2020 Grateful 1: It’s the little things

Lots of rain lately has left us with lots of puddles. My walks are a series of reflections but unusually, as 2020 draws to a close, I’m not reflecting on what I’ve done this year as, let’s face it, I’ve done sod all – it was a been nowhere, done nothing year for me.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, you can argue that I did loads … I stayed sane. I blogged. I worked. I cooked. I gained weight. I lost weight. I started walking regularly. I stayed sane (worth mentioning twice). I wrote the first chapter of a book. I finished the penultimate essay in what will be a collection of thirteen essays. But other than Tanzania at the start of the year, a couple of quick trips home to Ireland in the summer, and a weekend in Pécs, I went nowhere. And did nothing of note. So my end-of-year reflection is more worldly this year.

Walking around the lake in Nagykanizsa this week, I noticed again the bike stations and was struck by the thoughtfulness of whoever designed the route. They thought about what the users would need. As part of a major Croatian/Hungarian bike route and a popular spot with local cyclists, they took the time to figure out what their customers might need. These elected local government officials asked themselves the question – What do our citizens really need? Seems like a no-brainer, doesn’t it, but given what national elected representatives are doing for their citizens, this jumped out to me as an exception rather than a rule. These stations have racks on which you can put your bike, a pump to pump the tyres, and a set of tools to make whatever adjustments you need to make to saddles and such.

I thought then of the drivers stranded at Dover, who didn’t want to be stuck in the lorries for Christmas. And the wonderful Sikh community who fed them hot meals as local elected officials offered them a cereal bar. Or the EU ambassadors who spent their Christmas Day being briefed on Brexit. But closer to home, I wondered at what the government is up to. Signing a deal in November with a Norwegian defence and aerospace company to buy a €400+ million NASAMS* missile system to re-arm the country’s air defence? Add those to the 40 combat vehicles they’re buying from Turkey. The goal is to have 300 of these new models, and while the first batch came from Turkey, the rest will be made at home, in Kaposvár. Then I read about the new factory in Zalaegerseg which is ramping up to make Lynx armoured vehicles. And I wondered.

Not so long ago, I read about the purchase of two KC-390 military transport aircraft from Brazilian aerospace manufacturer Embraer. Other planes were bought a couple of years ago, but these planes, tanks, and missile system have all been purchased in the second half of this year, a year when citizens might have been better served with supplementary benefits as many lost their jobs, closed their businesses, and watch today’s savings dwindle as tomorrow’s debt soars. I wonder if they’d been asked what they needed/wanted, what they would have said? If they’d been given a choice as to where their taxes should be spent would they have chosen a tank or a plane or a missile system? Perhaps more attention should be paid to the little things.

I hope you’ll tell me that I’m being naive. That these purchases are simply part of everyday government procurement. Tell me that there is nothing to be alarmed about. That there is no writing on the wall. That the military brains behind these purchases are simply looking long-term and preparing to protect the country from an invasion of some sort that may or may not be on the horizon. Is there something going on that I should know, I wonder? Or am I better served by ignorance?

I’m grateful that 2020 is coming to an end and even more grateful that I came through it relatively intact. And as I wonder if I should be making a Plan B, I hope and pray that 2021 will be a better year.

*National/Norwegian Advanced Surface to Air Missile System


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