At dinner last Thursday on the French Riviera, champagne glasses tinkling around our table, I had the chance to put my hope to the test when the bien chic, bien elegant French woman seated to my right gently touched my arm, flashed a white-toothed smile and breathed softly: "Can I ask you, Alibert? Eez eet OK if my sister and I kiss you zis ev'ning?"
I blinked, and not in a calm, suave way. Very possibly, dear reader, I flapped.
"You see, 'ere in France it eez zee custom", she continued, in a waft of Givenchy, "at New Year, to kiss, at midnight.... but we know zat you English, you don't like so much to be kissed, and you must not be uncomfortable 'ere in our country".
I think I must have had too much Pomme Dauphinoise and Pouligny Montrachet, for my voice when I spoke quavered unconscionably, "Well, I think that... I mean... well, obviously..."
I trailed off, for over her bare, french shoulder I could see her excitable (and suspiciously wired) 'usband, dancing tanned, wild - and now shirtless - with my daughters.
Beyond him, far below our hosts' beautiful villa shimmered the Mediterranean, redly reflecting the fireworks of St Tropez on the far side of the Gulf. In the kitchen yet another champagne cork popped and I collected myself. "Naturellement, Sylvie, bien sur, zat would be - I mean that would be - perfectly agréable"
But the moment had passed: Sylvie was paying attention to her right-hand neighbour; to my left everyone had switched to a type of incomprehensible French that resembled-not language I learned at O-Level long ago. Through the Bose sound system Abba asked: Does your Mother Know? and I fell silent and tried not to look as if no one was talking to me.
"What would very agreeable, dear", asked Mrs Botogol, appearing unexpectedly at my elbow.
I sighed, calmly and suavely, "A 2009", I replied, gravely, "that proves better than 2008 - now that would be very agreeable - don't you think?"
Big Ben, carefully Mp3'd and play-listed earlier in the week, bonged right on time, and the iPod segued smoothly.
Poor old Johnny Ray
Sounded sad upon the radio,
he moved a million hearts in mono.
"So, shall we dance?"