At midnight on December 31, as 2018 ticks over to 2019 and revellers’ cheers erupt across the eastern seaboard, I fully expect to be fast asleep.
Couples will kiss, singles will hug awkwardly, and Auld Lang Syne will be sung despite nobody knowing what an “auld lang syne” is. The air will be crackling with good cheer and, shortly afterwards, thick smoke from the fireworks. And I plan not be conscious for any of it.
I know New Year’s Eve is supposed to be the ultimate party night, the one night when we all go hard and push through until dawn. These days, it’s also the one night where Sydney’s allowed to stay open late. In Melbourne, it’s just another day of sensibly managed 6am closures, ho hum.
But as dull as I’m planning on being tomorrow night, I’ve had my fair share of late nights this year. And I’ve spent many of them the same way I used to spend NYE – awake long after midnight, hanging out with someone who can’t speak intelligibly or walk without falling over, and is liable to spew at any moment.
My nine-month-old daughter is an awful lot cuter than your average tipsy partygoer, however. And she frequently wears nappies and bibs, adult versions of which really should be handed out by the authorities on NYE. It’d beat most 3am portaloos.
I always worried that when I became a parent, I’d miss going out, and while I occasionally pine for a carefree night on the tiles – or indeed any kind of flooring – it’s far easier than I’d expected to write off the biggest night of the year.
Everyone should experience a Sydney New Year’s Eve at least once, but when you’ve lived here a while, the novelty wears off. It’s always the same experience – gorgeous harbour, impressive fireworks, immense difficulty getting a decent view of said harbour and fireworks, police barriers everywhere, packed crowds, pissed crowds, and a commute home that’s so long and involves so much walking that no matter how hard you go, you’re sober by the end of it. By which time you’re so exhausted that you promise yourself you’ll watch it on TV next year, no matter what bizarre experiment the ABC serves up on its coverage.
And while I’d be spending midnight in bed even if the harbour display was promising to top the extraordinary twin spectacles they pulled off for the millennium and Olympics in 2000, I’m not entirely sold on firework guru Fortunato Foti’s plan to wow the crowd this year. 2018’s big innovation is pastel fireworks, in lime and peach, two shades more associated with gelato and activewear than eyeball-popping visuals.
I’m fascinated to know where he got the idea. Were fans telling Fortunato that they loved his fireworks, but wished the colours could be more muted? Are heritage authorities insisting that our fireworks match our Federation bungalows? Or is the country’s preeminent nanny state going to see in the new year with a giant replica of nanna’s favourite cardigan spanning the Harbour Bridge?
And what’s the plan for next year? Fireworks inspired by Fifty Shades of Grey?
I do pity the event designers, though, because it’s Sydney’s one night of getting a free tourism ad onto news bulletins around the world, and really, what’s left to do after all their past brilliance? They’ve done rain from the Bridge deck, fireworks from atop the Bridge span, and fireworks off the surrounding skyscrapers. There’s no structure left to launch fireworks from, except perhaps that one bizarre train that always rumbles across the Bridge in the middle of it all.
Sydney has also projected every conceivable thing onto the Opera House, from pinball machines to Alan Jones’ mobile number. What fresh ideas are left for NYE? I could only think of immolating a giant cruise ship, ideally one of the ones that blocks the view during Vivid. Or maybe we could make many architecturally conscious Sydneysiders’ dream come true and detonate the Cahill Expressway at midnight? Now that I would come out to see.
Thank goodness for the 9pm fireworks, which are pitched as child-friendly, but really, they’re parent-friendly – they let parents pretend that their kids have seen the main attraction before bundling them off to bed. They weren’t around when I was a kid, and I’m sure I ruined several parties for my mum and dad with my determination to stay up until midnight. These days, parents can start doing jelly shots at about 9.15.
But not me. Not this year. I’ll be happy to lie down next to my daughter’s cot and sleep through the last few hours of 2018 alongside her. I don’t need to say “happy New Year” at midnight – one is guaranteed; next year will be the year she learns to walk, talk, and hold her drink – as in, hold her own bottle. I can’t wait.
Besides, I want to get all the sleep I can before she wakes us, one hour into 2019. And then four hours into it. Auld Lang Syne!