I grew up in Scotland — Fife, to be precise — and north of the border, it is generally held to be unlucky to wish anyone happy new year until after midnight on Hogmanay.
So I shall begin this letter by wishing i readers – and Stefano Hatfield, who I sincerely trust is enjoying a well-earned holiday in Malaysia – a very happy 2012.
In Scotland, it is also the custom to kiss, or shake hands (depending on how well you know the person) the first time you clap eyes on someone after New Year’s Eve. It’s quite common to find yourself embraced by colleagues or friends two weeks into the infant twelvemonth if they’ve been away on holiday. I rather like this ritualised greeting, but I’m not a great fan of that other great new year ritual: the making of resolutions.
Deepest winter seems the most illogical time to start changing things. Personally, at this time of year, I want everything to stay the same — I want my cup of tea to stay hot, the house to stay warm, the weather to keep mild, and the daily routine of home life and work to remain reassuringly stable. If you have to make resolutions, I think Rebecca Armstrong has the right idea. Think positive rather than negative —acquire skills and knowledge rather than depriving yourself of alcohol and chocolate.
What does 2012 hold for us all? The Prime Minister hopes it’s the year Britain will “go for it”, while the doom-mongerssay we’re all going to hell in a handcart. Again. So there was something oddly reassuring about the New Year’s Eve fireworks in London. They were spectacular. If we can manage a decent pyrotechnic display, there’s hope yet for the Olympics.