This Side of the Pond

Notes from an Uprooted Englishwoman


January 6, 2022

In last week’s column, I took a look back at 2021 and discovered it wasn’t quite the disaster it seemed – at least, it wasn’t all that bad if you were a thieving dog or lost your wedding ring in a potato patch. That’s all very well, but what about this brand new year of ours?

Turns out there’s a great deal to look forward to in 2022, no matter your persuasions or interests. Here are just a few examples of what’s on the horizon.

For me, 2022 is special because it’s a year-long celebration of Queen Elizabeth II. Never before in the history of my nation has a monarch reached their Platinum Jubilee, marking 70 years of watching over her subjects.

My country will be commemorating this historic occasion with a whole year of events, including a special four-day holiday weekend. A campaign called “The Queen’s Green Canopy” was launched last May, in which citizens across the UK were asked to plant a tree in her honor, while Jubilee beacons will be lit in every capital city across the Commonwealth to mark her reign.

(That’s a political association of 54 nations, in case you’re wondering, most of which are former territories of the British Empire. Queen Elizabeth II is the current head of the Commonwealth, and 15 of its countries recognize her as their monarch.)

If you’re a fan of sky-watching, mark your calendars for May 16 and November 22, both of which will bring blood moons. These are total lunar eclipses, and there won’t be any more until 2025.

Missing all your sports action from last summer? Not to worry, the delay caused by the pandemic means you don’t have to wait very long for the next batch.

The Olympic Winter Games will begin in February in 2022, this time hosted in Beijing. The same month will bring the all-important Super Bowl, but we’ll have to wait longer for my own favorite sporting event: the 2022 men’s soccer World Cup in Qatar, otherwise known as my four-yearly opportunity to bite my nails right down to the quick.

I’m sure you’ve already decided that last one is of no interest to you, as soccer is not exactly your national sport, but you guys are ranked pretty highly this year and will be playing qualification matches throughout the next three months.

By the time we reach summer, we will have a better idea about how our universe began. That’s a pretty bold claim, I know, but it’s the idea behind the James Webb Space Telescope.

The successor to Hubble was launched at Christmas and sits a million miles from Earth, suspended between its home planet and the sun and protected by a tarp the size of a tennis court. The reason it’s been sent so far away is so that it can be kept cool enough to pick up signals from the early universe, and perhaps even help us understand how everything began, 14 billion years ago.

If you prefer slightly more recent history, you may want to add Egypt to your vacation list. The Grand Egyptian Museum will be opening on the Giza Plateau and is set to be the largest archaeological museum in the world, containing about 100,000 artifacts including the Tutankhamun collection.

Alternatively, you could head to the Netherlands for Floriade, a once-per-decade world horticultural exhibition that this year is expected to showcase green innovations for city environments.

Speaking of space (which is one of my favorite things to do, as I’m sure you’ve noticed), 2022 is slated to be the year we look back to the heavens. NASA is sponsoring a total of 18 missions through its Artemis program to establish a sustainable presence on the Moon.

This is the first step in the agency’s long-term goal to reach Mars, which will be achieved in collaboration with other nations and private industry. The program will launch (see what I did there?) with Artemis-1, an uncrewed rocket that will orbit the moon, and if all goes well, NASA expects to deliver the first component of the Lunar Gateway – the inhabitable space station in lunar orbit.

If all goes to plan back down on solid ground, 2022 could see the tallest building in the world finally completed. Jeddah Tower was delayed during the pandemic, but its new construction deadline may see the kilometer-high skyscraper finally open. Apparently, it’s so tall that the 59 elevators will need to move more slowly than usual, because the change in air pressure would otherwise cause passengers to feel sick.

If you’re a fan of all things horcrux and muggle, this year marks the 20th anniversary of the Harry Potter movies, which means you can already watch the retrospective in which the stars reconvene and reminisce, to the delight of all fans.

In answer to the most common questions I get about the wizarding world: no, I did not receive an invitation to go to Hogwarts. Yes, I did wear a very similar school uniform (it was even the same colors, though I joined the school too late to wear a cape and instead had a very nice winter blazer.)

I did take a look to see what treats Nostradamus thought we might have in store for 2022, but he was being his usual pessimistic self and I just don’t see an asteroid impact or the invasion of France as all that likely. I’ll stick with more recent theories and make one prediction of my own: whatever the next year brings, it’s bound to be an interesting one.


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