Life & Culture

Some happy news for the end of 2020

In his latest 'Window on the World' column, Jonathan Shalit plans a quiet New Year's Eve


On 18 December I received the most welcome text from my cousin Rachel Hodgson. It said: “Just been with your parents — and the phone rang from the doctors booking them in for the vaccine. I haven’t seen them so excited for ages. They are both amazing. Still so very vital.”

Rachel lives near my awesome parents, David, 90 and Sophie, 87. Four days later they had the first of the two required vaccinations at the Earls Court health and well-being centre. They were the 350th and 351st of the 500 being inoculated there that day.

My mother tells me it could not have been an easier and more comfortable process. They arrived, were given a number and shown to the socially-distanced waiting area with a one way routing throughout, so they never passed another patient. After the injections they had to wait for 15 minutes to make sure there were no after-effects and were immediately given a January 12 date for the second injection. So, all being well, come January 19 they should be 95 per cent safe!

I believe the government deserves credit for ensuring that the UK was the first country in the world to get a national vaccination programme underway.

My mother, Sophie Shalit, is a true force of nature. At 87 she often juggles two phone calls at the same time, trading the stock markets, telling me that her Disney shares were at their highest for five years and giving me the reasons why they have risen.

Rachel is married to James Hodgson, headmaster of Bedford School. You will have seen this brilliant school on your TV last May whenJames oversaw the counting and opening of tens of thousands of cards and letters that 100-year-old Captain Sir Tom Moore received, with donations totalling just under 40 million pounds. The connection is that Sir Tom’s grandson is a pupil at the school. The humongous task involved opening every envelope with care to ensure no precious donations were lost.

Normally we go to Barbados for the festive period. But my plans for New Year’s Eve included a quiet dinner at home, and watching Channel Four’s The Last Leg in bed, starring my client Lorraine Kelly saying good bye and good riddance to 2020. Then lights off well before the witching hour! I’m excited that Lorraine was featured, as three weeks earlier she hit the headlines with a scathing rant against celebrities breaching coronavirus lockdown measures.

I was thrilled to read that Simon Cowell is going to be a judge on Israel’s version of The X Factor. He will love Israel, as did Sir David Frost, Britain’s last truly great international television presenter and producer. I link their names as what they have both achieved is simply historic. Simon is currently the most successful British television producer in the world with his “Got Talent” format produced in 58 countries and broadcast in 184, and The X Factor aired in nearly 150.

I am fortunate to have met Sir David Frost a number of times, and to have shared two flights with him. The first was in 1990 to Tel Aviv, a trip I will never forget as there were moments when I was terrified. It was the height of the crisis when Iraq fired 48 Scud missiles at Israel. On the flight I spoke at length to Sir David, asking why he was visiting Israel at such a dangerous time. For me it was trip of duty and allegiance. David simply answered “I stand by my friends. This trip has been in my diary for a long while. And in Israel’s hour of need, it is my privilege to stand by those who have been true friends to me”. Twenty four years later in 2014, I was privileged to be invited to his memorial service at Westminster Abbey, along with such luminaries as The Prince of Wales, Michael Parkinson, David Walliams, Michael Caine and Joana Lumley.

My charity shout-out this month is for The Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, one of the world’s leading basic research institutions which has been responsible for saving millions of lives through the advancement of knowledge and science. My late grandfather Sigmund Gestetner worked closely with the first president of the state of Israel, Chaim Weizmann, in bringing the Weizmann Institute to Great Britain which my family continues to support to the present day. My mother even worked there for six months as an organic chemist. Please go to and donate.

A very happy new year to my readers and their loved ones. I truly hope it brings health and happiness
 to all in 
2021, with a huge emphasis, naturally, on health.

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