The end of the year, that will be forever known as 2020, is almost over and Christmas time is upon us. So I’ve chosen as this week’s topic: world peace!

Poor Boris Johnson has had to cancel Christmas. With the UK already suffering one of the highest per capita covid rates in the world we’ve now discovered a new strain of corona that is even worse than the first one. Merry Christmas everyone, or whoever’s left!

Here in Yorkshire, we’ve been in a state of semi-lockdown for a couple of months (the pubs are shut, that’s all you need to know) while my sister, near London, went from being in Tier 2 one day (shops, restaurants and pubs all open) to Tier 3 the next and then into Tier 4 the day after that, meaning no shops, pubs or Christmas visiting outside your bubble.

The new rules are devastating for the millions of Brits who were looking forward to the promise of five days of festive frolicking but are now stuck listening to Bublé in their bubbles for the duration. Which means… what exactly? Well, that depends doesn’t it. The pandemic has been an enforced lottery on the lives of everyone. Some have hit the jackpot with time off work and free public cash while others have been thrown into poverty, debt, overwork and turmoil.

Where is our leader? Where is that person with strong values, a sharp intelligence and relevant life experience to stand up and take care of the weak and vulnerable? For the most part what we get are media buffoons operating within their lucrative ‘chumocracy’. They know how to deliver a sound bite but are completely unsuited to dealing with a crisis. So, instead, we must turn to ourselves and reflect on what we do have and be grateful for that.

Despite my own personal loss of work (gigs, festivals and opportunities, all crossed out in my 2020 diary – sigh) I still feel lucky as I survey the past year and consider how things might have gone under different circumstances. The fact that I’m not in a complete pickle right now is due, most of all, to the people around me who make sure my mum and dad are living with peace and dignity:

Wise Queen number one:

The first saviour is Diane, their cleaner. Fifty years ago, she was a pupil in the very first class my dad taught when he became a teacher. He never made a lesson plan and instead the kids took weather measurements, went on nature walks, learned to limbo dance and clomped around on his snowshoes that had been made by a real “Cree Indian”. It was her favourite school year ever and cleaning for my mum and dad is her personal mission. She’s a friend and an ally and would do anything for them. Lucky.

Wise Queen number two:

My sister Heidi. We are so different and yet understand each other with a warm clarity that helps everything run as smoothly as can be. I’m enormously appreciative of her place in my life and she in turn is glad that I am with our parents so she doesn’t have to disrupt her life. It distresses me when I hear how common it is for siblings to not get along. If Heidi were a hindrance instead of a help my life would be upside down. Lucky.

Wise Queen number three:

My girlfriend Jane happens to work as a self-employed cook and companion for people with dementia. She’s kind and thoughtful while she shops, cooks a daily meal and even stands in as hairdresser. When my mum fell and broke her pelvis last year Jane took control. At the point where I was still in denial and panic, “This can’t be happening!” Jane calmly did first aid and packed essentials for the hospital. A would-be traumatic experience turned into something enjoyable and mum had a pleasant two-week break in hospital with a charming view of the Barnsley rooftops. Lucky.

Instead of bringing gold, frankincense and myrrh those three grand examples of humanity are all about one thing: relationships. I’ve made many mistakes in my life (and continue to make poor judgements on a daily basis) but I’ve learned one vital lesson: Be nice.

Everyone we meet is a survivor at the end of a remarkable living chain going back to the beginning of life. The thought of this amazing fact brings me to one unshakable conclusion: everyone is deserving of huge respect. Let’s think about that while we settle our differences.

When we make a commitment to personal peace in our life we discover qualities within ourselves that make it necessary to see things from the other’s point of view. And we need our leaders to live by this principle too because if I can do it then, jolly well, so can they. There’s no excuse for childish in-fighting and finger pointing while there are elderly dying in lonely confusion, the weak being mistreated and children going hungry.

A close friend of mine was diagnosed with cancer in April. His treatment has been harsh but successful and, although he’s still living with the painful aftereffects, we are both way beyond merry in celebrating the fact that he’s alive this Christmas.

Relationships are everything. Many are alone this year, and, if that dark cloud of loneliness has a silvery lining, it is that we’re all in this together. Now is the time to make personal peace within ourselves and vow to offer respect and understanding to everyone in our lives.

In 2021 let us continue to set the standard for our leaders so they too can learn the meaning of peace on earth – to all.

Be nice to yourself this Christmas and have a Happy New Year.

Keep Smiling and Strumming!

© Ralph Shaw Music 2020