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Pieter-Dirk Uys's New Year whispers

New Year wishes are traditional, sometimes funny and usually well-mannered and well-meant. When I think about the upcoming year, only one word elbows itself into the foreground: Help! And that's not helpful because no one can help. Everyone's story is different, and yet we're all in the same boat. The ocean liner of habit has sunk, ruptured by an invisible C-19 torpedo. And if we now look forward to a 'new normal', is 'normal' the right lifejacket? And what is new? To embrace again? Just to touch again? Even to enjoy a good sneeze without the rest of the room escaping through the open window in terror?

A year ago - which feels like a million hours in the past - we celebrated the end of 2019. South Africa's tyres were flat, its economic air captured. The usual suspects now have names, posing with their booty on front pages and Facebooks, their middle fingers erect and unsubtle. A former leader zumas from court to headline and back, while across the equator in the White House, an orange nightmare edges a paralysed democracy closer to the cliff of Fascism. As with the endings of all other years, we will prefer to look forward over the hump of Christmas, through the donga of early January to the beginning of the rest of our lives. All problems can be solved, but only tomorrow.

Covid-19 sounds like a space ship from a Hollywood horror, with nameless scattered dead, while Schwarzenegger and Streep hold their breaths to find the ultimate solution. A vaccine! Happy ending! Sorry darling, only in the flicks! Who could have guessed that the world we know and love could vanish overnight? Every day now just feels like another Tuesday. Christmas was a plastic tinselled made-in-China tree lying on its side in the back window of the car, as a good cheer shared with a world behind masks. Tweeting #HappyNewYear is a good hashtag, but nothing is as hopeful as a 'Healthy Tomorrow'. So swop the crowd for just a few behind the same door of isolation. Zoom your love and care across veld and oceans, and know that social distance makes a life last longer.

Wishes for the rest of this new year are difficult, because 2021 is still just a pinprick of light at the end of a long and dark curved tunnel. My small torch of optimism cannot illuminate that far, maybe just to what we still call tomorrow. So yes, the sun will rise and shine and set. Yes, the birds will sing and fly. Yes, the dog and cat must be fed. Yes, all those things are still normal. Except us. Too many empty chairs round too many tables in too many homes. My 2021 diary, usually so crammed with plots and plans, is empty. Every week's white page without scribbles or scrawls, is so shockingly bright that I need sunglasses to hide the tears. After nine months of this forced separate development, I now don't want to venture past that locked door, secretly in love with my isolation. My own bout of Stockholm Syndrome?

Oh my goodness, I nearly forgot my New Year wishes to you all. Okay, just that one word: Help. Help yourself. Help your family. Help your community. Help your friends. And do it calmly, day by day. Don't   let news break over you. Next week is gossip; next month could be fake news. Try to feel better in 2021. You're not alone.

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