The Localist



Ask a Sydneysider what they’ll be doing for New Year’s Eve and the word ‘fireworks’ will usually form part of the answer. Fireworks remind me of growing up in New Zealand, and the annual Guy Fawkes festival. As unbelievable as it sounds to me now, we would pick up a bag of fireworks at the local supermarket, and as night fell on November 5th each year the family would go outside and we’d let our inner pyromaniacs run free. I personally remember dad showing me how to light a ‘double happy’ in my hand, then quickly throw it to the ground where it would convulse and clack shooting out sparks in all directions,  and then laughing as it got stuck under a bush and singed all the leaves black.  Even the most over protective mothers such as my own wouldn’t deny the kids a little fun with fire. It was thrilling.

Fast forward to Sydney, where fireworks are strictly regulated and reserved for spectacular public displays. Personally, I get more of a buzz from lighting a $2 roman candle out of my hand than watching the city sky turn apocalyptic for a few minutes, but I do get that playing with fire in this hot, dry climate is pretty damn dangerous, and could easily kill quite a few people.

Finding myself In Sydney for New Year’s Eve, I thought, like a few million other people… ‘Well I may as well watch those fireworks’. I’ve actually been avoiding them for a couple of years, as my previous experience was a little painful. Last time, a friend suggested a Vaucluse harbour beach, with its amazing views, and it sounded brilliant. We arrived 8 hours early to secure a good spot, and cracked open a bottle of bubbles. It was a perfectly lovely day in the sun, drinking. For 8 hours.  Night fell, coinciding with some very blurry memories. I struggle to remember the actual fireworks. What I do definitely remember is the walk home. All 2 hours of it, with shoes in hand and tears rolling down face. My neck was permanently craned to the road, wishing that an empty taxi would come past, or we would miraculously walk past a bus stop that didn’t have hundreds of people waiting in its general vicinity. On a positive note, I was perfectly sober by the time I went to sleep, but vowed to never again submit myself to the experience.

Yet here I was in Sydney, again, on New Year’s Eve. What else was I supposed to do? I decided that research was key. Bear Park, a foreshore park in Elizabeth Bay that’s within walking distance came to mind, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was advertised as BYO (Bring Your Own) alcohol. Perfect, I thought. A friend and I packed a picnic and a bottle of absolut vodka and headed off to the park. On arriving, we instantly realised that we were older, and more covered up than anyone else in that entire sea of people. Sunburnt English backpackers were swimming along the shore, amongst brown sea foam and unidentified floating rubbish, beer in hand. All guys were sans shirt. Eskies were stacked full of goon (a disgusting cheap wine that comes in 3 litre cartons and is only consumable between the ages of 16 and 21). Many girls seemed to be screaming for no reason and shaking bootie to pop music with bikinis riding high up their butt cheeks. The smell of weed permeated the air. It was essentially a full moon party in broad daylight. Though I have fond memories of that stage of my life, suffice to say, I don’t plan on going back there any time soon.

With positive thinking working on over drive, we parked our blanket and started chatting about how lovely the weather was, and how delicious the vodka soda. We talked about how the ‘older crowd’ would surely show up later, and ‘look, over there, it’s a guy our age!’. We took a few selfies. Yes, we decided, it was going to be a fun night. Then something awful happened. As I looked over my friends shoulder I saw something I couldn’t un-see. A beer bong (a funnel with a tube attached through which huge quantity of beer is poured and consumed at a ridiculous pace) being held up to a mouth, full of goon. That’s like drinking half a bottle of wine in one go. Now I’m no prude and I’m sure the crowd of half naked backpackers were having a lovely Sydney moment, but in that very moment it dawned on both of us that, considering it was only 3pm at this stage, in a couple of hours it was going to get, as my friend puts it so nicely, ‘rapey’.

We decided to evacuate. But what to do? We wandered round to nearby Rushcutters Bay to find the entire area caged off with police everywhere and huge signs saying: ALCOHOL FREE AREA. A dozen bag searching security guards stood waiting with menacing looks. Unsurprisingly, the cage had a grand total of 20 people in it. Hmm. We dragged our picnic bag further and found an empty reserve with basically no view. This would do. We proceeded to drink more vodka while we discussed how ridiculous it was to be forced to decide between the two extremes. The police came over and told us the empty park was an alcohol free zone, as if to highlight this point.

Eventually we admitted fireworks defeat and headed off to a friend’s party in Darlinghurst. Sitting in the summer air, having a BBQ on their balcony, we all fell into great conversation. As the night progressed, and we clinked our proper glasses together again and again it felt quite silly to have wanted to sit in a park for hours just to watch fireworks for five or so minutes. Although, we agreed, it would have been nice to have a colourful backdrop to separate out NYE from every other drunken night out in Sydney, but never mind.

11:30pm rolled around and our hosts told us all to get ready to go for a walk. Stumbling around the block and into a very fancy apartment building we wondered what was going on.  Fast forward half an hour and we had somehow ascended from BYO hell to welcoming in 2014 on the balcony of a multi million dollar penthouse apartment, as fireworks exploded in the background. Never mind that we had literally just crashed a party for the sole purpose of using their view for half an hour. Never mind that we didn’t know any of the other guests, who did look a little surprised to see us.  A glass of the host’s Champagne in hand, we declared the mission a success.

Now that’s New Year’s Eve in Sydney!



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