An expat on a remote Pacific Ocean island today became the first Briton to toast in the New Year – 12 hours before mainland UK.
Derek Andrewartha, 61, celebrated the turn of the year at his home in Kiribati – the first country on the planet to see in 2011.
Kiribati is 12 hours ahead of the UK, meaning Derek, originally of Southampton, Hants., saw in the new year at midday UK time today.
Derek’s New Year’s Eve celebrations began a full 12 hours early and he saw in the new year with a quiet meal on the beach with his wife and children 2,600 miles East of Australia in the Pacific Ocean.
Grandfather-of-seven Derek said: ”It is quite odd to think I’ve celebrated the new year so long before everyone back home.
”When my old pals are toasting midnight tonight, I will probably be sitting down to my lunch with a sore head.
”It is a bit different over here compared with ringing in the New Year in Southampton, where I am from originally.
”Traditionally in Kiribati we have a big family meal on the beach at midnight, we eat a lot of fresh fish and of course drink a lot of beer.
”Life over here is very relaxed and everyone has time to chat and wants to get to know you.
”You are never more than 200 yards from the beach and it is completely flat, the highest point above sea level is three metres.”
Former police officer Derek now lives permanently on the remote island after volunteering to work there with Hampshire Police in 1967.
He briefly returned to Britain in 1969 but decided he missed island life too much and has lived there ever since.
Derek and his wife, Aorita, who he met over there, run a recycling plant in Kiribati, where one of their daughters and two sons also work.
The couple reside on Tarawa – the capital island of Kiribati. They have three grandchildren on the island and six more in the UK, where two of his daughters have decided to return to.
Father-of-five Derek added: ”My New Year’s resolution is to try and get back to the UK as my mother and brother still live in Southampton as well as my daughters and I didn’t make it over to see them this year.”
The Republic of Kiribati, which is also known as Christmas Island, has a population of less than 100,000.
It is made up of 33 islands straddling the equator and bordering the International Date Line at its easternmost point.
Kiribati became independent from the United Kingdom in 1979, it is now a member of the Commonwealth of Nations and the United Nations.