What a memorable year 2012 has been for this grand old
country of ours. Who says Britain is going
to the dogs?
A happy and glorious Diamond Jubilee reaffirmed our
faith in the monarchy, or at least the present iteration of it. London
staged a resoundingly successful Olympic Games, winning enough British medals to
exceed our official gold reserve (admittedly depleted after a previous
government sold most of it off). Miraculously,
the occasion enjoyed two of the only four rainless weeks of the year. Our cricketers returned from India in rare triumph. “Bring on the Aussies!” roared the ever-dwindling
band of English Test Match fans (median age 85). An Englishman won the Tour de France, sacre bleu, apparently without the illicit
pharmaceutical assistance that sustained many of his predecessors. Downton
Abbey took America’s
television audience, as well as our own, by storm. And British pop stars as usual commanded the
admiration of the entire world, at any rate those parts where such strangely discordant
noises are appreciated.
Jolly good show, everyone.
It is only fair to add, in the interests of balance,
that there were also a few niggles.
Britain’s economy remains in the doldrums, a
condition hardly ameliorated by the knowledge that every other western economy is
similarly becalmed, some with little hope of forward progress. Britain’s weather was not just appalling,
but at times menacing. As swollen rivers
surged through towns and villages across the land, few could recall that,
earlier in the year, the country had suffered a drought, and the imposition of
a nationwide hose-pipe ban. The rains
came on the very day the ban was lifted, and have persisted, virtually
unabated, ever since.
It was a great year if you’re into toppling
once-revered citadels of the Establishment.
Some of these were revealed to be unfit for purpose, at any rate unfit
for the purpose for which they were designed.
Notable among them was the BBC. Humiliated by a sex scandal, perpetrated in
part on its own premises and by one of its popular television performers, the
Beeb’s management was exposed (le mot
juste, perhaps) as laughingly incompetent.
There followed the inevitable enquiries, internal and external. A truly annus
horribilis for poor old Auntie, which contrived to find itself directed, or
misdirected, by three chief executives in a single year.
A number of other revered institutions, for one reason
or another and in varying degrees, came under siege, including the National
Health Service, Scotland Yard, Fleet Street and the Church of England. Also viewed in a negative light were the
banks, the railways and the school system.
Lord Leveson, chairing the latest in a series of enquiries
into the ethics and standards of the press, produced a report longer than the
bible, and similar in tone, recommending regulation. The Prime Minister bravely demurred, calling
for an alternative of self policing.
Fleet Street’s finest heaved a collective sigh of relief, promising to
come up with something workable – much to the fury of Hugh Grant, leading a
lobby group of hacked ‘victims’.
As if the government didn’t have its hands full sorting
out that lot, Europe and Scotland
proved to be irksome. There is nothing
new in that, of course, and a great many people dared to hope that before long we
might be shot of both – the ghosts of William Wallace and Napoleon finally exorcised.
Not such a good year after all, then, other than for
the residents of Buck House, sports fans, newspaper editors and telly-watching
Closer to home, M and I will see out the year with few
complaints. We are alive and, by some miracle
of evolution, uncommonly well, the only blots on the medical copybook M’s occasional
excursions into operating theatres for minor adjustments to various joints and limbs.
The undoubted highlight of our year was the wedding of
George and Sara, a unique Anglican-Jewish ceremony, at which cries of allelulia
mingled harmoniously with shouts of mazeltov.
After this ecumenical landmark, there followed a splendid marquee reception
in our rear garden, a celebration that will live long in the memory, even among
those who managed to stay awake during the longest wedding speeches in history. If we have to sell the house to pay the bill,
it would still have been worth it.
That was just a throwaway joke, by the way.
But we may move anyway, once we’ve overcome inertia
and decided in which part of the planet we would like to live. I can report considerable progress. The list of potential locations has now been
whittled down to a select few: London, East Sussex,
West Sussex, Hampshire, Kent, Italy,
York, Florida, California
and Australia. Add to these a modest semi a few hundred
yards down the road from where we live now.
The smart money, I should mention, is on the latter.
A new year approaches but, as is my custom, I won’t be
making any resolutions. One reason is
that there are precious few things left to give up – and those that remain I
regard as truly precious.
I should, though, lose a little weight, as I’m
constantly reminded by friends, a consensus ratified by an occasional glance in
the bathroom mirror. One helpful suggestion
is that I simply reverse my existing dietary regime. This would entail losing 30 pounds in one
year rather than one pound in thirty years.
It sounds like an interesting idea. I just might give it a try.
Sadly and inevitably, the grim reaper called on a few
friends, but fewer than usual, and they were all pretty old: our age.
All that remains is to wish you all, including my seven
readers, a healthy, happy and prosperous year.
This of course assumes that the world doesn’t end
tonight with the expiration of the Mayan calendar.
And if it does end, let me say that it has really been
fun knowing you all.