Friday, 30 December 2016

Freedom from and a big Fuckety Bye to 2016

It has been a horrible year. Truly horrible.

Much has been said about the political reverberations of the actions from the previous 12 months and much also about the incredible loss of well known celebrity and professional life during this tumultuous period.

I will touch upon it all only very briefly in a rare blog post.

The Postitive?!
Now it hasn't all been relentlessly awful. But whilst the highlights have been overshadowed considerably by a cesspit of despair, I have to mention that wonderful summer in France.

As I wrote in this blog at the time, Wales's odyssey to its first footballing finals in 58 years was something that this sports mad idiot lapped up for all its worth. Those trips to Bordeaux and to Paris will live in the memory for as long as my memory allows them too. But even above those wonderful days lurked the shadow of that vote in June. The Paris match for Wales' last 16 match against Northern Ireland fell on Saturday 25th June just two days after the Brexit vote. To say I was at a low ebb is the understatement of all-time. Even travelling back to the continent that morning I couldn't get out of my head the fact that the passport that allowed me to do so, may not in a few years time.

Truth be told, the match itself was incredibly nervy and not one that I could enjoy. I didn't want to consider the impact of being knocked-out against unfancied Northern Ireland having previously hit the heights of beating Slovakia and Russia. That on top of the events of 48 hours earlier would've been catastrophic for my already rock-bottom morale!!

But thankfully Wales came good and the power of football, of sport and of a command band of humanity coming together for a cause against the odds (because following Welsh football with a degree of hope in the possibility of success has always been against the odds!) was an incredibly cathartic one.

We will always have those halcyon days of France last summer in our hearts and for that at least, I say thank you to 2016.

The Politics
But that's basically it. 2016 in all other ways has been a slurry pit from hell.

It is scarcely believable that since last January 1st, we have as a country voted to leave the European Union. As a fervent internationalist, I will not budge from my belief that the decision taken on June 23rd is going to cause serious harm to some of the most vulnerable in our society for years to come.

On the crest of the wave of this populist outrage, America voted (not in raw numbers but through its Electoral College) for Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton to take over the White House from Barack Obama in 3 weeks time. My head is in a spin with it all.

It's as if reason doesn't count for anything anymore. Playing to people's fears seems much more productive than playing to their hopes. Spin 'em a line, reel 'em in, and let 'em drown when you've got what you want. They say politics has a bad name now - so what's happening with that extra £350m a week that will be going to the NHS? When will Trump build and then force Mexico to pay for that wall?!

There's going to be a lot of anger when the politics of grievance and division that has visited us this past year doesn't pay out as promised. What then??

I'd like to think that informed rational debate may come back into vogue again. But I'm not holding my breath.

The People
Then there's been the scarcely believable loss of the lives of people who, through their own realm of expertise, have made an impact on the world. From the world of entertainment, science and public service/activism, it has been a year of bewildering loss.

This BBC news website list alone names over 250 such lives that have been lost in the space of 365 days.

The one that shocked me the greatest was that of Victoria Wood. One of my comic idols, she has been a happy companion along my road in life since I was a teenager. To lose someone like Victoria who brought so much joy and happiness to the lives of so many, at age just 62, is heartbreaking.

The loss has been relentless over this apparently festive period but for me, it's almost apt that we end a year that started with the shock loss of that musical genius David Bowie with the loss of another colossus in George Michael.

Now I can't hand on heart say that I was a huge fan of either. Don't get me wrong, I respected them both and their back catalogue will stand the test of time. But despite my vague indifference to their talent, they have in my mind, book-ended in their departure, a year that has lost so much talent and potential, be it in the personal, or in the politics of where we are today and where we may be, or could've been, tomorrow.

It has been striking since George's death to read of the many stories of his quiet philanthropy. It is so sad that, even if it were his will, that we did not know just how kind a man he was until it was too late to thank him for his generosity.

In the same light, it is only in the coming darkness of the tortuous Brexit negotiations and the Presidency of Donald J. Trump that some may come to appreciate after it is too late, just how good things actually were.

Freedom from 2016
George Michael and these 250+ listed above are now free from such concerns. They are now in another place. It's probably not a bad place to be. Indeed it was George in that early incarnation as Wham! that sang what for me was always my favourite effort to come from his impressive songbook.

So here is the full 7m long version of that Wham! classic 'Freedom'.

There is still one more day to survive in 2016 but on the dangerous presumption that I can get through these next 24 hours alive and in one piece, I will be seeing in the New Year in the Gogerddan Arms near Aberporth with a Band and Buffet.

We don't know what 2017 will bring but for one night we can at least rejoice in seeing the back of 2016. When the clock strikes midnight I will raise a glass to the freedom that we will have gained from the shackles of this slurry pit from hell.

Fuckety Bye 2016.