Another New Year’s Eve
There was a time in my life when New Year’s Eve was a very big deal. Choosing your outfit and getting ready for what was potentially the biggest night of the year. I have had some great ones. Also had some that were not so great. Sometimes I think the most memorable ones were the not-so-great ones, like the New Year’s Eve party which the host had massively catered and decorated for, but I was the only guest who turned up (or as she said to me “I’ve spent days and days preparing for this and you’re the only one who shows up! I don’t even like you!”)
This New Year’s Eve was probably the most non-event of a NYE I’ve been through. I didn’t even have a drink (unless you’re counting water) and the most enthralling thing that happened was watching the cat get completely and obsessively stoned on cat nip, which was part of my efforts to prevent his usual cat/firework freak out.
So instead I’ll take you to visit a different New Year’s Eve in my life – that of 1978/79 (and yes, of course that makes me feel old but in my defence I was still in my mid-teens). At this point in my life I was no longer living in doorways, but I was still without a permanent address, spending weeks or even months living on someone’s sofa till they were sick of me, moving around West London. At that point I was living on the sofa of the sister of a friend of mine. The brother, my friend, worked in an avant-garde menswear shop in Oxford Street where he could pretty much be as loud, gay and outrageous as he wanted to be. He stole fluorescent socks from the shop as gifts for me and I was welcome any time to hang out as much as I liked in the shop, chat and dance around the mannequins to the very loud music.
It was his idea that we jointly host a New Year’s Eve party in his sisters flat. His sister was going to be out of town for a week over that period, visiting her partner who was an actor with the Royal Shakespeare Company and making quite a name for himself. Great flat, plenty of space, very nice part of central London, sister away – what could possibly go wrong? It never crossed our minds that anything could as we were at that happy age of irresponsibility when you basically think of no-one except yourself. So we invited around 30 and around another 30 just sort of turned up.
The sister’s partner had recently spent some serious money on a very state of the art stereo system which we put to good use (hands up if you remember shaking up some big stuff to “You make me feel mighty real”) and at some point after midnight when only the hard-core party boys and I were left, we ordered a massive Chinese takeaway. With my hand on my heart, I swear it was the brother’s idea to have a Chinese takeaway food fight, all I did was join in. And so it was that at 11.00am the following morning the sister returned a day early to find me passed out in her bed, still with chop suey in my hair and her brother and a couple of random guys asleep on the living room floor, naked and covered in egg fried rice. She went ballistic.
Funny thing was though, she mostly went ballistic at me. All she did with brother was to tell him what an unreliable, selfish idiot he was (to which he just sort of shrugged – no point fighting the truth) and to get out and take his new friends with him. To me she said “Not you! You’re going to clean all this **** up and then wash my bed sheets”
Just before 4.00pm I was pretty much done. She poured me a large martini, herself a large whiskey and sat me down in her lovely lounge. She told me I was a “walking disaster” and asked me what I wanted to do with my life. She told me I had potential but needed to start talking responsibility for my life. By drink 3 she was telling me that boyfriend had just been offered a big new role which was going to change his life (it did) and by drink 4 she was telling me that I could stay one more night but then I had to leave the next morning as boyfriend was arriving home that day.
Looking back I think I got off pretty lightly. If boyfriend had come home at the same time as her he would have discovered that his incredibly expensive stereo system was full of Chinese takeaway and wrecked beyond repair. He was a hugely kind-hearted man but with the scariest voice you ever heard when telling you off. I really didn’t want to hear that I was responsible for “no more merciful beheadings and call off Christmas” that year.