2012 was a fine vintage

As the warm afterglow of the Christmas parties fade away, bellowed karaoke still ringing in one’s ears and the mucky red grime of oriental chicken ribs clinging to one’s fingernails, it is a time to reflect upon events of this most monumental of years. 2012 was special in so many ways. It’s galling to think that in my lifetime, I am hardly likely to experience a more pleasurable year unless I start dating a nymphomaniac Brazilian model.

The aforementioned Christmas parties were excellent fun, even if I danced like a pissed horse to ‘Gangnam Style’ at both. The first was work, the second for my snooker club. I quaffed everyone under the table until I ended up under the table, passed out. The office Xmas party involved ‘Management-Speak Bullshit Bingo’, with drunken screams indicating someone has a full house after Kevin, hirsute caller and the only sober person for miles, called out “Let’s run that idea up the flagpole”.

One of the bosses, possibly holding the title ‘Campest Man Alive’, was a cesspool of innuendo and filth all night, helped on his way by a bottle or three of Cava. A secret Santa had been organised for the office and as Kevin got ready to hand out the presents from a bin-liner, the boss shouted “Kevin’s emptying his sack!” When ‘It’s Raining Men’ came over the sound system, he hollered with delight “This one’s for the gays!” which didn’t exactly narrow it down. In his office, Kevin is known as the only straight in the village.

So yes, 2012. What a year. I guess the crowning moment was the Olympics and Paralympics, those glorious two months when being proud of your country didn’t involve marching with the English Defence League and holding deep reservations about men with turbans. The Opening Ceremony created a modern ideal of Britishness. We’re mad, we love cricket, we pay for a National Health Service (up yours America) and yes, undoubtedly, we have a wonderful sense of humour. Where Beijing four years ago was like a water fight in which the richest kid in the neighbourhood bought along his Dad’s fire hose, London was an altogether more homely affair.

Four years ago, the Chinese authorities wanted to show off that they were kings of the world, sitting astride the world economy like a Hell’s Angel on a Harley Davidson. We wanted to show that with a bit of elbow grease, a bit of luck and dozens of flying Mary Poppinses, we might one day be the palace jester. We could never have outdone the Chinese precision and militaristic overtones, so we decided to show the world we had a heart.

With the nation on a collective high, the athletes decided to make us wait for our first gold medal. Nearly a week passed before we celebrated the top prize. I managed to miss the last week of the Games because I was in Magaluf on my first lad’s holiday, so I may have missed a third of possibly the last Olympics to be held in my home country during my lifetime, but still managed to see my fair share of watersports.

There were so many magical moments during the Games, but perhaps top of the pile was Mo Farah’s first win in the 5000m. A Somali-born refugee bringing home the glory in the colours of his home nation was better in conquering Daily Mail-esque fear of ‘The Other’ than a million multi-cultural experiments. The last time I was shouting “Come on Mo, come on Mo!” I was watching the EastEnders episode where Little Mo kills Trevor.

Apparently condoms were laid out in every athlete’s apartment, because when the world’s fastest and fittest individuals come together in an enlarged version of a Hi-De-Hi holiday camp, you can barely move for fornicating basketball and volleyball players. The athlete’s village must have morphed in to your first house party, where you daren’t open a bedroom door in case you embarrass your best mate while he’s trying to lose his virginity.

Such titillating details delighted The Daily Star. Usually their front pages are brimming with sex scandals, sex and footballers doing silly things (usually involving sex). But for three weeks in the summer, no-one gave a Tooting & Mitcham who some blonde bombshell had been having it off with that week. So while most newspapers were revelling in British glory, The Daily Star exposed shocking secrets of the athlete’s nefarious activities from Games past and present, meaning they could meld their twin passions together: sex and ‘whatever’s in this week which will make people buy our snot rag’.

Usually, the BBC Sports Personality of the Year belies its title with a parade of sickeningly uncharismatic dullards, often considered some kind of sage after a vaguely amusing turn on ‘A Question of Sport’ involving Phil Tufnell and a stray comment about a golf player’s balls. Yet this time round, the illustrious likes of Jessica Ennis, Mo Farah and Bradley Wiggins were vying for the trophy. Wiggins walked away with the crown to cap an incredible year. Not content with winning the Tour de France, he also racked up Olympic gold in the cycling time trial.

To put this in to perspective, Lance Armstrong needed a round-the-clock team of colluders and scientists to win the yellow jersey. He disappeared to mountain retreats for weeks to avoid drug tests while he took all sorts of injections and replaced his blood, yet still denied any wrongdoing. When his dirty linen was finally washed in public this year, Armstrong became the sporting equivalent of Jimmy Savile. The analogy goes further because it has been alleged that practically everyone involved in cycling during Armstrong’s heyday was cheating, whilst you daren’t watch any BBC repeats from the 70s in case some raging paedophile leers at you. So many cyclists have been expunged from the official records due to doping that I will probably be awarded 16th in 1997 for when I rode to the shops and back to buy a packet of Pokemon cards.

