An important and iconic book for this time of year is Charles Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’. It is important in that it was written at a time (1843) when the celebration of Christmas was being revived, and where German (Christmas tree), pagan Celtic (feasting) and Christian (Mass) elements of the celebration were fusing together.
Dicken’s book also reinforces the morality tale around Christmas, and partly because of the many film versions of it, I suspect many people associate it with year-end reflections on our society. Like Dickens they vow to ‘honour Christmas in my heart and try to keep it all the year’.
A different and arguably from another point of view, more enjoyable take on Dickens’ work is ‘Drinking with Dickens’, a book written in 1980 by Charles Dickens’ grandson Cedric Dickens. It is essentially a book of cocktail recipes for drinks with exotic names like ‘Smoking Bishop’, ‘Barclays Best’ but in reality is much more than that because it draws on the warmth and conviviality of many scenes in Dickens’ works, and through the recipes it gives a very real sense of the atmosphere of mid 19th century England.
Having come across ‘Drinking with Dickens’ a few years ago I can attest that our drinks trolley is stocked with various gins and angostura bitters. So, confined to home and fortified with more than a few cups of gin punch I sat down to think about some of the potential surprises of 2021.
- Norway joins the UN Security Council for the next two years and elevates the Arctic to a major geopolitical issue. A titanium Russian flag stuck 14,000ft on the ocean floor beneath the Arctic pole in 2007, goes missing, mischievously stolen by a ‘sub-drone’. Fishing and mineral rights around the Arctic become a topic of hot debate.
- The electric car boom gives way to a new ‘market craze’, capital begins to flow to genetics and genomics, with a flood of special acquisition vehicles being launched in order to buy into cutting edge startups in areas like genetic editing.
- As part of its policy of ‘national strategic autonomy’ France opts to favour two French made vaccines for its citizens, but adverse reactions lead to a health and political crisis. Emmanuel Macron’s standing drops in the opinion polls, and the French establishment search for a centre right candidate for 2022.
- A wave of consumer spending, the side-effects on agriculture of climate change and speculation in lumber prices all conspire to drive up inflation. The US bond market crashes, a pensions crisis ensues, and the Economist magazine proclaims China as ‘the new safe haven’
- Expectations are high that the Biden administration will focus its foreign policy on China, but it pivots dramatically to Latin America, launching a digital dollar as a way of binding South America to the American financial eco-system, and of reducing corruption and the drug trade.
- In Asia, Japan, Taiwan and South Korea are forced into daily jet fighter scrambles in order to counter airspace incursions by Chinese fighters. In April a squadron of Chinese Chengdu J-20 fighters is hacked mid-air (in fact the pilots’ head display units are hacked) and the squadron is forced to land in Japan. A major diplomatic incident results.
- With diplomatic and trade ties with Israel now well established, Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, looks to deepen economies ties with India and in so doing, build out an independent geo-political ‘pole’ spanning India and the Middle East.
- The ‘rule of crowds’ takes hold of policy. The stay at home culture has spawned a new form of policy making where laws, regional budgets and local referenda are driven by ‘crowd voting’ and ‘crowd rating’.
- Brexit, finally accomplished at the end of 2020 leaves Westminster flat. Without the excitement and urgency of a crisis British politics becomes moribund. Boris Johnson resigns as prime minister and moves to America to become a leading chat show host on Donald Trump’s new television station ‘Patriot TV’.
- By February, an end to the coronavirus crisis is in sight. Though still proscribed by the authorities, people start to party and revel. ‘Drinking with Dickens’ rises to best seller status and the price of angostura and select gins rockets.
Enjoy the rest of the holidays,
With best wishes