It’s tempting, at this time of year, to do one of those retrospectives of the preceding year. But, you know, I’ve always found that sort of thing tedious: I don’t need a recap of the year – I was there, I know what happened and, in many instances, I don’t want to be reminded. The other temptation is to try and look forward to the New Year. Something I also dislike: for one thing I think that the whole concept of New Year resolutions (which most of these exercises degenerate into) is utter bollocks, for another, the future is unknowable and it is pointless speculating about it. Things never turn out the way you expect, (and trying to use the past as a guide to the future is equally pointless, as nothing ever happens the same way twice). But Hell, as its the beginning of January and nothing at all is happening, it seems that I’ve got nothing better to do than write a few words about the year just ending. It should come as no surprise to anyone that I won’t be sorry to see the back of 2018. What with losing three months to serious illness and my ongoing troubles at work, (the two are, of course, inextricably intertwined), things didn’t even start to return to some semblance of normality until the last couple of months of the year. I’m finally feeling more my old self, (my old self from three or four years ago, that is, before the work stress started my downward spiral), and, hopefully, things will continue to improve over the coming months.
But, despite everything that has happened, 2018 hasn’t been the worst year I’ve ever known. Not by a long chalk. After all, nobody close to me died, I didn’t lose my job, I wasn’t left struggling to keep paying the mortgage and stop myself becoming destitute – all things I’ve experienced in previous years. (These days, of course, I no longer have a mortgage to pay – which has, as I’ve gotten used to the fact that it is now all paid off, radically transformed my attitude to work). I also, somehow, managed to keep The Sleaze going through all the troubles of the last year. I’m not sure how – whereas in the past I’ve been able to plan stories weeks in advance, this year it was a hand-to-mouth existence, with stories written on the fly, on the day of publication. Maybe I’ll be able to keep it going in 2019. Who knows? Certainly not me – I don’t even have a clue what the next story is going to be. In fact, I don’t seem to have much of a clue about anything any more. One of the main reasons I don’t like doing annual retrospectives is that, at the best of times, I can never remember what happened in the previous twelve months. This year it’s even worse: having spent a quarter of the year laid up sick, I haven’t a bloody clue what went on. It’s pointless trying to do a ‘top ten books I read in 2018’, for instance, as I don’t bloody recall parts of the year with any clarity.
So, I’m confined to looking back at the things I can remember, which is basically stuff from the last couple of months. The drone panic which closed Gatwick Airport for several days, for instance. Did these drones ever exist? Certainly it is a question briefly raised by Sussex Police, before being shut down by the government. But the fact remains that there seems to be no physical evidence of their existence. We keep getting told that two drones were originally seen flying over the perimeter fence – but seen by whom? Were these sightings from multiple sources or just from a single individual? We just don’t know. Is there photographic evidence of their existence? Apparently not. Which seems odd, given the prevalence of smart phones these days, all of which come with a camera. You’d think that at least one of the mysterious witnesses to these drone incursions would have thought to photograph or film it. Moreover, surely the airport itself must have large numbers of CCTV cameras dotted about for security purposes – did none of these capture images of these mystery drones? OK, it is perfectly feasible that such evidence exists, but isn’t yet being released by the authorities as it forms part of an ongoing investigation, but in this age of social media, this sort of stuff tends to reach the public domain very quickly.
It all reminds me of the ‘ghost rockets’ which were allegedly seen in the skies over Europe in the immediate post war period. As with these drones, there seemed to be plenty of anecdotal evidence in form of alleged sightings, but no physical evidence. Certainly there were no photographs or radar traces of these ‘rockets’. They seemed to be some kind of collective hallucination resulting from the tensions of the nascent Cold War and the turmoil and upheaval in the aftermath of World War Two. That these fears manifested themselves as ‘rockets’ was hardly surprising bearing in mind the Germans’ V2 missile attacks on London and the Low Countries during the closing months of World War Two. The V” quickly became a potent symbol of a new kind of warfare, focused entirely upon terrorising and demoralising civilian populations: apparently unstoppable and undetectable, it seemed some kind of ‘ultimate weapon’. I can’t help but feel that these phantom drones are he descendants of the ‘ghost rockets’. Born, like them, against a background of political turmoil and international tension, with all the associated public fears manifesting themselves as a new type of technology which has been widely touted as an unstoppable weapon (just look at all those drone strikes against alleged terror targets conducted by the UK and US). Is it any wonder that people start seeing these ‘phantom drones’ invading airports?
Of course, a lot of the political turmoil being experienced by the UK comes down to Brexit. The government telling us to prepare for the impact of a ‘No Deal Brexit’ has done nothing to quell this turmoil. There’s part of me which hopes that all this ‘No Brexit’ preparations panic the government is stirring up is merely a tactical ruse, designed to panic its own back benchers sufficiently that they will retreat from the brink and endorse May’s Brexit deal in the January vote. Sadly, though, seeing as it has been the spectacular incompetence of this government which has landed us in this situation, I somehow doubt that they have the collective wit to carry out this kind of political subterfuge. Indeed, it has all the hallmarks of a government that has simply given up. ‘No Deal’ is the only move left to them: parliament won’t accept May’s deal, May won’t accept a second referendum, so what else is there? Well, there’s always the option – raised by May herself, incidentally – of ‘no Brexit at all’. Right now, the best option, surely, is to halt the implementation of Article 50. It could still be done, parliament could still legislate to abandon the 29 March 2019 date for Brexit arbitrarily set by May. This need not be permanent (although many of us would prefer it to be), but it would give time for the UK to properly assess the form which Brexit might take, finding a formula which can be supported by a majority in parliament, before re-triggering Article 50. Which, of course, is what ant competent government would have done in the first place. But a sensible and competent government is precisely what we don’t have. So break out the tin hats and prepare for the worst in 2019.