on January 31, 2010
As a child, we used to watch the New Year celebrations on TV. In those early 1970’s days of a choice of just three TV channels, it often seemed that the Scottish presenters celebrating the Scottish Hogmanay always had lots more fun than I did. Andy Stewart and Moira Anderson would really kick off the studio party once the chimes of Big Ben had rung in the New Year. I never quite understood why they were grinning manically (I realise now it was the only time they ever got paid and appeared on TV), but it left a lasting impression on me. In the summer of last year, a friend remarked they had always had an ambition to see in New Year stood in the centre of Edinburgh’s Princess Street, and asked whether we would come along to share the experience, So, it was while others were enjoying New Year in the cosy environment of their television, I was stood in sub zero temperatures, ringing in the New Year amongst drunk Scots and bemused tourists.What happens?The New Year’s party in Edinburgh is a tradition that goes back many generations. Today, unfortunately for health and safety, and to help pay for the activities entrance to the centre of Edinburgh is strictly ticket only. We bought the "cheap seats" (actually there were no seats, just standing room), for £10. We could have bought a slightly quieter space in the gardens for £20, and had we wanted a seat in front of the entertainment, it would have been £40. Despite the tight squeeze entering the £10 section (in their infinite wisdom, the organisers had chosen to put a dance stage, and then the portaloos right next to the entrance), I liked the busier and spontaneous atmosphere. Hobnobbing it in a quiet section of the garden, quite frankly looked rather boring.There are a few stages for entertainment; the one we were near, played a wierd mix of dance and traditional Scottish rock (anyone for the Proclaimers?). I preferred shutting my ears to the chanting Scots and looked at the rather snazzy green lasers that shot all the way down Princess Street.We moved towards the stage area, where although we couldn’t see the band live (some unhelpfully planted shrubs were in the way), we could see most of the big screen and hear the music. This year, the headline band was Madness (a popular UK ska group from the 1980’s). Unfortunately, the years have not been kind to Suggs and the boys, and unfortunately, their slowed down remixes of their big hits hardly sent the crowd alight (a good 75% of them were more likely to have not been conceived when the band were popular). Worse, at the point we were building up to midnight, rather than play one of their really big hits, they chose one of the few songs in their repretoir that no one bar their most ardent fans could have heard of. I remember seeing Madness in 1985 or so; they were crap then too. There were a few stalls selling food, and a wine and beer stall, but the wise folks simply took in pop bottles filled with their favourite tipple. I was rather more concerned about not falling over in the icy conditions, and so for the first time in many years, we saw in New Year sober. I was kind of expecting a bit more of a mutual love in as midnight chimed 12, but although the sound system played auld langs eim, most groups stayed resolutely together, and there was no great expression of shared humanity. Obviously, good will has been suspended in this suspicious paranoid world of ours.The most impressive part of the evening came with the wonderful fire work display at the end. The other good thing about our spot by the stage was the view of the Castle and the hill in Edinburgh. This is where most of the fire works were set off, so we enjoyed a fabulous view of the display. It didn’t last for more than 10 minutes, but the number of rockets set off must have been vast. Anything to worry about?I must say I was dreading getting into and out of Edinburgh, and expected hoards of people and cars and queus and delays. As it was, we simply parked in a side street about a mile of the centre of town and walked in. Getting in and out was very easy, and we encountered very little traffic.More problematic this year was the weather – from the south Edinburgh is surrounded by a ring of hills, and the roads were getting very covered in snow as we passed by. Fortunately, the snow slowed for our outdoor activity, and we reached our hotel an hour further north in Perth, without mishap.Another issue is the price of hotel rooms; it’s peak season as far as Edinburgh is concerned (and it’s not a particularly cheap place to stay at the best of times). We found more affordable lodgings elsewhere, and as we weren’t bothered to get drunk, it didn’t turn out to be any kind of problem. Summing UpUnfortunately, seeing things live can be disappointing after seeing it in the comfort of your own home. Rather than getting a clear view, you have to see things behind the back of someone else’s head, and you can’t just wander to the fridge for a beer.That said, it was an experience which will grow over time, and I can proudly say that I saw in one New Year in Edinburgh.
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