Another new year arrives. Fireworks illuminate the sky over Shanghai. It's a time for looking forward with hope and not a little trepidation given the various newsworthy events that scarred 2005. I just telephoned my brother Robin in France. What a disturbing start he and Suzy had to the new year. On New Year's Eve, they drove down to Barcelona in his new BMW SUV with British number plates. Surprise, surprise - in a traffic jam, a scooter passenger opens the rear door and snatches their little overnight bag containing passports, credit cards etc.. Then half an hour later, as Suzy tries to book a hotel room, another scooter rider slashes one of the tyres as Robin sits in the vehicle but he doesn't get out - apparently it's a common thieving technique in Barcelona - get the driver to change the tyre and then muscle in and either steal possessions or the vehicle itself. They drive off tailed by a scooter but at traffic lights, Robin "accidentally" reverses into the would-be thief sending the little bastard sprawling.
They visit a police station and spend three or four hours in the interesting parallel universe we call officialdom. They are so pissed off with Barcelona that they just head home. Whooah! Didn't Freddie Mercury sing about Barcelona? "Such a beautiful city" states a travel correspondent in "The Times", "the modern capital of Catalonia". Fireworks bursting, auld lang syne, peace and goodwill, champagne corks popping and desperate greedy young men stalking the city like wolves in search of their prey.
Me and Shirley, we visited the pub. I bought old Pat McGough from Ireland a pint and wished him a happy new year before we all piled round to Ros's house for drinking and buffet food - including my legendary salad rice with roasted pine nuts, coriander and red pepper. We left there at three in the morning though I swear I could have drunk beer until dawn. I danced with Linda and chatted with Ian, laughed till tears ran down my cheeks and walked the short distance home, only to fall asleep on the couch, waking for what Americans laughingly call "the rest room" at around six.
Later, I discovered that a celebratory rocket had driven itself a good few inches into the middle of our lawn - I wonder if it was a mystical sign - warning or promising something about the year ahead. You never know for sure what's going to happen...
Happy New Year Everyone!