2013 has been quite a year. Lots of big stuff has happened. Sports champions; royal babies; new church leaders; Arabs springing up; terrifying typhoons; fierce fights for cyber-space and secrets; Scots getting grumpy; North Koreans getting nasty; and everybody wanting to be China’s new best friend.
Here are some of the smaller bits you might have forgotten or missed altogether.
In the UK the year began and ended with helicopters in the headlines. In the middle of morning rush hour in January a helicopter struck a crane in Vauxhall, on the edge of the Thames and close to London’s nerve centre.
In late November, another helicopter plummeted through the darkness, this time above Glasgow and on to the roof of one of its more popular pubs. Nine were killed by the impact and 32 were taken to hospital.
Glasgow wasn’t the only part of Scotland to grab the headlines. Alex Salmond pocketed several for being all independent; Andy Murray for flourishing amongst the strawberries at Wimbledon; and there was also a young Scot called Ryan Mania. His rise to fame was so swift we hardly got time to meet him before he was flat on his back.
Ryan Mania, aged 23, clutched courage with both hands to win the Grand National in April. Even those who might have heard of him, the bookies, only gave him and his ride, Auroras Encore, a 66-1 chance at the main prize with one of the reasons being that the lad had never even been in the race before. Imagine the worldwide startle as 600 million viewers in 140 countries watched the pair cross the line to win.
The next day Ryan was back in the news again – this time he was in hospital to have his spine fixed after a fall during racing at Hexham. “I’m grand” was his response to his well-wishers.
Sweden was another surprise headline grabber. May in Stockholm turned ugly. The city, renowned for its decorum, had to fight riots in its suburbs as its unhappier citizens took to the streets. The reasons appeared to be the wealth gap, unemployment and immigration.
Ironically May was also a headline month for Zlatan Ibrahimovic, whose childhood in Sweden’s immigrant suburbs was as confused as they come. This was the month that Zlatan, current captain of the Swedish football team and probably the country’s best known and wealthiest immigrant, was named the Ligue 1 player of the year. By November he had also become a member of the Champions League Centurion Squad – one of only 18 players to have made 100 appearances in the Champions’ League.
In mid-summer a British athlete, Paralympian Ade Adepitan, returned to Nigeria – the land of his birth and the country that bequeathed him Polio. It’s one of the three countries where the disease remains endemic – the other two are Afghanistan and Pakistan. Ade went back to face the disease and to visit the polio-line of extreme football.
On a jauntier note there were the Proms in London in September – a great British tradition of music and lively bow-ties. Straight-forward and reassuring … although … this year there were tremors amongst the batons for a woman, an American woman, Marin Alsop, conducted on the last night – the Last Night. Never, in all its 118 seasons, had the Proms allowed a woman to take the controls on the last night. Reports suggest she did a good job.
The final bow for the year must be given to Nelson Mandela who died on 5 December 2013, aged 95. This won’t have slipped through your net but perhaps you haven’t seen this tribute poem from Dr Maya Angelou.
Happy New Year from here in the UK.