I know it can be tough on pets and those of a nervous disposition but I do love a pyrotechnic extravaganza, especially at New Year – all that sound and fury signifying nothing but the turning of time. When London was home, I’d jump on the Tube to enjoy the spectacle from the banks of Old Father Thames along with tens of thousands of other revellers. These days I’m content to watch from the comfort of a warm sofa, glass of bubbly in hand.
For obvious reasons, we assumed the fireworks would be off this year. But the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, had other ideas. Without plug or promotion, sneaky Sadiq gave us the old razzle dazzle to cheer us up. The theatres may all be dark right now but London can still put on a show.
I know it’s a-coming because the Christmas lights went on in Norwich last week, enthusiastically witnessed by thousands of over-wrought kids and their anxious carers. Pushy pushchairs and strident strollers took back the streets and our ankles became collateral damage. The good burghers of Norwich fired up City Hall with a row of giant exploding fountains, and rockets flew from the roof of Jarrolds, the well-groomed department store for the well-heeled. Here’s a taste…
Chapelfield Shopping Centre has also unveiled its glitzy seasonal offering, even turning the word ‘christmas’ into a verb – punters are ‘christmassing’ all over the shop. The meaning isn’t entirely clear but I’m guessing it’s about people spending money they don’t have on things people don’t need. It was ever thus. They’ve replaced the enormous melodic Christmas tree of yesteryear with something more modest. It’s chic but silent.
I rather miss the camper, older model belting out Yuletide tunes every thirty minutes though I’m guessing that sentiment wouldn’t be shared by the staff and patrons of the adjacent restaurants who’d have to put up with the racket.
After the fun came the fare. We squeezed through the crowd to grab some hot Spanish sausage. Exotic street food has really taken off round these parts and I’ve always been partial to a generous slice of Iberian spice. The chorizo ciabatta griddled with red piquillo peppers was divine. We finished off the evening in a local hostelry, the newly tarted-up Lamb Inn – no prams the size of a small hatchback, no tantrum-ing kids, no over-fussing parents. My kind of advent.
We’re getting too long in the tooth for this exhausting New Year malarkey. The days are long gone when we would queue up in the rain, squeezed into sequinned hot pants outside some over-priced sleazy boyz club to take recreational drugs and shake our booties into the wee small hours, surrounded by half-naked sweaty men in tight jeans wrapped in fur and tattoos. Come to think of it, it doesn’t sound that bad at all. Sadly, the spirit is willing but the flesh is oh, so weak. Such unfettered decadence is best left to the young bucks who bring up the rear with stamina and a little lovin’ in mind. No, for us, it was a quick bite in town then back home to a warm hearth, Graham Norton and a bottle of bubbly, all capped off with the South Bank fireworks courtesy of impossibly blond London Mayor, Boris Johnson (a wolf in a golden fleece if ever there was one), Vodafone and good old Auntie Beeb. And fabulous pyrotechnics they were too. It’s always good to bring in the new year with a bang don’t you think?
We approached the New Year’s celebrations with the best gay-boy-about-town intentions. At first, we planned to bop ‘til we dropped at The Loft, Norwich’s premier gay club (okay, Norwich’s only gay club). This idea was soon swapped for a more sedate saunter to our favourite watering hole, The Birdcage, an intimate über-fashionable bar with a metrosexual vibe. The evening started in style with a leisurely bite and a bottle. After polishing off our second Pinot Grigio Blush, we paid the bill and wandered down the cobbled street. We peered through the dripping window of the pub. It was crammed with animated revellers. A line of youthful punters in identical skinny chinos queued at the door. Liam and I looked at each other with a can’t-be-arsed expression and, without a word, we tottered off home, arm in arm. I thought I was letting the side down until I gave a round-robin ring to my London life friends. One was watching Graham Norton, the second was catching a film on Netflix and the third was watching Julie and Julia on DVD. All were nesting on the sofa with their respective partners. Age has crept up on all of us. Like the sudden arrival of grey pubes, we didn’t see it coming. I don’t mind too much. Just like the Virgin Queen, I survived the slings and arrows and have entered my golden age. Elizabeth Tudor was no virgin either.
Every cloud, as they say, has a silver lining. If we had danced the night away in the company of trendy nippers barely out of short trousers, we would have missed the pyrotechnic gig on Auntie. With the exception of the brief and barely disguised party political broadcast on behalf of the Tory Party, the heart-stopping show stopper had us on the edge of our pews. See for yourself…
New Year’s Eve brought a couple of tremors and torrential rain to Bodrum. We refused to let Mother Nature throw us off kilter or dampen our spirits as we joined the Bodrum Belles to drink in the New Year. The place of our undoing was Musto’s Restaurant, our haunt of choice. The source of our undoing was a bottle of Jaegermeister doing the rounds courtesy of a particularly boozy Belle (you know who you are). Think 100% proof cough mixture. At the stroke of midnight, Liam and I kissed in front of a passing copper, put out some windows with a salvo of party poppers the size of bazookas, watched the creditable firework display and shuffled from side to side to classic, cheesy, gay dance tracks of yesteryear. I wonder who chose the music?