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We continue to live in an unpredictable world. No one can say for sure when our old freedoms might be restored. But some family pleasures are all but guaranteed this year. We look forward to some of the best highlights we can all look forward to.
Return To Some Kind Of Normal?
The one we’re all hoping for, of course. The development of powerful vaccines holds the promise of an end to lockdowns and a gradual return to “normal life”. At some point this year, we should be able to freely mix with friends and family again, travel around, visit museums, hold birthday parties and do most of the other things we once took for granted as part of normal family life. All this assumes that the current vaccines remain effective against a virus with a known tendency to mutate, and that the roll-out programme doesn’t hit any major obstacles.
The Most Welcome Spring EVER
No doubt about it, this is going to be a tough winter for many families. The ever-present threat of a surging virus, the home-schooling, the money worries of an uncertain economy, plus the usual doldrums of the winter months will be challenging for all of us. But the sunshine always returns. The weeks when the buds erupt, the blossom falls and the birds sing out will be particularly cherished after such days. Fingers crossed, the change of season will also coincide with the Great Opening Up, when mass vaccination lets us relax some of the stricter lockdown measures. Fingers crossed...
A BIG Year For Space
There’s nothing kids like more than space. Well, maybe pirates and dinosaurs. But neither of those are particularly active these days, whereas SPACE is about to blast off in a big way. Watch as a family on 18 February as NASA’s latest rover, called Perseverance, attempts to land on the Red Planet. It faces a perilous descent, involving a fiery entry, parachutes, retrorockets and a bizarre highwire act, where the rover is lowered to the surface on a cable from the hovering mothercraft. Once it has landed, the mission will look for signs of ancient microbial life and even deploy a drone -- the first flying vehicle on another planet. A smaller rover, from China, is also due to land in April.
As if that weren’t enough, this year should also bring the first true celebrity spaceflight when Tom Cruise heads to the space station in October, there to make the first movie in orbit. We can also look forward to the first test flight of NASA’s gigantic new rocket, which will ferry astronauts back to the Moon in coming years. Meanwhile, Elon Musk continues to launch test versions of his own reusable mega-rocket, known as Starship, which could make space exploration much cheaper and regular. Eyes to the skies, people.
The Tokyo Olympics And Paralympics
July and August should bring the greatest show on Earth, as the delayed Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics finally go ahead. The Games were, of course, postponed in the wake of the virus, but Japan is confident it can stage them this year. Don’t expect everything to be on the scale of previous occasions. The gathering of large crowds may well remain problematic over the summer, even with vaccines. Even so, this should be a joyous few weeks when we celebrate the best of humanity. The Games are also a peerless way of getting kids engaged with sport and fitness, especially after a year of cancelled activities.
Fantastic New Films
Whether we’re locked in or not, a good family film is always worth looking out for. Despite ‘you know what’ slowing down production, this year has a few humdingers. Here are their current projected release dates (subject to change):
5 February: Cinderella (live action)
12 March: Raya and the Last Dragon (major new Disney film)
26 March: Peter Rabbit 2
14 May: Rumble (Paramount animation about wrestling monsters)
28 May: Cruella (Disney)
11 June: Ghostbusters Afterlife
18 June: Luca (Pixar)
2 July: Minions: the Rise of Gru
30 July: Jungle Cruise (Disney, starring Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt)
6 August: Hotel Transylvania 4
17 September: The Boss Baby: Family Business
24 November: Encanto (Disney)
17 December: New (as-yet untitled) Spiderman film
22 December: Sing 2
One you won’t see is the third Fantastic Beasts film, which has been pushed into summer 2022 thanks to both the virus and a well-publicised casting problem.
Hope For The Future
With vaccine rollouts underway, this new year brings plenty of hope… but it isn’t going to be an easy ride. The virus will be with us for a long time yet. However 2021 pans out, we can hope for a brighter 2022 and beyond. We have learnt much from this pandemic, about ourselves, about our interconnectivity, and about working together to overcome adversity. If we can impart those lessons to our children, then they will be better prepared to take on the challenges of the 21st century that we all know are looming.
Although originally from the Midlands, and trained as a biochemist, Matt has somehow found himself writing about London for a living. He's a former editor and long-time contributor to Londonist.com and has written several books about the capital. He's also the father of two preschoolers.