As nobody buys the papers at Christmas time I'll assume that it's now September 2008 and you're bored at work and you've come across these 950 words by accident because you've just typed some combination of the words “housing market”, “Ryder Cup” and “celebrity bum cleavage” into Google.
And, yes, you've been lured here from the future on false pretences - what with the internet, we journalists have to work extra hard these days at boosting our readerships - and, no, I don't claim that this is more important than the fact that your two-bedroom is worth less than a garage door in Haiti, what with house prices having crashed in April. All I'm saying is, this is your opportunity to take part in a unique sociological experiment. It'll take just a couple of minutes. If you'd like to play Prediction Watch, scroll down now.
Precisely because you'll have missed the papers around Christmas and new year you will be unaware of the prophesies about 2008 that were spouting from various professional futurologists at the time. I'll summarise them for you now, in a written version of the time capsules city councillors regularly have buried in plinths as a means of communicating with future generations or aliens in case of an apocalypse. Then I'll forecast my own prediction and you can tell us who turned out to be right.
Here goes. 2008, according to the experts, will be the year of: the colour blue; the potato; the frog; the rat; the grumpy old man; the YouTube presidency; the linux desktop (no idea); the spaceship; the super-mini SUV; the Boy Scout; economic 9/11; philanthropy; premiumisation (something about bottles of Evian water sold in triangular bottles but only in hotels); see-through clothing; the organic chicken; scarves; and something called the vicarious consumer who is the kind of person who can't be bothered to watch films or read books so reads reviews instead.
But according to me 2008 will emphatically be the year of the disgruntled former anti-smoking campaigner. Just look at him now, from your vantage point in September, meddling, irritable, prone to taking up any cause that comes his way because of the catastrophe that befell him in 2007 - when smoking was banned in public places and overnight his raison d'être evaporated.
The anti-smoking campaigner can't simply fade into the background just because his work is done, he would be bored. Already in mid-December 2007 there was talk of banning smoking in cars, but I fear that's not going to be enough of a challenge. The cars debacle will have been sorted by March 2008 on the grounds that a child might catch sight of a person smoking through a windscreen. Next there'll be a march on car manufacturers to ban the little cigarette icon on car lighters - which will then be replaced by a picture of a decomposing corpse.
By July they'll have banned lighters. August it'll be the turn of matches. But what about the murky business of gas hobs? I predict they'll be toast by September. Fireplaces? Why of course! Ban A Bonfire This November; it'll be a campaign both topical and popular with the anti-fireworks-and-save-the- hedgehogs brigade.
Meanwhile, former anti-smoking campaigners, envious of those working on juicier national health issues and led by Sir Liam Donaldson, will organise a putsch within the ranks of the responsible drinking and anti-obesity campaigners. The moderates will be ousted. Donaldson who said in an interview in 2007, “let's get the cigarette out of Kate Moss's mouth”, will arrive at the model's Primrose Hill mansion with state-sponsored reality television crew in tow and ceremoniously remove the cigarette from her gob; snatch the alcoholic drink from her hand; wrench the irresponsible boyfriend from her arm too, lest their much-publicised union encourages irresponsible relationship habits in young and vulnerable people. Food will be forced down her throat so that she will no longer be a pin-up for anorexics.
If, as a result, she gets fat she'll be forced on to a diet devised by Rosemary Conley fatness having become a particular thorn in the side of former anti-smoking campaigners on account of the number of people who will have grown porky for having substituted food for cigarettes since the war on tobacco was won.
Not that I love smoking, mind you. I hardly do. I'm smoking one now out of solidarity with myself but only out of principle.
And I'm doing so because last month I was at a party and one of the people there asked me whether it wouldn't be possible for me to light up my cigarette outside in the bucketing rain, which I wouldn't have minded as much had the party not been my own and had I not held this, my own party, in my own apartment. And it made me think, a) This country has turned into California but in all the wrong ways. b) Couldn't we put these new-found evangelical tendencies of ours to some better use?
Why this emphasis on banning things at all? When it comes to the outrageous little things affecting our daily lives - the cost of public transport, the state of our schools, the price of food, the state of our hospitals, there isn't an angry mob in sight. We are not angry enough. Aren't there equally useful things to do with one's life than attack the foibles and weaknesses of the individual? There is life after a smoking ban. In 2008 we'll see what that means.
Stefanie Marsh almost climbed Everest, even though she is a smoker.