diamond geezer

 Thursday, January 01, 2015

With half an hour until next year, all is quiet on Telegraph Hill. A broad curve of central London is visible, from the Elephant round to the Shard, which is beaming three-ways (like a lighthouse) behind a tree. Mid-vista stands the oblique ring of the London Eye, at least half visible, pulsing green and red and blue as the minutes tick around. Unseen around me the crowds assemble, gradually filling every space on the brow of the summit and the lower slopes of the hill down to the road. With depressing predictability a six foot something bloke positions himself on the bank in front of me, blocking part of the skyline, but energetic discourse with his companions ensures the blanked-out area is never stable. As midnight draws closer an expectant buzz develops, but the first flash of gold from the Thames still comes as a jolting surprise to most. I've made the mistake of plugging myself into the BBC iPlayer, supposedly live, but buffering causes Big Ben to chime out a full minute after 2015 has begun. The Eye's pyrotechnic display is obvious but tiny, occupying a mere sliver of the skyline, its visual impact sorely diminished four miles distant. But ha, we're all up on this hill for free, no tickets or ID have changed hands, and we'll all be home before the official audience even reaches Waterloo. As the silent performance continues, the trio behind me tap my shoulder and ask politely if I'll take their picture. Whatever, so I attempt a group shot in the darkness, and then another when a second phone is thrust in my direction. I that hope that the end results circulate well on the social networks of their choice. My own attempts at a photograph of the distant conflagration prove grainy at best, more generally a blur of silver pixels - a heavy nudge that the whole point of being up here is to watch the spectacle, not to record it. Someone on the hill has brought a firework with them, which bangs and flashes overhead bringing a whoop from the crowd. This distraction averts our eyes at the crucial moment, and when we look back towards the river the official display has climaxed and faded to nothing. Boris was right, it really did look hugely more impressive on the TV, but hey, the hundreds of us assembled in SE14 would far rather be here than corralled in riverside pens. As we move off across the muddy turf, watched over by a minimal police presence and a single ambulance, it's easy to disperse into the surrounding streets and then head home. 2015 is officially underway, for good or for bad, and those of us atop a hill in South London saw it in together.

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