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Well-known Northern Ireland faces share sober reflections as 2020 ends with a whimper

Cancellations were symptomatic of a dreadful year... but Sydney and New York lit up their empty streets

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It's been said that staying in is the new going out.

You'd have thought, however, that New Year's Eve would be an exception - but not this time.

One of the most traumatic years in decades ended with a whimper on Thursday night.

Yes, there were still some fireworks, but who got out to see them?

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It seems that everyone these days is watching our Covid-riddled world through screens.

That was certainly the case early on Thursday as we watched blue and gold fireworks exploding over the Sydney Opera House, but not the usual thousands of awestruck Australians who normally stare up at them from the Harbour Bridge area.

Elsewhere, London's Trafalgar Square, St Peter's in Rome, Red Square in Moscow and Madrid's Puerta del Sol - traditional hotbeds for New Year's Eve revellers - lay eerily empty.

At least Sydney's fireworks went ahead as planned. So many other cities around the globe cancelled their displays in an act symptomatic of 2020 in general.

It wouldn't be New Year's Eve without the famous ball dropping in New York's Times Square, although this time there was no cheering crowd in a city badly affected by the pandemic.

Since this time last year, more than 1.7m people have died and more than 82m have been infected by a virus that virtually no one had heard of back then.

Indeed, Chinese doctor Li Wenliang missed last year's celebrations because he was in a police station, being taken to task for warning others about a new "Sars-like illness" that he'd just become aware of.

Dr Li would later become one of the first victims of Covid-19.

Here in Northern Ireland, with a six-week lockdown having just started, there was little to celebrate. Indeed, most people will have been happy to see the back of 2020.

It was an evening of rueful reflection, mostly indoors, on a year that brought us social distancing, face masks, queues, hand sanitiser, 'wet' pubs (which stayed dry most of the time) deserted streets, clapping our NHS heroes, restricted funerals and packed hospitals.

Veteran UTV anchor Paul Clark said he planned to be in bed long before the dawn of 2021.

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Paul Clark

Paul Clark

Paul Clark

"The four of us (his wife Carol and sons Peter and David) have been at home in Belfast over Christmas, obeying the rules," he added.

"This year New Year's Eve will be as quiet, as it has in previous years, and we'll all be in bed and asleep before midnight.

"In my opinion, New Year's Eve is overrated and, as far as I'm concerned, every day is the beginning of a new year."

For Cool FM presenter Pete Snodden, this New Year's Eve saw him swap his turntables for the kitchen table at his Bangor home and a family meal with wife Julia and their daughters Ivana (9) and Elyna (6).

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Pete Snodden

Pete Snodden

Pete Snodden

"The kids have been staying up later than normal over the holidays, so we'll see if they make it to midnight," he told the Belfast Telegraph before the bells.

"It's only the second time in 20 years that I haven't been working as a DJ on New Year's Eve.

"It'll be weird not working, but we'll having something nice to eat followed by a few gins.

"I'm hoping that next year, when we're back to normal and society is hopefully Covid-free, Belfast will have a big fireworks display to bring in 2022."

Former Great British Bake Off contestant Andrew Smyth revealed he was cooking a slap-up meal for parents Nigel and Kay in Holywood. "It's a Diana Frey recipe comprising fish pie followed by sticky toffee pudding," he said.

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Andrew Smyth

Andrew Smyth

Andrew Smyth

"I'm also making a damson gin and champagne cocktail. It's been such a shocker of a year that I decided to go all-out and buy a bottle of champagne.

"We normally watch Jools Holland, so we'll probably do that and chink glasses at midnight before heading to bed shortly afterwards. I've never been one to party into the wee small hours on New Year's Eve.

"This Christmas has been quieter than normal. My younger brother Jamie got married [to Clare] earlier in the year, so they've been in Belfast due to the lockdown restrictions.

"He normally wakes me up on Christmas morning first thing, so at least I got a lie-in this year."

Actress Kerri Quinn, who played Vicky Jefferies in Coronation Street, said she was spending the last night of 2020 with her nine-year-old daughter Libby, mum Cathy and dad Gerard in north Belfast.

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Kerri Quinn

Kerri Quinn

Kerri Quinn

"Libby and I are in a bubble with mum and dad, so we'll go to theirs for dinner," she added.

"We've pre-ordered some Indian food and we'll enjoy a cosy night together, probably watching Only Fools and Horses or something like that.

"Libby had a cold that she's given to me and now my mum has it too, so we'll be getting the blankets out and having some hot whiskeys. It has been a strange year."

Meanwhile, former Apprentice contestant turned make-up guru Grainne McCoy said that she intended to have a quiet night in with other half Stephen at home in Newry.

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Grainne McCoy

Grainne McCoy

Grainne McCoy

"I never cook, so I'm going to have a go at steak and mulled wine, with the focus on the mulled wine," she joked.

"It has been a difficult year, but I started my online business in the first lockdown and opened a shop during the second.

"I've been overwhelmed by the support from Northern Ireland people shopping local.

"That said, I'm looking forward to more normality in 2021."

Belfast Telegraph


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