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Sunday Sentiments

  • “Tonight’s the night for a drop. Go on let yerself go!”

    Posted On January 3, 2000

    By Karan Thapar

    “Happy Nu Yeah” said the voice behind me and then as I turned around it added “And if you give us a bob I’ll make that Happy New Millennium!”

    That, I suppose, was how the year 2000 began for me. It was just past 4.00, the sun had set on the 31st and along with my friend Brinda Srinivasan I was at the London Embankment. The voice belonged to a friendly tramp who sat surrounded by beer bottles, most of them empty.

    “You seem to be having a good time” I replied.

    “That’s right Guv” he answered. “You would too if you had a drink. Tonight’s the night for a drop. Go on let yourself go!”

    I did – not that I needed encouragement. Brinda and I had walked from Marble Arch all the way to the river and to her delight we arrived in time to witness Prince Andrew switch on the lights.

    “Look, look” she said.

    I found myself one of a million people staring. We were wrapped in coats and mufflers, clutching coffee or stronger drinks, but the cold was of little consequence.

    I never heard what Andrew said and nor I suspect did anyone else for the laser beams he turned on were spectacular. Shards of colour light, like weapons from Star Wars, pierced the sky. A huge ‘ah’ rose from the crowd.

    It was by no means the last for New Year’s eve was a night of ‘oohs’ and ‘ahs’ although there was the occasional ‘ugh’ as well.

    By five London had been closed to motorised traffic. The tube stations carried signs proclaiming ‘exit only’. Trafalgar Square was a heaving sea of humanity. If it stopped at all it was to marvel at the two enormous screens erected by the BBC. For in the middle of the city, in the dark of night, the BBC was broadcasting the start of a new day from islands as far away as Kiribati, Tonga and, of course, Australia.

    I was too timid to spend the whole night outside. Also there was far more to see on the box. So, suitably accoutred and with chilled champagne, smoked salmon and lemon cheese-cake to fortify us, I joined Brinda, her husband Kris and their friends to see in Y2K. The BBC was our window to the world.

    Paris drew the greatest applause. Three minutes before midnight the Eiffel Tower erupted in fireworks. It looked like a rocket ready to take-off as a shower of coloured sparks flew in waves from its metallic sides.

    Berlin was all laser and lights from the Brandenburg Gate. Prague was loud music from Wenceslaus Square whilst Dam Square in Amsterdam was a live concert.

    “Wait for London” Kris teased. The clocks seemed to be struck at 11.30, half an hour after Europe’s millennium but still thirty minutes before ours.

    The Queen was in peach or was it mango? Cherie Blair was in mid-night blue whilst Tony’s tie was champagne pink. Princess Anne had on knee-high boots.

    And then it happened. Brinda was the first to hear Big Ben. She was waiting by the open window.

    “One, two, three …” we counted each of the chimes, happily, excitedly, expectantly.

    “Nine, ten, eleven, Happy New Year!”

    “Happy New Century!”

    “Happy New Millennium!”

    “Look” someone shouted. Through glasses of bubbling champagne we turned to the box to see the Thames ablaze in colour. Forty tons of fireworks worth four million pounds lit up the sky for seventeen unbelievable minutes.

    And then it rained. At 12.35 precisely the rain gods let out their fury.

    “Well, you can’t really complain” Kris consoled us. “After all they had predicted rain at mid-night. Half-past is quite considerate”.

    “Stop talking about the weather and have some more champagne”.

    Brinda was topping glasses and we settled down to wait for midnight in New York.

    “Drink-up” a gentle voice coaxed me. “And so what if you fall asleep. Eat, drink and snore loudly. The world will take care of itself.”

    I think my friend the tramp would agree.

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