Nelson's Column review
The air actually tastes like smoke -- not cigarette smoke, but that gunpowder smoke that drifts down from the fireworks. It's still hanging in the air from the party last night.
I don't go to London on New Year's Eve anymore but back in the day (I'm talking about twenty years ago) we used to queue up for Trafalgar Square. It was a lot different in those days because they actively discouraged you from coming. They did just about everything possible to put people off. They used to search you first (no glass no bottles no beer no anything), no food, no booze, and no countdown. You'd just stand around for hours in a steadily tightening crowd of thousands trying to spy the time on Big Ben (you can just about see it from the square if you stand in the right place). And there were no fireworks either. Nowadays they let off more bangs than the Battle of Waterloo. Last night's show had lasers, lights, thumping music and free public transport to take you home.
When the clock strikes midnight that's when the fun really starts: you are wedged and cemented into place like concrete and have thirty minutes of pushing and shoving just to get across the Strand, then you have to kick through all the plastic pints and boozed up students on Waterloo Bridge. By the time you finally get home at 4 AM your hangover has already been and gone. That's too much hassle for me -- now I'd rather just roll up the next morning and watch the council workers pack it all away.
Nelson's Column at 8 AM -- This bearded bloke looks like he's in charge because he's handing out all the jobs round the back of his van: you can stack up the crowd control barriers, you can wind up all the wires from the sound trucks. Five minutes later it's all drills and bangs as they start dismantling the scaffolding. One guy has donned a pair of fishing waders so he can push a big broom through the fountains. Another guy has grabbed the jet washer and his water is so icy cold that it's turning into a freezing fog as soon as it sprays the pavement -- it looks like that showbiz smoke that floats above the floor on Stars In Your Eyes.
I feel a bit sorry for Norway's drooping spruce that's still standing in the square. No one cares about their Christmas tree after Boxing Day, do they? In our house we don't even bother to switch it on but at least they're making an effort in London: they've fired up the lights and my blurry eyes are making starbursts out them.
A family of early morning tourists have just strolled over the road with their luggage and rucksacks, probably just off the train from Charing Cross. It's obviously their first morning in London because they've all got excited looks on their faces. It's so cold! she's laughing, tugging her woolly hat down over her ears as far as it will go. The kid is clapping his chapped hands together and starts kicking a discarded party popper against the lions. The dad is just looking up at Nelson's Column and taking it all in. That's not a bad way to begin your holiday... standing around Trafalgar Square on a cold January morning, Christmas tree twinkling in the grey gloom, with the smell of bonfire smoke still seasoning the air.
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