this is not a "review of the year" or anything so tedious. It's just that in 2011 there has been so damn much of the stuff. News I mean. At the end of last winter we were glued to the TV night after night as the crowds poured out into the streets and squares of Tunis, Cairo, Bahrain, Libya, Syria... and the "uninstalling dictator" meme appeared on Twitter and elsewhere. I was on a weekend retreat in Liebfrauenberg, which is on a hill in Middle of Nowhere, Alsace, when the first allied air strikes hit Libya in March. I was probably the only one there who was on line at the time. Arguably I shouldn't have been, as it was meant to be a retreat, and the iPad should have stayed switched off, but you know... and plenty of people were checking their emails on their phones, and the one public computer terminal had a queue to use it every night. Of course it took months before Gaddafy was pulled out of the concrete pipe he was hiding in and shot like the mad dog he was. In the meantime there were riots in UK cities in the summer - I remember a Facebook message exchange with my daughter, who lives in south London, in which she said that if she opened her window she could smell Croydon burning. And then the Occupy stuff kicked off in quite a lot of places. What's THAT all about then? I'd really like to know. Because unlike the British riots, which were about people suddenly getting the idea they could just, like, take stuff instead of paying for it, Occupy has made no clear demands. Not keen on bankers. Quite a lot of white folks with dreads. Nice tents, too. I don't think they looted them either. All paid for. Hmmm.
On and on it went. The French Socialist Party had open primaries for its presidential candidate in October. Well, maybe not in the same league as the above, but it interested me. Galvanised the French public, too. And Sarko DID NOT KNOW WHAT TO SAY. Quite took the shine off him being the bravest man in Europe for leading the allied charge on Libya from the skies. Pity the wrong candidate, "Monsieur Creme Caramel", Francois Hollande, was chosen, but the people had spoken. They often say the wrong thing when they speak, more's the pity. DSK was apparently set up in That Hotel Room in New York, did the Perp Walk, to the shock and horror of French people of all political persuasions and none, lost his job, and with it his chance of being the Socialist candidate for the 2012 presidential in France. He could have beaten Sarko. I'm dubious as to whether anyone else can.
What else? A little book of political counterfactuals appeared (see box on right to click and purchase) with a chapter written by Moi. Christopher Hitchens died. Mourned. Vaclav Havel died, and the sky went a little bit darker over Europe. Kim Jong-Il died. Not mourned. Not much is going to change in North Korea either. Kim died the old-fashioned way, of "natural" causes as dictators used to in the old days, not dancing on the end of a rope like Saddam Hussein or with a bullet in the head like Gaddafy or Bin Laden. Who wasn't a dictator but who got killed by the Americans. A legal act, because a declaration of war had been made, against the West, by him. And still it comes. The war in Iraq, if that is ever what it was, is over. The Americans are leaving, and sharpish. Job done. Iraq has an elected government. Almost nowhere in that region does. Stop The War are not celebrating the departure of the troops, because they are not glad. They are not against war but in favour of it, wanting anyone who is fighting Americans to win.
I found out that for a little while I was going to have a second grandchild, but now I am not. Mourned. Found out that I was going to be, for the first time, an aunt by marriage (first husband was an only child so no possibility there). V. glad. Flew a plane for the first time, in April. Swam a kilometre for the first time since I was 13, in August. Carried on doing it. Made a (for me) historic trip to Australia in November, and the green fields and apple orchards of Tasmania, to say nothing of its sparkling wine, will always have a place in my heart now.
Reading went back under Labour control. Mr Salter reappeared in the town, gurning for cameras with some children on council premises. I started being threatened by Reading media, apparently under coercion from Mr S. Well, none of THAT was new in 2011, I had just been enjoying a rather welcome break from it.
The Guardian gave up any lingering pretence at being a liberal newspaper, and gave itself over entirely to the hate-filled racist right.
What next? Whither Syria? Iran? Bets on how long Assad will last?
Happy 2012, which still seems a long way off to me. Coming soon, some of the books, films and music I have liked in 2011. No lists though, I promise, that is for the boys.