9 pm – a very important hour when you stay in on this night – and I suddenly remembered that he had died.
It’s an important hour, by the way, because it’s the hour you decide what you are going to do: Give up and go to bed in an hour or so or sit around waiting for the clock to hit midnight.
So I Googled his name and it came flooding back. He died in August. On a cruise ship. I never thought Sir David would end his days on a cruise ship. He was 74. I always thought he was younger than that.
The following half an hour or so was taken up by trawling through a list of others who had passed on during the previous 12 months. Thatcher. Michael Winner. Lou Reed. Mel Smith. I had forgotten he had died too. By the time I had finished it was near enough 10 pm, and so I decided I would see it through. I know how to party.
Perusing a list of recently departed is a funny thing to do on the final day of the year. But I get like that. It’s not that I don’t like New Year’s Eve and I certainly don’t hold the immense hatred for this night of forced jollity that some do. I just find it all very odd.
You start thinking about the year. Poor old 2013, desperately hanging on in its final hours of life. If it was a good one – and mine was – you don’t really want to let it go. After all, next year might really have it in for you. What if it all goes wrong? There are 12 whole months ahead when life could get nasty. And then you start thinking some macabre thoughts that only ever enter your mind on New Year’s Eve. You remember the list. And then you actually start wondering whether you will be here this time next year. You get annoyed with yourself and think ‘Don’t be silly. You’ll be fine’.
Then you think that Sir David or Mel Smith or Lou Reed probably told themselves that this time last year.
Anyway, weird thoughts about life and death and an emotional attachment to a set of four numbers is not the only thing that occupies my mind on New Year’s Eve.
There is, of course, the question of what you are going to do.
If you have a young child, no money or no friends then you stay in. I stayed in. We cooked a seafood risotto and I made a posh cheesecake (pear and amoretti biscuits). We finished eating at about 8.30 pm. I googled some dead people. And then we sat around for hours. Just waiting. And waiting. Waiting to see a hand on a big clock in London tick past the number twelve for the sole purpose of getting confirmation that the year has definitely ended and a new one has begun. After all, if you stay in, there is absolutely no other reason for staying awake. Every minute that passes you move a minute closer to 6 am, when your seven-month-old baby will wake, oblivious to what year it is. The clock ticks past midnight, you phone your parents, talk some nonsense about next year being as good as this year and then realise that ‘next year’ is now actually this year and ‘this year’ is last year. And then you go off to bed confused.
If you go around to someone’s house for a dinner party the night is even weirder. You sit down and then you eat. At least one member of the group has to be carted off upstairs after becoming too well acquainted with the brandy. Someone has had a bad year. Someone has had a great year. Dinner ends. You all sit around for hours and hours just wishing midnight would hurry the hell up. It arrives. You all drink champagne (even the party member who was carted off upstairs has now sobered up and is allowed a glass) and then you go home.
But the oddest group of all are those who take themselves off to London. To stand by a river. In the cold. And the wet. And, this year, in the force eight wind. It’s always at least a force eight nowadays.
They get there at 5 pm to ‘get the best view’. Yes, to get the best view of a fireworks display that is so massive it can be seen in Kent. And then everyone else turns up. And it gets really, really crowded.
Whenever I see the masses lining the Thames one thought always springs to mind: What do you do if you need the toilet?
And they stand there for hours and hours. And you know they secretly wish they were at home, in the warm, eating a seafood risotto or a posh cheesecake. And the hours tick by. And then Jools-bloody-Holland flashes on the big screen and your immense anger and annoyance at seeing his grinning face is tempered by the realisation that the sight of this man means midnight must be close.
And then the fireworks start. Big. Colourful. Loud. And completely overshadowed by what Australia did many hours earlier. And then they funnel out and make their way back home. Wet. Cold. Hungry and desperate for the toilet.
They will do it all again next year. The dinner party lot will do it all again next year. And, without a doubt, when New Year’s Eve 2014 comes around, we’ll be sitting there on the sofa, with a tummy full of posh cheesecake, just waiting to see Jools-bloody-Holland flash across our screens, heralding the start of 2015.