2016 has been a peculiar year, a year of loss. There has been an unusually high record of celebrity deaths this year and the world has lost some bright talents. I have been saddened in the last few days to hear of the deaths of George Michael, Richard Adams and Carrie Fisher – people who helped create the musical, literary and fantasy world of my childhood.
But sad as these losses are, for me the biggest loss of the year was Brexit. Losing that sense of European identity is one I am finding very hard to get over. The debate rumbles on as to what it’s going to do for issues such as the economy, jobs and immigration. But these were not the issues which motivated me. For me Brexit is about the loss of a dream. The idea that a continent could work together to tackle common problems was an inspiring one. The EU is far from a perfect organisation, but then so are the countries including the UK which formed it. However it was a massive step in the right direction and the issues facing the world today such as climate change, cybercrime and extremism seemed more manageable when countries were in a position to work together. World peace now seems a little further away.
However 2016 was also the year I gained a whole world, by which I mean that mysterious Dark Age world I escape to whenever I have the chance. It is strange to think that this time last year Kenneth’s Queen was still in its early stages with no real sign of how it was to draw me into its world. This world of course no longer exists. Perhaps it never really existed, as the world I visit is created from my interpretation of the facts, rather than the facts themselves. But while I am glad of the escape from the 21st century, I wonder what would those women and men think of the year 2016? How would Edlin, the Island Girl, react to Brexit as a first generation immigrant, proud of her European roots yet still every inch a girl from East Anglia? I can imagine only too clearly what Cinaed and Domnall would have to say about Scottish independence after being cheated of their glorious European alliance by the perfidious Angles! And as for Judith, Athelwulf and Alfred, they would surely be agog at us throwing away the sort of European alliance they could only dream of.
That is not to say I want to hold my Dark Age world up as any sort of ideal. It was not. Child and maternal mortality were very high, simple infections could and did kill and women were often treated as possessions rather than people. Yet for much of the world little has changed and even though we now have the knowledge and skills to change it, we do not seem to have the will. I could argue that in a way that makes our world more backwards than theirs.
So what will 2o17 bring? For me I hope there will be at least two new books. Their timelines are already taking shape and I hope to break ground on the first one soon. The first big event of 2017 for the world will presumably be the inauguration of Donald Trump. At that point the world will hold its breath and hope for best. Can any hope be gained from my Dark Age world? They lived through some dangerous and uncertain times. Terrorism, incompetent or thuggish leaders, and extremism are nothing new. But they adapted and survived. In the winter of 878, the future must have seemed bleak for Dark Age Wessex. The Vikings were victorious and their king was skulking around the Somerset marshes, powerless. There seemed no hope, but the Battle of Edington and years of relative peace and innovation under their remarkable leader King Alfred were just around the corner. Perhaps 2017 will bring for us just such a turning of the tide.
For anyone wanting to join me in a touch of Dark Ages escapism the Women of theDark Ages series is available on Amazon.