Tuesday, 18 December 2018

Merry Christmas (This was 2018)

It’s been rather a while since I posted anything, so in the interest of keeping up appearances (and whilst I’m in the process of shaking off a particularly crappy cold) I thought I’d review the year, or at least make an arbitrary attempt to do so. Essentially, this is my version of those lamentable round-robin newsletters you sometimes receive from people you didn’t like to begin with (with the exception that I don’t have to pay for postage). 

Being as I’m British, perhaps the best place to start is with the weather. Whilst the bitter snow of the winter followed by the hot dry summer was a tad more aligned with my traditional definition of the seasons, meteorological elements rarely behave themselves. The late cold snap (dubbed the “Beast from the East”) caused my wife to end up in hospital with pneumonia and then the subsequent second burst disrupted work on my new wall in March, meaning I ended up securing protective canvasses at 4 in the morning in my boxer shorts. Moreover, it’s been utterly shite since October and the continuing damp grey drizzle has led to general sickness and ill health throughout the entire household. With a solitary single day of holiday remaining in my annual allocation at the start of December, I took the day off to do some Christmas shopping, with Bath as my chosen destination. Alas, it hammered down with rain the entire day and I was greeted with one of the more bizarre sights of artificial snow being blown from machine (I laud their efforts at generating a festive spirit) only to disappear into the miserable grey ether.

My reason for choosing Bath was down to the fact that we had spent our ten-year wedding anniversary there in the summer and there remained a rather impressive-looking establishment called The Raven that I thought would be perfect in which to enjoy a pie and a pint in the winter months. Alongside the two days we spent in Bath, another highlight of the year was our trip up to Mount Snowdon on the steam railway on a scorching hot day in June. Despite the long car journey and the congestion at the summit, it was a magnificent day to make it up there and we have already put North Wales on the list for 2019. Not so high up on the list of enjoyable experiences was Legoland Windsor. For someone who loves Lego as much as I do, this should have been a glorifying pilgrimage and yet in reality was two days of being constantly ripped off and waiting in ridiculously long queues for very average rides. The only crumb of comfort was that we managed to get through a night in a family room, which to the untrained eye would seem like a complete non-achievement, and yet when one considers the nocturnal challenges of our youngest child, it actually represented a monumental leap forward.

Ah yes, nocturnal challenges. There was a time when sleep was something I just did. If I was tired I would lie in and if not, I would get up. Other than that I thought little of it. Then I married an early-riser and began to have an increasing list of demands on my time. Then two children came along, with the second in particular being a prolifically atrocious sleeper and my transition into insomnia was almost completed. I say almost because 2018 has been the year that this went fully into overdrive with some periods of extraordinary sleep deprivation being experienced. The only crumb of comfort in this sorry tale is that I have discovered some meditative techniques that, whilst not necessarily induce sleep, at least prevent me from getting irritated by it. Perhaps one day I will have another lie in and in the meantime I have the book and recordings by my side as an insurance policy.

I began the year with surgery on my right knee, something that I wrote about a couple of times, along with the challenges of rehab. Whilst flexibility has by and large returned, it is still stiff and I think I can finally come to terms with the fact that I won’t be playing competitive sport again – I’m best sticking to watching it (and complaining about it). On the rugby front, having led the nation team on a record-breaking winning run back in 2016, Eddie Jones went into full meltdown, continuing to play locks in the backrow, finishing 5th in the Six Nations and then losing to South Africa. It remains to be seen as to whether this is a necessary blip on the way to a more successful 2019 or the beginning of the end for him, but there are one or two glimpses of hope in the form of Sam Underhill and Mark Wilson that might come to something. The cricket team continued its inconsistent test form with an unconvincing (yet entertaining win) over India, before a more impressive away series win in Sri Lanka. However, it is the success of the One Day team on which the ECB have staked their hopes and so the proof will be in whether they can win the World Cup next year. I remain cautiously optimistic.

