21 things to look forward to in 2021 – from meteor showers to the Olympics

·11 min read

1. It’s not 2020 any more!

You probably found a few things to enjoy about last year: you rediscovered your bicycle, perhaps, or your family, or even both, and learned to love trees. And don’t forget the clapping. Plus some brilliant scientists figured out how to make a safe and effective vaccine for a brand new virus in record time.

Overall, though, unless you’ve got some pals in government who gave you a contract to make PPE (even though you’re a PE teacher), or you’re Jeff Bezos, then the whole shitshow needs to be drop-kicked into the past. Do one, 2020.

2. One sharp scratch …

A Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine being prepared in York in December.
A Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine being prepared in York in December. Photograph: Ian Forsyth/Getty Images

… for mankind, one giant leap back towards normality. (OK: two sharp scratches, but let’s not get hung up on details.) Unless you’re an anti-vaxxer, there’s a damn good chance you’re going to get jabbed in 2021. You might have already had the vaccine, or the first dose at least.

3. #TrumpOut

On the way out? Donald Trump.
On the way out? Donald Trump. Photograph: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Unless he superglues himself to the Oval Office floor, or mobilises 70 million second amendment-toting nuts and stages an actual coup, then the Orange One really is outta the White House and Joe Biden will be sworn in as the 46th president of the United States of America on 20 January.

Maybe it doesn’t have the yes-we-can frisson of 2012, and the overriding emotion is more relief than excitement, but hey, we’ll take that.

4. Spring

Snowdrops in a beech forest in Berkshire.
Snowdrops in a beech wood in Berkshire. Photograph: Vicki Wagner/Alamy

The days are already getting longer. Perhaps you planted bulbs in the garden or a window box and they’re already tentatively poking through. That magnolia has buds, a promise of joy to come. Soon the parks and the countryside, still just legally visitable at time of writing, will burst back into life, and the birds will be getting busy, planning new families. Maybe you are too?

If you’re in the southern hemisphere you can skip this one … actually, no, don’t. Spring will come again, just a little further down the line. The seasons carry on regardless, obliviously, reassuringly. And if you live in New Zealand, you can always feel smug about living in New Zealand.

5. Hugging

Not for a while maybe, and again, this won’t be seen by everyone to be something to cheer, but hugging will become an option again. Perhaps it can be an opportunity to rethink the whole thing, establish some new rules. Such as:

  • If you feel like hugging someone, and they want to be hugged, then hug on, Huggy Bear.

  • But for those awkward, should-we-shouldn’t-we situations, let’s just say no.

What to do instead though, in a greeting situation say? Air kiss? Too European – we’re out of there now. Handshake? The opposite – too Brexit, too Rees-Mogg. Also germs. So let’s keep the elbow bump – a reluctant concession to physical contact, but with a little comedy to break the ice. Less risky. See? Another great thing to come out of 2020.

6. Whole faces

Bottom half ’n’all, noses, mouths, chins. So you can tell who someone is and if they’re smiling or scowling, instead of trying to guess from their eyes. I know, masks are going to be around for a while yet, and they do have their advantages (beating facial recognition software, and halitosis). But it’s going to be nice to see people again. And no more uncomfortable maskne.

7. Art, innit?

Festivals are on the horizon.
Festivals are on the horizon. Photograph: Neil Hall/EPA

The culture previews have done this properly, and specifically – shows and books and everything to look forward to this year. In general, though, it’s time not just for the body to be reawakened but the soul as well. There will be – have been – tragic cultural losses, and grieving. But the lights in many theatres will come back up again. Even if they don’t look exactly the same, there will be live music gigs, operas, festivals! And blockbusters in the cinema again – welcome back, Mr Bond. People, in a room, sharing a collective experience, these are the things that make it all bearable.

8. Succession

Boom ba da da, tinkle tinkle tinkle tinkle, boom ba da da – That’s the theme, obviously. Such a great theme, such a great show. Succession gets its own mention, because the wait for the third series of Jesse Armstrong’s sparkling, startling drama has become unbearable.

