Why wait three hours for eight minutes of fireworks when you can wait five minutes for quarter of an hour? Fantastic though the display at the London Eye might have been, the thought of being penned in for ages on the Embankment didn't appeal. So I took the out-of-town option and headed up to Croxley Green, land of my forefathers, to enjoy the firework display there. No hanging around, just quarter of an hour of New Year community spirit. And not a BBC TV camera in sight.
As midnight approached, the roads leading to the Green filled with well-wrapped villagers. So many, in fact, that many never made it to the display area before midnight struck. I wondered why they didn't rush across the grass rather than queueing on the pavement, but soon worked out why when I saw the mud caked to my shoes. The man from the Parish Council counted down 2011 with his megaphone. He'd only reached 'six...' when midnight arrived, but only those of us with Big Ben in our earphones spotted the anachronism. You probably celebrated late by a few seconds too, assuming you were watching something digital, but I had an FM radio to hand because I never trust leaving New Year to others.
Blam, the first fireworks erupted into the sky, lighting up the sky over darkest Hertfordshire. Nowhere near as many as you'd have seen by the Thames, and all from a single launch point far behind the barriers. But ooh, and ahh, as reds and whites and greens and golds exploded above us to a musical accompaniment. We got Ride of The Valkyries to start with, which worked rather better than Nessun Dorma (live version, with applause) which followed. By the time Rule Britannia kicked in, the display back in London had already finished. But on Croxley Green the flashes, whizzes and shimmers continued, growing ever higher and louder (and probably keeping folk in the nearby old people's home awake). The firework extravaganza finally died away halfway through Jerusalem, which wasn't great timing, and drowned any wild cheering the organisers might have been expecting at the end of their piece. Part of the crowd attempted a lacklustre Auld Lang Syne but it soon died out, thank goodness, and the muddy exodus began.
You may have been part of the quarter of a million crowd lining the Thames, but I bet you didn't enjoy the feelings of communal cameraderie we six hundred had in Croxley. And I bet you didn't get away so quickly either, with most of the audience tucked up home in bed well before 2011 was a hour old. The village never had a New Year firework display back when I used to live here, more's the pity. But Croxley's amateur spectacle made an uplifting change from the brash over-policed crush back in town.