“WHAT’S Another Year?” Johnny Logan famously asked in The Hague all those years ago. “Not much,” we might reply now.
For was 2021 not excruciatingly similar to the year that preceded it? And what of our hopes for 2022? Has that calendar got a virus and its variants plastered all over it?
But I’m not being paid to be a doom-and-gloom merchant. In fact, I’m not being paid for writing articles at all until I finish working off what I owe on the photocopier I damaged at the 2019 office Christmas party.
So, let’s try to remember some of the things from the year gone by - an A-Z of 2021 - that might bring a smile to our faces. A wry smile maybe, accompanied by soulless eyes on our haggard faces, but a smile nonetheless. If you get to D without cheering up, please hand the newspaper to someone else, you miserable bag of pus.
After hours: Dozens of customers at Britain’s highest pub (I wonder if they have as many ‘highest pubs’ as we do?) in the Yorkshire Dales spent three nights trapped by heavy snowfall brought by Storm Arwen a few weeks back, an Oasis tribute band among them. Although, after being asked about their time stuck in the alcohol-filled bunker, some say their memories are a bit Blurry.
Shebeens actually made a comeback here during our multiple lockdowns, but by far the longest lock-in is discovered on Barrack Street, when six skeletons turn up under the floorboards in the former Nancy Spain’s.
Barra: Some might say our recent storm wasn’t so bad. These are people who didn’t see my jumper turn inside out after going out the back to get some coal. Or weren’t almost rolled over by a giant pinball in Bray. Most of us hunkered down for the day, but this fostered widespread survivor bias (which has become so prevalent in the Covid era), where, because not many people were injured or killed, some think there shouldn’t have been any Red Alert.
There was better weather in the summer with about three weeks of sunshine, when those of us working from home often went al fresco and spent 25% of the workday looking for a cursor.
Another alarming warning came when it was announced we might run out of Flakes for 99s and the government advised to stock up on Twirls just in case.
Yet, horseboxes are now more ubiquitous than ice-cream vans, serving up coffee instead of prime views of equine ass on the motorway. Transforming farm trailers into hot beverage dispensers might seem the business opportunity of 2021, but that doesn’t explain why my soup from a slurry tank enterprise has been such a massive failure this winter.
Cop26: The nations of the earth (except China and Russia) arrive in Scotland and formulate a plan to finally tackle the myriad dangers posed by climate change, by agreeing to meet again at a future date to consider further measures.
Also in Britain, which was supposed to become more affluent rather than effluent after Brexit, a report shows a 37% year-on-year increase in raw sewage discharges, meaning 3.1m hours of human waste flowing into our neighbour’s coastal waters. One man in Westminster leading the charge against sewerage dumping is the present-day Duke of Wellington, and someone points out this could be his “loo water”.
Across the poo-filled Irish Sea, we are informed we can now put our soft plastics into the recycling bin, which all of us had been doing already anyway.
Donie O’Sullivan: The Kerryman shoots to prominence when he finds himself reporting for CNN in the middle of the January 6 insurrection, which saw Donald Trump supporters overrun the US Capitol, forcefully displaying their dissatisfaction that their idiot king wasn’t awarded the U.S election, despite losing it by millions of votes.
Extinction repelling: Concerns over the vastly accelerated rate of extinctions in our global wilderness are briefly countered in February when a Tasmanian Tiger is spotted. But experts quickly pour cold water on the purported video evidence that claims to be the first sighting since the creature was declared extinct on the Aussie island in 1936, and they say if it was still around it would be striped, not spotted.
Flogging a dead horse: Another animal shuffling off its mortal coil was a poor racehorse in Gordon Elliott’s yard. Shortly after its demise, Elliott shuffled on, sat on its back, took a phone call, and stuck his thumbs up for someone taking a photo. Not the best look really for the Meath trainer, and you’d imagine not what usually happens when they pull the curtains around an injured animal at a racetrack.
As he serves a six-month suspension, another of his stable, Tiger Roll - owned by Michael O’Leary - pulls out of an attempt to win a third consecutive Grand National because of unfair handicapping, claim connections. The week of the race, there is talk of re-entering the horse for a shot at history, however the Ryanair boss decides against paying once and then having to fork out for a supplementary charge he didn’t expect to have to pay because of extra weight.
