An A-Z of things we lost in 2020 illustration VICE UK
Illustration: Esme Blegvad
Life

An A-Z of All the Things We Lost in 2020

From casual sex to J.K. Rowling's reputation, here's a list of things destroyed by one of the most eventful years on record.
EB
illustrated by Esme Blegvad
December 29, 2020, 9:30am

If you happen to be playing a drinking game where you do a shot every time a piece of writing on the internet opens with a description of how hellish the year 2020 has been, then rack up the Aftershock, baby, because we’re going in for another round!

No one is exaggerating when they say this year has been the fucking pits. Great unrest, however, does also bring great change, and 2020 has seen liberal helpings if both. Most of that change has not been great – the bar for what could realistically be described as “good” is an occasion wherein the worst possible outcome did not happen for a change. Say, Donald Trump losing the election, or, in the words of Tinashe, simply managing to make it through this year without getting sick or pregnant. But it hasn’t been all bad, either. 

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With that in mind, let us take a breather during these last few days of one of the most historically eventful years on record, and think about the things, people and concepts lost to the sands of 2020.

A – ACTIVITIES

The first thing to go this year was anything resembling fun. Everything from house parties to karaoke to touching your face in public – banned, boarded up, out of reach. In the fully vaccinated future, not even the smallest of pleasures can be taken for granted. I never thought I’d be so excited to once again pick my nose in Big Lidl.

B – BORIS JOHNSON 

OK, not really. But remember those few days in April when we all thought the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom legitimately might die of COVID?

C – CASUAL SEX

There were several points this year (and I’m sure there will be more in 2021) when fucking someone you didn’t live with was a chargeable criminal offence. A ban on casual sex was literally enshrined in British law, hampering the body count of slags across the nations and creating a steep rise in the amount of empty condom packets visibly strewn around public parks. 

D – DOMINIC CUMMINGS’S CAREER

Or; how years of political grifting by an inadequate Dr Karbunkle look-alike that even David Cameron disliked enough to describe as a “career psychopath” were undone by a trip to Durham.

E – ECONOMY, THE

I mean, it wasn’t doing great beforehand. But I imagine a second 21st century “reduce the deficit” narrative will go down like a sour load against a backdrop of the government’s flagrant waste of public money this year, including a £15bn PPE scandal and a £12bn test and trace system that still doesn’t work properly.

F – FESTIVALS

Summertime in the UK is defined by congregating in large crowds to shout, drink and fall asleep on the grass; hands folded across your stomach, hat balanced on your sunburned face, lulled like a baby by a massive sound-system vibrating the ground and your organs from about ten feet away. Without this, we are nothing. Time has stretched forlornly from March to December, like a piece of gum on a bus seat that gets stuck to your arse. The closest we got to a festival experience in 2020 was meeting someone for a socially distanced Dark Fruits in a park in the pissing down rain just for a morsel of “normality”.

G – “GOING SHOP U WANT ANYTHING? X”

Perhaps the only true loss of working in an office is the sick thrill of stealing company time by “popping” to the corner shop every 45 mins for a Diet Coke and a Twirl.

H – HIGH STREET BRANDS

The Great British High Street was already in trouble, but the pandemic pushed swathes of retailers across the UK over the edge and into administration this year. Pour one out for: Peacocks, Oliver Sweeney, Monsoon, Oasis, Warehouse and Arcadia Group among others. Your mum’s Christmas shopping itinerary will never be the same again.

I – INFLUENCERS

If there’s one thing we learned this year it’s that the apocalypse will not be #sponconned.

J – JK ROWLING’S REPUTATION

I don’t know, man. If I were a beloved billionaire with all the opportunities in the world at my fingertips, I simply wouldn’t be online. I might have an egg account for the explicit purpose of following locked meme accounts, or maybe drop the occasional unhinged performance pieces to camera like Anthony Hopkins. In an event, what I absolutely wouldn’t be doing is pissing a lifetime’s worth of achievements up the wall by digging myself into a morally repugnant position... but that’s just me.

K – KARDASHIANS, THE

The last people anyone wanted to hear from during These Unprecedented Times was this lot. This is another example of a situation where it would have been better to shut the fuck up and be a dickhead in private, but sadly we were not spared from their posts about what a wonderfully “normal” time they were having on a private island, swimming with whales, watching films on the beach and pontificating on their privilege while, in the immortal words of Kourtney, “there’s people that are dying”. Kylie’s make-up collab with The Grinch was fire though, so fair play to her for that. 

