Happy New Year?
As it is the 30th of December, it’s no surprise that I woke up thinking about New Year’s Eve, and the year to come.
I have a mixed relationship with the 31st. As a child, I usually slept through it. The 1st of January was not traditionally a public holiday in England. It didn’t become one until 1974, by which time I was already 22 years old, and working. So any celebrations of New Year’s Eve were overshadowed by the knowledge of having to get up for work the next morning.
Once we got that day off, going out on the 31st became the norm. Special parties in restaurants or other venues, often going on until the early hours, sometimes travelling home in daylight. The newly-acquired rest day spent recovering from hangovers, and getting used to everything being closed.
Then I got married, and we chose the 31st as our day to wed. Something different, a day that few people ever got married on. It was so unusual, many of our friends and family suspected my first wife might be pregnant. But she wasn’t, and we just wanted to break with the tradition of a summer wedding. Our brief honeymoon in a Sussex town was notable for a party in the hotel that kept us awake most of the night. So New Year’s Eve took on an additional significance, as it became our wedding anniversary. We celebrated that for the next few years, combining the two with renewed vigour. Then I joined the London Ambulance Service.
That night is the busiest of the year for London’s emergency services. Non-stop calls from early evening, right through to the next day. If you are scheduled to work on that shift, getting it off is almost impossible. I had to forego my anniversary celebrations, instead spending my time struggling with aggressive drunks, unconscious party girls, and the outcome of traffic accidents fuelled by alcohol. For the majority of the next twenty-two years, New Year’s Eve became something to dread, rather than celebrate. And after eight of those years, my marriage ended, so anniversary celebrations were no longer on the agenda.
A few notable exceptions can be recalled. Watching the fireworks over London from Primrose Hill, standing in deep mud. An enjoyable and very drunken party, at the nearby flat of a close friend. But generally, I was either working, or doing very little to celebrate the arrival of a new year. That continues now, when we just relax after dinner, and watch the same fireworks on TV, from the comfort of our sofa 120 miles away from where they are exploding.
And as you get older, celebrating another year is not what it used to be. Anticipating being one year closer to the age of 65, 70, or 75 does not have the same allure, I assure you.
For all you younger people who are anticipating a wonderful celebration tomorrow, I wish you well, and hope that you have a great time. And for those older people who still enjoy such things, you too, of course. I will be lucky if I am still awake at midnight. 🙂
A HAPPY NEW YEAR TO EVERYONE!