Human Condition: A naughy New Year ... or the most nightmarish evening you'll ever have?

Matthew Sweet's New Year's Eve revelries peaked when he was 15, sitting on the bench outside the chippy with his mates, a carrier bag of Diamond White and someone's mum's fags. It's been downhill ever since, so this year he's playing safe and staying in

According to my encyclopedia, the first recorded New Year's Eve party was in Mesopotamia in 2000BC. That's two millennia before that business with the myrrh and the luminous baby in a shed and 3,851 years before Prince Albert popularised both the Christmas tree and the cockring.

This means (if you want ammunition to bore away any persistent relations still parked on your sofa, grubbing under the cushions for the last green triangular Quality Street) that for a sobering 399.7 decades, humans have been doing something ritualistic - I forget what - with a piece of coal; for nearly 4,000 years they've been mumbling, "I really love you, you're my best friend, no I do, I really do..." to people who they've never met before; and for 3,987 years, revellers have been cheerfully choking on their own sick in the gutter outside the Firkin and Crap Innuendo.

Depressing, isn't it? While the Chinese celebrate the Year of the Aardvark with firecracker displays, and the Tamils go on pilgrimages and cook "young rice" (my encyclopedia says), all British culture can offer is Moira Anderson, rat-arsed urination in shop doorways and a tuneless assault on something called Auld Lang Syne - a hearty song in which you attempt to dislocate the shoulders of the people standing either side of you.

We've all been bashing out this song since before Geri Spice was born, and nobody has the vaguest idea what it means. Those who caught the Boxing Day screening of The Poseidon Adventure will have reasonably good phonetic recall of the words: the rest of us just mouth along as cluelessly as John Redwood trying to sing the Welsh national anthem. So, I'm sorry, but I don't believe anyone knows what an Auld Lang Syne actually is. A Restoration stomach-pump? Tanzanian couch grass? Gaelic for barnacles? I can see myself now on Call My Bluff. "I'm afraid Lindsey de Paul has got it all wrong, so come with me, if you will, to Cambridge University in 1861, where Professor James Clerk Maxwell is using the Auld Lang Syne (along with the Auld Lang Cosyne) to work out his ground-breaking Theory of Electromagnetic Waves..." They wouldn't have a clue.

I have to confess that there's personal trauma at the root of all this curmudgeonliness. It's not that I don't enjoy New Year's Eve. Far from it, there's nothing I like better than failing to find a taxi at 3am, staggering onto the nightbus and then earwigging on other couples' violent, drunken arguments. Quite frankly, that's my idea of an evening well spent, especially if the insults get really cruel and personal. It's just that recent December 31sts seem to have taken an intense personal exception to me - much in the manner that Shakespeare describes the attitude of wanton boys to their flies.

In 1993, my partner and I decided to spend New Year's Eve with my parents. But tonsillitis was visited upon her, and she spent four days throwing up into my mother's second-best washing-up bowl. The following year, I was felled by an ear infection so painful it could've put a horse into a coma: I shambled around like John Merrick on a bad acromegalic limb day, then switched to languishing on the futon and re-enacting the Death of Little Nell, so weak and ill that I couldn't even be arsed turning off Andy Stewart's Hogmanay Show. That's some measure of my terrible condition.

For the last day of 1995, we booked a cottage in Cornwall with a group of friends, but just before we were about to set off, news of a death in the family sent me back home. My partner went off to Cornwall - and narrowly avoided being crushed in a quaint rural three-vehicle collision at a crossroads just outside Padstow. So, last year, we just locked ourselves in with a veritable grove of Terry's Chocolate Oranges and hid out. Remarkably, nothing happened. No mortality, no pestilence, no typhoons or mudslides. Just Clive James's Review of the Year, which was bad enough.

It's a sad decline, because I used to be quite good at these things as a teenager, thanks to the social oiling that went on at the charming pub at the end of our road, which would serve you as long as you were tall enough to see over the bar. (if you put all your pocket money in the Give Us a Break machine and went discreetly out of the bog window before the police arrived, they'd even give you a curly straw in your Tequila Slammer).

Memories of New Years past come flooding back like vomit surging up the alimentary canal of an underage drinker. 1987 - Pub, then on to house of classmate whose parents were stupid enough to go away for New Year. Mark Jones stuck his arm through frosted-glass door and an ambulance was called. 1988 - Pub and subsequently unconscious in Ormskirk. 1989 - Pub and later threading celebratory streamers through the fishnet stockings of my music teacher's daughter. Since she was the nearest Cheadle Hulme had to an It Girl, this seemed like a terrifically grown-up thing to be doing. 1990 - Pub, then medical students fancy-dress party in Levenshulme. Three of them came as Marietta Higgs, I remember, and spent the evening trying to insert a teaspoon into the plastic rectum of a Teeny Tiny Tears.

Well, these things are so much fun when you're a teenager, aren't they? It's the one night of the year when your parents don't insist you're back before midnight. Arm yourself with a carrier bag full of Diamond White and a pack of stolen filter-tips and that bench outside the chippy is your oyster. You don't feel bad about not knowing what Auld Lang Syne means because you're completely ignorant about everything else and, of course, too pissed to care.

This year, if I don't got a better offer, I might pop down my local beer-off shop (suppliers of Tennents Super to the Underclass), seek out a benchload of 15 year olds and welcome the new year in with an Embassy Regal nicked off someone's mum. Otherwise, I'll just hide in the cupboard under the stairs. Cheers!

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Personal Tax Senior

    £28000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

    Recruitment Genius: Customer and Markets Development Executive

    £22000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company's mission is to ma...

    Recruitment Genius: Guest Services Assistant

    £13832 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This 5 star leisure destination on the w...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Account Manager

    £20000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Account Manager is requ...

    Day In a Page

    Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

    Orthorexia nervosa

    How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
    Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

    Lady Chatterley’s Lover

    Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
    Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

    Set a pest to catch a pest

    Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests
    Mexico: A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life

    The dark side of Mexico

    A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life
    Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde. Don't tell other victims it was theirs

    Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde

    Please don't tell other victims it was theirs
    A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

    A nap a day could save your life

    A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
    If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

    If men are so obsessed by sex...

    ...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
    The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

    Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

    The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
    The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

    Rolling in the deep

    The bathing machine is back but with a difference
    Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

    Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

    Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

    Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
    House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

    The honours that shame Britain

    Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
    When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

    'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

    Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
    International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

    International Tap Festival comes to the UK

    Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
    War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border