You Think This Was The First Bad Year?

Great Britain

2018? Pah, that was nothing.

1974 was the year that really sucked.

In 1974 the top US songs were The Way We Were by Barbra Streisand and Seasons in the Sun by Terry Jacks. In the UK it was the time of the Bay City Rollers and Slade. In the bigger picture we had Nixon and Watergate, the fallout from the Oil Crisis, Edward Heath, the Tory PM, attempting to negotiate a coalition agreement with the Liberal Party and failing horribly, the unions crippling the country, bringing rolling blackouts and food shortages. In hospitals, emergency operations took place by torchlight. The top films were the only bright spot in a horrible year; Godfather II, Chinatown, The Conversation, Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, Blazing Saddles.

And so to 2019. After The Quisling Farage, Clown Bojo and The Haunted Chimney lied to the British people, leading them into leaderless, rudderless chaos lorded over by ‘Point & Shoot’ May, the Labour Party had an open goal that Catweazle the Invisible somehow snoozed through.

Just as ‘global warming’ was craftily downgraded to ‘climate change’ by Dick Cheney’s gang, so ‘Brexiteers’ conjured images of valiant mutiny instead of insidious racism and Remainers became Remoaners – not a leap of the imagination. The vote was split between urbanites, who had far more contact with Europe, and rurals, who were worried about loss of national identity. It was a phenomenon noted by the FT:

‘The split between a metropolitan elite and a populist hinterland is clear in western politics. Less often noticed is that the same divide increasingly defines politics outside the west — spanning places with very different cultures and levels of development, such as Turkey, Thailand, Brazil, Egypt and Israel.’

The vote split families and tore up rulebooks as anecdotal fake news swamped empirical data. As Stewart Lee’s taxi driver sneeringly said; ‘Yeah, well, you can prove anything with facts.’

Which brings us to 2019.

This is where the cold, hard facts will arrive too fast for us to handle and roost like vultures in our houses. Or – like most politics in an inherently democratic country full of relatively healthy happy complainers – it will be a fizzle, a compromise, a blustering fudge that drifts and gets pushed back until there are only crumbs rolling about, and those who madly believed that the UK could recapture the spirit of Empire will blame anyone and everyone.

I remember the jubilation that accompanied the country’s admittance into the Common Market, but as Roy Porter says in ‘A Social History of London’, ‘London is not an eternal city. It had its hour upon the stage between the two Elizabeths, between 1570 and 1986.’ Those benchmarks are the opening of the Royal Exchange and the closing of the (admittedly failing) GLC, making London the only major city without democratic governance. There are mayors again now, but the coming year approaches without any sense of governance once more – if it is there, it is being hidden from its people.

But these problems are anthills compared to the two 20th century slides into war that decimated our male population, the fallout of which began before I was born and has continued until now. London suffers for its history – so rich and complex that it must be unjustly forgotten so that we can find our feet again. But this time the UK will return as a scaled-down, inward-looking country.

I do not believe there is any justification in grading people into classes, types or colours. When the press attacks a few hundred desperate refugees for trying to enter a country of 65 million, I turn away from the press, and I suspect I’m not alone.

England has changed in this past year. Money is tight, people are downbeat, but the English imagination is fecund and filled with variety. It’s been an amazing year for breaking down race and gender barriers. That famous last barrier of class and race, the theatre, has its biggest original hit in the form of a black play, Natasha Gordon’s ‘Nine Night’, which has taken London by storm. It’s a great time to get creative.

This coming year there will be two new Bryant & Mays. I’ll be finishing my thriller, working on a historical fantasy and planning further books, along with a host of other projects. Life continues until it stops. Let’s make 2019 something to get excited about.

Have a fantastic new year.



12 comments on “You Think This Was The First Bad Year?”

  1. Trace Turner says:

    My New Year’s resolution is to be a more positive person, so I’ll start early in saying thanks for writing a blog that is thoughtful, interesting, funny, and full of odd bits and references that make me want to know more about them. My parents bought a set of encyclopedias the year I was born and I spent many happy hours reading articles in them. I would open a volume at random and just read. Your blog is somewhat like that – you never know what you’ll get.
    Happy New Year to you and and to all my fellow readers.

  2. Jo W says:

    A wish for a Happy and Peaceful New Year to you and yours,Chris and to all your readers and commenters.
    Looking forward to your 2019 output. 😉

  3. Stephen says:

    Hi Chris, happy new year.I’m looking forward to the new Bryant And May books,life does go on and you should try and make the most of each day.Mind you,The Burning Man was nearly the last novel I would ever read.Hopefully, I’ll still be here for the finale.Your blog is excellent.

