This year’s hearth-time report
Every New Year's Eve since we moved into this house in 1965, we have sat down by the log fire and made our predictions for the year ahead.
Sometimes, when the predictions have taken a long time, we have been up as late as 10.22pm. My mother, being Scottish, could never believe that we didn't want to stay up to see the new year in, go first footing, wake up some poor sod and give them a piece of coal. Instead, we'd go to bed and take the phone off the hook, knowing she would start ringing at midnight.
Forty-five years ago, we established a rule for our predictions: they must not forecast tragedies or any bad things. For the first few years, we just did domestic stuff - who would get married, who would be pregnant, whether we would have £1,000 or £2,000 in the bank by the end of the year.
Then we moved on to national events, ones of vital importance, such as where Carlisle United and Spurs would finish. If a general election was looming, or a World Cup, we'd predict the winners.
This year is a biggie, with both due. My wife is predicting a hung parliament, while I have said the Tories will get in by 30 seats. In the World Cup, my wife - she must be potty, what does she know - says England will win.I am predicting lots of other football stuff. John Terry will be making £10,000 in cash for giving tours of his left boot, all profits going to distressed football agents: see, they have to be uplifting, caring predictions. Manciti,
I mean Mancini - isn't it neat how he suits his club, like Arsène fits Arsenal? - has clearly set his sights too low and will revise his own predictions after two wins on the trot. He will then announce that Man City will win the Prem this year - and the Euro Cup, the British Grand Prix and the 2012 Olympics.
I am trying to have positive thoughts about England's World Cup chances, but I know from experience that in the weeks before, there will be ten pages in the paper each day, and 50 photographers outside the hospital, as we hold our breath for news of an injury to a vital player. We don't have many of them: the field is limited to Rooney, Gerrard, Terry and Ferdinand.
Rio is already crocked, Wayne can't possibly bugger his metatarsal yet again - he's done that the past 43 times - while Stevie has already lost form: would we notice the difference? That leaves JT. I predict we will all lie awake in May worried sick about his bad back, injured while falling off his wallet. But I only do good news. So he'll recover by 11 June and lead our lads out. Huzzah.
I think my wife has got carried away by the enthusiasm of the bookies - and this will be their biggest bonanza year ever. You can now put bets not just on games, but on the score every ten seconds, the number of corners, angels dancing on the ref's bald head. Advertisements for betting are everywhere: on the telly and in all the papers, not just the tabloids. Gawd, they are going to make a fortune. Especially by talking up England.
Sven was a dummy, Steve McClaren a wally. Capello has no better players, but he'll do better, being a better manager. In fact, England will do brilliantly, and get knocked out in the semis. Come on, that would be a vast improvement on the usual form. I only do happy predictions. Oh, and Spain will win.