Garth Brooks and the GAA: The country singer announces he is back and hopes the pandemic won’t scupper his chances of following the Dubs by doing five in a row at Croke Park.
Mayo finally put a halt to the men from the capital’s gallop at the venue, but then inevitably lose the final to Tyrone. RTÉ’s movie right after the All-Ireland is The Mummy, a film about an endless curse.
The last member of Mayo’s supposedly hoodooed 1951 winning team passes away a few weeks after the defeat. Let’s not mention the hurling decider.
Hackers at the HSE: Digital daredevils attack the health system by launching ransomware on its computer system. It takes two days for anyone to notice as the rogue email outlining their demands is sent on a Saturday. There are warnings that if the demands are not met, the hackers may begin leaking private health information of patients online. In which case, I’d like it to be known I didn’t notice those Christmas beads on the photocopier when I sat on it.
Italy: Roberto Mancini’s side stop England from taking their first major tournament since 1966. If a few of their penalty takers had been as accurate as the fan who pointed a laser pen at Danish goalie Kasper Schmeichel’s eyes during the semi-final, Gareth Southgate’s men might have been celebrating another Wembley win.
Jackpot: €19 million in the pot and the Lotto says again, Rollover!
Kyle Rittenhouse: The teen vigilante killed two with an assault rifle when crossing state lines into Wisconsin in 2020, claiming he was there to defend businesses from Black Lives Matter protestors. He is acquitted of all charges in November after pleading self-defence. Many claim if he had been black he would not have been cleared in court. You’d have to disagree with that, as had he been black he’d have been gunned down immediately by police.
Leaf blower: Let’s remember the delivery cyclist who ended up in court after a garda saw him flying about Cork city with an engine of a leaf-blower attached to his push-bike. The judge wrestled with his inner Flann O’Brien on the question of when a bicycle is not a bicycle and fined him €100 for propelling a mechanical vehicle without a licence. Probably should be on Dragon’s Den instead of pedalling pizza.
Moon shaker: It’s not the news we need in the middle of a pandemic and a climate catastrophe, but apparently the moon has started to wobble. NASA report a regular oscillation in the lunar orbit will temporarily suppress flooding from rising sea levels this decade, only to worsen in the mid-2030s when our satellite sways back. So we’ve that to look forward to.
In other news, billionaires boldly go where no billionaire has gone before… to a tax accountant to settle their bills to revenue fairly. No, of course they don’t; Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos head to the edge of earth’s orbit, but they don’t actually reach space, which it is important to keep reminding them.
Elon Musk, who made $36 billion on one day day in October (that’s more than most people make in an entire year!) continues sending rockets into the firmament in the hope of helping mankind eventually move to a far more hostile planet, where the least of our worries will be a moon that wobbles.
Newcastle: Can you sell coal to the Arabs? Send sand to Newcastle? The Toon army shake off sportswear baron Mike Ashley and welcome Saudi owners instead. Relegation and the Championship looms larger than the Champions League however. They give boss Steve Bruce the boot, a real loss as he is one of the nice-guy managers who gives great quotes, like this on why he left Facebook and Twitter: “I was talking with my son about abuse a referee was getting and he said ‘Dad, it’s nothing compared to what you get’. I looked and was like ‘wow’. But on the flip side, social media got me my dog back after he ran away from a firework display.”
Another side with loftier ambitions than their status should allow saw Tottenham join the very, very, very short-lived European Super League. As someone said at the time, it was like Bananaman getting called up as an Avenger.
Omicron: Let’s not look away from the big bear in the corner. It’s the airborne virus we’ve all come to hate. Should we be especially concerned about the new variant creeping up on us like mucus in a lateral flow test? If Delta Plus sounded like a first class transatlantic airfare where there’s complimentary champagne, this one, even if no-one can pronounce it, sounds more ominous. Although it might not be.
For example, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly says pantos can still go ahead, but did he then add kids can’t attend? Oh yes he did! or Oh no he didn’t? Confusion over last-minute rules angers people more than the regulations themselves, it seems.
Panic buying is so 2020, at least. We can now languidly traipse through the hypermarket with our masks hiding our emotions and have all the toilet roll we can carry. By March, I was no longer maintaining a six-foot distance out in public by twirling around with my floor brush.
