How well do you remember the events of 2022?  What stood out for you as interesting, important or memorable about the year that ends in a few hours’ time?  Well, here is my take on some outstanding events and then after that, I would like to share with you my 2022 personal highlights.

Many of us who lived in a world-wide quarantine were relieved to hear the pandemic lockdown was unlocked.  We heaved a collective sigh of relief but we got so used to living a life of isolation, we carried on keeping our distance from one another, continued to wear masks to hide the lack of makeup or facial shaving, enjoying the anonymity of not being recognised by people we don’t particularly like, or not worrying about our garlic or tuna fish breath.

The media had temporary withdrawal symptoms now that they no longer needed to interview university boffins with medical and epidemiology PhD degrees dangling round their necks like rappers with gold and diamond chains.  So, they substituted their dependency on experts by switching their attention to logistical experts, to interview who enthusiastically told us everything was in the wrong place and all the people who shift stuff from one place to another, no longer wished to do logistical work, preferring instead to grow roses in their gardens, campaign for cleaner environments and racing everyone else to the shops to buy the last remaining items in short supply.  The experts anticipated shortage on more things in the months to come, thus giving us a clue where to go and empty the shelves before they finished being interviewed by the solemn journalists who analysed all the information and told us the logistical problems and the pandemic are inter-linked!  Why didn’t we think of that?

Russia decided she has had little attention of late so, they weighed their options and concluded invading a neighbour should satisfy their craving for world attention.  It turned out that Russia had no logistical issues in transporting heavy guns and armoured vehicles, along with badly trained soldiers to the Ukraine.  That set off journalists rushing out of their offices by climbing over the logistical experts, in search of ex-military types and strategic experts to give us the benefit of their expertise on what was going to happen and how long it would take Russia to over-run Ukraine.  We learnt two things about this local little war between these previous Soviet allies.  Firstly, the price of fossil fuel would go through the roof and help Arabian Gulf states make even more money than they knew how to spend.  Secondly, it turned out the Ukraine was not just the bread basket of the world, it was the bread bakery of 7+ billion human beings and the price of flour would have gone through the same roof as the price of oil, but for the fact that Russia wouldn’t let a single grain of wheat leave Ukraine without blowing up any cargo ship captained by a fully committed suicidal skipper and crew to feed the starving masses all over the world.  We all abandoned the queues at petrol stations and ran to the supermarkets to fight over the last bag of flour and then to the bookshop to buy books on how to make a basic loaf of bread.

Russia was so good at attention seeking, everyone sat up and paid attention.  The world was divided between those who passionately urged action against Russia and those who were equally passionate about not caring one way or another.  All of them were of the same opinion: let’s not over-react and be directly involved; this will endanger the lives of our people at the hands of the mighty Russian Army; we had already killed enough of our people by not dealing with the Covid pandemic properly, which would lose us the next election.  So, they came up with the brilliant idea of giving the Ukrainians all the obsolete arms and ammunitions they needed to fight their own war and invited the Ukrainian president to speak to every active parliament via Zoom.  For a bonus, they gave him standing ovations, compared him to Churchill, awarded his country the Eurovision song contest, and banned the Russians from singing.  They also woke up to the fact that most of Russia’s wealth owned by a small group of oligarchs, was securely residing in Western countries’ banks or sailing in the world waterways in the shape of the most expensive objects on water; luxury yachts. So, they began to freeze bank accounts and seize assets, including obscenely expensive yachts and desirable but empty residences all over the world.

Not to be left out of helping Ukraine, Russia sent the worst equipped army with the least idea of how to execute a war to bomb and destroy places by using last century tactic of long-range artillery to destroy and occupy barren land they could not hold, thus giving the more disciplined Ukrainian armies the opportunity to look good and regain a lot of their earlier losses.

 But the war in Ukraine did not stop us from getting back to ‘normal’.  We still had the occasional military expert enlighten our TV and radio studios, as well as the papers and news websites.  But these experts had to share the limelight with an eclectic group of experts in economics, fiscal analysis, social media, sports, arts and friends of recently deceased celebrities.  However, to be called upon to give your expert opinion, you must be at least a general, a chairman of Fortune 100 company, a professor or an ex-winner of world-level prize.  Politicians were invited to speak too, but only to be contradicted by a new breed of people called ‘fact checkers’ whose job it was to tell us what specific lie a politician was peddling so we could call him/her a liar without feeling rude or guilty.   I must confess that for a while when I heard the words ‘fact checker’, I thought they were talking about the rock n roll singer ‘Chubby Checker’ who is now in his 80s and wondered how this dude who sang ‘Let’s Do the Twist’ should suddenly emerge from retirement and share his opinions on a wide range of current political/social matters.

In the meantime, the world economy took a downwards dive to make a kingfisher green with envy.  Interest rates went up, inflation felt jealous, put its boots on and went up too.  Not to be outdone, the price of domestic and industrial fuels took a rocket up.  Those who continued to work looked at their pay packets and quickly calculated that they were earning enough to eat or heat but, not both so naturally they asked for income adjustment from their employers.  The governments advised against such a wasteful idea as they already had much better ideas on how to waste taxpayers’ money, claiming wage increases would exacerbate inflation even more.  Pretty much all governments over-spent on the mismanagement of the pandemic so, they spent most of their dwindling resources on finding the guilty source of our problems.  You guessed it, they concluded it was the pandemic and the Ukraine war, neither of which was anticipated or thought remotely possible before they happened.  In short, the governments were innocent of all charges and we should shut our mouths, stay at home, and make our own bread until the situation improved somehow. No one stopped and thought for a minute “wait a short vodka minute, why don’t we use all the money and assets we seized from the Russians to back-fill the gap in the world economy?”.  My guess is they did not want to discourage future oligarchs from keeping their money in the West and start keeping it in more friendly places such as Gulf states, Brazil, or even North Korea.