2018 was also the year that Twitter tipped fully into meltdown mode. Armed with a lethal combination of Brexit, a new generation of social justice warriors and of course a growing number of left-wing celebrity generals willing to lead them into battle, the whole thing blew up (something I discovered to my cost midway through the year). Despite being advocates for democracy and decency and the people being represented and all that sort of thing, the likes of JK Rowling, Gary Lineker, Lily Allen, Terry Cristian and others have ditched that line of thinking and replaced it with “we know better,” suddenly darting to the conclusion that the EU is an organization that we should pin all our hopes in. Not only does it of course make all the correct decisions when it comes to law, order and general governance, there is absolutely zero economic opportunity that exists outside of its jurisdiction and anyone who thinks otherwise is a thick, racist piece of excrement. Moreover, the EU leaders are warm, bold, courageous and paternal, whilst any British MP or MEP who suggests otherwise is the opposite. Having been Prime Minister of Luxembourg for a few years with almost no opposition or stretching challenge of note makes Jean-Claude Juncker the ideal person to head up the EU – if he wants to get bladdered on costly lunches and grope women, hey why not (hashtag MeToo anyone)? Michel Barnier is right to basically not budge one inch in the withdrawal negotiations – that’s his job right? And as for Guy Verhofstadt ranting and raving about forcing nation states to give up any sovereignty them might still have to create a federal Europe making all the laws and regulations for us, we should let him as he is exactly the sort of leader we need (and in no way resembles one of those lunatics from the thirties).

I am being facetious of course. Everything that we have witnessed over the past two years from the EU has confirmed to all those who exercised their hard-earned right to vote to leave that they were correct to do so (and I suspect quite a few of the more hesitant remainers). If this is the EU in its current form, what the hell is it likely to grow into in another ten or twenty years? That is of course if it doesn’t just collapse under the weight of its failed economic model, bringing down all the net contributors with it. Anyway, let’s not turn this into an exclusively Brexit-themed blog post. Suffice to say that the celebrity remoaning factions have stepped up their game on social media, aware of the failure of our current government to come up with an “attractive deal” and keen to latch onto the notion of a second referendum (cynically dubbed the “people’s vote). Back in the summer, I made the “error” of challenging one such celebrity remoaner, Brian Moore when he was midway through a succession of aimless taunts at Jacob Rees Mogg. What followed was a barrage of abuse from his legion of remainer followers, most of whom are a combination of left-wing, pro EU, nation-hating, politically correct zealots who think the world of the likes of James O’Brien and who would have Tony Blair back in charge in a flash. The abuse was fine for a couple of days – it gave me an endless stream of opportunities to inform them one by one what I thought of them. However, Brian Moore is evidently someone with a huge chip on his shoulder, repeatedly coming back at me, trawling my timeline for material and at one point furiously claiming that he had achieved more than JRM despite having had less money to start with. At that point I started receiving threats from stalkers, anonymous abuse and even efforts at sabotaging a podcast I had started (bad timing on my part I readily admit). The net result was that I changed my Twitter handle, went on private mode and then even shut Twitter down for a period of time. Having since opened it back up, I have come to the conclusion that it is basically now a pointless cesspit in which even humour and parody have been surpassed by the pillocking nature of the “liberal” left who seem only to want everything and everyone banned. Despite there being a small number of decent people on there, I think there are more creative ways of spending one’s time and one of my resolutions is to avoid it as much as possible.

Which leads me onto my overwhelming conclusion from 2018: that most things were better in the past. Remember a time when the government basically aspired to leave us all alone to get on with life? When the Tory Party were actually conservative? When the Labour Party actually attracted the working classes? When houses were built properly? When the roads were not gridlocked? When you could say what you want without someone being offended? When mainstream television was decent? When the BBC didn’t operate via the lens of diversity? When things were built to last and worked without having to be recharged and having apps loaded? To think that this nation produced the great castles, stately homes, the Victorian railways, museums, libraries, bridges and canals, the Spitfire, the Lancaster, the eType Jag and the Concorde. And look at it now – a plastic society full of permanently offended, purse-lipped drones all jabbing away on smart phones, frantically adding hashtags to whatever drivel they’ve just posted on Twitter. 

And so to the non-plastics out there, Merry Christmas :)