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Thursday, 1 January 2004

What font is Alphabetti Spaghetti?

One of the things that fascinates and infuriates me about London, is that it's such a young city. Sure, the architecture, the rituals, the social strictures and the hierarchies are centuries-rigid -- but the personality of the place is young. With all the arrogance, crowd-pleasing, over-dramatised self-absorption of the young. London is empty at Christmas. Nobody stays sober or in at New Year.
I'm leaning out of my window, shivering in the cold chill, listening to the echoes and ricochet of fireworks along the Thames. I know what they'll look like, that they'll stretch from Tower Bridge to Westminster. Nobody stays home in London on a night like this. Everybody plans their party weeks before. I can smell gunpowder smoke on a biting breeze and hear organ music playing the National Anthem in an East End boozer. As the minutes tick nearer to midnight, cars begin hooting en masse on a road two streets in the distance. Rockets explode in every direction. Two passersby argue loudly and agreeably about which direction Canary Wharf (and therefore the Thames) is. The skyline of the City of London flashes pink in a reverberating soundscape of numbers.
It's New Year now. The cabin fever schmaltz of Christmas is gone. This isn't a festival for children, or family or responsibility or age - it's for youth, for confidence -- and the newness of spirit that it takes to meet a challenge. I'm drinking champagne, which hits your head hard after two months without a sniff of alcohol. Thinking about the party that my ex is giving tonight. And wondering who I'll hug at next year's celebration.
It smells of scarves, gloves and hats, almost like November does, but also of kissing strangers on bridges. Loads of old men die between Christmas and New Year. Loads of couples split. I can already hear a screaming drunken row in the distance. The frustrations of the year before shatter just as the explosions rock and echo along London's river now. At no other time do we look at the person we're with, the place we're in, the person we've turned out to be, and assess if it really is what we want so harshly.
People talk a lot of shit about resolutions. But in one small sense, part of this festival is old. It's about death, about cutting away what doesn't work. It's about claiming your youth.
Minute numero two of 2004 and it rains. First drunken text. Probably the last, considering where my friends all are, and who they're with tonight. Another row erupts on the street. This time, between men. Car horns and a police siren add to the racket. I try to text back, but the network is down. The champagne tastes sour. Fight numero three is a squabble between eight year olds, returning from a neighbour's. An old man wanders over to the graveyard in slippers, puts his arm between the railings and pours away some sour milk. At a few minutes past midnight, there's no fooling onlookers why he left his house.
Argument numero four, twelve minutes into the New Year. My neighbour's gorgeous brother shouts at his girl that they shouldn't be arguing today, now, on New Year's Day. She cries and runs from him. The rain gets heavier. The fireworks continue - they've been constant for twenty five minutes now. Squealing rockets and bangers, though, signal the end of the big bangs.
London is a valley, and every bang creates two double echoes, three seconds (north) and five seconds (south) behind the explosions on the river. Five hours ago, a bomb exploded in an restaurant kitchen in Iraq.
The thundering tails off, the street is deserted again. One last burst of jubilant car horns. I can hear the rain slow to a patter once again.
Happy New Year.

This page graced by sarsparilla at 1:30 AM GMT
Updated: Thursday, 1 January 2004 9:06 PM GMT
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Thursday, 1 January 2004 - 1:57 AM GMT

Name: yidaho
Home Page:

Thursday, 1 January 2004 - 2:00 AM GMT

Name: norman

Thursday, 01 January 2004

"I'm leaning out of my window, shivering in the cold chill"... .........Sarsparilla

And I'm creeping through the forest, threading my way through Racoon @#%$!,Coyote droppings and assorted crap trying to keep warm as the temperature drops to -10C But hey! luv your writings, a Hxppy new year to you. Norman

Thursday, 1 January 2004 - 2:16 AM GMT

Name: Vanessa

Cheers Norman! And remember, dressing up as your dead mother would only be living up to pitiful stereotypes.... :-) Happy New Year.

Thursday, 1 January 2004 - 2:18 AM GMT

Name: Vanessa

Lol! JatB! I *demand* JatB comment upon this! HNY to you too, Yids!

