|Barcelona (the city not the planet)|
It was the first year I stayed up until midnight. We didn’t eat dinner that night, eating single sausages and undressed salad with our fingers, a bit at a time. We watched HELP! because it was on TV and because it was good. Playing Doubles1 we went through litres of red soft drink and then coke and, eventually, milk. Sugar, lateness and excitement riled us into a giddy kind of joy. We ran at the sound of fireworks, laughing and sprinting until we could barely breathe and hardly caring that we missed them anyway. Walking from one house to another, people yelled New Year’s greeting at us from verandas as we passed and we realised we’d missed the countdown. We had our own, not really minding that it was at least a minute late. I fell into bed smiling forty minutes into the new year.
I stayed awake stoically. Mostly because I thought I should. Nothing much happened that year. My mother cooked dinner and we walked in the dark, through quiet streets listening to the sounds of the ocean and other people’s celebration. At midnight we watched the fireworks on TV and my family begged to be allowed to go to bed. It was a New Year overshadowed by the one that had come before and, in some little way, by the ones that would follow.
David Tennant was regenerating on the other side of the channel and I was in Barcelona (the city) with new wisdom teeth sprouting painfully in my guns. We ate the kind of gazpacho you can only get in Spain, all the more delicious because it actually came out of a carton. I read The Radio Times (acquired a week before in England) because it was in English and waited for it to be late enough to go exploring. We walked down to the docks. There were children and families, gathered in anticipation of the clock chiming. When it did, the loud bongs came from a nearby ship. Fireworks cascaded off the bridge and into the water. Champagne corks popped and the amber liquid fizzed into the air. In the distance huge fireworks leapt and bounced off skyscrapers, the sparks reflected in the glass. In Spain its good luck to eat twelve grapes between the first and last stroke of midnight. The grapes had seeds in them so I didn’t quite manage. I ate them as fast as I could and figured that was good enough. The loudest rave in Barcelona happened in the apartment above ours, finishing at dawn and filling my restless dreams with the thud of bass.
We made more cocktails than we drank. Assuming, of course, that cocktail is the right word for really alcoholic custard. We played Tim Minchin loudly and yelled our way through the lyrics with gusto. We offered to pay Jack a dollar fifty if he spoke in a Scottish accent for 24 hours. He only lasted about 3 hours and mostly we just pointed at boats and yelled “BOOT!”2 beccamarsh and I lay on the grass and laughed at the stars because they were there. The neon hum of glow sticks spun through the air as my tiny cousins threw them at each other. The fireworks were let off far closer than was probably safe. They soared above our heads and showered ash into my hair. At midnight we brushed our teeth, still singing, conducted by Jack and a toothbrush.
We went to the beach and failed to make a bonfire, soon realising that not enough of us cared enough to make it happen. We watched fireworks from the headland. The far-away florets, barely the size of thumbnails. Distant and unreal the faint bangs occasionally drifted to us on the buffeting wind. There were new people and chat but somehow I didn’t feel like being the kind of person who throws herself into meeting people. We watched the countdown on television and in an anticlimactic kind of way we were happy.
I couldn’t help thinking that its odd to celebrate another year being gone. It’s a tangible moment where you can feel time slipping away as much as it is hope for the future. I feel asleep long before dawn.
1- Doubles is a dice game my cousins, brother and I invented. Its complicated, largely pointless and is, in fact, basically a drinking game. I have never played it with alcohol.
2- For anyone who has ever heard me yell the word “BOOT!” while randomly pointing out the sea- this is why.