Meanwhile, in the well-populated province of Nuttersville, the end of the world, supposedly December 21st, came and went without a blip. The night before our alleged Doomsday, many people decided to post meaningful, insightful and illuminating final Facebook or Twitter statuses, just in case alien archaeologists of the future wonder why someone’s last words were “Fish and chips dinner ftw”.

Among the tropes of wisdom posted by friends, which let us not forget may have been their last utterance before a fiery death, my favourites were “Roger Moore was a shit Bond” and “I call my testicles Ant and Dec”. It does raise an interesting point though. If you had one thing left to say, what would it be? “Shit, wrong button” would be my contribution, to make it look like I have more power within the four never-ending walls of this universe than I actually do.

2012 was also an extremely interesting year in politics too. Barack Obama emerged victorious in the US Presidential election, despite Karl Rove’s denials on Fox News, where he refused to believe Obama had won the battleground state of Ohio. The news anchor then instigated a priceless piece of live television when she went to find the statisticians who had made the call. The camera followed her to the maths (sorry, math) factory to confirm there was no way back for the Republicans. Mitt Romney was a suspicious man who would be called a “second hand car dealer” were he to live in East Anglia, the preferred insult to someone of a shady nature who can’t be trusted with a rusty spanner let alone a nation of 300 million people.

In Britain, lots of exciting things happened too. The phone-hacking scandal blew up in a big way, leading to a national newspaper closing for the first time in years. Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson were both asked to comment on the scandal but were busy adjusting their taste buds to the featureless food found at Her Majesty’s pleasure. There was plebgate, politicians of all shapes and sizes trying to take credit for the Olympics, a Cabinet reshuffle (the words ‘Titanic’ and ‘deckchairs’ come to mind), a Nick Clegg apology on tuition fees and Nadine Dorries eating bollocks rather than speaking them.

But there is one story that ranks above all these in terms of significance, one which shall be taught in years to come as the defining political moment of our age; Eric Pickles was forced to defend his department’s spending on biscuits this year, which has increased by £10,000. The history textbooks shall remember the early years of the 21st century thus: “Millenium… 9/11… Reality TV… Iraq… 7/7… Banking collapse… Minister enjoys one too many Jammy Dodgers during inter-departmental meetings”.

Ministers are prepped in bashing the opposition from day one but the tongue-lashing unleashed in defence of Pickles was quite extraordinary. For those not in the loop let me briefly explain how politics works. Practise bashings are held once a new minister is positioned in a government office. Spin doctors drop by to see if they can achieve the required level of apoplexy when discussing the furnishings. “This is typical of Labour. Not only did they leave us up Stock Exchange Creek without a paddle, but they also chose aqua marine blinds for my office and a rather hideous painting in the foyer. There is no limit to the wastefulness and poor decision-making of the previous incumbents”. If they pass this test, they are shoved in front of Jeremy Paxman and confronted about everything the government has done, ever.

Before we see how some junior boxwollah covered the arse of his boss, we need some numbers: in just seven months, Pickles’ department spent over £42,000 on snacks, which seems a bit steep. However, according to The Sun, “Local Government Minister Brandon Lewis pointed out that the snacks bill had fallen dramatically since Labour lost power in 2010 – when it hit £456,142”. Lewis went on to slate the previous government in an epic rant. Aside from the absurdity of political attacks based on biscuit bills, how can half a million on Hob Nobs and Skips be justified? Were they holding political prisoners, or did John Prescott often pop round for lunch?

Aside from the makers of chocolate bourbons, the Queen also enjoyed a fantastic year. Her Diamond Jubilee reignited the passion that Brits feel towards their monarch. Various dewy-eyed commentators looked at opinion polls which said she was as popular as oxygen and declared her position was safe forever more. These idiots need only look back at opinion polls from fifteen years ago – around the death of Princess Diana – to know that opinion can soon change.

With ease, her Grandson Harry brushed off an incident in Las Vegas where he was snapped naked in a bathroom during drunken japes with mates. This raised the prospect of the King’s message on Christmas Day 2063 being a little livelier than what we’re used to – the newly crowned Prince will tell his subjects “I bloody love you” before vomiting on a corgi and trying to set fire to his farts.

