Old Tom’s Almanack: 2023 Edition
Mr Wheeler ventures into Mystic Meg territory with some predictions for the upcoming year
I’ve talked before about the pitfalls of writing for a print magazine in these strange days. When I pass my scrawled musings to the Leither’s in-house carrier pigeon, to be delivered directly into the loving arms of uber-editor Billy, I can say with near certainty that much of the content will have been rendered obsolete by the time the issue goes to press. By the time the last copy has been snaffled from the last dentist’s waiting room, my column is likely to have all the relevance of a blue passport in the EU fast lane at Schiphol Airport.
It was ever thus, of course. But it wasn’t always this thus. Not until we entered these times, so often described as ‘unprecedented’ that it must surely constitute some kind of precedent. Fortunately for all concerned, the entire Prime Ministerial career of Liz Truss was so brief – unprecedentedly brief, in fact – that it happened to fall in between submission deadlines. It’s pure chance that I didn’t end up publishing a speculative piece on the potential asteroid-like impact of her tenure, only for her hook to have been well and truly slung before the ink was dry.
But perhaps there’s one thing I can usefully take from our Liz’s mayfly premiership: the principle of ‘in for a penny, in for a pound’. (Or in her case, in for about £45 billion, then hurriedly back out again.) No point trying to second-guess which handful of my assumptions might prove correct, when recent history suggests the answer will be ‘only the completely insane ones’. So I may as well just come out with any old shit. As Truss and Kwarteng might usefully have asked each other before the mini-budget: what’s the worst that could happen?
So with that in mind, may I present Old Tom’s Almanack: a compendium of predictions for 2023, assembled with all the care and attention you’d expect. The publishers accept no responsibility for any alarm that these forecasts might cause in international financial markets, or for the run on the pound that will most likely follow.
For ease of reading, I have separated the Almanack into the two internationally recognised categories of subject matter: ‘Leith’ and ‘Other’.
Buoyed by near-universal acclaim for the ‘Golden Jobby’ on the new St James Quarter, Edinburgh Council attempts a similarly transformational project on the Leith skyline, as it commissions a giant papier-mâché cock and balls, to be installed on top of the banana flats. It proves an instant hit in architectural circles, becoming the first set of Category A listed genitals in the Central Belt, and the building is formally re-nicknamed ‘the tummy banana flats’.
Constitution Street reopens to traffic for the first time since 1871, when it closed for construction of Leith’s pioneering tram network. Sadly the trams themselves are unable to run for several months, due to a procurement error resulting in a lack of available horses. Tramworks at Elm Row are also finally completed, to the relief of the passengers on the number 5 bus that has been sitting outside Giuliano’s for fourteen months, waiting for the lights to change.
Hibs delight their fans by re-signing Franck Sauzée, who becomes the SPFL’s oldest ever player at the age of 57. The Old Firm’s stranglehold on the title is finally broken as the Easter Road outfit embark on an unbeaten run to the end of the season, beating Celtic on the final day courtesy of Sauzée’s 78th assist of a remarkable campaign. In the wake of the triumph, jubilant supporters commission a colossal bronze statue of the Frenchman, which they install outside Tynecastle for a laugh.
BBC Alba sweeps the board at the TV BAFTAs for its ambitious Gaelic language reimagining of the 1994 Jim Carrey blockbuster, Ace Ventura Pet Detective. The action is transposed from Miami to Tighnabruaich, where ‘Swimmy’ – the beloved herring mascot of the Kyles Athletic shinty team – mysteriously disappears while out at sea, just weeks before the Camanachd Cup showdown with Kingussie. The viral success of the brooding 672-hour epic, broadcast in real time throughout February, is blamed for record levels of staff absence that reduce Scotland’s GDP for the month to zero.
The trend of entrepreneurs buying social media companies continues, as Simon Cowell pays over £30 billion for the professional networking site LinkedIn. Users will continue to be able to post job opportunities and CVs on the site, but only if they first perform a show-stopping cover version of ‘Flying Without Wings’.
The latest immigration crackdown runs into trouble when overzealous policy-making means that the only person legally permitted to remain in the UK is a Berkshire pensioner named Susan. She is appointed Home Secretary by default, announces a further immigration crackdown, and promptly deports herself.
And, both last and least, Boris Johnson selflessly cuts short a holiday in the Maldives in order to take over from Daniel Craig as James Bond, only for it to transpire that nobody had asked him to. The people of the UK cheerfully chip in to fly him back. ■
The author heading for the EU fast lane at Schiphol Airport, with his shiny new blue passport (hmmm)