SMOKE: Auld Lang Syne

Originally published: 28 November 2003

I have no idea what Auld Lang Syne even means. I could look it up, I suppose, but the truth is I couldn't be arsed.

It's just a crap song that over-emotional people sing while holding hands at midnight once a year, and by midnight on 31 December I'm usually so rat-faced that were I to try singing it I'd probably projectile vomit all over the inevitable saintly child next to me.

I don't know if you also see New Year as the Ultimate Party - since as long as I can remember the goal of New Year has been to have the best party of the year, or indeed - the best party in living memory.

I don't know why this is, but I suspect it's a way of saying goodbye to the old year and flushing it down the drain along with the half-digested canapés and Stroh rum.

Unfortunately for me the only New Year's Eves I can remember were usually complete disappointments, which is most often going to be the case when you hype something up too much.

The best ones have been where I have had no expectations for the wildest party imaginable, and those evenings inevitably turn out better than expected.

One of my most memorable New Year's was way back when I was a student and didn't have a cent to my name. The friends I was spending the evening with didn't have any money either, so we couldn't afford to go out anywhere.

The five of us met at one of our houses. We had managed to get some cheap wine for the night, but we only had a couple of beers each and a stockpile of cigarettes.

We were pretty troubled youths at the time - one step away from Goth, two steps into Indie and with a whole bunch of disillusionment at the Establishment.

We sat in a row on the couch, tightly stuffed together, and for four hours straight kept playing Pink Floyd's The Wall, over and over again. None of us spoke to each other for the entire time, other than when someone noticed that New Year had arrived and said solemnly, but without much enthusiasm: "Happy fucking New Year", and we all drained the sour grapes from our plastic cups and lit another fag.

We only got half-pissed and our hangovers were setting in before we'd even finished the evening, and eventually we all trudged out and went home to pass out, very pleased with ourselves for our contribution to world unhappiness.

Not exactly your traditional happy affair, but word of that "party" got out and we were heroes for many years after that. We became known as the most depressed people on Earth, which carried a lot of status in our world.

I went through a phase of attending the Synergy parties at the River Club in Observatory, Cape Town - we must have gone there for four years in a row - but they were always a complete and utter disaster.

Aside from the fact that I can't tolerate rave "music" the event was outdoors, and every year - like clockwork - the weather was abominable. Freezing cold, with lashing rain most years, and a bunch of people waving neon sticks around in an effort to be regarded as the funkiest, most off-their-face, trendy young in-thing there.

One year someone gave me an "E" tablet, which was the most pathetically weak thing I had ever taken, and all I did was feel sick. The drink was overpriced, the queues miles long if you wanted to get some food and the whole affair was just so unpleasant we always went home early, despite the ridiculously expensive cover charge.

The best New Year I ever had, though, was a couple of years ago - the Millennium one.

We went to Arniston (a sleepy coastal village on the Cape South Coast) with a friend, and stayed there with her family.

The night itself wasn't any great shakes - we checked out the fireworks on the beachfront and our dog - still a puppy - bolted up the road in fright which meant we spent ages trying to get her back and reassure her.

But New Year's Day was mindblowing. There were four of us, and one guy had brought some of the finest LSD known to humankind with.

We drove out to Cape Agulhas - the southernmost tip of Africa - and on the way each of us duly took our share. We spent the entire day - until sundown - on the rocks of the beach, and tripped right off our tiny skulls.

We spent hours staring into rock pools at the multi-coloured fishes flitting just underneath the surface and laughed and laughed and laughed until we hurt so bad we could hardly breathe. The concept was awesome - sitting on the last rock of Africa at the dawn of a new millennium, and the experience was profound.

But perhaps the most profound part of it was discovering - just under the overhang of that rock - a perfectly squeezed, expertly coiled human stool.

It got us wondering - who on Earth would sit on the most magical part of a continent and empty their bowels there?

Jim Morrison said it best - people are strange.

These days I don't search for that perfect party anymore - I've realised that it doesn't exist. And the real point of New Year is to reflect on your successes and failures of the old year, and to plan your way forward for the next, always with an eye on improving it and in some way growing up.

Laying your ghosts to rest.

All Smoked Out,
Luke Tagg
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