Someone spiked the UK’s drink causing them to lose control of all their senses.  In a single day, over 50 senior government officials, including cabinet ministers jumped ship and demanded a change of leadership from the incumbent prime minister Boris Johnson to anyone else.  They found ‘anyone else’ who had a unique talent of being completely lacking in talent and ability to do a better job than Boris.  She lasted less than 50 days, only to take an incompetent part in Queen Elizabeth II funeral, thus securing a place in history and the interesting answer to the obscure question in Trivial Pursuit of ‘who was the shortest serving UK prime minister since the office was created?’  A third prime minister was dragged kicking and screaming to occupy the seat hastily vacated by Damocles many centuries back, but now with the sword being replaced by a weight equal to the amount of money he and his predecessors wasted on mismanagement of the pandemic and the economy since leaving the EU.

It was not all doom and gloom though. We were now allowed to attend funerals!  Sport provided a welcome respite.  People were allowed back to mass attendance. The very wealthy world of golf discovered it can become wealthier by splitting up and some left to join a Saudi led Liv Tournament that awarded prizes of over $1 million just for turning up.  England women footballers beat Germany to win the European Cup and showed the men how to play the game in a sporting, non-violent, and still entertaining manner.  Argentina and Lionel Messi won the football World Cup in Qatar by beating France who won it last time out in 2018, when the competition was held in Russia (Ha!), who was banned from participating in the competition for being nasty to their neighbour Ukraine.  To achieve this feat, Qatar spent $200 billion for the privilege of hosting the games and was left better known around the world than they were hitherto with a bunch of stadiums they have no use for afterwards and questionable value for money.  Coincidentally the $200 billion cost of the tournament is a little less than Qatar’s own annual GDP and slightly higher than Ukraine’s annual GDP. I am sure there is a moral story to be learned here but can’t think of it.  Qatar had a plan to dismantle the unwanted stadiums and ship them to poorer countries, but this plan is on hold for now due to worldwide logistical problems.  The highlight of the tournament for me was how well Morocco did to reach the semi-finals.  What a great romantic story that was.  The world of Tennis continued to be monopolised by a few players but with a welcome gradual shift to new generation of players.  Cricket was something England could rightly boast about but not the Rugby, which is best left to the Southern Hemisphere countries such as New Zealand, Australia and South Africa.

Societies carried on being polarised and everyone was pushing everyone else down the hill to occupy the high moral grounds they felt belonged to them.  Social media became the go to place to exchange our moralities with one another.  We didn’t create debating forums, we just threw our sharpened opinions at one another with speed and venom, without caring what the response would be.  However, the platforms of social media are owned by extremely rich in money and poor in judgment elite that decide who can and cannot express their moralistic opinions.  Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg et al, are the gatekeepers to these public platforms.  In the meantime, we have all become experts on pandemics, logistics, economics, fiscal management, war theories, geopolitics, crude oil prices and fact checking one another.  In fact, no need to listen to anyone or read anything anymore; the answer to all our problems is nestling between our ears.

We lost the usual number of celebrities whose time on this earth had come to an end and everyone called them “genius’, ‘icon’ and ‘inspirational’.  It seems it is not enough to reach the dizzy heights of being very good, outstanding or even excellent; you must be a genius or an icon to be worth mentioning.  All those experts in the media are the type who will in the future deserve to be called genius, icon, or inspirational.

The one topic that seems to have been squeezed out of our collective conscience is the climate change, which was all the rage last year.  We held a COP meeting in Egypt and experts from all over the world flew there to Egypt to agree to disagree, while at the same time increasing their individual and collective carbon footprint many times over.  Concerned about their dependence on Russian oil, many countries abandoned their woke credentials and considered fracking, re-opening coalmines, and getting into bed with oil/gas rich regimes slightly more acceptable than Russia such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar.  As it turned out, Qatar did not need to spend $200 billion to market itself after all.

Back to me and my 2022.  Stuff happened to me, like everyone else.  I just want to relate three specific events as a tribute to people I care(d) about.  In February, my mother passed away in her own bed surrounded by many of the family members.  She was a lovely human being, but she went when she was ready and that was good enough for all of us.  My youngest daughter Faye and her husband Adam announced they were expecting a baby in June’23.  That filled my heart with joy, and I cannot wait to meet the new little person to be Claire’s and my 4th grandchild.

Finally, our neighbours Margaret and Derek in the house opposite, were always friendly, helpful and good to talk to as we passed their immaculately kept house or met on country walks.  Derek was a few years older than Margaret and had a few health issues.  He passed away one Saturday in August and two days later, Margaret was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.  Margaret passed away a few weeks later and now we dread passing by their house as it looks sad and empty.  We miss them terribly, especially Margaret who was fit as a fiddle and went out jogging a number of times a week.  May they both rest in peace.

May your 2023 be less mad than 2022 and may you remain happy, healthy, and content.