OPINION - Reasons to be cheerful in 2023

MANY of the main reasons to be cheerful in 2023 are negative ones. For instance, Liz Truss is not our prime minister and it is looking increasingly unlikely that any of us will need to take the tech bros promoting cryptocurrency and NFTs seriously; above all, it’s not 2022 anymore. After the monstrous half-decade of 2016-21, of Brexit, Trump and Covid, you would think we were due a breather but last year brought us Russia’s war in Ukraine, a cost-of-living crisis fed by soaring energy costs and what seemed like an endless stream of effluentent in our political discourse and our waterways.

Though it doesn’t look like things will get drastically better in the immediate future, there are still reasons for hope. Eyes down, here we go.

A clearer, simpler politics

Nonsensical culture wars and red meat thrown to a populist political base just won’t cut it in 2023. If you can’t heat your home, feed your family or see a doctor it is unlikely you will have time to get your knickers in a twist over someone’s chosen pronouns. The next two years of political discourse will be about things that immediately impact our lives — health, wealth, security, education, transport, infrastructure, quality of life.

Realistic personal goals

If the past few years have taught us anything it’s to be kinder to ourselves and set reasonable expectations. No more Year Zero attempts to cut out booze, carbs, fat and sugar on Jan 1 and achieve a perfect six-pack by March. No more obsessing over the inguinal cleft for men or the hip bridge for women. Take it easy, don’t beat yourself up, have a lie in and a Calippo.

The Lionesses

As someone cleverer and funnier than me said of the England men’s football team: if a bloke’s wife left him in 1966 but he insisted every four years that she was coming home, you would think he was mad. The women’s team, meanwhile, won the Euro championships, I’m a Celebrity and Sports Personality of the Year, and four gongs in the New Year Honours list. Women’s sport is where it’s going to be at this year.

Trains, planes and automobiles

From May we will be able to catch a train from St Pancras on Friday afternoon and wake up (after one change in Belgium) in Berlin on Saturday morning. A reminder of the forgotten romance of rail travel and a link to London’s true European sister city.

London culture

The Rosettis exhibition at Tate Britain, director Ivo van Hove’s stage adaptation of A Little Life with James Norton, Steven Spielberg’s The Fabelmans at the cinema, new fiction from Margaret Atwood, Zadie Smith, Samuel Barry and Booker winner Shehan Karunatilaka. Because real life will still be pretty rubbish, immersion in other worlds will be all the more precious.

NO, no, no, no, no. I won’t watch The Traitors, I just won’t. Stop talking to me about it. I’m not listening. Look, my fingers are in my ears. La-la-la-lalaaa. Seriously, my wife Ann and I watched the first episode of the Claudia Winkleman-fronted, castle-set, deception-driven reality show, shrugged and moved on. An adaptation of the simplistic party game Werewolf with a measly cash prize, it seemed the epitome of middlebrow “meh”.

Since then everyone I know joined the cult, with friends deleting social media to avoid spoilers, talking up their favourites as if they were heroes of Greek antiquity and — following the finale — offering to sell their families into slavery to guarantee a second series. Even if we weren’t suffering a surfeit of excellent TV content, I just don’t get it. It’s a bunch of banally ordinary people sitting around in rooms and working out how to stitch each other up. Frankly, most of us get plenty of that at home and at work.