New Years Eve on Waterloo Bridge
New Years Eve on Waterloo Bridge
31st December 2010
“POP”.. off flew another cork into the sea of happy, celebrating faces that spanned uninterrupted from one end of Waterloo bridge to the other, almost as far as the eye could see. Stacey poured the foaming champagne into my plastic cup and we all raised our hands to a toast, perhaps the fourth of the night.. I’d lost count of how many bottles of champers we’d gotten through by now. Huge grins across our faces, the ocasional teary eye.
NYE in London, our first NYE together in London since meeting each other, for me and Stacey our first NYE in London full stop. And what a way to see it in. The bridge spans the Thames, leading in one direction to Covent Garden, in another to Waterloo station. To the east is the iconic Somerset House and OXO tower and the westerly view looks over the London eye, in the distance the houses of parliament. Spectacle enough on a normal day, but lit up on New Years eve, high above the thousands of euphoric revelers from all over the world. It was epic.
We’d been lucky with the weather, but then we’d been lucky with the weather all year. I’d arrived in London in March and until October had not had to take a coat out with me. I swear I’d not even seen rain. Perhaps tonight it was the heat of the thousands of happy bodies on the bridge keeping us warm, perhaps it was the joy in our hearts, perhaps it was the alcahol!.. I was wearing nothing but a pair of gloves and a short sleeved top and scarf. On a bridge over the thames, at the end of December. It felt like a summer’s evening.
I don’t think I’d ever seen that many people in one place. Sure I’ve been to the oddfestival, but seeing that many people standing side by side with barely a foot between you and a complete stranger made the scale of it hit home. You’d expect, especially in
London with it’s reputation of rudeness and distain for tourists, for scuffles to be kicking off, for raised voices, for at least the odd disapproving scowl. Not tonight. Not here. Tonight the bridge reflected for me, the magic of the London in the way I’d only ever experienced it since moving here, none of the stereotypical rudeness. Full of love for your fellow stranger, friendly exchanges, dance-offs, people sharing food, swapping numbers, hugging and laughing; introducing themselves, regailing with tales of NYE’s in their native homeland, and how it wasn’t a patch on London.
The council had rigged the bridge with giant speakers and were piping party music onto the bridge. Virtually every other song me and my group of girls would scream with excitement, jump up and down and launch our entire bodies into each other resulting in a massive group hug, whilst screeching along to the words of the tune. All around us the bands of strangers were doing the same. It was infectious.
A young lad, George, only a wee 17 years old, had travelled down from Manchester for the night, he offered us some drink, and we reciprocated with a glass of champagne. His two friends joined us and we danced into the night together, hugging like old friends, drunkenly pointing our fingers at each other to giggle “I love you”, as if we’d known each other forever. The next day becoming facebook friends and swapping photos.
A lady in her late 40’s joined us and beckoned over her 19 year old son. They’d come over from Canada to visit. Also their first NYE in London.
Then we heard it, the countdown. We all turned to each other and hugged in. Screaming the countdown as if our lungs would burst.. 3, 2, 1.. “HAPPY NEW YEAR”! The bridge erupted in roars of cheers, the noise was immense, the kind that vibrates in your chest, the kind of noise your hear with your body. Everywhere you looked arms were flailing in the air, lips were locking, bodies embracing. I was not witnessing world peace.. but I imagined this is what it would feel like.
The black sky burst into flames, fireworks lit up the sky. At first you were drawn to the carefully choreographed show beaming from the London Eye, as if itself was a giant Catherine Wheel, but soon I noticed the entire sky was alight, all corners of London was exploding and glittering. All corners of London was celebrating. I felt my nose wrinkle as I fought back the tears, but it was too late, I felt the warm trickle down my face. I turned to the girls, 5 smiling, sobbing faces looked back it me through red, glassy eyes. Stacey completely broke down. You’d be forgiven for thinking she’d just heard bad news if it wasn’t for the high pitched wail of “I’m SO happy!” through cupped hands over her face. We laughed.. we hugged. It was a serious moment for us all. Then we just let the silliness continue.