Mark Andrews: Have a happy new year, whatever it may hold

Well Merry Christmas everyone. Hope you had a good one.

Don't worry, there won't be a hurricane
Don't worry, there won't be a hurricane

The good news is that better times are just around the corner.

Social epidemiologist Dr Nicholas Christakis reckons the Covid crisis will be followed by a new 'roaring 20s' once the restrictions are over.

Now I must confess that a 'social epidemiologist' is a new one on me. But then again, I find 'epidemiologist' difficult to pronounce, particularly after imbibing a bit of festive cheer. But social epidemiologists look into how societal factors contribute to the spread of disease. See every day's a school day, even at Christmas.

Anyhow, Dr Christakis explains how health crises throughout history follow a familiar pattern of people slipping into isolation while the threat is present, and then desperately seeking out social interaction when it passes.

He reckons just as the 1918 flu pandemic was followed by the decadence of the jazz age, the end of the coronavirus pandemic will usher in a new roaring 20s.

Dr Christakis reckons that by 2024 we will be in the middle of a big social and economic renaissance of a kind not seen since the 1920s. Nightclubs and stadia will be packed as folk make up for lost time, money will be spent like it's going out of fashion, and "sexual licentiousness" will become the new staying at home.

The asparagus hasn't delivered the goods this year

I'm sure we all need of a break from the endless restrictions, isolation and parsimony. But if that means that three or four years from now life will become one huge Roman orgy, I'm not sure that is an entirely good thing. Particularly if it means bringing back the Charleston, smoking jackets, and six-inch cigarette holders.

While there may be a degree of logic to the doctor's thinking – and he points out what we are experiencing now is no different to what countless other generations have lived through in the past – it is also worth remembering the old investors' adage that past performance is no guarantee of future success.

For example, economic performance of the past 30 years suggests that recessions only ever take place when the chancellor is a Scotsman with silver hair and black eyebrows, ie Norman Lamont and Alistair Darling. But the current economic slump suggests this might not be the case, given that Rishi Sunak possesses none of these characteristics.

At the start of this year, this column looked at the forecasts of Jemima Packington, who reckons she can see into the future by dropping Vale of Evesham asparagus onto a table and seeing where it lands. But it has to be said her predictions for 2020 haven't aged particularly well.

Jemima predicted an election victory for Donald Trump

For example, she predicted Donald Trump would win the US presidential elections, that the Brexit negotiations would run like clockwork with Britain easily securing a trade deal, and that the high streets would see a stunning renaissance as people turned their backs on internet shopping.

Yet strangely, there was not a dicky bird about any global pandemic bringing the world to a standstill and killing 1.5 million people. Sorry Jemima, but your green shoots haven't delivered the goods.

It has to be said, though, she hasn't done any worse than all the other so-called experts who charge great sums for their expertise. Let's face it, only last week the Prime Minister was telling us to 'have a merry little Christmas' just days before telling thousands of people to rip up their plans because the advice had changed. And who could forget the Met Office's infamous promise of a 'barbecue summer' in 2009? And then there was Michael Fish's assurance in 1987 that there wouldn't be a hurricane. There was.

Looking at it from a glass-half full perspective, I suppose you could say Jemima's forecasts have at least provided value for money. She has got it wrong very cheaply.

I think the moral is if you don't want to be proven wrong, it is best to make your predictions pretty modest.

So for 2021 I forecast:

  • Sometime over the next 12 months, Extinction Rebellion will block the traffic somewhere;

  • That a cold snap/heatwave/miserable summer will be described as the inevitable consequence of global warming;

  • Greta Thunberg will frown at grown-ups;

  • Terry Venables will predict 'England can win the Euros';

  • That on the eve of the tournament, at least one member of the England team will get caught doing something stupid;

  • That people will continue to argue about Brexit;

  • Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will 'reach out' in some kind of public forum about how difficult they find life in the public eye.

Remember, you read it here first. In the meantime, enjoy the rest of your Christmas, and have a fantastic new year.

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