Have you ever watched Sydney’s New Year’s Eve fireworks show? It’s a hell of a performance. The annual budget of a small Pacific nation is blown away over the course of around twenty minutes in a spectacular display of colour, thunder and light. The Harbour Bridge takes centre stage, its arch sometimes doubling or tripling in size as gouts of yellow, purple, red and green flame and smoke rise high into the night sky, while pontoons scattered across the water provide sideshows and back-up dancers to our main diva.
New Year’s Eve is a night that, regardless of the shit that’s gone on throughout the year, we remember that Sydney loves a party. The club lockout rules are relaxed a little, revellers surge through our streets, public transport struggles to move it all about, the atmosphere is alive and excited. Hopeful. I was so disappointed when my first NYE as an eighteen year old was down in Hobart instead of Sydney, visiting family. Getting plastered with my mates in the city was supposed to be a right of passage, and instead I was slightly buzzed at my Aunt’s friend’s place overlooking the comparatively pitiful Hobart fireworks. Two guys on a raft with a flare gun, I like to half-joke. Most of us just watched the Sydney fireworks on the TV. Mind you when I was eighteen I considered any remotely special occasion where there was an opportunity to get drunk as a right of passage. Eighteen year old me was a dumbarse. So was nineteen year old me, actually.
Mind you, it’s not like I’ve spent every year since getting trashed in the city beneath the fireworks. It’s a pain in the arse getting in and a bigger pain getting out. Last year I spent with the family and neighbours, year before that the guys came round to mine and we played poker all night. They came around again last night, though with a lot more alcohol and more ‘plus ones’ then that term usually implies. Was a lot of fun. There was an NYE where we made the trip to a spot called Blues Point, within kicking distance of the Bridge. We had to get there five hours early and fight for every inch of space against better prepared families who’d erect tents and barriers to guard and expand their territory. It was a dry area, and we expected them to put some effort into keeping alcohol out so we didn’t even try. All the drunken teenagers hanging around the public toilets proved how easy it could have been. The display was spectacular. Worth a five hour wait (six for my friends who arrived before the rest of us did)? Probably not. Worth being able to go to any other city in the world on NYE, let out a haughty, patronising chuckle and remark with absolute authority that “it’s nothing compared to a Sydney NYE display”? Absolutely. You could almost say that was the reason we were there. One of my friends was leaving for Nice (on exchange) not long after, and none of us had really gone to see those bright and tightly choreographed explosions we’re all so proud of before.
It’s all very ritualistic when you think about it. An annual sacrifice of material worth steeped in tradition, performed in front of millions of eyes, imbued with a socially-constructed sacredness, associated with drunkenness and revelry celebrating the death of the old and the beginning of the new, a communal prayer to the secular gods for a prosperous new year or at least a better one than the last. We’re nine condemned men hanging from a tree away from pleasing Odin. But I did a lot of Studies of Religion subjects at university, so that’s what I think about. The problems of the past year or burned away on a giant, kaleidoscopic funeral pyre, and we start fresh and anew. Today is a new day. Today is a new year. Thank Christ and consumer culture for that.
After all, how will 2014 be remembered? “A bit shit,” seems like an appropriately understated answer to that question. Ebola, IS (the caliphate formerly known as ISIS or ISIL) still going strong in Iraq and Syria, MH17 and MH370 (along with all the other planes that have gone down this year), a gunman in Ottawa, a gunman in Sydney, the situation in Ukraine, Ferguson and the resulting (completely justifiable) civil unrest, Gamergate and other attacks on feminism and women in our entertainment mediums. A bit shit. There were definitely joys to be had, 2014 gave us Guardians of the Galaxy after all, but I know I’m not gonna look back at this year too fondly. I may have spent a substantial part of this year going through depression (“may have” because I’m not a fan of self-diagnosis and get a bit rattled at the thought of getting a professional opinion). But that’s me, and any such judgement is entirely subjective. I couldn’t wait ‘til 2014 ended. You may have had a great year. I hope you had a great year. Seriously. I hope your next year is a lot better though. I hope mine is as well. I think it will be.
I’d like to say that writing this blog, for the two dozen or so of you that read it, has been a real joy. You’re all wonderful, intelligent, discerning and startling attractive people. I’ve been trying to maintain at least one post a week, but it’s been a bit difficult lately and will be a bit difficult in the future. I’m moving to Vancouver in a month and life has been busy. So bear with me, yeah?
Yeah. So that’s the barest outline of my plans for the new year, what’s yours? I hope they’re good. Keep the positive from last year, throw the negative onto the pyre, start the new year refreshed and ready. Welcome 2015, fuck off 2014.
And Happy New Year one and all.
Thanks for reading.