Happy New Year!
I, for one, am very excited about 2014. It’s a World Cup year. My homeland could be ripped asunder by a smug wee bawbag. And the UN has declared that 2014 will be the International Year of Family Farming and Crystallography. Hang on to your hats – HATS FROM THE FUTURE.
The start of a new year is a fine time for making resolutions (this will be the year I learn how to make breadcrumbs) and predictions. Here are my prophecies for the next 364 days. Remember, you heard them here first.
1. Train companies will replace energy’s Big Six as public enemy number one.
From 2009 to 2011 it was the bankers and their filthy, ill-gotten bonuses that were grinding everyone’s gears. In 2012 and 2013, it was quisling energy companies boiling the nation’s collective piss. In 2014, the narrative will pivot once more.
British trains have been shit for years. For so long in fact, that British Rail jokes sprouted, flowered, became ubiquitous, got appropriated by 3rd-rate comedians, became boring, disappeared, hit ‘ironic’ status, got appropriated by 4th-rate comedians, and disappeared again.
The time has come to get angry. I take a train almost every day. They are the least appealing form of public transport. Even National Express buses are less sticky and abused, and they sometimes cost £1 a ticket. Trains cost more per mile than placing oneself in a solid gold box and being posted. They frequently don’t turn up because of staff shortages, a problem akin to a shop not opening because the sales assistants couldn’t be fagged to turn up. The entire network collapses at any hint of weather, inclement or placid. And the management thinks that naff etiquette campaigns are what’ll get the public on side.
The backlash begins here.
2. Britain will remember it’s supposed to be crap at sport.
The 2010s have so far been a golden age of British sport. Two consecutive Tour De France winners, after missing out on so much as a podium finish for over a century. A first men’s Wimbledon win in 76 years. Three Ashes series on the bounce. The best national Olympic performance since 1928.
Expect the wheels to come off spectacularly this year. All the ingredients are in place. The English cricket team Down Under is crumbling like a tiramisu in a sandstorm. The two major international sporting jamborees in 2014 – the Winter Olympics and the World Cup – are events where we always combine high expectations with no talent. A British city with a poorer life expectancy than Soweto is hosting the Commonwealth Games. Murray can’t win his tennis matches any more. We’re still crap at rugby compared to the southern hemisphere.
But in our lowest moments, unlikely heroes emerge. Remember when everyone briefly cared about curling? Skeleton? That was simply because we were too crap at everything else to cobble together a 30-second highlight reel for the ten o’ clock news. So the stage is well set for a national love affair with a totally unloved sport. I predict showjumping will get far more attention in 2014 than it ever truly deserves.
3. Trouble at the top
After those few early wobbles, the coalition government has been remarkably stable in terms of its personnel. But with an election less than 18 months away, any pretence of getting things done will slip further down the agenda to be replaced by shouting and manoeuvring.
The odds are reasonably set on a thin Labour win. But despite all they’ve been through, the Lib Dems could bizarrely end up as the kingmakers again in 2015. And if Labour do get the most seats, they’d struggle to maintain the ConDem status quo with any kind of legitimacy. So cosying up has to slice both ways. A tactical resignation from a senior Lib Dem – perhaps one who’s not a friend of Nick – could be a helpful play towards getting a plum job in a new red-yellow coalition. Can’t think of any obvious candidates that fit that description though.
4. Another Royal baby
Bound to happen. Kate’s looking well, isn’t she?
But of course that’s all a distraction, because this new baby will have Harry’s name all over it. Whether this baby will actually become public knowledge in 2014 is an entirely separate matter.
5. No heartening stories will come out of America.
The place is all over the shop to be honest. Can’t even produce a decent Eminem album these days.
Ineffectual in-fighting will restrict America’s global impact in 2014 to internet memes, a couple of school shootings and a baked goods craze that rocks east London for about 72 hours.
6. North Korea will struggle on.
The world’s most comi-tragic regime will remain depressingly erratic over the next twelve months. Expect more nuclear threats and photoshopped hovercraft.
7. Television and popular music will improve immeasurably.
If we’re really lucky, Cowell will see the writing on the wall and throw his lot in with a dramality show where teenagers on a housing estate in Grantham will be forced at gunpoint to eat pureed bat scrotums whilst bashing out Autotuned versions of George Michael’s back catalogue.
8. Fitness steps up a gear
Races like Tough Mudder – long, long assault courses where men who work in offices run through fields whilst being beaten around the face and neck with rusty pieces of agricultural equipment – are a prelude to 2014’s biggest craze – the death race.
I fully expect athletic events to appear where only one competitor can finish, having successfully killed or immobilised the rest of the competition. Participants will largely come from single, thwarted office workers in Reading and Guildford who are desperate to just feel anything again.
So, there you have it – 2014 is going to be a blast. Unless you’re taking the train.
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