Thursday, 1 January 2004 - 3:22 AM GMT

Name: Jenn
Home Page:

You know, I spend so much time studying the vacuous and ephemeral tendencies that go along with Christmas that I've never stopped to focus on those that come along with New Year's Eve/Day. I haven't really "celebrated" it for a few years now, seeing as how it's really just another day. But these are very intersting points you made. I live in the suburbs where it's eerily quiet, all the time. But it's only 10:26pm right now. Thanks for dropping by and leaving me that note in my blog. Yes, I should be enjoying my life. It irks me to no end that I can't for the life of me. I don't want to look up and be thirty and have missed out on so much. I'm planning a trip to London to see if I'd like to live there. It seems like a cool place to be, even on New Year's. I guess some things never change from culture to country to culture right?

Thursday, 1 January 2004 - 3:33 AM GMT

Name: Vanessa

I think going to any exciting city where you feel confident enough to go out muchoness is going to be a good thing, Jenn. Let me know if you come to London! Barcelona, Budapest, Prague, Krakow, Copenhagen, Salzburg, Berlin, Paris, Vienna, Athens, Rome, these are also good good cities to be in.

Thursday, 1 January 2004 - 7:00 AM GMT

Name: jatb

Lol! Happy New Year!

Thursday, 1 January 2004 - 1:40 PM GMT

Name: billy
Home Page:

...happy new year type having difficulty getting into your blog at the moment :^( having to come in through jatb (which is as nice as it sounds :^) ) I might not be showing up on your stats - but honest I am here :^)...

Thursday, 1 January 2004 - 3:53 PM GMT

Name: paul
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Damn, that was beautifully written! I loved it, very sad and sweet, but as usual with your written, that sting of truth. Very impressive, Vanessa.

We listened to guns going off as couples kissed, everyone at the party I went to was married or engaged. I am the lone single man. the inevitable 5th wheel. WHich is only annoying if you want to play a 4 person game or something like it.

Thursday, 1 January 2004 - 3:54 PM GMT

Name: billy
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...ignore me :^)...I've worked out what was going wrong :^) the words of george (in seinfeld) "it's not you, it's me"....

Thursday, 1 January 2004 - 4:56 PM GMT

Name: sarah

damn, that's the best new year post I've read today - my londonite brother just stayed in and watched telly, apparently. But he did that when he spent last new year in Rio, the boring sod.

Thursday, 1 January 2004 - 5:14 PM GMT

Name: Cyn
Home Page:

Bravo! Vanessa. Just the anecdote that's needed for all the New Year's forced, faux, and desperate antics that many of us feel compelled to participate in.

Excellent essay, m'dear!

Thursday, 1 January 2004 - 7:06 PM GMT

Name: tess
Home Page:

Jeez, how pissed was I last night? I know I read this then, it was all kinda familiar when I re-read it, but not actually familiar enough for me to remember any of it.
Happier New Year :-)

Thursday, 1 January 2004 - 7:27 PM GMT

Name: Vanessa

But ... but ... but ... I stayed in! I just live fairly central to the fireworks.

Thursday, 1 January 2004 - 7:28 PM GMT

Name: Vanessa

Cheers, darlin'. HNY to you!

Thursday, 1 January 2004 - 7:29 PM GMT

Name: Vanessa

Aye, not bad for a pissed post, eh? I can't remember anything I said to you last night, so there's a blanket apology for you, just in case. I think I offered to be your stalker, but I'm not sure....

Thursday, 1 January 2004 - 7:30 PM GMT

Name: Vanessa

Paul said: We listened to guns going off as couples kissed, everyone at the party I went to was married or engaged. I am the lone single man. the inevitable 5th wheel. WHich is only annoying if you want to play a 4 person game or something like it.

Ahhh, but I think you did well to be the only single one there, Paul. Well done for doing the decent thing and splitting with your girl. Hope your New Year is happy!

Thursday, 1 January 2004 - 7:32 PM GMT

Name: Vanessa

Oh okay! Happy new blog! And thanks for the indecent exposure of 2003.

Friday, 2 January 2004 - 1:01 AM GMT

Name: Looby

Awww! Brilliant!

Friday, 2 January 2004 - 2:15 AM GMT

Name: Vanessa

Happy New Year, Cliff. :o)

Friday, 2 January 2004 - 2:55 AM GMT

Name: ThePimpress
Home Page:

i love the way you write i don't know if i ever mentioned that before but well now i did just in case i hadn't..

my new year's eve looked like it was going to be pretty good but just turned out to crappy. although the boy i was with was pretty he was retarded and T is back in Atlanta.. sigh. ironically even though you stayed in sounds like you may have had more fun then i. oh well. happy belated new year! :)

Friday, 2 January 2004 - 3:02 AM GMT

Name: Vanessa

Awww. Nemind, you have a nice girl to go back to, and I would never knock pretty! Thanks for the compliment. Next blog: why I really shouldn't have drunk that sodding champagne, I reckon.

