I KNOW nostalgia ain't what it used to be but I seem to be constantly discovering fresh ways in which things used to be so much better.

So in my 60s and 70s childhood, I could roam my home town without fear of molestation, travel to London without fear of Jihadist terrorism and get soaked without worrying about devastating climate changes.

There's a lot of idealised sepia-tinted nonsense in that, of course. I'm conveniently forgetting the time I was chased by a gang of yobs hurling fireworks at me, the abuse which was secretly going on in homes, schools and churches across the country, the bombs of the IRA and the constant Cold War threat of nuclear oblivion.

But as New Year's Eve approaches, I’ve started getting nostalgic for something much more recent and perhaps more grounded in reality - the New Year celebrations of the new millennium. What a joy they were, heralded in York by a stupendous barrage of fireworks let off from gardens across the city. And what a time it was when the worst thing we could find to worry about was the cost of the Millennium Dome and the ‘Millennium bug’ that was meant to crash computers but didn't. Internationally and nationally, good things seem to be happening:the tyranny of Soviet communism was over, the far right and far left were a joke or an irrelevance, Islamist terrorism was barely on the radar, peace had arrived in Northern Ireland, the UK economy was in the middle of one of the longest ever periods of sustained growth, the Government was increasing spending on education, the NHS and policing. The world really did seem to be getting better.

But if we’d known in 2000 what the first 18 years of the new Millennium were to bring, I think the celebrations might have been a little more muted. Maybe a minutes silence at midnight would have been more appropriate than fireworks, Big Bens bongs and champagne. For it all seems to have unravelled in a horrible succession of disasters, attacks, blunders and setbacks.....

9/11. The Iraq war. The Afghanistan war. The credit crunch. The recession. Austerity. Cutbacks. More cutbacks. Islamist terror. The Syrian war. Trump. Brexit. Russian interference, cyber attacks and assassinations. The rise of the far right. The rise of the far left. Anti semitism in the Labour party. Islamophobia in the Tory party. Neo Nazis gathering near York Minster. Climate change threatening our entire future.....

I pride myself on being an optimist but my goodness, it’s becoming very hard to go into a New Year nowadays without least a feeling of trepidation and downright pessimism about the future.

But I think it’s at times like these that you have to look at the personal, at the individual acts of kindness, bravery, caring and compassion that are going on every day in our society, even as the political situation becomes ever more dire. It’s good to work on a local newspaper where such acts and such individuals perhaps receive much more recognition and coverage than in the national and international media, not least thorough our community pride awards.

Take, for example, all the volunteers who stepped forward to help out the hundreds of victims of the 2015 floods, run the city's food banks, provide homeless young people with somewhere to live through the charity SASH, run the York Rescue Boat to save lives on the Ouse and work in the city's dozens of charity shops.

Or take Dawn Watts. It’s been my privilege over the last few years to report on this remarkable woman from Copmanthorpe who, stricken by incurable breast cancer, had raised £37,000 for cancer charities and other good causes by the time of her death last month, while never losing her sense of humour.

So yes, while the world has people in it like Dawn, I think there’s still hope. And I think I'll raise a toast on New Year's Eve to all the good people there are out there, working hard to make the world a better place, despite everything.