Tuesday 1 January 2008

Thongs of praise for 2008

I’m feeling uncharacteristically positive; particularly given that I am writing this on New Year’s Eve, when I normally depress myself by producing a balance sheet of the year’s triumphs and disasters. One side of this typically runs to two or three lines, while the other extends over several pages. I’m sure I need not spell out which is which.

Superficially, the “reasons to be cheerful” chart looks similarly skewed. On the plus side, I am not a supporter of the Labour Party or Newcastle United, or a shareholder in Northern Rock. In the minus column – well, where do I start? My penchant for sacking clients for insubordination means that my business is currently progressing like a Stuka dive bomber with airbrake failure; my novel remains unpublished; I’m about three stones overweight and the last time I volunteered to disrobe in front of a woman (other than a doctor) she declined on the grounds that she had only recently recovered from a nasty bout of anaphylactic shock, and had been warned that any recurrence might prove fatal.

My only companion is a near-comatose yet powerfully flatulent Border terrier, who clearly values me only as the butt for his increasingly perverse sense of humour. I’ve also begun to grasp that my growing list of minor ailments and disabilities will be with me to the grave.

And that’s just me. Casting my net slightly wider, the UK economy is heading for a nasty downturn, house prices are already falling and our enslavement to the EU is about to be set in stone. Kosovan independence will cause massive international tensions in the traditional seedbed of European wars, while the world’s only nuclear-armed Islamic state, and the main base for Al Qaeda, stands every chance of descending into ungovernable chaos following the assassination of Benazir Bhutto.

All the experts agree that 2008 looks grim; which is precisely why I reckon it could turn out rather well. For the last three years, the Investors Chronicle has constructed a portfolio comprising the most hated shares in London; the ones that all the highly paid analysts agree are raging sells. And guess what? It has outperformed the market every time.

Similar results could be obtained by testing the work of expert forecasters in every field. If you are ever at a press party, remember to seek out the paper’s racing tipster and ask why, if he is so good at picking winners, he is writing for a pittance. Right after you have tipped a glass of wine over the astrologer and asked “Did you see that coming?”

This year I’m going to make a real effort to do something about the things I can affect, and to stop moaning about the things I can’t. Starting with my weight. Writing in this space yesterday, Tom Gutteridge (the North-East’s top Alfred Hitchcock look-alike), promised to lose 21lbs by Easter. Me too. But to make it more interesting, why don’t we each pledge £10 to charity for every pound in weight the other loses? The best performer can choose the fortunate good cause. Oh, and the runner-up gets a new photograph at the head of his column, wearing only a Christopher Dean thong. No, hang on. I’m not sure I’ve really thought that through.

Obviously we must appoint a top law firm to draw up a contract, supervise the weigh-ins and set rules. For a start, I think that any amputations must not count towards the final result. In the virtual word of your Nintendo Wii, Tom, that object on the ground before you is my gardening glove, masquerading as a gauntlet. What do you say?

While I wait breathlessly for an answer next Monday, I wish you all a very Happy New Year. Please remember that if I am wrong about 2008 and the planet explodes, the last words you hear will be those of an expert explaining why it could not possibly happen.


Originally published in The Journal, Newcastle upon Tyne.

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