Phew! At least the world didn’t end on December 21. Because if it had, comedy writer Sian Harries wouldn’t have had time to finish her wry look back at the last 12 months
If you are reading this, then raise your glass – the world didn’t end. I say this because at the time of writing we have only seven days left according to the Mayan calendar, which foretold it would be game over on December 21.
Yet here you are reading this on December 29, alive and hopefully kicking.
I have to admit that I only found out about the impending doom when I turned to the end of my calendar and saw Miss December looking petrified and crouching in a corner eating tinned goods.
It was nearly as depressing as the Cliff Richard calendar I was given last year where if you flicked to December you just got a photo of him turning on the immersion heater.
But I had refused to be downhearted, and took some sensible precautions. Just in case.
As I write, I’m eating a tin of Frutini left over from May 2011 (the last time we were told the world was going to end) and I am mid-argument with my family in a bunker under Treforest Industrial Estate.
However, in a place where most people feel the end is nigh at the best of times, I’m not entirely sure how we’ll know if the nonsense to end all nonsense has hit the fan or whether we’ve all been given another chance.
So, I’ve excused myself from today’s Rizla paper game – you know, where someone writes something on a cigarette paper and sticks it to your head and you have to work out what’s written on it – to look back over my 2012 diary for clues as to whether or not we were really close to meeting our respective makers this December.
Truth is, things didn’t get off to a great start. January marked a severe decline in human intelligence when Britain was caught spying on Russia using a really fake-looking ‘rock’.
In the most ineffectual case of spying since two men decided to dress up as a deer to see what Russian president Vladimir Putin was up to with his ‘zombie’ gun, Britain’s best brains were revealed to be as subtle as my mother dropping me off in Carmarthen town centre shouting, “I’ll leave the key in the secret stone for you, Sian!”
A 24-hour Wikipedia blackout revealed how much we depended on it. The country was in a tailspin – journalists had to go to the library, pub quizzes were impossible again, and my friend Sandra’s uncle rang her three times to ask what was in soup.
If the world went the same way as true love we would have been in trouble as far back as February when we saw the death of romance.
First, MP Chris Huhne resigned after letting his wife take the blame for his speeding offences. Second, I received an Asda austerity Valentine’s Day card from my boyfriend, Rhod Gilbert. No, not one made from tissue to dry the tears or tin foil to sell as scrap or even one of those big ones we could sleep under if we end up losing the house.
It was just a normal ‘Asda Smart Price’ card for 7p. Sandra said never mind an Asda-price smack on the bottom, he deserved a top of the range smack in the face.
Humanity also took a giant leap backwards with the dawning of the Sun On Sunday.
I hate any newspaper that finds nice breasts newsworthy. Although I have to admit women stating an opinion when partially unclothed is inherently funny.
I once saw a woman query the price of a Zoom Lolly at an ice-cream van on a French beach. Hilarious. I just wish there was a male equivalent but you’d never see a scantily-clad man being ridiculed in the same way.
I did once see a man outside a pub in Bridgend drinking a can of Strongbow shouting about petrol prices with his trousers down, but I’m not sure that counts.
With March there finally came a glimmer of hope when we won an 11th Grand Slam.
But poor organisation meant Cardiff pubs were full and I was forced to celebrate with a can of lager sitting on a pavement with a man from Cumbria.
In April it felt as though the whole world had gone mad when my hairdresser told me she was reading a book.
Coming from a woman who, judging by her own hair, hadn’t even bothered reading the instructions on a bottle of bleach, I had to find out what all the fuss was about.
To be honest, when she’d first told me she was staying up all night reading Fifty Shades of Grey, I thought she was studying for another one of her hairdressing exams.
But no, this was a novel and she clearly wasn’t the only one seduced by its charms.
Fifty Shades became a monster hit despite shockingly graphic scenes, equally egregious grammar and a protagonist as flimsy as a value Kwik Save carrier bag.
I still regret suggesting it for my elderly neighbour’s book group, but at least she died with a smile on her face.
Bizarrely, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the doomed voyage of the Titanic, people set out on the same voyage.
I found some of the commemorative merchandise – a pen showing a ship capsizing for instance – a bit odd. Having one would certainly inject a bit of perspective into some of the S4C meetings I’ve had, but on the whole I thought it in bad taste.
By May my cynicism had well and truly set in as Olympic torches made their way across the land, their magic diminished ever so slightly by the fact you could buy them on eBay.
I shall always, however, cherish the sight of the Olympic flame, the symbol of human achievement, passing Chick-King in Carmarthen. It was like spotting Nelson Mandela in Dunelm.
In more rural areas they didn’t even get to see the torch; it just passed through in the back of a Ford Transit.
My grandfather waited outside for three hours to wave at a van which didn’t even slow down. And they’re still not even sure it was the right one.
To this day, there could be a very confused plumber somewhere in Pembrokeshire.
We hit rock bottom in June when millions tuned in to watch a nation attempting to drown an old woman on her birthday.
Seeing the Queen trying to stick the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant out was like watching a bush tucker trial on I’m A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here!, but with contestants we can never vote off.
Prince Phillip caught a bladder infection, but thankfully the BBC’s sound was so awful nobody heard his internal organs hissing.
Rhod and I celebrated with a completely unrelated barbecue, where it rained so much our new pagoda fell down and the most popular drinks mixer was rainwater.
He stoically barbecued for 10 hours non-stop in the pouring rain, occasionally calling for more meat from the depths of his cagoule, delivering a flotilla of burgers and sausages whilst I shouted “Visit Wales” like in the adverts.
The wettest June on record then, and doomsday seemed likely.
