James Webster: In a parallel world, what are you doing?

Have you ever stopped to imagine what is happening in a parallel world without coronavirus? Credit: NASA Earth Observatory/Joshua Stevens; NOAA National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service.

It’s a phrase I’ve heard a few people use when thinking about the plans they originally had for 2020 which have now disappeared. So … “In a parallel world…” what would you have been doing this year? Is it something you have given much thought to?

Whether you’re the sort of person, like me, who plans stuff obsessively for all your weekends or whether you’re more likely to go with the flow, there were probably a few dates in your calendar which have had to be scrubbed out.

I keep all my plans in various colour-coded electronic calendars and there was a day early in lockdown where I had a deleting session. Weekends away, friends’ birthday parties, trips to the UK, nights out all cancelled. And to start with, I found that quite liberating because it meant I could stop worrying and stressing about whether or not different events would happen. I just accepted all plans were cancelled and concentrated on what small things I could do to give myself something to look forward to.

Now that many lockdown restrictions have been removed, I’ve heard various people thinking about what their lives would have looked like this year without coronavirus. In that parallel world where the disease doesn’t exist, what have they been doing? I know of friends who have put weddings on hold, birthday celebrations, holidays; the pandemic has been so all-consuming of all our lives it’s safe to assume that anything you had planned has been cancelled. Instead we’ve all been living this strange life where there’s little difference between weekdays, weekends, term-time or school holidays.

So what does my ‘parallel world’ 2020 look like? I have some very definite ideas because just before coronavirus arrived here in the Channel Islands we had our annual ITV Channel TV Away Day where we get together and plan our news coverage of various big events for the coming months.

In my parallel world, back in May I was out presenting live coverage of all the events to mark the Liberation 75 anniversary. Last month I had a couple of days hosting the programme on location in Guernsey as the island voted in the first General Election since it switched to island wide voting. Both of those days followed weeks of special reports and features which we started planning at that Away Day back in February. How I wish we had spent that day planning coronavirus coverage instead!

Concerns over the annual sea lettuce deposits in Jersey are a regular item on our programmes in 'normal' years Credit: ITV Channel TV

Mixed in with those big events we’ve been busy reporting on the start of a hopefully busy tourist season, the annual battle with sea lettuce in Jersey, fears that Asian hornets are spreading further across our islands and looking at how airlines are trying to plug the gaps left behind by the collapse of Flybe.

On a personal level my 2020 would have been very different too. Following on from my appearance on stage in pantomime back in January I started rehearsing for a farce called Noises Off. In my parallel world that went on stage to rave reviews (obviously!) in April and no sooner had I finished that than I started rehearsing for an ensemble role in Evita which opens this week at the Jersey Opera House. Next week I’m going on my summer holiday which after three drama shows fitted in around my job I feel very ready for. I’ve also been visiting several friends celebrating, or commiserating, various ‘notable’ birthdays that end in a zero and we won’t mention the digit which comes before!

All things being equal, what would your world have looked like this year? When I started thinking about my parallel world it started making me sad for all the things I’ve missed, the times I had been looking forward to. Now, the more I think about my parallel world, the more I realise that many of the things I’ve missed can still happen. They’ll just be a bit later. These months will be an interruption which will delay things, but hopefully not cancel them altogether.

In my parallel world I would have carried on as normal with various plans but without the opportunity to stop, take stock and reflect. It needn’t have taken a global pandemic to help us to do that. But there are many people who have lost so much in these recent months which is irreplaceable; trade, money, businesses, loved ones. And that’s when you realise the perspective which recent events have given us – a way to see what’s really important.

Coronavirus: All the information and advice for the Channel Islands