Friday, 30 December 2016

Time will tell

The tree of life, the tables of plenty and the pleasures of friendship
The epoch of incredulity
I’ve quoted this before, and I’m going to quote it again, surely one of the best openings of any novels from any age – from Dicken’s A Tale of Two Cities:
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way….
Emily and Harriet in 2016
The best of times
On a personal level, 2016 has been a very happy year with some great reading, memorable theatre, excellent TV, terrific cinema. I’ve started to write an epic dystopian saga (yes, I have) and my first reader, daughter Emily, has given me astute feedback; Nick Shelton has turned pictures in my head for Rhenium Tales into some wonderful illustrations. Sally and I had a lovely time at our 30th wedding anniversary party in July and we’ve had relaxing holidays in Scotland, France, Barcelona and London and gorgeous weekends in Badby.
Will the world in The Rhenium Wars become as vivid in my imagination as Middle Earth or Westeros....?
Unbelievable times
But then two unbelievable political outcomes were, for me, very unsettling: the UK voted to leave the European Union and Donald Trump won the US election to become the next President of the United States. Time will tell. Will the people who voted for Brexit and the people who voted for Trump get what they hoped for when they cast their ballot? We’ll look back in ten years and better understand the answer to that question. Time will tell.
More progress was made on LGBTQIA rights in 2016 which, according to the New Testament, would please Jesus
2016 in History
Will 2016 be known historically as the year in which more celebrities died than in any other year?
  • Writers: Richard Adams, Edward Albee, Sally Brampton, Anita Brookner, Umberto Eco, Dario Fo, AA Gill, Barry Hines, Carla Lane, Harper Lee, Peter Shaffer, William Trevor, Arnold Wesker
  • TV Performers: Caroline Aherne, Sylvia Anderson, Ronnie Corbett, Paul Daniels, Cliff Michelmore, Garry Shandling, Tony Warren, Sir Terry Wogan, Victoria Wood, Sir Jimmy Young
  • Musicians: David Bowie, Leonard Cohen, Keith Emerson, Greg Lake, Sir Neville Marriner, Sir George Martin, Peter Maxwell Davies, George Michael, Rick Parfitt, Prince, Guy Woolfenden
  • Actors: Jean Alexander, Alexis Arquette, Kenny Baker, Patty Duke, Frank Finlay, Carrie Fisher, Zsa Zsa Gabor, George Kennedy, Burt Kwouk, Debbie Reynolds, Alan Rickman, Lord Brian Rix, Andrew Sachs, Sheila Sim, Liz Smith, Peter Vaughan, Robert Vaughn, Gene Wilder, Anton Yelchin
  • Cinema giants: Sir Ken Adam, Michael Cimino, Garry Marshall, Douglas Slocombe, Robert Stigwood, Michael White, Vilmos Zsigmond, 
  • Sports figures: Muhammad Ali, Johan Cruyff, Arnold Palmer
  • World stage, politicians and faith figures: Rabbi Lionel Blue, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, Lord Asa Briggs, Fidel Castro, Jo Cox, Zaha Hadid, Nancy Regan, Janet Reno, Margaret Rhodes, Duke of Westminster, Elie Wiesel
Triumphs in spite of Disasters
The competitors who flew to Brazil will no doubt remember 2016 as the Rio Olympics Summer. The people of Cuba may see the year as one in which their country changed its outlook on the world. Barack Obama became the first US President to visit the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park in Japan. Mission Juno resulted in a spacecraft being placed in a twenty month orbit around Jupiter. Solar power, virtual reality, nanotechnology in surgery and electric cars all made significant technological progress. Ebola was almost eradicated from West Africa and combating the Zika virus saw impressive international cooperation. 70,000 Muslim clerics declared a fatwa against ISIS. Strides were made in cancer treatments, Alzheimer’s research and animal conservation.
What will 2017 bring to the table?
Disasters in spite of Triumphs
Terrorists continue to attempt to disrupt civilisations across Europe, the Middle and Far Easts, Africa and America. The UK lost face (and is continuing to lose face) internationally as a result of the Brexit referendum and the inability of the government to project clarity and consistency in how to “take back control,” as if it ever could in a world of globalization and the internet. Post-truth news became a “thing” (ie making up facts and statistics and promoting lies seems now to be an acceptable strategy for political leaders, fully supported by the majority of the Media.) The Syrian crisis deepened, as did crises in Yemen, the South China Seas and the Korean peninsula. Natural disasters resulted in major death tolls in Ecuador, Italy, Cuba, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, southeastern USA and Indonesia.

What is now remembered about the 16th year of each century in the past millennium? Can history help us predict which events of 2016 will be remembered in 2116? Time will tell.

  • First World War ongoing: Conscription in Britain, Paris bombings, Battle of Verdun (1 million casualties), the Great Arab Revolt, Battle of the Somme (first use of British tanks, over 1 million casualties) 
  • The Easter Rising in Ireland - republican rebellion against British rule in Ireland
  • Einstein's Theory of Relativity
  • Tristan Tzar's Dada-manifest published in Zurich leading the way to surrealism and absurdity
  • Mount Tambora erupts in Indonesia – the Year without a Summer 
  • The wreck of The Medusa (French frigate)
  • First slaves arrive in Louisiana 
  • Decree orders all Jews to be expelled from Brussels
  • Ben Jonson becomes poet laureate and in November his Collected Works are printed 
  • Spanish Inquisition delivers an injunction to Galileo 
  • Shakespeare and Cervantes both die on 23rd April 
  • Pocahontas arrives in England
  • Venice creates First Jewish ghetto 
  • Ottoman-Malmuk War
  • Alfonso V (the Magnanimous) becomes King of Aragon 
  • Jerome of Prague burned alive as a heretic by Roman Catholic church
  • The Peace of Fexhe established power sharing between many sectors of society (crown, clergy, nobility and local city governments) 
  • French king, Jan the First, rules for only four days before he inconveniently dies
  • French crown prince Louis enters England at invitation of rebellious barons 
  • King John loses the crown jewels in The Wash and dies in October
  • Henry III succeeds John and reigns for 56 years, the 4th longest English reign after Elizabeth II, Victoria and George III ("English reign" by counting from 1000 to present time since "British" or "UK" didn't exist for all that time)
  • China invents the modern stitched-together book
  • The Danes defeat the Saxons at the Battle of Ashingdon 
  • Canute (Cnut) claims the English throne after the death of Edmund Ironside
So how will 2016 be remembered?
Only Time will tell....