What I’ve learned in 2014

This article first appeared on The Oxford Student website on 31 December 2014. This was another one written in that initial mad rush. I usually read The Times Magazine’s ‘What I’ve Learned’ feature, and I thought something like that would work well. Our editors Laura and Alys did a lot of work on this one, and the process of putting this one together taught me loads about the editorial process.

It’s always helpful, at the end of the year, to look back on the events of the last twelve months, to take stock of how far we have come, and indeed how far we have still to go. With that in mind, I offer my own assessment of the year’s events: the lessons I’ve learned in 2014.
Nigel Farage will do absolutely anything to get on telly. Whether it’s engaging in a hopelessly floundering and incompetent debate with B-listers like Nick Clegg, having endless photo opportunities with a pint of beer, or agreeing to appear in a spin-off of Channel 4’s Gogglebox, I’ve seen more of Nigel Farage on TV this year than I have almost any other political figure. With Farage’s flatulently froggy face splattered all over the nation’s screens, I was disappointed to find out he hadn’t been cast as the new Master in Doctor Who.

Speaking of Doctor Who… Peter Capaldi was absolutely brilliant in the iconic role this year. It turns out that putting Malcolm Tucker in space really was as good an idea as it first seemed.

You can actually introduce same-sex marriage without the world ending. Britain’s first same-sex marriages took place on 29th March. While that is, by any stretch of the imagination, far too late, it was a genuinely and unequivocally good thing. And, contrary to the beliefs of certain individuals, it was indeed possible to introduce same-sex marriage without simultaneously destroying the church, the institution of marriage, and the very concept of society. Who knew? Well, everybody. Everybody knew.

Similarly, it turns out women can quite easily be bishops. Libby Lane (an excellent name) will be consecrated as the Church of England’s first female bishop, the Bishop of Stockport, on 25th January. This is another very good thing, even if, as above, this took a bit longer than it should have.

It’s important to choose sporting venues wisely. Hosting the Winter Olympics in a place famous for mild winters, where a snow machine is required for the ski slopes, really is a bit of a dodgy idea, as was proved early this year at the Winter Games in Sochi.

Taylor Swift now rules the world. The only artist with the clout to remove her music from Spotify, with two smash-hit singles, the infectiously catchy ‘Shake It Off’ and the incredibly sharp ‘Blank Space’, as well as a platinum-selling and highly-acclaimed new album, Taylor Swift is fast becoming one of the most important people in the music industry. I, for one, welcome our new Swiftian overlord.

The Great British Bake-Off is unstoppable. You know your programme has reached cultural ubiquity when the status of some ice cream featured in your show can spark public outrage and hundreds of complaints to the BBC. We also had the impact of the wonderful Martha Collinson, the show’s youngest ever contestant, who proved that a Victoria sponge isn’t just something your Grandma makes any more.

England is still crap at football. Memories of the world cup are still painful for many football fans, with England being being beaten by Italy and Uruguay, and so knocked out the group stages for the first time since 1958. Ouch. At least we’ve still got Thierry Henry, right? Oh dear.

People still like Gordon Brown. The former Prime Minister was one of the key players in this year’s ‘Better Together’ campaign, and it turns out that he is still very popular in Scotland. Some people, somewhere, still like Gordon Brown. Amazing. Maybe there is hope for Nick Clegg after all.

Pope Francis is the ultimate turnaround CEO. Having secured the top job at the ailing religious giant, inheriting some very bad PR and a declining consumer base in the process, Francis has been able to drastically improve his firm’s image, increase productivity in its key market of helping the poor, and has even been involved in one of the year’s biggest political events, with the US and Cuba finally making some diplomatic progress partly due to Francis’ involvement. It’s an impressive turnaround, even if the firm’s famously reserved and secretive owner has yet to publicly comment.

Lest we forget. This year Sainsbury’s has shown us that it takes exactly one hundred years for a historical event to be long enough ago that it can safely be used in an advert for a supermarket.

As one Tory falls, another shall rise. Michael Gove isn’t as outstanding as he once claimed. This year he was demoted from Education Minister to lowly Chief Whip. But while Gove has fallen out of favour, Boris Johnson has begun to rise through the party ranks, announcing this year that he will seek to enter Parliament in 2015. Despite the fact that, should he win a seat in Parliament, he will have to simultaneously be MP and Mayor of London. Gosh.

Kate Bush has still got it. Apparently. I wouldn’t know, as I didn’t go to any of her ultra-successful sell-out comeback shows this year. And since she asked concert-goers not to film the performance on their phones, I can’t even look at my mates’ hopelessly rubbish photos, like with most gigs.

People really will vote for someone called Mr Reckless. UKIP’s new MP has shown that our political landscape has become a bad Mr Men book.

That next year will be very similar. Like 2014, I’m sure 2015 will have a lot to surprise, intrigue, and utterly infuriate us. But hopefully, like 2014, there will be at least a few things to celebrate along the way.

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