Saturday, 31 December 2016

That Was The Year, That Was

Good-bye 2016. I know it wasn't really your fault, but you will be remembered as something of an Annus Ridiculus!

In the first part of an unfortunate year, fans of Blackpool Football Club had to look on in horror as the discredited owners of our proud club oversaw a second successive relegation, this time back to the bottom division a mere six seasons after winning promotion to the Premier League. What a falling off was there! And what a seemingly self-serving agenda by the Oystons, who appear to have profited hugely in the process on the back of the honest endeavours of others.

Then in mid-year along came Cameron's Cock-Up, aka the Brexit Referendum. Hindsight is pointless unless one benefits from the lessons it can bestow and our political masters have proved themselves reluctant learners in that respect over decades (from poll-tax to Iraq wars to austerity measures and beyond). A less well thought out 'plan' it would be hard to imagine. You couldn't make it up.

Then there was Assad with the Russians in tow, bringing Syria to the brink of complete destruction in the name of all that is Holy (or should that be Oily?) with his vicious civil offensive that perpetrated war crimes on those who opposed him. Large parts of the country were decimated, chemical weapons featured in the offensive and millions of Syrians were made refugees in the face of state-led genocide. It beggars belief that Assad was partly educated in England and has a British wife. Crap.

Finally, to Trump the lot, the USA only went and elected a lying, misogynistic racist billionaire to the highest post in the land (despite his polling a minority of the popular vote). Good luck with that one, America. The sun sets on you (as D.H. Lawrence once said).

Sadly, there is a common thread of cynical motivation in all of the above. One can only hope that 2017 isn't similarly tainted, but it seems like a faint hope on this New Year's Eve.


On a positive note, how about some 'best of year' accolades?

The best book I read all year: Unknown Soldiers by Vaino Linna. Originally written in 1954, this novel has just been published in translation (from the Finnish) by Penguin Modern Classics and is utterly brilliant in its unromantic portrayal of the true nature of warfare as fought out on the border between Finland and Russia in World War II.

The best record I heard all year: Distance Inbetween by The Coral. Their first album of new material in six years saw the Wirral five-piece come roaring back at the top of their form with another moody psychedelic masterpiece - I even bought it on vinyl for maximum audio effect.

The best movie I saw all year: The Big Short, directed by Adam McKay (and starring Bale, Carrell, Gosling and Pitt). A gripping, fast-paced black comedy that revealed the 2008 Financial Crisis for what it was, the result of unprincipled greedy-bastard chicanery as practised shamelessly by some of our major financial institutions.

The best theatre I saw all year: surprisingly, Andrew Green QC interrogating Karl Oyston under oath in the first of Valeri Belokon's court cases against the owners of Blackpool FC. I haven't had so much football-related fun since Blackpool went 3 up against Birmingham in the 2012 play-off semi-final.


Returning finally to the negatives, in a year of so many shocks to the system I retain one abiding image: of boatload after boatload of desperate migrants coming to grief trying to cross the Mediterranean in search of refuge in Europe. Their harrowing plight prompted the following, my final poem of 2016...

Fish Food
A pair of unsuspecting fashionistas,
Aegean sisters with their matching
laptops and flip-flops,
were the first to see those five brown bodies
rolling in the surf -
not sporting, but decomposing it transpired,
dead in the water for days.

They were just the first of many.

All deaths are shocking,
but the migrants kept on flocking
on southern shores,
fleeing from some unspeakable hell,
risking all
to pay the ferryman for treacherous passage,
hoping for a better world across the waves,
a safer European home.

So the little boats kept on coming,
criminally unseaworthy and overloaded,
kept on rocking, then capsizing,
until their pitiful cargoes were beached
bedraggled and ungainly in the foam,
more like refuse than refugees,
lungs burst, life and hopes quite drowned.

What a terrible toll.
Five thousand dead
in the Med this year,
all deserving better
of their short span on earth
than to end up as fish food.

Thanks for reading. Welcome to the New Year, S ;-)
Reactions:

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

What's happened in Syria is really shocking and as for the migrant crisis, we should all be ashamed. I saw Silent Witness this week, about people traficking. Very upsetting. Thank you for a most moving poem.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the above. It was not a good year but that is a very powerful poem in response to dreadful events.

Steve Rowland said...

Thanks anonymi. The muse had been a little unpredictable towards the end of the year but I felt compelled and inspired to write by the tragedy of the drowned migrants.

Anonymous said...

Brilliant! Inspired title for your poem & very moving. Well said.

Anonymous said...

Are you published Steve? Been enjoying your blogs for a while now but can't find any info about poetry publications.

Anonymous said...

What a powerful poem.

Anonymous said...

Can't disagree with anything in the blog (I'll take your word about the Oystons). The poem is exceptional. Well said. I found it impossible to read it without getting choked.