s. The first Red Nose Day itself was back in 1988 and by March 2015 the charity had raised over £1 billion for good causes; for distribution here in the UK and for some of the most vulnerable people globally. I know it’s an age thing but that first Red Nose Day seems just like yesterday and incredibly the 3 presenters that evening. Lenny Henry, Griff Rhys Jones and (I think) Jonathan Ross are still plying their trade to this day. If you can give this evening then that’s great. If you don’t feel that you can then I hope you find the chance to just giggle along with the rest of the nation.

  1. The meat in the Sunday sandwich between Mother’s Day and the clocks going forward is the once a decade National Census. In these days of more data than we could’ve ever imagined, and in many cases that data being at our fingertips in an instant, the National Census day might seem like an anachronism. However, we have been holding a national census, broadly in this form, since 1841. It’s clear that each census gives us a national snapshot of what the country looked like at that moment. It also allows planners and policymakers to look forward with some degree of accuracy. Many of our public services, how they are designed and planned, come out of what our census tells us. It will be a great pleasure to complete that again this Sunday evening.
  1. I’m less enthusiastic about recognising and marking the first year since our first ever national lockdown. Much has been written, by me about the COVID crisis – understandably. Much has been written and discussed out there in the community, in the media and beyond. There is not a great deal more that I’d like to add today, other than to say my reflections, next week, will be quiet and sombre – it has not been a year to celebrate, despite the fact that a good chunk of the proportion of the population now have either been vaccinated or can see a vaccination in sight.

‘Neil makes me laugh though, because, you know, it’s his interfering, it’s his timing. Going on about he wants some report doing-it’s red nose day, you know. Ooh, what’s more important, you Neil, with your report, or some starving children? Ooh I don’t know. Ooh what would Lenny Henry say? I think we know-imagine him going out of the door on comic relief day and Dawn French is going ‘Where you going, you haven’t done the washing up. You haven’t put the rubbish out.’ ‘Do it yourself I’ve gotta save some Africans.’ David Brent

A couple more pages on the calendar of life will turn this weekend. With that we will then face just one more week of school/college before many of us will be able to take a well-earned and decent Easter break. For most this break will be well deserved and much needed.