With so much media coverage devoted to what goes on in the US it seems almost redundant to talk about it here. Nevertheless, one gets a certain kind of perspective on a place only from actually being there. There just isn’t a substitute for the word on the street.

I recently visited my home country after a few years away and picked up on a fairly significant change in the atmosphere. This was not exactly the exuberant change that Barack Obama stumped for during his presidential campaign. On the contrary, the mood was far more weary, frustrated, and down-right cynical than ever before. The people of the United States seem to be united principally on one thing: discontent.


FOR OUR ancestors, the lives we lead today would be nothing less than a wildest dream. Those poor creatures who skied here in pursuit of elks once the ice age ended would surely flip if they saw how much food we have now. In pre-Christian Finland, a banquet of meaty treats was once a post-hunt ritual. Today, anyone is free to turn every meal of the day into a veritable flesh-fest, swapping decidedly more delicious cream for the once-popular seal oil condiment. And they need not even venture beyond centrally heated conditions. Revolutionary.

Born in the 60s of parents from the 30s, I was on holiday in Edinburgh in the first days of the 10s discussing the noughties with a beer in hand. Over many superbly kept and poured Deuchars IPA’s a friend and I discussed the impact of the last decade. More sober minds than ours had produced the inevitable decade’s end lists so we decided upon some uncommon awards.

End Of Western Civilisation Award: The insistence on cycle helmets for toddlers on tricycles to protect them from the risk of gravity. Parents who carelessly let their children fall 500mm without a helmet, knee pads, gloves, and counseling for PTSD are regarded as monsters. In fact, they are preparing the child for...

Not only is the new year off to a rip-roaring start, we are also on the cusp of an entirely new decade. Before we can even settle on exactly what to call the last one (the twenty-hundreds? The two thousands?), a new set of years, which historians will lump together and refer to, is already barreling down upon us. Here are ten predictions for the twenty-tens:

Space tourism. A bonafide “spaceline” will begin service – probably Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic – amid much fanfare and few customers.

Everyone knows that Father Christmas lives in Finland. Or at least that’s what the Finns like to believe. The national tourist board and the flagship airline Finnair publicise this factoid incessantly, protesting most indignantly about Swedish or Norwegian imposters. The idea that Father Christmas might live at the North Pole or in some mysterious Elf Land is of course out of the question, as nobody would profit from this.

Santa Claus is a famously jolly, sociable and talkative figure, who loves children and is always ready to share a hearty “Ho! Ho! Ho!” Somehow it’s hard to imagine a character more distant from the hoary old stereotype of the reclusive and introverted Finnish male.