Postcard from Zaharah: 2022, Another annus horribilis

What a year 2022 was! Had Queen Elizabeth II been alive, her annual Christmas speech to the nation would have described the past 12 months as another "annus horribilis" (horrible year).

The late monarch used the phrase in her speech to mark the 40th anniversary of her reign 30 years ago — particularly tumultuous time that saw divorce, separation and scandals hit the royal family.

But of course, Queen Elizabeth II, the United Kingdom's longest reigning monarch, died on Sept 8 in 2022 — a year of history-making events.

The UK had three prime ministers, and the war in Ukraine compounded an already paralysing cost of living crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. These are just some of the events that would qualify 2022 as another annus horribilis.

However, the late monarch saw through tough times with a stoicism and manner that only she could muster, having had to deal with not only family problems, but also world crises all her life.

The celebrations to mark the platinum jubilee of her reign and the sad pageantry of her death three months after that were among the year's highlights. The nation, if not the whole world, came together first to rejoice, then to say goodbye.

For the royal family, life has been one long drama. And just when it seemed that the Prince Andrew and Jeffrey Epstein scandal was dying down, the estranged royal couple across the pond whipped up more controversy with accusations of racism that are unlikely to go away.

Queen Elizabeth II died at the ripe old age of 96. Her health had been a concern for some time before that, but she soldiered on even without her beloved Prince Philip by her side.

She looked frail during her rare public appearances, especially during her platinum jubilee celebrations. Britons and the world witnessed a grand celebration in June, when 1,500 soldiers, 400 musicians, 250 horses and 70 aircraft performed and paraded in a major military spectacle.

As part of the Commonwealth, soldiers from the 1st Battalion
of the Royal Malay Regiment
took part in the Queen's Jubilee Pageant, looking resplendent in their ceremonial baju Melayu of white tunics and trousers, with gold and green brocade sampin.

The queen didn't make many appearances, although thousands lined the streets during the parade. Those harbouring hopes of catching a glimpse of the ailing monarch, including yours truly, had to be content with a hologram of the queen waving and smiling from the gold state coach.

She did, however, turn up on the same balcony that she had stood on during her coronation 70 years ago, albeit briefly, so as not to disappoint the crowd.

Three months later, she cut a frail and worrying figure as she greeted Britain's shortest ruling prime minister, Liz Truss.

The queen's death, though not unexpected given her health and old age, brought an outpouring of grief from all over the world.

Leaders, kings and queens, including ours, came to pay their last respects. There were long queues at Westminter Hall, Hyde Park and the gates of Buckingham Palace, where well-wishers left a sea of flowers.

A chance visit to Edinburgh and after a short queue just after 5am, I paid my last respects at St Giles Cathedral before the queen's body was taken back to London for burial.

Now, King Charles III, after a long time waiting in the wings, sits on the throne.

After 70 years, Britons get to sing God Save the King, and soon, we will have banknotes with the king's portrait.

But King Charles also inherits the ongoing family squabbles with the estranged royals Harry and his wife Meghan, who are firing salvos from the United States, with their Netflix documentary adding spice.

The year 2022 will also be remembered as the year the UK elected its first Indian-origin prime minister, Rishi Sunak. When Boris Johnson resigned as prime minister in July after the "partygate" scandal refused to go away, Truss was named the new Conservative leader after a fierce leadership battle with Sunak.

Truss' grand promises of tax cuts prompted a market nosedive that turned many Tory members of parliament against her.

She couldn't save the fast sinking ship even after she roped in Jeremy Hunt as chancellor of the exchequer to replace her trusted ally, Kwasi Kwarteng.

The appointment of the son of a general practitioner, who migrated from East Africa, was reason to rejoice, not just by the huge Indian community here. India rejoiced as Sunak became the UK's first leader of colour after being chosen to lead the Conservative Party on Diwali evening. At the age of 42, Sunak is the youngest UK prime minister since 1812.

The pandemic and the ensuing lockdowns had left a trail of scandals on the illustrious grounds of Downing Street.

Although former health minister Matt Hancock left in disgrace in 2021 after a video of a kiss with his aide went viral, making a mockery of his social distancing policies, he came back in the most public manner by appearing in the reality programme I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here! He then published his book, Pandemic Diaries: The inside story of Britain's battle against Covid, which was a flop.

The year 2022 saw the UK
gripped by lockdowns of another variety — strikes, protests and demonstrations by the National Health Service, train staff, postal workers and many more over the rising cost of living, which saw the nation slowly grind to a halt.

The last thing we want to hear now is about a new Covid-19 variant from China.

Have a Happy New Year.

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