We went round the corner here in deepest Bavaria to celebrate New Year and set off our fireworks. There is a square nearby where everyone gathers and by 00.05 it was wreathed in smoke like a battlefield.
One thing I noticed was that although there were a good hundred people there, everyone stayed in the hermetic little cliques they had come in.
There were no exchanged "Happy New Years!" and clinked glasses between strangers. As we walked though the square I was trying to catch someone, anyone's eye to exchange greetings but all gazes were stolidly averted - maybe it was me they were avoiding! But no - it was quiet, subdued...
Only three young girls raised their glasses to us and wished us a slightly slurred Happy New Year! To which I replied, "thank goodness for that, at last, Happy New Year!"
The other night my youngest son suggested we watch Contact together. Contact is the Jodie Foster film rather loosely based (if I'm honest, far too loosely based) on the book by Carl Sagan which was inspired by his dealings with SETI - the Search for ExtraTerrestial Intelligence - which uses radio telescopes to search the skies for radio signals which could provide proof of intelligent civilisations somewhere out there in the universe.
After we had watched it, I was wondering what the effects would actually be if they were to find some indisputable proof of an intelligent alien civilisation trying to contact us; would it cause the panic the UFO-logists contend is the supposed reason why governments are covering up "evidence" of crashed UFOs and little green men (and presumably little green women?)?
I don't see why we would all panic if we discovered that tens or hundreds of light-years away there was another civilisation pouring out radio waves just as we are. It might cause the major religions to pause and think for a while - which could be a good and very necessary thing. It might even bring us all closer together and make us aware of this insane and very dangerous religious squabbling which is gong on at the moment.
In fact, it might be just what we need...
So, altogether, if anyone out there is listening:
HAPPY NEW YEAR!