Remember how it left us? Kendall (Jeremy Strong) seemingly about to fall on his sword and take the blame for the cruise scandal, suddenly turning it and pointing it straight at his father. The sword, pointing the sword at Logan (Brian Cox). Not a real sword, no – a metaphorical one. The rap was real – remember Kendall’s rap? It’s impossible to forget Kendall’s rap.

The date has not been confirmed but HBO says it’s going to happen in 2021. The world needs Succession like it needs the vaccine. It is a sort of vaccination – against boredom.

9. Get Back

Peter Jackson’s Beatles doc, put together from 56 hours of unseen footage, gets a special mention. Because it looks from the sneak peek like such a joy and a giggle. “Hopefully it will put a smile on your face,” says Jackson, introducing it. And it does: J, P, G and R larking about in the studio, with Yoko sitting there, looking Yoko-ish, peaceful. And it’s the Beatles, or “the Bottles” as John calls them, and Peter Jackson, in New Zealand, a little bit smugly. Plus the song could be a message to our own PM, about the EU: Get back, Bojo.

10. Take back (control)

One for the Brits, this (and it is possible some might not think it something to look forward to). We are free of the federal shackles and the tyranny of Brussels at last. Free to reclaim our sovereignty, and our haddock (maybe, I haven’t got to that bit in the trade deal yet).

And if we’re poorer, and our children won’t have the opportunities we had, and we’re less relevant, a forgotten little lorry park on the fringe of Europe, then look on the bright side: we can use powerful vacuum cleaners again, while the EU is limited to 1,600 watts. Ha, suck on that, Monsieur Barnier.

11. The irrelevance of Nigel Farage

Here to stay? Nigel Farage.
Here to stay? Nigel Farage. Photograph: Yui Mok/PA

OK, you won, Nigel. But with victory the reason for your existence disappears, so shut it.

He won’t, of course. He can relaunch his party as Reform UK, and moan about lockdowns. And “patrol” the south coast, bothering boat arrivals. Can’t he be deported, under new rules? Farage doesn’t sound very English. Can’t we put him in one of those dinghies and push him off? He can help himself to some haddock while he’s out there.

12. Crowds

Parkruns … people brought together by something shared.
Parkruns … people brought together by something shared. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

Not the face-in-an-armpit commuter train, or the tube, but the good crowd: a colony of human ants bigger and more powerful than the sum of its individual parts. People brought together, closer than 2 metres apart, by something shared, and looking at each without fear or suspicion. Those festival fields again, a marathon, Parkrun, all the sports crowds, whatever it is that makes you swarm.

We’ve had tier 2 tasters – 2,000 at Anfield, sounding like many more if not a full Kop in full song, and so welcome after the hollowness of an empty stadium, punctuated by the sound of boot on ball or Jürgen Klopp’s bark. Or worse even than no crowd: a fake crowd, always late with its reactions, and it doesn’t know the best songs. No more fake crowds, please.

13. Sport

It’s shaping up to be a busy and brilliant year in sport, with major postponements rescheduled: Euro 2020 (+1) in June, followed by the Olympics and the Paralympics in Tokyo, and Wimbledon squeezed in among them. One last win for Andy, or Roger, and Serena, obviously. That’s the summer sorted.

You want more? 2021’s got more: Women’s Euro 2021, Africa Cup of Nations, Champions League, Europa League triumph for Mikel’s Gunners. Six Nations, the Ashes, the America’s Cup if that’s your thing, and don’t forget the Ping Pong World Cup in Houston, Texas.

14. A holiday

We do like to be beside the seaside – and Trevone Bay, Padstow, Cornwall, is beautiful.
We do like to be beside the seaside – and Trevone Bay, Padstow, Cornwall, is beautiful. Photograph: John Harper/Getty Images

Come on, you’ve earned it. Going abroad may seem too much hassle, with international travel in tatters, and bureaucracy ramped up by Brexit and coronavirus, but we holidayed domestically in the 1950s, so we can jolly well do it again.