Pontins: The British holiday park order their booking agents to tell those with certain Irish surnames there’s no availability, in an alleged attempt to ban Travellers from their destinations. Forty names were on the list of “undesirable guests”, including top Irish clans like Gallagher, McMahon, Murphy, O’Donnell, O’Keeffe, O’Mahony, and O’Reilly.
If you’re an O’Shea and you’re not allowed into Centre Parcs, that’s on me.
Quinn: As in Sean and family, who can go to Pontins if they choose, and who have also been successful in getting negative press coverage from the past decade erased from Google. So it’s worth reminding ourselves before this article disappears that we are all still paying into perpetuity for his mistakes through elevated insurance charges.
Rugby: Ireland are now regularly beating the All Blacks. Might be time to change the name of Lansdowne Road to Jamison Gibson Park
Suezy Queue: A massive container ship gets stuck in the busy Egyptian waterway, causing havoc for supply chains worldwide and delays in the delivery of a replacement yoyo string I ordered from China for months.
Sailors get to detour around the Cape of Good Hope like it’s 1542, probably singing sea shanties (which become a thing again in the spring) to pass the extra time.
Tokyo: More than one gold medal for the first time since 1932, if you don’t count Atlanta, which you definitely should not. The Skibb rowers and Kelly do the business on the water and in the ring, with bronzes coming from the same venues. For all our prowess with paddles, we shouldn’t expect kayaking success anytime soon as the whitewater rafting facility in the Dublin docklands has been shelved. Not before €2million is spent on it, of course. That’s inflation for you, I suppose.
The children’s hospital will now cost close to what Japan spent on the delayed Games by the time it’s finished. Metro North, if it has similar rising costs after being pushed back to the mid-2030s, might be built for somewhere in the region of €14 trillion, before having its tracks submerged when the moon starts getting jiggy.
Unionism: There’s disarray in the DUP as new leader Edwin Poots only lasts three weeks in charge after ousting Arlene Foster, before being ousted in turn by Jeffrey Donaldson. And it’s all over a cupla focal and the Irish Language Bill. Poots is on the record as saying the earth is only 6,000 years old rather than the generally accepted geological date of 4.5 billion years young, so perhaps 21 days feels a lot longer for him. Michael D. Higgins refuses to attend a church gathering in Armagh to mark 100 years of partition and this upsets people who like getting upset by such things, instead of the continued lack of integrated education in Northern Ireland.
Vaccines: Even though by this time next year we might each have had more shots than a Stephen Kenny Ireland side average on target in a home game, at least we are a whole lot safer thanks to these medical breakthroughs.
Families get to reunite after lengthy spells apart, although, unfortunately, it’s no longer that easy to get out of attending weddings. I finally got to see my grandparents again after foraging, cooking, and having for supper the wrong kind of mushrooms.
Walrus: A visitor from the Arctic appears in Kerry in March, is next spotted in Wales and Cornwall, summers in France and Spain, and is back lolling about on motorboats off the Cork coast in August. After he damages several and sinks two, frustrated wealthy people attempt to lure him on to his own special ‘couch’, an unused rib. He was last spotted in Iceland in September, apparently heading home to Greenland, where he will presumably be greeted by his family with a “Where the f*** were you?”
X-Men: What to do with X... Surely there was another of those X-Men films released at a cinema near you at some stage when they reopened? No? How about our sister paper the Examiner turned 180. That has an ‘X’ in it.
Sorry, it’s a struggle with these last few letters. Should have used the Greek alphabet… oh yeah, Xi. The Chinese leader’s surname throws a spanner in the works for the WHO variant naming team.
You: Yes you! Congratulations on getting through another 12 months. Looking great too, if you don’t mind me saying. Don’t look so surprised. You deserve it.
Zappone: In fairness, Katherine could take Z most years, unless there is a mass escape from Phoenix Park masterminded by the monkeys.
However, she raised her hand here after being accused of flouting Covid rules when throwing a function to celebrate a role she was appointed to that did not exist before she lobbied for it, and that no-one else was allowed to apply for. Special envoy indeed.
In fact, Dublin Zoo did confirm in February that a Sulawesi crested macaque “temporarily moved from its habitat” (my favourite euphemism of the year), so here’s hoping they might be plotting something to knock Kathy of the Z charts text year.