How to survive New Year's Eve in midlife
December 31 presents a whole new set of challenges for grown-ups. Michael Hogan outlines the 'dos' and 'don'ts' to help you actually enjoy it
Bong! Happy New Year, everyone. Bong! Twist the bottle, darling, not the cork. Bong! Shall we all link arms and do that song nobody knows the words to? Bong! Please can I go to bed now?
There are many ages of New Year's Eve mistakes. There's the late-teens tactical error, when excitement at the prospect of a midnight kiss from a stranger leads to overenthusiastic alcohol consumption and having your head down the loo at snog o'clock.
There's the student slip-up, when you naively venture to Temple Bar or the Spanish Quarter to lose your friends and good mood in a claustrophobic crush of confused tourists.
There's the clubbing clanger, when you spend the entire night in queues for entry, the cloakroom or the bar, desperate for some sneering poseur to relieve you of more money, while wondering why the floor is so sticky and everyone else is having a better time than you.
Once you're safely into middle age, it might seem like such tiresome trials are mercifully over. You've learnt from the follies of youth, acquired hard-won worldly wisdom and know your New Year onions. Or do you? A midlife NYE in fact presents a whole new set of challenges.
Here are our 10 dos and don'ts to help grown-ups actually enjoy the most overrated night of the year…
DO take an afternoon nap
An hour or two's snooze - a 'disco doze', if you will - recharges your social batteries, provides much-needed peace and quiet, and dramatically lowers the probability of a pre-midnight slump. At least, until you start on the port and cheezzzzzz… What? I was just resting my eyes for a moment.
DON'T watch Jools' Annual Hootenanny
It might seem harmless to switch on BBC Two's annual musical hoedown, but it rarely rewards your optimism. Even when there are good guests, Holland will insist on playing his infernal boogie-woogie piano over them.
Sod's law dictates that you'll tune in at the wrong time and be subjected to free-form contemporary jazz. Stick to the ooh-aah light show on RTÉ One instead.
DO keep plenty of fizz on ice
It doesn't have to be Champagne. Cava, Prosecco or back-in-vogue Asti will suffice.
As long as it's wet with bubbles, most people will be too merry to notice.
Always have more bottles chilling than you think you'll need. It's a party-pooper to run out, plus there's no legislating for thirsty guests or losing half a bottle to vigorous shaking by that numpty from next door who thinks he's on a Grand Prix podium.
DON'T go out
There be monsters. Not to mention exorbitant taxi fares, rip-off set menus and ticketed entry to pubs. Besides, the babysitter will charge double bubble. Far better to stay safely cocooned at home and make the fun come to you. Bonus: you're nearer bed.
DO be selfish
You've heroically done your fair share of small-talk duties over Christmas. So if you fancy staying on the sofa with a single malt, a classic film and a tin of Quality Street (hey, who hogged all the purple ones?) feel free to do so. You've earned it.
DON'T arrange anything ambitious for next morning
A brunch, a bracing walk or an art gallery seem, on paper, like a splendid way to start the year. Quite possibly true, but avoid the rookie error of arranging anything before noon in case of "a 24-hour bug". Okay, a hangover.
Far better to have a lie-in before tipping up for lunch charmingly fuzzy-headed than sidling up at 9am looking nauseous, haunted by regret and sporting a mysterious bruise.
DON'T peak too early
New Year's Eve is all about timing your run. If you've got guests coming for drinks, invite them for 8pm onwards. If you're throwing a dinner party, don't sit down until 9pm.
Linger, play party games (charades, Cards Against Humanity, Twister...) and proceed at a leisurely pace.
Nothing takes the wind out of your sails like finishing a meal and realising there are still several hours to go until midnight strikes.
DO learn the lyrics to Auld Lang Syne
Old Lamb's Eyes, as my niece thinks it's called. Belting out the Rabbie Burns poem set to a trad folk tune is a Scots custom that has spread worldwide in heart-warming style. So why not take the trouble of memorising the lyrics for once? Or at least printing them off the internet to give to guests?
It beats half-arsed renditions when you self-consciously mumble nonsense and nobody links arms with you on one side, so you feel like the last one picked in games at school.
And no, "Naa na na, la da na nah, for the sake of Auld Lang Syne, hmm-mmm, blah blah, acquaintance be forgot, yadda yadda, cup o' kindness" doesn't cut it.
DON'T have a front-room disco
Have a kitchen one instead. The flooring is dance-friendlier and the surfaces more wipe-clean - invaluable when windmilling air guitar moves send a goblet of merlot flying.
The kitchen disco is a fine tradition that keeps parents feeling like they've "still got it". I do a spot of amateur party DJing myself and the golden rule is to get girls dancing (the men will soon follow). This isn't the time for showing off your lovingly curated prog rock collection, or taking people on a "sonic journey". A shamelessly crowd-pleasing mixtape of Motown classics, disco anthems, Eighties pop, Nineties dance and recent hits does the trick.
Think one-word acts: Madonna, Prince, Jacko, Chic, Blondie, Beyoncé. Spin that wheel, DJ (translation: fire up Spotify on your laptop).
DO be in bed when the young'uns come home
Partying youths are likely to lurch in from 2am onwards, knocking over lamps and doing that giggly "ssssh!" tiptoeing. Make sure you're tucked up in bed by then, so there's no crossover. Neither party wants that.