An alternative history of a plague year

by Kitty Drake in January 2021
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Art & design

Happy Days comes with a set of yellow smiley face stickers, which reminds me of a life-hack people advise you to do at the start of a new year. You’re meant to take your diary, and mark each day with a little face: sad for bad days; smiley for good. At the end of the week you count up the faces. If there are more sad than smiley: bad news.

If this sounds like rather a nasty way to start the year, never fear: this magazine is determinedly upbeat. The title page starts with a jaunty little message: “2020, what a year ay!”, and the pages that follow offer a kind of alternative history of the plague year. The magazine is divided into sections: ‘Daily observations’, ‘Weekend activity!’, ‘Weekly shop!’, ‘Weekend chores’, ‘Hand Dyed’.

In the daily observations, photographed by Ronan Gallagher, nobody wears a mask, and people press close together on sun-dappled streets. In one image, tourists pose for photographs in a Milanese square. The caption reads ‘Milan, June 16th’. Can this really be 2020?

This magazine has narrowed down the things that we were still able to do in 2020 — walk the streets (sometimes), go to the supermarket, do chores, dye our hair and clothes inadvisable colours — and created ridiculous idealised versions of them. This is like the Pinterest board of what you hoped and dreamed your quarantine would look like. It is not even close to reality. But fantasy is fun to look at.

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