Whizz suggested that this year, instead of watching them on the television, we went up to London to watch the fireworks in the ‘flash’. I kind of knew I would rather be snuggled up in the warm with a glass of champagne but you have to experience new things and of course Mavis was up for it.
If she had known what was involved she would probably have turned the idea down but, that being said, we are all glad we had the experience.
Whizz read up on the advice for attendees – don’t take glass, arrive in plenty of time and so on, and we left Tinkle Station at about 4pm, arriving in Euston 40 minutes later. We then took the tube to Oxford Circus.
We decided to take in the lights on Regent Street and on the way, having refused to battle through the heaving crowd in Hamleys, agreed to go into the M & M store. This is three storeys of M & M products (well, it could have fitted into one storey really), it was a poor version of a Disney Store with outrageously priced merchandise and a rainbow of tubes full of M & M sweets, some with unusual colours, also ridiculously priced. Mavis was loaned the money for a bag and warned to keep her portions small, it still cost £5.00.
We continued to walk, through Trafalgar Square where the big screens were waiting to show the fireworks to revellers further from the river than we planned to be. Eventually we got to the river front at about 5.45 and were amazed to find hundreds of people already there. There were still plenty of spots though and we settled down on the kerb with our picnic, almost opposite the London Eye, and prepared for the long wait.
People continued to pile in behind is and after not much more than an hour we were all asked to stand up. With 5 hours still to go we dutifully stood, unlike many around us. Standing is much harder than sitting and as the evening wore on with many revellers still refusing to stand making life for those obedient ones more uncomfortable, our backs, feet and necks began to complain.
We got talking to fellow stalwarts. There was lady with her family who had travelled down from Leicestershire having booked a hotel in January, 2011, and a young man from Stevenage, waiting patiently with his camera on a tripod. Apart from these, all voices were foreign: a crowd of enthusiastic middle eastern young people, a Russian girl with the surname Pushkin, a French lady who was dying to have a cigarette but didn’t want to upset anyone with her smoke (thank you French lady) and a very pushy, dumpy woman who spent a long time trying to push her way past me. Eventually I set Whizz on her with his rucksack. A few minutes facing that as it bobbed about to the music and she gave up and went to bother somebody else.
In the main we were all pretty stoical, even Mavis. As the hours ticked away, the anticipation, tinged with pain, mounted. By the time 11.30 arrived we were really excited and as the final 10 seconds flashed on the Shell Building opposite, we all counted down with huge enthusiasm.
The display was stunning. It went on, and on, we thought it had finished and it started again. I watched in awe, almost holding my breath (trying to ignore my aching neck, which I was supporting with both hands).
Then it was all over. Regular announcements over the course of the previous 6 hours had advised us that the tubes would be pretty full so we decided to walk all the way back to Euston. The crowd was enormous. An estimated 250,000 people attended the event and I think they all converged on Northumberland Avenue. We were controlled by police on amazingly calm horses, and by the traffic lights. We surged forward, then stopped, surged again then stopped again. People in windows waved at us and we all waved back, in high spirits and very few of us drunk. It was a great atmosphere, if a bit worrying as we clung together so as not to lose each other.
The slowness of our progress was a worry as there were only two trains home and if we missed the first at 1.34 and the second was full the consequences would be pretty dire. Our pace therefore was pretty brisk once the crowds thinned. Still holding fast to one another we streaked between people calling ‘Sorry, we’re joined together’ as we split up groups of friends.
At Euston our train was waiting with a few minutes to spare but we went to the very front of it so as to be sure to get off on the right part of Tinkle platform. It was at this point that Mavis began, quite understandably, to complain.
We found the front of the train inexplicably fuller than the back and had to stand all the way to Watford Junction. Mavis collapsed onto the floor amongst the rubbish. Whizz and I listened with interest to a crowd of youngsters trying to make up for lost drinking time by mixing Vodka, Jaegermeister and Malibu. They were in high spirits and singing their socks off by the time we disembarked but thankfully, even surprisingly, nobody was sick.
We were starving hungry when we got home and all sat down to cheese on toast so I think it was 3am when we got to bed.
This was an experience I am glad to have had – but I will not be doing it again!