Last Chance to Party

Mark Meredith looks groggily into the future

New Year’s Eve, or Old Year’s Night, whether excess Carib beers in Port of Spain or an overdose of Old Peculiar in Trafalgar Square, has always meant the same thing to me — a deathly hangover; wishing the first day of each new year was my last.

This year, though, it’s different. I’ll be in training for next year. I’ll still have the hangover, and it will be a killer, but it will be worth it. When my head clears, the first date swimming into focus in my diary will read 1999. The last year of the century. Possibly the last century.

All this millenium celebration business won’t count for much if the clock stops — and I’m not talking about the Millenium Bug. The fact is that the omens don’t look good, whatever the politicians tell you. St Matthew, Nostradamus, George Washington (who had a vision), and latter-day psychics like Edgar Cayce, Ruth Montgomery and Jeanne Dixon, have all predicted the year 2000 as the time when our number will be called — come in Human Race, your time is up.

The day we finally paddle ashore is May 5, 2000. On that day, according to the prophets, all the planets in the Solar System will be in alignment, pulling away from the earth on the other side of the sun. This will cause, I read, a massive gravitational pull on the earth which will result in huge earthquakes, giant tidal waves, exploding volcanoes and, the ultimate bad news for the Caribbean, shifting polar ice caps. When the ice caps shift, the new South Pole will be repositioned over South America, and the new North Pole east of Japan, which will disappear altogether. Overnight, this shift will turn the Caribbean as cold as the Arctic and New York as hot as Haiti. Add terrifying wind speeds, churning seas, and the outside chance of perpetual darkness caused by the Earth’s loss of gravitational movement, or a collision with a comet or chunk of rock as big as Cuba, and you can understand why this, or next, New Year’s Eve party should suddenly assume such significance.

Of course, these prophets could be as wide of the mark as a David Batty penalty kick. If some prophecies are to be believed we should by now have discovered a machine which induces the body to heal itself; one of every three of us should have encountered an angel; and Russia and the West should have pooled their resources to house and feed the poor. So, it probably will turn out OK. Maybe.

The last time mankind faced such a momentous date was back in 999; superstitious days when comets or eclipses or anything out of the ordinary signified the Apocalypse. It’s said the population of Iceland coverted en masse to Christianity on the stroke of midnight 999. Conversely, at the end of 1899, people looked forward to the new century with enormous optimism. Stunning advances had been made in technology, medicine, science and physics. The Washington Post declared: “It seems impossible to imagine an improvement on what we have.”

A hundred years on, it’s the just the same: on December 31, 1999, the Millenium Dome at Greenwich, the centre of time on Earth, will open, extolling the wonders of the human body, our accomplishments, and our future. Bill Clinton’s “bridge to the new Millenium” will have been crossed; and the “biggest party ever held on Planet Earth” will be taking place in southern California.

Wherever I choose to celebrate, I won’t hold back. Because I’ll be thinking of the puzzle of the timeline in the Great Pyramid of Cheops; the timeline measured in “Pyramid inches” that runs the length of the structure’s passages and coincides exactly with certain events of the last 2000 years. The timeline that stops on May 5, 2000. The timeline that’s screaming: “Your last chance to paaarty!”

Well, that’s my excuse, anyway.