VIDEO: Review of the Year 2022
The late Queen had only been dead for a couple of days when a friend texted: “I just can’t fathom the task you will have with the 2022 review of the year”, he wrote.
In just that week, there had been the surprisingly close result of the Conservative leadership election, the end of Boris Johnson’s premiership, the beginning of Liz Truss’s rule, two thousand-mile round-trips to kiss hands in Balmoral, the bin-bag covered lectern (not to mention the Hot Sound Guy), and then a grave afternoon of growing concerns for Her Majesty’s health. Now, Elizabeth II’s body was en-route from Aberdeenshire to Edinburgh, to rest at the Palace of Holyroodhouse overnight, before a lying-in-state in St Giles’ Cathedral. She would be flown back to London a couple of days after that. Whatever your political persuasion or views on the royal family, it was, unquestionably, a most extraordinary week: never before had there been a change of both Prime Minister and monarch in the space of just 48 hours.
My long day spent staring at monitors, working on our coverage of the Queen’s final journey through Scotland, meant I did not get around to replying to my friend’s text until much later that evening. I kept it short, having barely had time to give any thought to the challenge of summarising the entire year in a ten-minute film.
“Better start work on it now,” I texted.
Needless to say, work did not in fact begin on my Review 2022 until the last week or two of December. Why it has dragged on so long past that is a matter of as much mystery as it is frustration. There have been plenty of other things I would like to have done in spare moments over the last few weeks. But its completion was never actually in doubt, just the sliding timescale of its release. I am grateful to the usual cult followers for their enthusiastic anticipation — as well as my friend Jay, for his calm perspective.
There is one thing, hinted at in the video, that has forced me to slow down a bit. Namely, caring for my wife.
The night I left work – after the Scotland journey coverage, and seven days before the state funeral – I was actually checking out of the office for a few days. I had long promised Kristen a September mini-break, after she had missed out on a summer holiday, and it was important to ensure she got some time away from work. I was, and remain, extremely grateful for my bosses’ understanding in allowing me to honour that commitment to her, even in the midst of one of the biggest news events of our time.
Whilst we were away, there was a noticeable worsening in Kristen’s mobility. She had been struggling for a while (for both this trip and an earlier weekend in Chester, we had booked city-centre hotels so everything would be within easy walking distance) – but, as our holiday progressed, Kristen’s sheer struggle to get around became more and more obvious.
There have been countless tests to try to identify the root cause. We have seen many consultants, from various specialisms. At times, it has felt as if we were getting lost within a creaking system: taken up one-way streets that lead only to dead ends. (Though I should say since filming my Review, we do at last have some hope, at least of a diagnosis.) But, for all the emotional toll on the two of us, Kristen’s resilience and determination have been inspiring.
Quite how much to include of all this – a deeply personal story, within a very public video – was tricky. For many, it will be the first they hear of her illness: is it right that that should come from my film? The truth is: her disability was a very significant part of our 2022, particularly the last few months. Failing to mention it would fail to record what we both – and, obviously, she in particular – have been through.
And so it is with Kristen’s blessing that I include this ‘chapter’ in the film’s closing minute. This is not to solicit messages of condolence. Quite the opposite. However well-meaning, she often finds enquiries into her health invasive and exhausting. Rather, she hopes by ‘putting it out there’ through this medium, people will perhaps be less surprised to see her out-and-about using a wheelchair. She yearns for conversations like they were before; not feeling like every social interaction has to begin with an acknowledgement, or explanation, or update about her condition.
After all, there has been much else to talk about during 2022.
Meals out. Weekends away. Theatre trips (…making the most, while we still could, of the Royal Opera House’s discount ticket offer for Under-26s). Our house. Our garden. National Trust houses and gardens. Family life. Church life. Work life (transport strikes notwithstanding).
As I say in my opening remarks, it all added together to form a year that was “like no other”.
A year that “we weren’t banking on lasting 15 months”, as one friend put it, when my Review still hadn’t been released by mid-March. It is now later still – today, the 100th day of 2023 – but finally, thankfully, it’s done.