January 1, 2022. A shiny, fresh new year begins. What will it have in store for us? Having weathered the last couple of difficult years, it’s a fair bet optimism will not be at an all-time high among would-be soothsayers.
One thing I’ve noticed with the superstars of the crystal ball-gazing community is they tend to focus on the glum and the dire. A bit like the Sage experts on Omicron.
Nostradamus didn’t get to be the most famous of the prophets of doom by being upbeat.
The Frenchman published a book in 1555 containing 942 quatrains supposedly predicting the future, including the Great Fire of London, the French Revolution, the rise of Hitler, the assassination of JFK, the death of Princess Diana and 9/11.
The problem is his quatrains are vague enough to be interpreted as just about anything. A lot of them are such gobbledegook they sound like a Press release from Meghan and Harry.
He does mention “Hister” in a quatrain about Germany. That one’s taken to refer to Hitler. And in what could, fairly convincingly, be interpreted as a prediction of global warming, he foresaw sea temperatures rising to a point where fish would be half-cooked.
He talked of floods, drought and food shortages. Greta Thunberg wasn’t the first, then.
Did he predict Covid? If you believe his online fans, the answer’s yes. Sadly, it turns out he didn’t write the quatrain most quoted on social media. Somebody just made it up.
If you want a definitive coronavirus prediction, Sylvia Browne is your woman.
In 2008 the American published the cheerily entitled End Of Days: Prediction And Prophecies About The End Of The World.
One forecast reads: “In around 2020, a severe pneumonia-like illness will spread throughout the globe, attacking the lungs and the bronchial tubes and resisting all known treatments.
“Almost more baffling than the illness itself will be the fact that it will suddenly vanish as quickly as it has arrived, attack again 10 years later, and then disappear completely.”
Psychic cynic that I am, even I’m impressed by that one.
But Sylvia had her failings, too. A regular on US chat shows, she once told Larry King she’d die at 88. Actually, she went at 77. How much confidence can you have in a seer who can’t even predict her own death?
Blind Bulgarian mystic Baba Vanga is said to have foretold 9/11, the 2004 tsunami and Brexit. But her waffly writing takes a bit of wading through.
Why do normally sensible individuals take cognisance of these self-styled prophets?
Do we like the idea there’s an extra power, or “gift”, some people have to see into the future?
Or is it just that we’re seeking clear pointers about what may lie ahead in an uncertain world where there’s no consistency in actual evidence-based forecasting?
For all the economic predictors, assorted experts and informed politicians, there’s a disturbing lack of consensus on anything, from Brexit to Covid.
Businesses are lumbered with “guidance” and rules and regulations at the very last minute and then left to work out the detail.
There’s no sense of forward planning, no timely warnings. Government advisers, who’ve never worked in the real world, expect farmers and hauliers and bar owners to adapt to ever-changing rules with zero notice.
What’s happening with Omicron? Official UK Government policy is play it by ear. Scientists argue about the science. Epidemiologists predict different outcomes from bleak to buoyant. There’s no consistency.
Will the economy ever recover? Maybe. Maybe not. Could, might, maybe and may — the words pepper every projection.
Nothing is definite. There’s no clarity and certainty. It’s system crash in the crystal balls of so-called expert analysis.
All the public is looking for is reassurance our leaders have a handle on what’s happening now and have a clear idea of (and plans for) what might lie ahead. It would also be good if they let us know what they think lies ahead.
Old Moore’s Almanac, whose latest predictions include an Irish earthquake and Dublin winning the Sam Maguire (last year it said Mayo), isn’t afraid to nail its forecasts — however dodgy — to the mast.
No wonder people turn to old Sylvia and hope that at least she got that bit right about Covid’s sudden disappearance.
Happy New Year. Fingers crossed.
A campaign is under way to encourage us to take part in the Big Garden Birdwatch 2022 (January 28-30) in order to report on feathered life in our own back yards.
I have an interesting one from the tree behind my bedroom. There’s a bird out there which starts trilling and singing and basically making an awful racket in the very early hours. Way before the usual dawn chorus.
It gets going at around 1.30am to 2am. What is this bird? I don’t mind owls, but night owls I can do without.
What’s birdspeak for shut your beak?
A guilty verdict has been returned in the trial of socialite Ghislaine Maxwell. The sordid details of her relationship with paedophile Jeffrey Epstein were laid bare in the court.
Speculation now is that, in order to avoid a lengthy prison term, she’ll name names and reveal more about what went on.
Among those breathless to hear what she may have to say will be her many famous former friends.
As with every public drama these days, it’ll be only a matter of time, surely, before Netflix gets to work on it.
And, as we know, the Netflix verdict is the one that really matters.
The other day, I came across an old receipt from The Spaniard bar in Belfast from way back in 2012.
Why did I keep that? Especially since it was for a single pint of Newcastle Brown, which I’ve never drank, nor ever wanted to?
The answer was on the reverse. Bar manager Mark Lappin had used it back then to write out for me the recipe for the rum-based cocktail Dark and Stormy.
What may be of interest to people who keep a tab on rising prices was the cost, 10 years ago, of that pint of Newcastle Brown: £3.40.
A long time ago, by any measure.