Not, I'm sorry to say, because I had the foresight to leave the country for a few days in the Middle East (I loathe Christmas so much that each year I fantasise about, but never get round to organising, a complete escape to a Muslim country). Instead, and much less glamorously, I picked up a virus.
Not a very interesting virus, although I do recall the precise moment I felt its grip. "Don't you think this is a really cool party?" someone was saying, gazing around the dank underground cavern in which we were conversing, raising our voices to make ourselves heard over some lacklustre d & b. At that moment a drop of icy water slid down the back of my devore velvet dress from an invisible gutter above our heads and I thought it was certainly the coldest party - not the coolest - I'd been to all year. Stranded in some godforsaken part of London, I only managed to get home because someone announced he'd always wanted to give a lift to a feminist icon and bundled me and a friend into the back of his car. (Me or her? Who cares? At least I got home.)
Ever since then I've been suffering fevers and frets and have had to cancel even the minimal arrangements I usually make to get me through this ghastly time of year. Not a morsel of traditional Christmas food has passed my lips and I've avoided both the syndromes I've been reading about in recent weeks: fat and sad. This is easy enough if you don't use your car (thus avoiding something the RAC calls festive auto tension, otherwise known as arguing in traffic jams) or venture out of your bedroom (precluding seasonal affective disorder by not noting how early it gets dark). I've been living off what's left in the fridge - so what's wrong with falafels and mayonnaise for Christmas dinner? - read four books and eaten two large boxes of chocolates.
I haven't quarrelled with anyone, worn a funny hat, played silly games, upset friends' children or engaged in lengthy discussions as to whether the Queen said the right things about Diana. Nor have I, as happened once during an end-of-year house party on a hillside in Tuscany, been invited to join in a spot of incest by my hostess, her brother and her plumber. But hey - I've survived another Christmas. A girl can't have everything.
THERE are lots of other reasons to be cheerful this week: I'm not married to Woody Allen or William Hague and there's been a promising start to an exciting new spectator sport: watching the collapse of the government's absurd plans to mark the millennium.
I don't see why we have to do anything at all, it's going to happen anyway and it's not as though anyone is going to forget there was a year 2000. People won't be wandering round in ten years' time asking each other what on earth happened between 1999 and 2001. In that sense, the Millennium Dome must be running neck and neck with the Princess Diana Memorial Fund in the competition for most redundant project of the century. But the good news is that Sir Cameron Mackintosh announced this week that his plan to stage a show inside the Millennium Dome has been scrapped because it is, at a mere pounds 250m, too expensive.
This does seem rather a high price to pay for an event involving "famous writers and more than 1,000 children". I can't help thinking you could fill the Dome with every published writer in Britain for considerably less than that but it wouldn't make much of a spectacle. Of course there'd be one or two show-offs who'd insist on turning up with an old Remington typewriter or a couple of leaky biros instead of a laptop computer, but I don't think it has a great deal of potential as theatre. ("Ladies and gentlemen, for your delectation, Lord Archer will now think up a plot ...")
In fact, it turns out that most of the money was going to be spent on a playhouse divided into 12 sections, each seating 1,000 people. Once they had taken their seat, the walls would rise dramatically to reveal a vast auditorium, four times the size of the Albert Hall. In an uncanny echo of this column a few weeks ago, Sir Cameron was intending to use the space to stage a show entitled About Time which would have been "a spectacular with a touch of Back to the Future. It had its roots in Britain's great past and looked to the future".
Oh dear, how very Blairite. How very 1980s, since it sounds like a dreadful musical about time travel I once saw in Tottenham Court Road, starring Cliff Richard and a hologram of - if memory serves - Sir Laurence Olivier. Or was it Sir Ralph Richardson? Anyway, we have at last been spared the gruesome prospect of five shows a day starring a grinning hologram of the Prime Minister, not on grounds of taste but of cost. Let us be thankful for small mercies.
THE most obvious use for the Dome, I should have thought, is to turn it into a museum devoted to Princess Diana. The country is quite clearly divided into those who believe the reaction to her death represented a seismic shift in national identity, a triumph for feminine values etc, and people like me who think it revealed a state of emotional chaos fervently seeking release, no matter how inappropriate. A museum that satisfies the longings of the first tendency, and which the rest of us could happily ignore, seems to me a very satisfactory outcome for the South Bank white elephant.
What I am wondering, though, is when the Government's spin-doctors are going to wake up to the threat posed to the entire Blair project by the Millennium Dome. They may have inherited it but nevertheless: si monumentum requiris, circumspice (if you require a monument, look around you).
Big, showy, empty, and it isn't going to last. Could anyone have dreamed up a better visual metaphor for New Labour?Reuse content