Fear and dread of 2012 were dissipated for David Philpott as the New Year arrived in Paris. And all with a kiss and the realisation that we can make something of those .

Fireworks on the Champs-Élysées

I have to admit that for a long long time, I have not been looking forward to 2012.  Whilst my compadres all seemed to be adorning their Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts with updates suggesting that 2012 was going to be a much much better year that the one then slipping into the ether of history, I still harboured worries about the thirteenth year of this millennium.

I hasten to add, my grumpy state of mind had nothing to do with Nostradamus or the apocalyptic Mayan calendar, but rather those Games.  I use the word “those” advisedly, since an acquaintance of mine who happens to be a newspaper proprietor, regaled me recently with all the instructions that had been handed down to his editors by London 2012, regarding when they could and could not use the “O” word.  Sponsors it seems, have now wrested the games from public ownership so we can only use the word “Olympic” in certain circumstances, even though, according to The Londonist “Little Chef can keep their Olympic Breakfast in the run-up to the sporting hoo-hah and their plateful of cholesterol for road users remains firmly at the top of the wipe-clean menu”. (JULY 14, 2009)

But why such doom and gloom about an event that will showcase to the World our fantastic capital city and our organisational skills? The developments in East London are after all, truly remarkable, and as those Games get ever-closer, we will learn more and more about the ecology agenda that meant that old Brown field sites were cleaned-up - to the point of actually washing hundreds, maybe millions of tons of soil - before a brick was laid.  Indeed, even the materials carried to and from the construction sites, rely on rail as opposed to road, as much as possible.  Add to this all the young people recruited and given apprenticeships and before long we begin to understand that we have a national infrastructure project whose credentials both our German and Scandinavian friends would find hard to better.  I am not sure if the plaudits should go to Boris or Ken; I suspect both and also to hundreds of other anonymous people who have dared to be different.

But I digress.  Why the gloom?  Well, it’s because we do have a penchant in this country for doing things spectacularly badly at times. The pessimist in me imagines that the Eurostar will break down in the Chanel Tunnel, tube drivers will go on strike, looters will riot in our streets and - God-forbid - some poor innocent overseas student will be shot by a hoody for no other reason than the colour of skin.

It came as a great surprise to me then, when at the stroke of midnight on December 31st 2011 I had an epiphany. As me and the love or my life strolled up the Champs-Élysées with a hundred thousand others (or so it seemed) this year being determined not to stay in and watch one of those dreadful “review-of-the-year-shows” on telly, we, like all the other revellers were excited about what glorious event our hosts would lay on for us at the Arc de Triomphe de l'Étoile.  Before we left our hotel we had watched on television the spectacular fireworks in Sydney and the wonder of Honk Hong’s illuminated skyscrapers so our expectations were high.  What would Paris proffer, we wondered? At five minutes to midnight the Police Nationale removed the crash barriers and we found ourselves carried by the tide of hordes, and then, unaccountably, standing right at the front, right in the middle, the most perfect of all places to witness a bit of history.

One minute to twelve ……….nothing.  No count down…… No cinq,.. quatre... trios… deux... une …….. 

Midnight. No chiming clock. …… No lasers………… And rather annoyingly, NO FIREWORKS.

The crowd dissipated. The American threatened lawsuits, the British moaned; the Brazilians samba’ed and started having their own little street party and the French……….well they opened bottles of Champagne and swigged away at the Veuve Clicquot.

The sense of anti-climax was palpable, but half an hour later, as we stopped to take a photograph mid way between the Arc de Triomphe and the Place de la Concorde, our evening was made good by two most unexpected events.  Mrs P got her fireworks when a drop-dead-gorgeous Frenchman grabbed her in the spirit of those black and white photos taken at the liberation of Paris in 1944 and kissed her. My pleasant surprise was the realisation that whatever happens in London this July, it is going to be far, far better than the what the French would have laid on, had they won the hosting rights in that famous  two-way vote off in Singapore in 2005 when London won by 54 votes to 50.

Forget the Mayan calendar and cranky American evangelists who will no doubt tell us the world will end in 2012. As for me, I am feeling quite warm and fuzzy about what lies in store for us. Now you never saw that coming at the beginning of this piece did you? (as the man on the Everest advert might have said).