Having previously braved the sometimes drunken crowds at Sydney’s nine pm and midnight fireworks, I’ve concluded it’s sometimes just as good to watch them on a television, which is what Graeme and I did last night.
In common with previous years when we have gone out for a drink on NYE, we had only one agreed rule: no cover charge. We both think it’s outrageous that ordinary pubs charge $25-30 just to enter on NYE, when they’re only offering their standard fare. “That’s good drinking money”, we both agreed, unconvinced that paying some public holiday penalties could possibly add so much to the price of a good night out.
And so we got to The Shift before 9.00 last night, before the cover charge kicked in. It was a nice enough night, as we sat, chatted, enjoyed the music, and watched the passing parade. “It’s kinda like being at a sushi train”, I joked to Graeme at one point, as we watched a number of people go round and round the bar looking for a good time. “It goes around and around, but eventually that tired old piece of tempura will get picked up by someone”, we both laughed, extending the analogy.
One of the great, unexpected things of the night was running into a guy called Greg, an ABBA fan neither of us had seen in probably a decade. He was one of the young “ABBA Gold” fans who was part of ABBAMAIL in the late 90s, and who used to travel down from Newcastle for those heady days of ABBA conventions. These days, he’s living and working in Broome, but still comes back occasionally for a bit of Sydney nightlife. It was genuinely lovely to see him, and to see that he’s happy and enjoying a rich, fulfilling life.
And from there we went to The Colombian which, unfortunately for them, has a lockout policy. Luckily, we arrived at four minutes to two and “just made it in”. When we arrived the place was packed. But due to the lockout, after an hour or so, the place was near empty as the bouncers were forced to deny entry to the many passers by who wanted to come in.
In a scene reminiscent of ABBA’s video clip for “The Day Before You Came”, we re-enacted the moment where Agnetha and her partner hold hands to the window, symbolising the “pain” we felt for those friends trapped on either sides of an Oxford Street lockout with just a pain of glass and a security guard in between.
Speaking of ABBA and Sweden, and all that kind of thing, as we made our way along Oxford Street, there was another lovely unexpected moment when some random guy said to me, “Gott Nytt År”, in response to the Swedish t-shirt I was wearing. It’s Swedish for “Happy New Year”, of course.
Another unexpected highlight of the night was The Oxford. The crowd was in a very good mood, and didn’t appear to be “chemically enhanced” or drug, and the music was fun, accessible and happy. We’re both people watchers of course, and one particular highlight of the night was seeing two guys accidentally separated by the lockout policy, with one outside unable to find the other. We could see from the look on their faces each though they have been abandoned by the other. Thus, an intervention occured, as Graeme went outside and I stayed in, finally ensuring a reunion between the two. In years to come they’ll perhaps look back on the night and say they’re together thanks to “these two old blokes”.
Unfortunately, it also meant that WE got locked out too. But that was probably okay, as we were both in the mood for something different by this stage. And so ended up downstairs at The Exchange where we chatted with a lovely couple seated next to us. He was American, she was Dutch. “You’ve got a lovely city”, the Amercian bloke said, adding, “here’s to Sydney”. To which I responded, “here’s to New York”. We all laughed in agreement… The night ended as it started with Graeme and I sitting in identical seats to the ones we had met at Hungry Jacks. I had the same burger, Graeme the same chips. Life can have a lovely symmetry, can’t it? Several hours later both the crowd and Hungry Jacks itself were both looking a little worse for wear. “The toilets are disgusting”, Graeme told me. We, on the other hand were looking and feeling great, having steadily paced ourselves with lots of water in between beers.
It was a great way to spend NYE with such a good friend, totally comfortable in each other’s company, and on the lookout for each other. As Graeme and I walked up Oxford Street in the early hours of this morning, we came to an agreed conclusion: we had both managed to keep ourselves nice on New Years Eve. And that, of course, is reason to celebrate.