Death where is thy sting: Carrie Fisher
The New Year is something I hate with every fibre of my body. While most of the world is celebrating, I prefer to take to my bed with a hot water bottle.
One of my least cherished memories of my teenage years is being unwillingly dragged from my bed by my father, just past midnight on January 1, and forced to join in a rendition of Auld Lang Syne.
I’ve never much liked Robert Burns, and this particular ditty is a song I would happily consign to Room 101.
I don’t know whether my intense dislike of this hedonistic festival is down to a desire to hold on to the past, or a refusal to embrace the future. It may be both.
Now well into middle age, I have too much of the former and not enough of the latter.
New years mean uncertainty, and somewhere inside this moderately intelligent being, there’s a catastrophist struggling to get out – a little mad merchant of doom capable of believing the crackpots who claim the end of the world is nigh.
The world was supposed to end last July – the 29th to be exact – when End Time Prophesies (a YouTube channel dedicated to doom and gloom) claimed a megaquake would destroy the planet.
If it did, I didn’t notice. But maybe I just wasn’t paying attention.
Democracy is a funny thing. It is now clear that even if she lost the election, Hillary Clinton won the vote. She ended up almost three million votes ahead of Donald Trump.
If 100,000 votes had gone the other way in just three US states, she would have won. Yet it is the Twitter-mad billionaire who will be inaugurated President of the United States next month.
Now if ever there was reason to believe the end of the world is nigh, this is it. In office many leaders go mad. He has a head start. Trump has already hacked off the Chinese, the Mexicans and most of Nato.
Vladimir Putin, a Cold War throwback, appears to be a soul-mate. I suspect Trump will do a deal with Putin to carve up the globe, replacing embassies with a string of casinos built by Trump and run by Russian oligarchs.
My nerves are steadied only by the memory that we have been here before.
Ronald Reagan was once seen as a threat to global stability. He is now regarded as one of the finest presidents in US history (largely I suspect because he believed in doing as little as possible.
While there were scandals, not least the Iran-Contra affair – the illicit support of rebels in Nicaragua, it is also the case that the tyranny of communist dictatorship was reversed during his watch.
Marx (who has a lot to answer for) once observed that history repeats itself, once as tragedy, twice as farce. The farce is about to begin.
I’m glad I am not a celebrity. If it becomes known for anything, 2016 will be known as the Year of the Celebrity Cull.
As I write, the world has moved on from grieving George Michael. I have never watched Star Wars, but I warmed to Carrie Fisher when she appeared on the Graham Norton show earlier this month.
A heart attack carried her off on the way back to the States. She was a mere 60 years old. Then her mother Debbie Reynolds followed suit. Like Michael, Fisher had been through the mill. (There is always a price to pay for celebrity.)
I am sure celebrities have died in previous years. But this is the year it became fashionable: David Bowie, Leonard Cohen, the Artist formerly known as Prince, Gene Wilder, Alan Rickman, Jean Alexander, Muhammad Ali, Andrew Sachs, Victoria Wood and Ronnie Corbett to name just a few.
The tear I shed was for Liz Smith, nana in the Royale Family (the creation of Caroline Aherne who also died this year). Nana was not a celebrity but the embodiment of the generation that made me and mine: hard-working, working class women who put others before themselves.
One thing I can confidently predict for the new year is that the Renewable Heat Initiative at Stormont will continue to be a feature in 2017. The 108 Assembly members will continue to produce copious supplies of hot air at a cost of more than £40 million in the coming year. Most of it will disappear into Ian Paisley’s mythical ‘blue skies of Ulster’.
Whatever 2017 brings, let’s hope we survive it. Happy or crappy, have a good one.
- This article first appeared in The Irish News on 30 December 2016