Merry Christmas everyone. Here are some things I learned — or relearned — in 2016.
1. That which does not kill you makes you still alive. It’s weird to think that less than 12 months ago I was in hospital, dosed up with morphine, battered and bruised with a broken clavicle, numerous cracked ribs and a pulmonary embolism which can actually kill you, don’t you know. And now it’s as if the whole thing never happened. Well, apart from the hideous titanium plate, like a giant centipede, which I can still feel all stiff across my collar bone. And the bastard hunting ban my family has imposed on me…
2. Hunting is the only thing. Better than drugs, better than sex, better than — well I’d better not say ‘better than my family’ because it will only stiffen their resolve never to let me go hunting again. Seriously, though. If Ranulph Fiennes’s wife allows him to go on suicidal expeditions, despite that time he fell through the ice, got frostbite and ended up having to saw his blackened fingertips off with a Black & Decker, I don’t see why I shouldn’t be allowed to ride to hounds again. A man needs a hobby. And it’s an urban myth that hunting is dangerous.
3. Books are really hard to write. It’s been ages since I published one. The one I was writing — Mr Delingpole’s Sporting Tour — obviously had to be nixed after the accident. And the one I’ve been trying to write instead, a guide to how to be a man in the age of the Feminazi, keeps taking second place to urgent deadlines, vital dog walks or fascinating threads I’ve discovered on Twitter.
4. Twitter is a life vortex. I do hope the company collapses in the New Year because there’s no way I’m ever going to be able to give up my addiction voluntarily. It’s not me that’s the problem. It’s all those people on Twitter who say wrong things which are constantly in need of correction.
5. You can never spend too much money on chicken or wine. We’re supposed to be grateful for the revolution that gave us affordable meat. But where chicken’s concerned I’d rather go veggie than eat a bird that isn’t properly reared — no, not even supermarket ‘organic’ cuts the mustard — and tastes like chicken is supposed to taste. As for wine — why do you think I only ever drink beer?
6. Ars Longa, Vita Brevis. The older I get the more I cherish the cultural eternities — art, literature, history, etc — that in my youth I imagined were just some agreeable but dispensable frivolity you had to study at school and university before moving on to the things that really matter. Now, like generations before me, I’m beginning to appreciate that I got my priorities arse over tit.
7. That poetry-learning thing I wrote about a few columns back… Best thing I’ve done all year. I now have in my head: To His Coy Mistress; An Arundel Tomb; After Apple Picking; To Autumn; The Second Coming; Adlestrop… By this time next year my brain will be a Golden Treasury.
8. Never try to make people like you. After my disastrous last experience at the Oxford Union, I went back recently to speak on a panel about democracy. I fully expected my undergraduate audience to hate me and, when I spoke, I made it perfectly clear how much I loathed and despised them in return. Went rather well. No more Mr ‘Nice’ Guy.
9. If something cannot go on for ever, it won’t. Having spent my whole adult life in opposition to the reigning hegemony, I’m still pinching myself that — post-Brexit and Trump — I find myself suddenly, bizarrely, totally unexpectedly on the right side of history. Like Rod Liddle, I believe this marks a paradigm shift in our political culture, with (mostly positive) people-power triumphing over the corrupt, self-serving left-liberal elite. Those of you who still don’t get it will one day, most of you, come to realise what a good and necessary thing this cleansing was.
10. God it’s hateful being right all the time. At the end of the Tory leadership contest, I furiously dashed off a Speccie column I subsequently wanted to retract because it was just so damned pessimistic about how utterly ineffectual Theresa May’s administration was going to be in enacting Brexit (and anything else of value). But I was right, wasn’t I? She’s going to blow it…
11. Life’s (probably) too short to make chicken stock. I’m not sure I totally believe this since I have one bare-simmering (never boiling) in the background as I write these words. But those Kallo cubes are such a good substitute I wonder whether it’s worth the bother — except maybe when you’ve got flu and you need the full Jewish cure.
12. Your children will come back to you in the end. To all parents of teenagers who treat you not just like you’re dog poo, but like the very worst, most embarrassing, smelly, stupid, ugly kind of dog poo that they wouldn’t just cross the road to avoid but would actually, like, emigrate to Australia to avoid, no actually that’s not far enough, to another galaxy probably, I say: fret not. It doesn’t last for ever.
13. Always get your mangoes, extra virgin olive oil, aged rump steak and parmesan from Aldi. Also, at Christmas it’s the only place to get your panettone and your grand cru chablis.
14. Superstitions are ridiculous. Like, how stupid would it be to add another item to your list just because you don’t want to end on an unlucky number?