Well, I suppose on a scale of 1 to 10, this year was no more than a 5.
OK, the Olympics in London were well worth watching (even if London was clogged up for weeks with visitors and in one of my few overseas trips this year I got well and truly ripped off by a hotel that was blatantly profiteering from the event), and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations seemed to go off pretty well. Over the past week or so, for the Christmas schedules, the Polish version of BBC Entertainment has run several programs on that theme – a look at Royal Weddings from the Queen Mum to Wills and Kate; a very good three parter presented by Andrew Marr celebrating the Queen’s reign; and the Jubilee Concert outside Buck House that had its high points and its shite points – so I’ve only just caught up with all that went on. She’s a grand old lady, is Liz 2, and after seeing Marr’s series she has I admit gone up a lot in my estimation…..she is without doubt a tough act to follow for Charles (who will have quite a short reign by the look of it) and William.
We had a couple of good vacations too. The first, three weeks at the Polish seaside, I only had a couple of days there because of (rare) work commitments, but Ania and the kids enjoyed it. The most entertaining thing about that trip was the fisticuffs I got involved in with some pillock at the local garage here when I tanked the car immediately before we set off. Police were called, but no charges were brought, and off we went, me with a badly sprained wrist and the pillock a lovely black eye. Happy days.
The second vacation was three weeks in Almeria, Spain, staying at my second cousin Don and his wife Heather’s apartment in Roquetas de Mar. We went in August for three weeks, the weather was perfect (for once in my life it didn’t rain during my vacation – hardly saw a cloud, in fact) and we had a great time.
We also squeezed in a trip to Kiev in at the beginning of May, shortly before Ukraine and Poland hosted a pretty successful Euro 2012 football championship. Interestingly, the post I did about that trip is by far and away my most read piece – I guess a lot of people looked at it to get a feel for the place before the football but since no-one ever bothers to comment on the Blog I can’t be sure.
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In the wider world, we had the usual list of natural disasters. This time the biggest story was “Superstorm Sandy” that ripped through the Caribbean in October, devastating parts of poor old Haiti (still recovering desperately slowly from the last two years’ worth of earthquakes and hurricanes), walloping Cuba then running up the eastern seaboard of the US where it eventually came on land and flattened a good part of the Jersey shore and New York City. Cue much hand-wringing from wealthy Americans who had never suffered anything like it before (they should try being a poor Caribbean islander, acing these events every year) and the inevitable Benefit Concert in Madison Square Gardens, where a pretty good bill included Bruce Springsteen and Jon Bon Jovi (Jersey boys both) performing together, plus Alicia Keyes, some talentless NY hip hop artists, the Stones (still Rolling along after an amazing 50 years, despite all being around 70 now) and The Who (ditto). Oh, and Benefit Gig Specialist Sir Paul McCartney, who also headlined the Queen’s Jubilee Concert. All I can say is thank God for the Beatles’ back catalogue.
Talking of the Jubilee Concert, was anyone else as embarrassed as I was by Annie Lennox, who I think is a great singer, swanning around in angel’s wings singing a dreadfully plodding version of Must be Looking for an Angel? Dire. As was Sir Cliff Richard – still looking about 25 (plastic surgery????) but prancing around stiffly and with a voice that faded by the verse…..another 70 plus artist who really should retire gracefully. Much as I love The Who (they were one of my favourites back in the day), they never recovered from Moonie’s death (although current drummer Zak Starkey, son of Ringo Starr, is pretty damn’ good), and the sight of Roger Daltrey’s stiff stage movements and freshly waxed chest and fake tan (when he had the idea of unbuttoning his shirt completely a la Who c.1973), to mention nothing of a somewhat expended waist line, was, not to put too fine a point on it, embarrassing. His voice is shot too. Such a shame: I have fond memories of their Charlton Athletic gig with Alex Harvey and others back in 1973, in their pomp, and an equally great show at the Hammersmith Odeon the following year, when the guy could really move and had a voice that blew anyone else (apart from maybe Robert Plant) away. He also nearly ran me over in his Ferrari Dino once, in Tunbridge Wells, as I was crossing the road by the Pantiles and he came roaring down the Frant Road and skidded to a halt about a foot short of me. He was listening to what I assume was a rough cut of The Who By Numbers album – not one of their best. Sorry, Rog – loved you in the past but it’s time so say bye-bye and concentrate on the trout farm.
