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New Year’s Eve on the Heygate


Didn’t go out last night – I much prefer to stay in most years. Watched the director’s cut of ‘Bladerunner’ then went outside to watch the fireworks. At night this estate is like the set of Bladerunner in some ways, the same tall, anonymous gloomy buildings. Even from the terrace, I could feel the city’s energy, rising from the lights and the mass of blocky building piled up south of the river, the great golden squares of the House of Commons towers rising behind the Eye. The people streaming out from the heart of the estate behind our building, up Walworth, disappearing into the blur of traffic swirling through the roundabout in front of the Pink Elephant shopping mall while the ever-present police cruisers, sirens wailing – they’d started wailing by in earnest, going in all directions, around eight pm and hadn’t let up since.
Some kids were already out high up on the 12th floor. On cue they did the countdown: ’10, 9, 8. . .’ but they had the time wrong and nothing happened. So they did it again. And again – shouting out the numbers into the night air, their voices echoing off the skeletal trees until the first of the fireworks exploded behind the great mass of the buildings in front of the London Eye and all the cars on Walworth Road began honking their horns and two more kids, a brother and a sister from the similar timbre of their voices, rushed out to the balcony above mine, yelling ‘Happy New Year!! It’s 2008!! Happy New Year!!’ over and over until their voices were hoarse and when I yelled ‘Happy New Year’ back,, they yelled ‘Thank you!” then went back to yelling ‘It’s 2008!! Happy New Year!!’ as before.
The fireworks kept on exploding behind the London Eye, then the Eye itself lit up like a pinwheel, the rockets shooting from each car making it seem like it was turning, the smoke from the fireworks billowing out in front of the Houses of Parliament red and blue and yellow as the area was being bombed by phosphorous. What looked like snowflakes showered down beneath the floodlights on the terraces but when I put my hand out, I saw that they were pieces of coloured paper – red, yellow, purple – tossed by the kids on the top floor. People came out on neighboring terraces to watch the fireworks and I wished I’d gone right to the twelfth floor where you could see right to Westminster, but the low buildings in and around the Elephant made it look like the city was being bombarded, the effect enhanced by the regular explosions that bounded out through the night air, bouncing off the great mass of the estate – and I felt like I could feel more of the city’s energy with the kids still shouting on the level above me, and the cars honking on Walworth and all through the roundabout . . .
Yet after the last great clusters of starbursts high up in the purple-black sky, everyone went inside. Walking along the terrace, I was amazed at how many flats remained dark, silent – of course many people had gone out for the evening. But even before midnight the estate was relatively quiet but for the odd burst of dub from a neighboring flat or a passing car stereo.

1 thought on “New Year’s Eve on the Heygate”

  1. hey, I’ve been looking at your blog for a while now and I love your stories! I’ve been working on a project at university based on estates in south london and peoples memories and i was hoping i could illustrate some of the stories on your blog and create a book featuring both illustrations and writing. Would you like to get involved? Thanks. Dan

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