Composing your last column for a year is normally enjoyable, a chance to recall events that flared and faded so quickly it seems remarkable they happened in that year; and tie them together in an attempt to give the year coherence.
But in 2020 there was really just one event and nobody needs reminding of the ebb and flow of life in its shadow. Furthermore, it hasn't finished, so it's still too early to draw conclusions. It might end soon now that vaccination is under way or it might not now that a variant of the virus has appeared in Britain.
All we can do is marvel that when 2020 began, we'd never heard the terms coronavirus, social distancing, self-isolation, managed isolation. We didn't have alert levels. We thought a lockdown was something that could only happen in prisons and China.
2020. The beautiful symmetry of its digits deserved to be written with stars. It was to be an Olympic year.
Instead, it will be a gap on the honours boards of history, the year things didn't happen. References to 2020 will mean just one thing: pandemic.
That was a word we had heard before this year but we didn't know what it meant. I thought it meant the plague. I thought people would be getting sick all around us. I thought every family would lose someone or at least know someone who had died of the disease.
Reading reports from heavily infected countries you could get that impression but, when you contact relatives abroad or talk to people who have come from those countries, it's rare to hear the virus has touched them or anyone they know.
The problem is that throughout the year the news has feasted on numbers. Big, raw numbers published without context or perspective. Every day the latest tallies were officially announced, of reported cases, confirmed cases, numbers in hospital, numbers in intensive care units, numbers dead.
Just big, dumb, mind-numbing numbers. To get a sense of proportion you had to do your own maths. According to the Worldometer website, 78 million people have caught Covid-19 since it appeared. That figure sounds huge but it's 1 percent of the 7.8 billion people in the world. Of that 1 per cent, 55 million have recovered and 1.7 million have died, just under 3 per cent of the total.
In the second wave of infection reported to be raging through Europe and the United States this northern winter, there were 21.5 million active cases this week and the number being treated as serious or critical was 106,371. That's about 0.4 per cent of the cases, isn't it?
These are the figures for known cases. Epidemiologists say the actual infection rate may be as much as 10 times higher because so many people who catch Covid-19 do not get any symptoms or suffer symptoms so mild they don't know it's Covid and don't report it.
If the infection rate is 10 times higher the fatality rate is 10 times lower, maybe 0.3 per cent, though they say deaths are under-reported too. But it seems generally agreed your risk of dying if you catch Covid-19 is well under 1 per cent unless you are elderly or obese or have some other uncontrolled illnesses.
This, then, is a pandemic. It has been less deadly than the bubonic plague that killed a third of Europe's population in the Middle Ages, or the "Spanish flu" of 1918 that attacked children and working-age adults as well as the elderly, killing 50 million, 3 per cent of the world's population at that time.
The difference between this and previous pandemics is the response. Countries have not previously resorted to lockdowns on the scale of those we have seen this year. A great deal of economic and social life was suspended, schools were closed. Governments subsidised the wages, rents and overdrafts of everybody who lost earnings. Budgets were blown, public debt ballooned and credit was created, willy-nilly.
But lockdowns have left their own tentative lessons. Economic life has recovered more quickly than it does from a normal recession. More work went online and more workers went home, where many have remained. Businesses may be confident they can find a way to function in further outbreaks.
Considering the selectivity of this virus, schools probably should never have been closed and, hopefully, will not be closed again. We know now to cough into elbows, self-isolate with the slightest cold, use the tracer app and let our phone track our contacts.
The lasting damage may be to public finances which will ensure 2020 haunts this new decade as much as 9/11 or 1914 or 1929 did in their time. Like terrorism, war and a Wall St crash, a pandemic has long been a recognised threat but we may have over-estimated it.