Friday, 2 January 2004 - 3:16 AM GMT

Name: Anne
Home Page:

Great post. :) New York city is certainly much younger than London in actual years, but it sounds like they act the same age. It was really warm last night, and there was talk of close to 3/4 of a million people pushing into Times Square. Why? I've no idea. But they were there, screaming and cheering and not going to be till the wee hours. I felt sorry for the poor janitors who'd have to clean up after em this mornin. I think though, that its as much a celebration of life as anything else. A kind of "WE ARE HERE" shout. Like kids at a football game. We survived another year, and the count is getting higher. I must say though, that Dick Clark looked remarkable old and tired this year. As old and tired as I felt.

Friday, 2 January 2004 - 3:25 AM GMT

Name: Vanessa

Ah but NYC seems expensive enough to be a thirtysomething city, just a little immature at heart. London is cheap. In every sense of the word except for the money one. It's too twentysomething for my taste. I want to lean out of the window and hear grumpy old @#%$! throw the cat out and kick the door post angrily before going to bed at 11.45pm.
Actually, that's more like seventy-something behaviour; maybe I'm just in a bad mood.

Friday, 2 January 2004 - 7:18 PM GMT

Name: sarah

yesss but you actually listened and took in the New Years atmosphere, getting all reflective and articulate. My brother probably had one beer and went to be early.

Friday, 2 January 2004 - 11:20 PM GMT

Name: Vanessa

Ah well, no point staying up, they cut the last few minutes of Wife Swap up with the bongs, anyway...
Do you never wonder if half your family don't have anonymous blogs, then?

Saturday, 3 January 2004 - 12:38 AM GMT

Name: NC

Young or old: you decide:-) Direct from your 2001 census. All other figures were similar for the 4 places. so given are the ones which are fairly obviously different. Figs are % of total pop. for each city

London: age 20-24 9%; 25-29 12%; 30-44 27%; 45-59 15%
England:age 20-24 6%; 25-29 7%; 30-44 23%; 45-59 19%
Anon Vil.:age 20-24 3%;25-29 3%; 30-44 19%; 45-59 27%
Leeds: age 20-24 8%; 25-29 7%; 30-44 22%; 45-59 17%

Saturday, 3 January 2004 - 12:43 AM GMT

Name: NC

That should read Inner London

Saturday, 3 January 2004 - 1:56 AM GMT

Name: Vanessa

Wins in every category except old, then. Cheers.

Saturday, 3 January 2004 - 4:41 PM GMT

Name: Stairs
Home Page:

A Happy New Year to you, V, and thanks for the article! For what it's worth, I stayed in for New Year's, and not for lack of opportunities. Ultimately, being in bed with a book (and I'm never in bed with a book at midnight) just felt like the right thing to do :) ...and it was really nice.

Found you via - look forward to more, and all the best for the year ahead.

Sunday, 4 January 2004 - 2:13 AM GMT

Name: Vanessa

Ooh, I love your blog, Stairs! Your Christmas photos were lovely. Largely appreciated as a fellow toe socks sufferer, though.

Sunday, 4 January 2004 - 10:17 PM GMT

Name: Stairs
Home Page:

I appreciate the kind words; thank you :) And, brilliant! I love those colours even more! They're still so novel, it tickles me to look at them. Kudos to you for having a cat too - highest form of life, after the wallaby ;)

Tuesday, 6 January 2004 - 2:53 PM GMT

Name: mia
Home Page:

Amsterdam is also good for NYE. The square in the old town where the Waag is makes a beautiful (somewhat Disneyesque) backdrop; it's friendly, and small enough to get around easily.

Thanks for your comment on my blog, btw. I had to delurk here to say thanks for this post, because I was in the bowels of a club by midnight on NYE and barely noticed it but I got to have a vicarious NYE midnight moment through your post.

Tuesday, 6 January 2004 - 11:20 PM GMT

Name: The Rev
Home Page:

Really. I love this entry. The descriptions were just so damned perfect... One day, I rite purty like that tu!

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