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News Agenda: If 2022 was a year to forget, here are some reasons to be cheerful about 2023

Neil Drysdale
The Gothenburg Greats celebrating with the trophy on the night in which victory over Real Madrid would make them immortal
The Gothenburg Greats celebrating with the trophy on the night in which victory over Real Madrid would make them immortal

Cast your mind back 12 months and think about the high hopes and great expectations which were thrown around for a Happy New Year in 2022.

With hindsight, it wasn’t just an annus horribilis, but one which simultaneously had echoes of the Cuban missile crisis in the 1960s and Winter of Discontent in the 1970s.

There was the death of the Queen, a war in Ukraine – which continues to rage on with a horrifying toll of death and destruction – and a string of near-biblical catastrophes, ranging from deadly bushfires to blizzards, which have swept the US this week.

On the political stage, Britain went through three PMs, with Boris Johnson’s grudging resignation (“Them’s the breaks”) followed by Liz Truss who lasted less time than a lettuce, spending 49 days of presiding over cabinet chaos and mismanagement of the economy before being replaced by Rishi Sunak; the man whom she defeated in a leadership contest which dragged on far longer than her actual stay at Downing Street.

A protester holds a sign outside Parliament predicting Liz Truss’s brief stint as PM. Pic: Amer Ghazzal/Shutterstock.

It’s perhaps appropriate that the year is ending with the Government issuing guidance to the public on how to save energy, even as spiralling bills and a cost-of-living crisis cast a cloud over both the high street and most economic forecasts.

But, if nothing else, the British are renowned for their resilience and determination to accentuate the positives in any situation. The NHS may be in crisis, the hospitality and arts sectors might be facing unprecedented pressures, Brexit is still as difficult to tackle as a Martian sudoku, and Covid and Strep A are causing concerns in health circles.

And yet, this weekend, many of will toast the arrival of 2023 as if it is something to celebrate. And it is. Because there are a few things to cherish in the months ahead.

King Charles recorded his first Christmas broadcast at Windsor Castle. Image: Victoria Jones/AP/Shutterstock.

Not everybody will be rushing out to buy their royal bunting and commemorative mugs, but, on the evidence of the 2012 London Olympics and subsequent Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and Birmingham in 2014 and 2022, Blighty knows how to lay on lashings of pomp and pageantry with a party atmosphere and these will all be in evidence during King Charles III’s coronation on May 6 at Westminster Abbey.

It promises to be a special day

During the high-profile ceremony, the King will be crowned alongside Camilla, the Queen Consort. The plans, known under the code name Operation Golden Orb, are a closely guarded secret, but it’s guaranteed there will be a strong Scottish connection to the proceedings. After all, the pictures of the Queen’s funeral cortege passing through towns and villages in Aberdeenshire and Angus were among the most evocative scenes of the esteem in which the late monarch was held by so many of her compatriots.

Her son has already demonstrated he will reign with a greater focus on social issues. The monarchy may have its critics, but the Coronation will still be a historic moment.

Alex Ferguson with the European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1983.

May will also bring a special occasion into the heart of the Granite City when Aberdeen City Council gives the Freedom of the City to the Gothenburg Greats who indelibly stamped their imprint on football when they won the European Cup Winners’ Cup with a legendary 2-1 victory over Real Madrid in 1983 – a triumph which they followed up by becoming the only Scottish club to secure two European trophies with Super Cup glory over Hamburg just a few days before Christmas in that same momentous year.

City will be packed for the occasion

A weekend of celebrations to mark the 40th anniversary will surround the presentation of the prestigious civic honour, lasting from May 12 to 14. This will be the first time the accolade has been awarded in more than five years, and only the fifth presentation since 2000 – and given that the last recipient was the Scotland and Manchester United icon, Denis Law, it surely highlights sport’s ability to lift people’s spirits and transport them, like a private Tardis, to a better, happier place.

Ncuti Gatwa stars in the next series of Doctor Who.

Talking of which, the new Doctor Who, Ncuti Gatwa, who began his acting career with a message to Barack Obama in a school show at Dunfermline High, will be at the helm of the far-travelled vehicle as the series celebrates its 60th anniversary in lavish style.

It’s a while now since the 14th Time Lord took to the Fife auditorium stage in the Queen musical We Will Rock You. Gatwa was the first black lead in a Dunfermline High School show and, in the programme for the musical, he made sure there was a light-hearted mention for the then American president elect. It read: “Eat your heart out Obama!”

If science-fiction is your thing, 2023 is also the 30th anniversary of The X Files – and the star of that ground-breaking show David Duchovny’s mother, Meg Miller, originally came from Whitehills in Aberdeenshire and graduated from Aberdeen University.

Mulder’s mum grew up amid granite

Duchovny later said: “My mother grew up without money and she really valued hard work and education. I got the sense of being an underdog and not expecting life to give you any hand-outs and she prepared me for the struggle.

“She has always had an amazing work ethic and instilled it in me. I am half Scottish and half Jewish: it’s hard for me to buy anything!”

And the truth is out there for a wide range of showbusiness and sporting competitions which are happening in the year ahead.

There’s the Rugby World Cup in France, in which Gregor Townsend’s Scots will be striving to escape from a “Group of Death”, which also features Ireland and South Africa, two of the top-three-ranked teams on the planet at the moment.

Then, there’s the cricketing equivalent in India, which could feature Scotland, although they will have to emerge from a cut-throat qualifying tournament; and the Ryder Cup, which is being held in Italy for the first time in September and could include Oban’s Robert MacIntyre, who has already become one of the real characters on the tour.

And, of course, Steve Clarke’s footballers will be continuing their bid to climb up the global rankings and book their place at the European Championship in Germany in 2024 with their campaign kicking off on March 25 against Cyprus at Hampden.

Scotland coach Steve Clarke during the UEFA Nations League match in Poland. Pic: Rafal Oleksiewicz/PA Wire.

In cinema terms, Tetris, the latest film from Peterhead-born Jon S Baird will be released in March, while, on the musical stage, The Boss, Bruce Springsteen, is returning to Britain and performing at BT Murrayfield in Edinburgh on June 30.

None of this, of course, will gloss over the bigger problems faced by many Britons when we wake up on Sunday morning. But sometimes, we have to seek comfort in little joys and there are plenty of those around as the new year looms.