Take Cornwall! It’s beautiful. Or the Lake District, Wales, Scotland (until it becomes abroad) … There are so many places to pursue energetic outdoor activities, or visit castles, or whatever it is that your thing is. We might not always have the weather, but by golly we’ve got the views, and the history and the beaches. And with the money saved on flights you can get a nice bottle of Côtes du Rhône and a big piece of French cheese. Or you could go even homegrown.

15. Mmmm, homegrown cheese

Say cheese … to a piece of Shropshire blue.
Say cheese … to a piece of Shropshire blue. Photograph: Picture Partners/Alamy Stock Photo

With all the checks, and paperwork, and hold-ups, there’s a chance your favourite French cheese will turn into toe cheese by the time it reaches the supermarket shelf. There’s more to British cheese than cheddar, though. I’m no expert but I like rollright and winslade, mainly because they’re a bit like French reblochon and vacherin. Some English wine isn’t bad, either.

16. Happy birthday …

… to us, happy birthday to us, happy birthday, dear the Guardian, happy birthday to us. “No former period, in the history of our Country, has been marked by the agitation of questions of a more important character than those which are now claiming the attention of the public,” began the announcement of a new newspaper in Manchester.

That was 1821, a couple of years after the Peterloo massacre; it could so easily have been referring to today. Never has it been so important to listen, to find out, to hold power to account. There may even be some low-key celebrations.

17. More anniversaries to celebrate

Take your pick. It’s 2,500 years since the battle of Plataea, 1,000 years since the birth of Byzantine empress Eudokia Makrembolitissa, 300 years since Robert Walpole became the first British PM, 30 years since Tim Berners-Lee had his idea for a worldwide web, 10 years since the Arab spring. Bob Dylan’s going to be 80 in May – the times they are a-changin’. It’s possible you too might have a birthday in 2021.

18. Heavenly bodies

The Eta Aquarid meteor shower at the Babcock Wildlife Refuge, Florida.
The Eta Aquarid meteor shower at the Babcock Wildlife Refuge, Florida. Photograph: Diana Robinson Photography/Getty Images

Nostradamus predicted a comet will come close in 2021, might even collide with the Earth. “In the sky, one sees fire and a long trail of sparks,” the French astrologer wrote. To be fair, he has been wrong.

More reliable astronomical sources highlight the Eta Aquarids meteor shower, produced by dust particles left behind by comet Halley, as one to watch out for. This year, we are told, it will peak on the night of 5/6 May . There will also be a total lunar eclipse on 26 May, if you’re in the Pacific region, parts of Asia, Australia, or the west of North America.

Nostradamus also warned of massive solar storms, and that “we shall see the water rising and the Earth falling under it”. Oh God – he was predicting climate catastrophe, wasn’t he? This is supposed to be things to look forward to.

19. Pura vida

Arrivals at San Jose’s Juan Santamaria airport are greeted with a Pura Vida message.
Arrivals at San Jose’s Juan Santamaria airport are greeted with a Pura Vida message. Photograph: Ezequiel Becerra/AFP/Getty Images

With the Orange One gone, we’ll at least have a better chance to do something about the climate. Glasgow is hosting the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference in November, keeping parties on track towards the goals of the Paris climate agreement. They could do worse than follow Costa Rica, which will become the first country to declare itself carbon neutral. It is also set to eradicate single-use plastics. Pura vida – pure life – as they say there.

20. Christmas

Just 354 days to go, at time of publication And Christmas 2021 might actually feel something like Christmas. You know, everyone there, Granny not on Zoom but in the room. And the right food, in the right place, not the 10kg turkey over there for those two, and the cake over there. Followed perhaps even by a big night out (remember?) on New Year’s Eve. Steady …

21. 2022

OK, so 2021’s going to be an improvement on 2020; it couldn’t be worse. But the aftershocks will reverberate for a while. 2022, though, with daylight between us and 2020, and new hope: 22’s going to be even better.

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