2010: a better year to come

Predictably slow on the first day of 2010. I didn’t open my eyes until 10 o’clock this morning, then spent another hour in bed reading the paper while the necessary coffee coursed through my veins. When I finally got out of bed, I plodded around the house, dressing gradually over the course of 30 minutes before labouring over the post-NYE cooked breakfast I had promised myself days out: poached eggs, hash browns and mushrooms on toast.

Thankfully today is sedate. We have neither the great heat nor the flashing thunderstorms the last day of 2009 brought. In hindsight, it seems an appropriate farewell to the year. The heat burnt off the remains of the year, and the great downpour last night washed them away. 2009 is not a year that will be missed by many.

I went on an NYE cruise. Like many these days, a last day celebration seems more of a ritual to be followed than an event to be genuinely anticipated. A month or two back, I mentioned we should get something organised and left the usual organisers (Donna) to do the thing they enjoy most. I didn’t argue. I just signed on the bottom line when the time came: an NYE cruise it was.

I felt anything but celebrating late yesterday afternoon. I was so sleepy I wanted just to nap. It was unpleasantly hot, though, to the point I felt sick of it. There’s no doubt, true or not, that I have it in my mind that global warming is very much in evidence here in Melbourne. Despite temptations to the contrary, I managed to get myself ready and out the door.

The boat was an old ferry converted for pleasure cruises. I guess there might have been 200 on board, 99% under 40 and an eclectic mix of bogans, yuppies and us. There was a bar inside naturally, one deck reserved for karaoke, another with a dancefloor and DJ, and hot food circulating throughout the night.

Soon after we set off, it became evident that the promised cool change was not far away. In the dusk, we could see a dark ridge of clouds ahead, dramatic in the failing light. At the same time, a cooling breeze came in off the water, and the lights on the docks, buoys and various vessels began to brightly glow.

There was something unexpectedly beautiful in the scene. We stood on an open deck at the stern of the vessel and watched the unfamiliar scenery slide by. This was very educational, and I was glad to see a part of Melbourne I knew existed but had seen little of. Container ships stood at wharves, and immobile gantries lit like Christmas trees had an austere beauty to them. We slid under the Bolte Bridge as the sky darkened, and like many, I took shots of it from underneath, a strange but compelling angle that made the twin concrete columns look like goal posts. Later we went by Coote Island, brilliantly and beautifully lit, under the Westgate Bridge and offshore from Williamstown.

All the while, the wind is freshening in our faces and gusting to a strength that sent hats across the deck. There are sprinkles of rain, large, heavy, but infrequent drops that feel pleasant against our hot skin. Most people are inside. We can hear the music pumping as it will for hours yet, but there is a feeling of tense and pleasant expectation in the stern. There is an electricity in the air that enervated everyone, all looked upon the passing sights with surprised curiosity, and we waited all for the storm to break.

It was dark when it did as if God intended it that way. In the distance, we could see the first round of fireworks explode and sprinkle the air. At the same time, we were witnesses to one of the best lightning shows that I have ever seen. Lightning streaked down in jagged bolts or else lit up the sky in brief floods of light. There were occasions as I watched that the lightning streaked horizontally across the sky. Everyone on our deck watched, transfixed and sheltering under the small overhanging roof. There were oohs and aahs every few moments as the light-show continued for hours. We had the best seat in the house.

We drank, and sometimes we danced. Downstairs they had old favourites, Michael Jackson, the Grease soundtrack, Queen, and so on; upstairs, it was modern dance beats. We mingled. I was propositioned at 9pm by a woman who told me she was available and horny, but I thought it was much too early to commit to anything regardless of desire.

Come midnight, we crowded back onto the stern of the boat with our little cardboard trumpets and streamers in our hands. When the moment came, we turned and wished each other a happy new year, kissing and shaking hands. We stood in the rain, getting completely wet. It had cooled considerably from earlier, but it was still warm enough that the rain was more an aesthetic issue than of health (my hair went big and curly). In any case, you’re in that mood when it doesn’t really matter.

Then the new year’s fireworks went off. Once more, we had a grandstand view of them. They lit up the sky in bursts of colour that delighted everyone. So, another year went, and another just begun.

We were back on dry land at about 1. I avoided the woman so keen to get me, and we all went our separate ways. I walked to Southern Cross station with JV and Beccy and caught a train with other NYE revellers. I was home by 2 and ready for bed.

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