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Everything I learnt in 2020, from negroni-making to the power of perspective

By December 6, 2020No Comments

Lynn Enright thought she was finally going to learn how to drive this year – but 2020 had other lessons in store 

At the beginning of 2020, I had hopes and dreams and plans, same as everyone. I wanted to learn how to swim properly, that was on my list of New Year’s resolutions. I can do a type of head-above-the-water breaststroke – but I wanted to learn to swim gracefully, powerfully. I wanted to learn how to drive, too. I have been trying to learn how to swim and how to drive for many, many years. I have done hours and hours of lessons but I have never been very good at either activity. I told myself that this year, 2020, would be the year I conquered both swimming and driving. I told myself that by the end of the year, by December, I would be able to drive myself to a swimming spot and jump right in. Ha. 


I thought that perhaps I could write about this journey of learning. Children can swim and teenagers can drive – so to be in my thirties and still be so bad at both is a little humiliating. I thought it would be interesting to explore the act of learning a new skill as a grown-up. I thought I could interview others about their experience of learning something late in life. I told myself that maybe I could write a book about it. Ha.

I didn’t write a book in 2020: I watched TV and looked at my phone, existing in a kind of suspended reality, same as everyone. And I didn’t learn to swim or drive, either: swimming pools were closed; driving lessons were cancelled; everything was rubbish. 

But here is what I did learn.  

I learnt how to make a negroni. A lot of us did. There was that video of Stanley Tucci and his arms were so strong and his voice was so deep and he showed us that making a negroni was actually very easy. There was very little to learn: it’s just a double shot of gin mixed with a single shot of vermouth and a single shot of Campari. It looks quite impressive in a coupe glass with some orange rind – but it only takes a couple of minutes to put together. It was useful to learn that in April when the news was so bad and the days were so long. 

I learnt that a negroni hangover is quite intense. If you have three negronis, you’ve actually had 12 drinks. If you have “just one more”, you’ve actually had another four. That’s a lot of drinks. I did that a few times, waking up with a splitting headache, losing a Saturday to a hangover. “No negronis!” my husband would shout at 6pm on a Friday night as he heard me closing my laptop. So we learnt to compromise and just have one negroni each. 

I learnt how to live with my husband all the time. On Friday nights, when I made the negronis. On Saturday mornings, when I was hungover. On Sundays, Mondays and all the other days. At all times. Before 2020, he was away with work a lot, which was sometimes a little hard but in 2020, he was never away, which was also sometimes a little hard.

I learnt how inspiring my friends are, how much I rely on them for ideas and encouragement. Without those conversations over dinner and drinks, conversations I had never realised were quite so important, my days were duller – not just during the hours when I wasn’t with them, but during all the hours. Without seeing my friends regularly, there were fewer jokes rattling around in my brain, fewer ideas, fewer possibilities.

I learnt that a gift in the post is always a joy. 

I learnt to cook onions properly, slowly, to wait until they are sweet and golden-brown. It takes quite a long time – but I had the time. 

I learnt to love and be loved from afar. I learnt that regular phone calls are actually better than Zoom, when all is said and done: Zoom is good for work, but holding the phone and feeling your arm get tired and your ear get hot and your cheeks get sore is still the best way to talk to your best friend.

I learnt that I am lucky. I said it so many times, even when I felt really unlucky, because I came to know how true it is. To live with someone I love, to have enough money to get by, to have a family WhatsApp group that is full of jokes and kindness – I am lucky to have that, not everyone does.   

I learnt to live with uncertainty. It’s December and I still don’t know exactly what I’m doing for Christmas Day. There are options but there are also some logistical problems involving quarantines and bubbles and all those 2020 buzzwords. It will be fine but it might not be perfect. Last year, that would have bothered me; this year, I don’t care. I suppose I learnt some perspective; I suppose we all did. 

Like anyone living through 2020, I learnt to hope. And to be disappointed. And to hope again. Now the year is nearly over. And there are vaccines and better times ahead. As well as swimming and driving lessons…