I hold a rather remarkable historical document in my hand. It’s a text that, despite its age, is still well-known today. I refer to Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, the first of the seven genuine epics of Harry Potter.

We have more surviving copies of this than any other historical text from the late twentieth century. These include first editions written a mere five years after the events described. The copy I’m holding is from several years later, but we can still be confident that the text has been accurately preserved.

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It’s fair to say that 2020 hasn’t gone as I planned. And sometimes it’s tempting to just write it off and forget about it. But as the halfway mark slipped past, I started to consider what I really want to achieve this year and how I want to be able to remember it.

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The words from Mendelssohn’s Elijah echo in my head:

If with all your hearts ye truly seek Me,
Ye shall ever surely find Me,
Thus saith our God.

It’s a song I like a lot (yes, still), and it seems like such a simple promise. But was it ever really true?

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It is said that our Northern Hemisphere ancestors were familiar only with white swans. When they sat round the fire talking about the swans they had seen, there was no need to specify the colour: The mere concept of a black swan was absurd.

However, sometimes these things are a matter of perspective. I happen to come from a land Down Under where Christmas is in summer, where mothers hop around with their young in a pouch, where spiny mammals lay eggs, and where the swans are most distinctly black. And so it was many years before I first saw a white swan.

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At the end of 2019 I had a list of books that made an impression on me that year, but never got round to writing them up. Since 2020 is now half over, it’s time to fix that.

I guarantee this list was completed December last year, and doesn’t contain any clever additions like Pandemic Preparedness for Dummies or The Traveller’s Guide to Cancelling Everything and Staying at Home.

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In popular culture, the rainbow flag has come to symbolise the LGBT movement, and I’ve heard relatives complaining this interferes with the “real meaning” of the rainbow. Some conservative Christians have called it “cultural appropriation”, while others have tried to “reclaim” it. However, the rainbow has been used for many things over many years and belongs to all humans, not just to Christians.

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Covid-19 has completely changed our world, and we don’t know how long the disruptions will last or what will come next. When people talk about living during a “historic moment”, this is what they’re talking about.

So I wanted to record some of my personal impressions, starting from the time when the novel coronavirus felt like a distant problem affecting other people, not something which would change my life.

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