Human Condition: 'People lose their limbs on New Year's Eve in Amsterdam'

Fiona Mountford collects tales from the twilight zone

Chris Donald, editor of Viz: "In my younger days, New Year's Eve was always a great festival of sexual disappointment. But all that changed on New Year's Eve, 1985, when I met my wife. I was actually stalking someone else when Dolores appeared, sitting on a banister in an upstairs hallway. She was wearing a flouncy, yellow, Fifties-style dress and looked a bit like slightly drunken Irish fairy. We spent the night talking - no funny business, you understand - and we started seeing each other shortly afterwards."

JIBBY BEANE, art dealer (right): "I had one New Year's Eve in Amsterdam, and it was like being in a warzone. It was all right until midnight, but then all hell broke loose. There was this huge explosion - everyone saves up their fireworks until midnight - and there were missiles being thrown about and cars being blown up. It's a well-known fact that people lose limbs in Amsterdam on New Year's Eve. I'm not a wimp, but I was terrified."

JAMES COLLARD, editor of Attitude: In '94, I went to Trade and was in there for about 18 hours. I then went to a friend's house and stayed up for another 12 hours. I finally went back home to sleep, and woke up realising that I'd left my contact lenses in. The lenses had stuck to my eyes, so when I took them out I managed to take a small part of my eye with them. I was rushed to casualty and was in agony for days. It's a toilet night, New Year's Eve. Stay at home."

JOANNA BRISCOE, novelist: "A few years ago a group of us were invited to a boat party. We ended up going on a rubber dinghy to a muddy river beach and, at first, we were horrified, furious and shivering as we were totally inappropriately dressed, but it actually turned to be the most fun New Year's Eve ever. We let go of all our inhibitions, lit a fire and stayed on the beach for most of the night."

JENNY ECLAIR, comic: "I was very young, about 15, and I was experimenting with Pernod, not realising that it's actually liquid poison. I went to a stream of parties I wasn't particularly invited to and got more and more filled with Pernod. I got home with not even a love bite to show for the whole evening and realised there was a 99.6 per cent chance I was going to be sick. I sat in my psychedelic purple room, but didn't want to go to the bathroom in case my parents found me. I finally threw up in a drawer full of my old Jackie magazines, and didn't clear it out for about three weeks, as I had to wait until my mum was out and she didn't go out much."

MAUREEN FREELY, novelist: "It was New Year's Eve, 1987, that my husband and I signed our separation agreement and had a huge argument outside the lawyer's office. We decided to go to this party where kids were invited, too, but we didn't know the people there that well. So, they kept coming up and saying, "How've you been?" and we said, "We're getting divorced, actually." People got wary of us and we spent the evening talking to each other."

JEFFREY ARCHER, Tory grandee: "Each year we have a dinner party that starts at around 8pm and at 10.30pm we retire to the drawing room. Mary sets a quiz, with each question in three parts: dummy, average or brilliant. This quiz has been won in the past by a Nobel Prize winner, but third is my highest-ever placing."

PAUL ROSEBY, television presenter: "It was New Year's Eve, 1989, and I went to Madame Jo-Jo's, the transvestite bar. It was a brilliant party, but after midnight I desperately needed the loo. I suffer from nervous retention, and thinking the Nineties would be a decade for soft "new" men, as I stood at the urinal I made the mistake of confessing my problem to the people on either side of me. The two of them dragged me into the cubicle and it all got rather ugly."

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