At precisely this time last year, I resisted temptation. On or about New Year’s Eve every year, I hazard a few guesses (for the delectation of readers) about what the coming year will bring.
I’ve devoted one column a year to predicting the future for years now, and with (he says with all due modesty) remarkable success.
On New Year’s Eve last year, and for entirely selfish reasons, I wanted to predict that Ireland would win the Rugby World Cup, but I stopped myself in the nick of time.
I just found it hard to expect that we would be able to climb higher peaks than we had already achieved in the previous twelve months.
And wasn’t I right?
I did predict a number of ways in which Jacob Rees-Mogg would make an eejit of himself in 2019, and wasn’t I right about that too?
And I (sort of) predicted that there would be a complete loss of confidence among sports fans in the Football Association of Ireland, although I thought that might have more to do with events on the field than off it. But then who could have predicted the scale of the disaster?
But if I’m being honest, I’ve had better years when it comes to making predictions. I even ended that column last year by expressing two hopes.
First, that it would be wonderful to think that in 2019 we might finally begin to see a turn in the homelessness crisis that has caused so much hardship for families and children in the recent past.
And second, that maybe 2019 would be the year in which we start to take things like real accountability seriously.
Wrong on both fronts. In fact, as things like the voting scandal unfolded in the Dáil, when TDs casually ignored the most solemn duty they have, and as we got to know how Dara Murphy, ex TD, equated public service with the size of his wallet, you’d really begin to wonder has our politics any capacity for change in Ireland at all.
But perhaps I got it wrong last year because I’ve been using the wrong method.
For years I’ve been following the recipe perfected by the three witches in Macbeth. Bubble, bubble, toil, and trouble — that’s been my chant as I pour the ingredients they recommend into the cauldron. “Eye of newt and toe of frog, Adder’s fork and blind-worm’s sting, Lizard’s leg and howlet’s wing” — all that stuff was called for and a few more things besides.
I thought I had done everything exactly according to the formula, but I realise now that I probably shouldn’t have used the family slow cooker for the job. Predicting the future requires fierce heat and an awful lot of bubbling. Allowing the ingredients to simmer gently for hours was probably how I missed Boris Johnson entirely last year.
So this year I’ve been boning up on Nostradamus.
To my surprise he was French (always assumed he was Italian), and if he was still alive today he’d have just passed his 517th birthday. He survived several plagues and worked as an apothecary until he discovered there was more money in astrology.
His Prophecies, first published in his 50s, are credited by reputable historians with getting a few things right — like the rise of figures like Napoleon and Hitler, and the invention of the atomic bomb and its subsequent use in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
But he was also a bit like a certain political correspondent I once knew. The highly reputable journalist in question would often predict four versions of the same event (four dates for the next general election, for example) on the basis that one of them had to be right. And if all four were wrong, he’d still insist, “it was right when I wrote it”.
The other problem with following Nostradamus is that he wrote in quatrains — little poems four lines long. Although they may have rhymed in French, they usually didn’t when translated into English.
According to his fans and followers, Nostradamus has already predicted (500 years ago!) that Trump will be re-elected in 2020, Kim Jong-un will be overthrown, and Britain will not only leave the European Union but will promptly collapse in a heap.
Nostradamus made no predictions about Ireland — he left that to St Malachy, apparently. And like St Malachy he made no (or very few) predictions about happy events.
They were both big into catastrophes — especially to do with the weather. It’s likely, in fact, that by the end of the year Nostradamus will be seen as having predicted all the apocalypses caused by climate change.
I prefer happier predictions. So here, with apologies to Nostradamus and his followers, are a few quatrains about our little green isle and our friends in the next twelve months.
And remember. You get to figure out what they mean. I get to reinterpret them in the fullness of time, so I can claim I was right whatever happens. Some are about sport, some are about politics, and some…?
As winter changed into the spring sun’s pall/A great campaign began to lead the way/Leo fought well as did Micheál/But the country stood again with Healy Rae.
A new political party rose and took its place/“Ireland Stands Independent and Separate” its name/But ISIS was to sink without a trace/As the people said “not for us” this racist game.
In the land of green the English coach came on/His team marched fierce, without a blinking eye/To the penultimate match against the coach’s son/And on to triumph in the city near Versailles.
Full weeks went by to form a government/Mary Lou and Leo dallied many nights/But in theend there came a firmament/Of independents, greens and other frights.
The government of many/Like Joseph and his multi-coloured coats/Promised many years of happy solace/But soon were at each others’ throats.
In the green isle’s summer we saw climate new/The Shannon river’s banks wrought massive strange/Grapes grew there and lemons too/And those ignoring science said no change.
Throughout the year of 2020/ Arlene said no and made them guess/Although Lord Boris promised plenty/If only she would once say yes.
But when at last the power was shared/Arlene said we must fix in stone/That the Northern isle will ne’er be paired/With those down South whate’er their moans.
In autumn in that place called Croke/The men of Liffey went for six/Cork fell short and Kerry choked/But was the curse on Mayo fixed?
And as the year ends fast and fleet/The orange leader made his call/To rule the world, or so he tweets/But that would be the end of all.
Anyway, whatever happens, next year will happen. And somehow or other we’ll find a way to cope, because we’re good at that. We might grumble about each other, but we know how to pull together when we have to. So happy new year to each of you. I’m betting it will be a good one!