  4. Helen Martin says:

    A peaceful New Year would be wonderful and might even be attainable so I’ll wish everyone some of that. I would like to thank you, Chris, for this wonderful blog which got me two friends I’ve actually met (Dan T. and Jo W) and others I know only here. This is a warm and good place to come to every day and is a big part of my life. This and the books of course.

  5. John DLC says:

    Happy New Year Chris- and to all your readers.
    I think it’s a bit of a shame how the Imagination seems to play a very minor part in public discourse. We could all do with a bit more Imagination.

  6. Debra Matheney says:

    I start every year with optimism, only to have it shot down within days. It is usually a politician who makes some idiotic comment, but those idiotic comments are fast and loose over here. Some child guests to my home found “Whose boat is this?” Thinking it was a children’s book they read it and said they didn’t understand it. Neither do I. The older I get the lass I understand.
    I take great comfort in reading and look forward to your new books. Happy New Year to everyone and may each of you find bliss in reading.

  7. Bruce Rockwood says:

    Happy New Year. As the t-shirt I got for Christmas says, “Live long and may the force be ever in your favor, so say we all.” 2019 needs to be the year we bring back Captain Planet!

  8. Wayne Mook says:

    John I think the problem we’ve had is too much imagination in politics, especially on Brexit on both sides, it is the end of the world as we know it, or we will be a mighty empire of freedom and high walls who will build our own continental system. A bit of realism would be good. Although it would be nice for them to reform banks properly before they leave for Europe.

    Admin, of the 70’s you forgot the banking crisis that carried over from the 60’s, the end of the Bretton Woods agreement, inflation and world wide depression especially in the US. A friend from Jamaica told me if you thought it was bad here in the 70’s it was much worse there. I can still see orange and brown curtains and other wonderful colour combinations for carpets & furnishing, the horror.

    With Labour the Blair & Brown people won’t work with Corbyn, so the party is currently moribund, but they don’t know how to get rid off him; oddly enough there are people who don’t trust the B&B old guard, anyone would think the supported bankers and the like. It is probably as divided as the Conservatives, only the noise is much less.

    I reckon after 10 to 20 years if the EU is still there we will re-join.

    Have a good New Year everyone, hope it brings plenty of good things for you. Ultima Thule was a wonderful thing, even if it looks like a blob. I’ve just celebrated my birthday (New Years day baby) and it was very nice, I played Mouse Trap, now how 70’s is that?

    I’ve almost read Hell is a City by Maurice Proctor set in Grantchester (a thinly disguised Manchester), the title is from a poem by Shelley and the line is

    ‘Hell is a city much like London —
    A populous and a smoky city;’

    So not everyone is an urbanite but he did enjoy Europe, I wonder if Bryant and May would have changed his mind?

    Here’s hoping nothing but happy tidings come your way.


  9. Denise says:

    I think the words are ‘ Welcome New Year’ I refuse to say Happy. None of us know what it might bring!

  10. Helen Martin says:

    Perhaps, Denise, positive thinking might nudge events slightly in the way we hope they’ll go. I’m not sure that the new year is all that welcome, either, except that given events in our house for the last two years we’re hoping for at least a *different* sort of year.
    Imagine that ship flying past Ultima Thule! It is a time of wonders in some fields.

  11. Ian Luck says:

    Wayne – Have you seen the 1960 Hammer Films adaptation of ‘Hell Is A City’, starring Stanley Baker, and directed by Val Guest? It’s a thing of dark beauty. I’ve watched it many times, and it never fails to entertain. It’s worth watching, at the very least, for the stunning cinematography, in crisp monochrome, and the panoramic views of a Manchester that now does not exist. It’s possible that this is the most noir of any film noir ever made. I love that the fight at the end was actually filmed on a rooftop ledge of the old Refuge Assurance building, high above the street – you can see all the people in the street below, looking up. It’s a great movie, with an excellent cast. I would not be surprised if under the entry for ‘Gritty’ in a dictionary, it read: ‘See ‘Hell Is A City”.

  12. Wayne Mook says:

    Ian, I have seen ‘Hell is a City’ and agree with you, the Piccadilly that no longer exists and the gambling up on the moors. proctor who wrote the book was an ex-policeman and it shows. It makes a splendid double bill with, ‘Hell Drivers’.

    When the Refuge building was renovated a few year back, in the large windows of ground floor one of the things they put in was a large ‘poster’ of the film starring Donald Pleasance. How the mighty have fallen.


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