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What else? Well, no world class tyrants snuffed it this year: despite the Arab Spring running into a second year (and now rapidly approaching a third) Ahmedinajad and Assad are still hanging on in Iran and Syria respectively. It is incredible to me that Assad is still merrily slaughtering his own people on a daily basis, still blaming it on them for being “gangsters”, and still being allowed to get away with it. Next door, Israel continues its efforts at Genocide against Palestinians, ignoring feeble UN complaints and ignoring sanctions, secure in the knowledge that there isn’t a Western politician (shame on you, Messrs Obama and Cameron….) with balls enough to condemn them outright and impose real and swingeing sanctions – if the US and EU were to withdraw military and financial support for Israel it may make a difference, but the chances of it happening are zilch. It amazes me that a country founded as a result of botched British diplomacy that essentially gave in to the demands of terrorist organizations – people not unlike Hamas, in fact, only better armed and organized – has been able to achieve such “respectability” despite its despicable behaviour over many years.
Obama won a closely fought Election and is now in his second term, but with the GOP still controlling half the legislature he’s in for a rough four years again – as the current “Fiscal Cliff” impasse shows. Cameron continues to baffle me: he tries to say the right things all the time, but invariably makes a prat of himself and is deeply unpopular. His policies seems to change with the wind direction, he’s surrounded by politicians in the Coalition who are clearly not up to the job (those on the Opposition benches are no better either) and his fixation with Europe and austerity measures is clearly damaging the country – and yet, the UK is stuck with the bloke for another couple of years, courtesy of his first piece of his legislation guaranteeing a full five year Parliamentary term. Democracy, I hear you say? Yeah, right. I’m glad I’m not living in the UK now, because I have absolutely no bloody idea who I would vote for….. It’s very sad to see my country going to the dogs in this way.
In Europe, the financial crisis continues. Remarkably, Greece has managed to avoid a default, as have Spain, Italy,Portugal and Cyprus - but it's been very very close at times. "Austerity" is still being demanded everywhere, despite wide spread opposition and civil unrest in all the ailing countries, and an increasingly popular view that it's not actually working anyway. Berlusconi was kicked out and his political obituaries penned - but he's making a comeback, apparently. Personally, I love the bloke: he's the most corrupt politician in Europe by a country mile, everybody knows it - but he doesn't give a toss. Merkel is up for re-election in 2013 so continues to bang the drum for austerity (thereby not upsetting the German electorate who don't want to foot the bill for the incompetence of the Greek government, to mention nothing of Spain, Italy etc....). Sarkozy went, to be replaced by the fervently anti-austerity Socialist Hollande. He has managed to piss off most of Europe's leadership without changing a thing so far, despite his election promises. Perhaps he'll have more luck if Merkel gets kicked out next year....
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And what of work?
More like, WHAT work. 2012 is without a doubt the most unproductive year I have EVER had – not only in my present job but going back to my banking days. Sum total: a week in Florida, three weeks in Cairo, two and a half weeks in London and five weeks in Malta. And EVERY single trip was basically a waste of time: a political bum on a seat, supporting testing (which means waiting for people to ask me questions). None of it was particularly taxing or mentally rewarding (forget financially rewarding: the company doesn’t work like that), and unsurprisingly the company eventually called time and delivered in early November via DHL a termination letter – it quite spoiled my breakfast (I was tucking into a bowl of cornflakes at the time) – without the advance warning that everyone else seems to have received. We’ve fired a lot of very good people this year, and it seems the company is really struggling, despite optimistic predictions coming from senior management. Nobody takes much notice of them anyway, given that they don’t seem to have a clue what they’re doing. All very sad: a potentially great company is going to the dogs. And I hear that more very good people will be following me out of the door very soon.
So as 2012 draws to close, I have one more month of official employment before I’m cut loose to fend for myself in any way I can. I know what I’m planning to do, and there are a number of irons in fires that will hopefully come to something in the first few weeks of 2013 – but the uncertainty has meant a very low key Festive period this year. Still, the kids enjoyed it, despite the chest infections that they and I have been battling against (with only limited success) for a couple of months now. I will be glad to see the back of this year, and look forward to 2013……difficult to plan much, given the state of my employment and bank balance, but one definite trip to come is the UK in May for my nipper’s wedding – now that we’re all looking forward to!
So I’ll bid you all farewell, hope you had a good 2012, a good Christmas, and wish you all a very VERY Happy New Year.
And as Schwarzenneger once memorably said....I'll be back.