L – LANDLORDS

I wish this were true in a literal sense, but they have at least been struggling this year and there’s nothing they can really do about it. They’ll come back with a vengeance in 2022 and start charging £4500pcm to rent a one bedroom flat in Margate, but right now they’re getting a taste of what it’s like to struggle “unfairly”, like people with real jobs, which has been a nice treat.

M – MEALS

Whether it’s slapping beans on toast or faffing about with a six-hour tomato sauce reduction, we’ve all been eating more at home this year. And, if you’ve been doing it as much as I have, you are also probably sick of the prep-eat-wash-dry-put-away routine that is now driving me so mad I might just start smashing plates on the floor when I’m done, like a waiter in a Greek restaurant for tourists. 

N – NEW SEASONS OF TV SHOWS WE WERE ALL WAITING FOR

Fans of Atlanta, Succession, Euphoria, The Handmaid’s Tale, Peaky Blinders and “Untitled ‘Goonies’ Pilot” have all been left thirsty this year. 

O – OFFICE CULTURE

The best of luck to anyone whose job it will be to try to convince employees why they should waste thousands of pounds and hundreds of hours of their lives each year to commute to open plan offices just to do the exact same thing they’ve been doing at home, only sandwiched between the toilets and the microwave station someone uses to reheat fish four times a week.

P – PRINCE PHILLIP

Another year, another unsubstantiated rumour that Prince Phillip had died. At least something was consistent in 2020.

Q – QANON SUPPORTERS BEING A ‘NICHE INTERNET THING’

It really is hard to take the Democrats’ position of “the adults are back in the room!” seriously when at least one confirmed QAnon subscriber has been elected to the House of Representatives.

R – ROYAL FAMILY, THE

In addition to tensions between UK nations threatening to dissolve the union in the near future (fingers crossed lads), its international status symbol – the royal family – experienced a fracture of its own this year. On the 31st of March, Harry and Meghan split from the royal family to become financially independent. The decision was made largely due to the way Meghan was treated by the press, who in turn skirted over those bits and dramatically dubbed the whole thing “Mexit”, because we live in an insane place.

S – SOCIAL MEDIA

Now that Instagram has become a dumping ground for infographics and Twitter a boxing ring for enraged millennials and reactionary columnists, the great apps of the 2010s have all fallen from grace forever. Unless you log on specifically to experience the most joyless existence imaginable, all that’s left is TikTok and r/brushybrushy

T – TIME, THE CONCEPT OF

Please enjoy this candid video of me, three pilsners deep on a Tuesday evening in lockdown, talking to myself:


U – UPPERS

Usually the UK’s favourite medicine, uppers are currently in their flop era. While I’m sure they’ve fuelled some blow-outs among the truly dedicated, doing a lonely bag then suffering a comedown in the current climate sounds like Cronenberg material. Fittingly, 2020 has been the year of the mushroom.

V – VANITY

This probably isn’t true in a wider sense, but it has been fun to watch the degree of effort people put into things such as “getting fully dressed before the 10AM Zoom meeting” sharply decline over the last nine months.

W – WILDLIFE

While the Australian bushfires feel like they happened about ten years ago, it was a part of the 2020 timeline. A devastating fire season for the country burnt an estimated 72,000 square miles, killed at least 34 people and nearly three billion terrestrial vertebrates, as well as accelerating the extinction crisis for species such as koalas and wombats. But if your parents still think the climate crisis is fake because it snowed in June once when they were four, please read this handy guide on how to talk to them about it.

X – KISSING

Couldn’t think of anything beginning with “X” so I’m choosing to interpret this as the international symbol for kissing, of which there has been comparatively little this year.

Y – YOUNG PEOPLE, THE FUTURE OF

It doesn’t look great, I won’t lie. As a member of the generation that graduated directly into the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, I’d say you can expect: some dark years on Universal Credit, a series of unfulfilling temp jobs in the service industry, and generally having your adulthood stunted to the point where you will find yourself in your early 30s and materially in the same position as someone ten years younger. You will eventually move out of your parents’ house and have a viral tweet though, so there’s that to look forward to.

Z – ZOOM QUIZ

Fly high the “Zoom Quiz”, birthed and seen off by overexposure in the space of about two and a half weeks. May you never be remembered. 

@emmaggarland