30 December 2012
The best New Year's Eves are the ones that take you by surprise – when nothing is planned yet everything falls into place. Some years ago when I was living in Bristol, my friends and I were at a loose end one New Year's Eve, having left it too late to sort anything out. The only restaurant table in town was for 7pm. All right, we thought, at least we'll be well fed. Just around the corner from the restaurant was the only pub in town that didn't require buying a ticket in advance – and it had a decent DJ. Great, a bit of dancing would go down well. There we ran into mates who told us about a nearby party hosted by mutual friends. Armed with plenty of booze we had the foresight to buy earlier, we were welcomed with open arms. Snow was falling gently when we walked home at 4am, marvelling at the night sky and pleased we weren't shivering in a horrendous queue for non-existent cabs.
I had the great luck to spend a couple of New Year's Eves skiing in France, and if I had my way (and the budget) I'd do this every year. The French love the occasion even more than Christmas – and why not, when it's another excuse to bring out the oysters and champagne? In a Pyrenean village we joined the party in the local ice skating rink, while people of all ages strolled with streets with bottles of champagne and somehow turned outdoor drinking into a civilised event.
And this year? Well, it's France again, but not quite in a magical mountain setting. We decided on a whim to book a ferry to go to Boulogne on the northern French coast, a place we'd visited many times before – but never on New Year's Eve. A quick trawl through the internet revealed a distinct lack of restaurants that can be bothered to open, and those that are have put on one of those dreaded "special" menus. So we're off with no plans, nothing in place – apart from emergency supplies of cheese, pâté and fizz. The only thing that's certain is the dreadful weather forecast. Wish me luck. And Happy New Year.