Yet the people love Harry. They love William ‘n’ Kate. They love that old codger Prince Philip with his well-timed bladder infections. It was one of these urinary problems that kept Philip away from the grand concert held to celebrate sixty years of Elizabeth II’s reign. The sight of Grace Jones hula-hooping may have been odd but weirder was when Madness, titans of the ska era, performed ‘Our House’ atop Buckingham Palace. I don’t wish to be a reverse snob but you’d have to be a rich bastard if, to paraphrase Suggs and co, the Queen’s residence was in the middle of your street. I felt that performance tipped towards satire, but the straight faces on display indicated I may be the only one to feel a little queasy.

Nonetheless, raise a glass of something strong to 2012. Rest assured, Prince Harry will be doing the same.


This recession is here to stay

I remember the days when recessions were over in a jiffy, when they were fly-by night aberrations that came and went like council estate fathers. The Chancellor of the Exchequer would break out in a mild sweat after seeing a batch of economic indicators turn sour, prescribe a dose of fiscal antibiotics and kick back in a reclining chair with a glass of merlot and satisfaction of a good day’s Chancelloring.

I was born during a recession in 1991 and this would have been manageable were it not for the fact Bryan Adams’ mopeathon ‘Everything I Do (I Do It For Soppiness)’ reigned supreme at number one for sixteen weeks, meaning I was born in a rather depressing environment. But in short order, everything sorted itself out and we were back to the ‘boom’ of ‘boom and bust’ that would hold solid for over fifteen years.

Since we first entered recession in 2007, I have been through college, seen out my years as a University undergraduate, engaged in my first mating ritual and paddled in the shallow end of illicit substance consumption. I shall withhold the details about the order I completed these tasks in to make you think I might have been cool and popular at college. In short, we’ve been drowning in recessionary dire news for yonks (the official term for a long period without growth).

During this intense bout of sustained misery we endured a double-dip, which might sound like something you would find at Alton Towers or an old-fashioned confectionary emporium but actually means the economy retracted for two consecutive quarters on two separate occasions. This meant that lots of serious looking people with contracted eyebrows appeared on rolling news channels to tell us that we have less money to spend than we should, the monetary equivalent of popping your head out of the window to give a weather forecast.

As if a brace of dips is not enough, there is a chance we may be headed for a triple-dip, which would officially mean Britain’s GDP goes up and down more than Russell Brand’s y-fronts. George Osborne, he of the smirk and dangerous sneer, has set out his plans to avoid such a catastrophe. Outlining his Autumn statement (in December, don’t ask) at the despatch box, Osborne reverted to his mantra of us all being in it together. Not only did he slash the welfare bill by another couple of billion, he also increased a few taxes on the rich. The unscrupulous sod then protested that the rich were being hit harder than the poor.

If you look at the measures simply as piles of cash, then yes, it’s true, the rich are paying more. This is because (and I consult my Idiots Guide to Mathematics here) they earn more, which means that someone on £1 million a year whose taxes are raised by 1% will be paying an extra £10,000. Whereas someone existing on £100 a week who has their benefits cut by 20% will only be contributing a further £20. But which of the two will be hit hardest? The CEO with a country pile and a fleet of automobiles? Or the home carer, for whom every day is a desperate struggle against bills and food?

What’s astonishing is that the Olympics have had little effect, even though the cunning minds in No 11 Downing Street decided to pile all the purchasing of tickets inside the same quarter. So when you bought your ticket to the flyweight boxing back in 2010, that money only ever existed in August. It went to some financial Never-Never Land and suddenly reappeared to lift us to a whopping, err, 1%.

All of this makes me want to gnaw my own leg off and lob it at someone suitably responsible for this crisis, although Goldman Sachs employees rarely walk the streets with a special badge – some German bloke kind of tarnished the idea – inviting onlookers to hurl bloodied limbs in their direction.

The Liberal Democrats, slowly morphing in to the dictionary definition of flannelers, are the ones repeatedly having their lunch money stolen by the Tory bullies, yet naively return with pocketfuls of cash to the canteen queue every time. They extracted one sixth of a concession from the Conservatives about taking meagre amounts from the wealthy then skipped merrily away, humming the theme tune to ‘The Good Life’ and adopting a fake simpering smile that haunts any retail worker when they ask if you need anything.

Apparently, we may continue down austerity’s tightrope for another six years and that’s according to the Office for Budget Responsibility’s extremely generous predictions of decent growth in less than eighteen months. This wrongly suggests our economy will be ‘Thunderbirds are go’ in next to no time, when a barren stretch of flatlining looms ever closer like a dying man’s heartbeat.

I wish I could offer words of hope or change, dispensing wisdom and witticisms like Churchill on heat, but I fear there is nothing I could say to cheer us up during these cold months. It’s a shame we don’t hibernate really because I’d quite like to bury my nuts for the winter and wake up in 2024.