July, however, brought with it the biggest U-turn since this government’s plans for charities, grannies, caravans and pasties.
Given the Olympics’ use of people’s tax contributions, its fining of butchers and little old ladies for using its logo, and the UK’s track record of being rubbish as organising large events, I sat down to watch the opening ceremony 100% ready to rip it to shreds.
However, after initially tittering at amateur dramatics and silly stovepipe hats, something shifted and a new feeling crept in, something I’d never experienced before. And that was pride.
I’d felt something similar for Wales during various sporting matches and tourist information ads, but this was different.
Yes, we were showing off our accomplishments to a world audience – music, literature, the NHS – but this was not the usual patriotism with its inevitable us versus them vibe.
This felt inclusive, a celebration of humanity as a whole, and the spirit was one of sheer joy at being alive. Even the Queen, a woman so stuffy she refuses to hug her own children, jumped out of a plane with James Bond.
Welsh athletes won medals, the Millennium Stadium hosted football matches and the atmosphere was electric, despite Cardiff Central Station’s minor meltdown.
A platform guard dejectedly told me he was “going back to bed” whilst a man on one Tannoy shouted at us to ignore the automated woman on another.
MAN ON TANNOY: Please ignore what you’ve just heard and step away from platform two.
WOMAN ON TANNOY: The train now arriving at platform two is..
MAN ON TANNOY: Yeah that... ignore that.
But even this couldn’t spoil the mood. I’d never seen anything like it – Twitter was full of love, central London was empty, and I was watching hours of sport. Was this the dawning of a new era?
August came and went for me in a boozy, party-fuelled blur that was the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, but the Paralympians ensured the national mood remained sky-rocket high.
Indeed, we were all so busy blowing each other’s trumpets, a meteorite hit Cwmbran and nobody batted an eyelid.
This sense that things were changing on a national scale was reflected in my own life in September when I realised I liked olives.
In October autumnal leaves fell, as did some of the nation’s best-loved personalities and even the BBC started to wobble like Helen Flanagan’s bottom lip in the jungle – no surer sign the end of the world was nigh.
But in November, humanity was back on top as Obama was re-elected despite being up against a man with magic underpants.
I think many men believe their pants are magic, unaware of the prosaic reality that someone actually picks them up and washes them before they reappear freshly laundered in a drawer.
Bond fans certainly weren’t worried about the end of the world, being more concerned about continuity errors they’d spotted in the latest 007 instalment, Skyfall.
The eagle-eyed (nerds) noticed one scene where Daniel Craig’s shoes change from lace ups to slip-ons. It may have been an oversight by the costume department, but in austerity hit Britain maybe Q’s gadget budget just doesn’t stretch as far as it used to.
Q: And now to your shoes James.
BOND: Don’t tell me, explosives in the heel?
Q: They’ve got no laces, James. They’ll save valuable seconds in an emergency.
The world’s insane capacity for optimism was demonstrated with China believing the satirical magazine, The Onion, when they said North Korean leader Kim Jong-un had been voted sexiest man alive.
The online Chinese Communist newspaper reported, “With his devastatingly handsome, round face, his boyish charm and his strong, sturdy frame, this Pyongyang-bred heartthrob is every woman’s dream come true.”
Before being holed up, December held for me the highlight of the year – the Royal Variety Performance where I lined up alongside Rhod, Bruce Forsythe, Des O’Connor, Ronnie Corbett and we all eventually got to meet Ashleigh and Pudsey.
I told Pudsey he should take Bruce’s place on Strictly Come Dancing as he has all the moves, the same pudding bowl haircut and you get the impression that he needs a young woman telling him exactly what to do.
Finally, as if she hadn’t suffered enough, the Queen was subjected to one of Rhod’s rants as well as one of his jacket potatoes. Some believe the Mayan calendar signified not the end of the world, but the dawning of a new era and the optimism, celebration and human spirit we’ve witnessed and our ability to overcome the grim goings-on of 2012 certainly suggests this could be the case.
Yes, it was annoying that water cost £2 a bottle at the Olympics, the closing ceremony was awful and Jessie J had all her bits on show whilst the men just got on with it in sports jackets and trousers.
But what we should remember is the glimpse the Games gave us into another, less cynical world. Different nationalities laughing together on public transport, strangers hugging in pubs when fellow human beings set new world records, women being celebrated for their strength and ability – not just for having nice hair.
Change is in the air – even Starbucks says they’re willing to pay a bit more tax, bless ’em.
I really hope this is what happens, now that the world still turns. I hope you’re all reading this with mouths full of Ferrero Rocher, seething from arguments with loved ones in houses so hot everyone feels on the cusp of a peri-menopause.
I hope you didn’t consider dying without first finding out who bought duplicitous Kat Moon that scented candle in EastEnders.
I hope the Queen got to do her speech, even if, after the year she’s had, it was just her in a neck brace, baked potato round her mouth doing a thumbs up nursing a Lemsip.
If it turns out we all got to raise a glass to 2013 after all I, for one, will be thankful as there’s a new Cliff Richard calendar I’ve got my eye on and, as I said, I’ve only just discovered olives. Besides, nobody should have to spend their last precious moments in a bunker in Treforest with a Rizla paper on their head that says ‘Bernie Eccleston’.
Although it may have been nice to have been buried alongside Madonna, the Pope, Gary Barlow, SuperTed and Arfon Haines-Davies.
Sian Harries hails from Carmarthen and has written across a range of programmes for BBC Two, Channel 4 and Radio 4. She co-wrote the Radio 2 pilot for Rhod Gilbert’s Back to Llanbobl and is currently developing a sitcom with comedian Elis James