Normally at this time on New Year's Eve, I would be meeting with the local bell ringers to start our New Year celebrations. We start early as we still carry on the tradition of ringing the bells around midnight at the Parish Church. We usually gather at one of the ringers' homes for a small party, following which we go to the tower at about twenty minutes before midnight. Following tradition, we ring the half-muffled bells for about a quarter of an hour to mark the passing of the old year, and then, a few minutes before midnight, a couple of the more agile ringers rush up to the bells and remove the muffles, getting down in time for the twelve strokes to be struck on the tenor bell at midnight. We then immediately ring the open bells for five or ten minutes to welcome in the new year. This is a tradition that has been carried out almost every year at our church since the installation of the bells in the late 1800's.
As I said, I would normally be there, but this year I have been suffering from a bad cold since Christmas Day and so I have decided to stay at home rather than inflict my cold on the other ringers in a rather small ringing room.
As a result, I have been pondering on the past year and asking myself what, if anything, will go down in history to be taught at schools in, say, a hundred year's time. My conclusion is that apart from the Queen's Jubilee and the Olympic Games, there seems very little change in the situation at the end of the year as compared with that at the start.
We are still fighting a pointless war in Afghanistan resulting in a steady stream of deaths and serious injuries to our Service personnel. This conflict has gone on for longer that either of the world wars and the majority of the public fail to understand why we are there. Certainly, no-one believes the arguments about security put forward by the politicians, indeed it could be argued that it is encouraging "home-grown" terrorists, the exact opposite of the original intention.
We still remain in the EU in spite of polls showing that a majority of us would like to withdraw, the best that might happen seems to be that we might be offered a vote on whether the government should attempt to re-negotiate our terms of reference. They could do that at any time, without a vote, and so the suggestion has all the hallmarks of being a simple delaying action. All the pundits predicted that sometime during the year either the Euro would collapse or Greece (and perhaps some other countries) would be forced out of it, but once again the experts were all wrong.
At home, the financial crisis is unchanged, indeed it seems to be worsening. The deficit is increasing in spite of the so-called cuts. (A cut in the Civil Service is not getting the budget increase that you demanded, rather than a cut in the current budget, as would be understood by ordinary people). The government seems to still manage to find millions for this or that, and still we continue to waste money on foreign aid.
The NHS is deteriorating, not because of the "cuts" but largely because of poor management. I would be interested to know what percentage of the NHS budget is spent on administration, not just at hospitals, but also in all the various organisations and committees which have been set up to run and oversee various aspect of our health care (and have demonstrably failed to do their jobs in many cases). We have now reached the appalling state where hospitals are being paid to meet targets for the number of patients put on the "Liverpool Care Pathway", a scheme for removing treatment from patients whom doctors decide are going to die soon and are thus a waste of resources.
Emigration continues unabated, and the face of the country is slowly changing, but no-one in power seems to care for fear of being accused of being a "racist", now possibly the most serious crime that one can commit.
The only other matter worthy of note is the Levinson enquiry into the press. If fully implemented, this could go down in history as the beginning of the end of a free press as we know it.
So apart from the Jubilee and the Olympics, will this year go down in history?
Not as far as I am concerned; nothing real has been achieved and the whole country seems to be on a downward slope to nowhere.
So here's to 2013 and the hope that things might change for the better, although, regrettably, I can see little hope of that under our present leaders, or indeed under any of our existing politicians of any party.
Happy New Year