I went with a friend to a New Year’s Party this year. It’s been a long time. We all met up in a Chinese all-you-can-eat buffet and then went to a fairground straight after. Some of the guys went up on a stomach-churning wheel in the air, but I had eaten rather more than enough and decided to opt out. Some other guys had had the same kind of idea, so we were standing around like cowards while our colleagues flew through the air. One of them was doing a batman impression, although I was pretty sure you weren’t supposed to put your hands outside the ‘vehicle’. When we were done with gawping at the awesome spectacle of their strong stomachs and bravery, we went and bought some alcohol and went to one of their flats in Shepherd’s Bush were we all sat around in an immaculate living room where the kindly mother had put out quite a spread for us, including a bottle of champagne for the stroke of midnight.
After watching the fireworks at Embankment, which strangely look much better on the screen than in real life as I remember from last year, we went outside. One of the guys had bought some Chinese lanterns to set off for the New Year. It was the first time I’d ever seen any or been involved in sending them off. We walked down a few flight of stairs and went down next to the bins at the corner at the back of the flats, next to some garages with white doors. It was freezing cold and one of the guys was only wearing a thin T-Shirt. He was from Mongolia, so apparently he did not feel the cold. The Chinese lanterns had actually been his idea.
We leaned the lantern up against the white garage door, which one of the guys began to kick. They stopped immediately because it seemed as if the door were going to break and it was kicking up a horrific racket. We all had to write our names with our secret wishes onto the thing. Someone had grabbed a handful of markers. The one I got was green so I was quite happy, as this is sort of my colour. I wrote my name quickly and my wish quickly. The ink in the marker had sloped down so it came out only very faintly. One of the guys was snapping photos the whole time while we all stood around in the cold. I looked at the photos later on Facebook. Everyone was smiling.
It took a time to light the lantern after we’d all written on it. Eventually the guys all resorted to standing against the smelly bins, huddling around the flame, cupping their hands about it. Before we sent it off, we all put our hands on the top of it, to feel the heat of it, to feel the power of a wish against our palms.
We watched it sedately take off and then ran to see where the wind would grab and take it. We did another one. When we walked back to the front of the flats, the guy in the T-Shirt thought he saw a cloud of smoke from another complex of flats for a second. He suffered from a momentary guilt. It was just the night and the lighting. We all told him so.
I later found out that the wish on my lantern hadn’t come true.