“Between the years” – that’s what Germans call the limbo between Christmas and New Year, where people come into work like me with this blog: late, begrudging and ill. This sagging week between the twin orgies of cinnamon and sparklers is much more a time of sober reflection than Christmas, which is a time of sickly alcoholic drinks and impatient conversations with family members.
The feeling you get as you watch crows circling against leaden skies in encroaching 4pm darkness over a suburban housing estate – that’s the mood this week. The sudden sense of space engulfs you, and the year’s disappointments and brief moments of ecstasy fill the sky. Perhaps the existential misery was all getting too much for the people of Samoa, which is why they decided to shorten this week rather than any other.
I have done some sober reflecting myself, and distilled the whole crazy news year of 2011 (like my colleague Seymour did earlier this week) – a time of revolution and catastrophe around the world – into five humble sentences, each about one of Germany’s biggest political news stories of the year. All of which go to show how little I have to work with on a week-by-week basis.
- Pirates: they changed Berlin’s political landscape, then it turns out they are mad stalker-Nazis
- Biggles: he copied his PhD, now he’s maybe a bit back
- Stuttgart: they wanted a new railway station, then they didn’t, then they did again
- Westerwelle: he resigned from one job but not the other
- Wulff: he got a cheap mortgage and didn’t resign
So, on balance, where is Germany one year on? By my calculations, the political scene has lost exactly one half of a Westerwelle, most of a Guttenberg, and gained some spods in orange overalls who want the U-Bahn to be free. As far as political upheaval goes, it’s not the Arab Spring, but I’d say that’s not bad.