Saturday, January 01, 2005

1st January 2005:

New Year's Eve has never been a big item on my calendar, but this year my sister persuaded me to come out with some friends on a river cruise to watch the fireworks.

There were fireworks of a different sort when she discovered that because it was a smaller group than originally planned, the cruise company had taken it on themselves to cancel the table we'd booked and put us in airline-style seats. She made her displeasure unmistakably clear to all and sundry.

The weather was good and we sailed down the Derwent for a few miles then turned back and went upriver as far as the Bowen Bridge. We passed the Zinc Works complex after dark, half-illuminated and looking like a industrial dystopia straight out of the movie Metropolis.

Arriving back in Hobart, we took up a position in mid-river and waited for the last moment before midnight. A lot of us crowded up on deck and waited in the darkness. Finally somebody said "Ten seconds!" and everybody stirred with anticipation.

A flash of light, something whooshing upwards and a stunning shock to the eyeballs as the first piece of pyrotechnics erupted into multi-coloured flashes. More and more followed, amply bearing out the promises that all sorts of new technology would be put to use tonight.

There were several sequences that were new to me. Linked ellipses of colour, explosions that released a horde of sparks that burned brightly almost to the ground... every few minutes there would be a spontaneous gasp of wonder from the people around me.

Probably the best firework display I've seen.

Coming back into the dock, there was a seething mass of revellers on the quayside. I thought at first we might have trouble getting through the crowd but everyone was so happy and good-natured we had no problems getting back to the car.

Julie nodded at the crowd and said "It's a lot better these days than it used to be on New Year's Eve. There are more policemen and fewer drunks."

How can it be 2005 already, I wondered. It's only a little while since we were marvelling at making the change from 1999 to 2000.

Now we've reached 2005, a year that previously I'd seen only in science-fiction novels – it seemed like so far in the future, didn't it?

When they introduced a superannuation scheme at my workplace, in the small print they said I couldn't access any of the money till I turned 55. That seemed such a long time away it hardly mattered.

Well, it won't be from this year. [Sigh!]

I haven't yet mentioned the Tsunami disaster. If anything I've tried to stay at arm's length from the massive media coverage; at a time like this one can be simply overwhelmed by the sheer amount of bad news.

At times like this we are reminded of the foolishness of the human race: we spend so much of our time and resources on devising new ways of killing each other that we often forget how fragile a thing life truly is.

We expect technology to be able to resolve any problem that arises, never realising the power of the elements remains undiminished from century to century.

The steeds of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are always saddled and ready to ride. We forget this at our peril.

Chatting with Chris this afternoon. We've both been spending a lot of our on-line time at the BBC website and the first couple of episodes of their new serial Ghost Zone have been quite impressive.

The first episode was practically a carbon copy of John Wyndham's The Midwich Cuckoos but after that it seems to be veering off more into Stephen King territory.

What episodes 3, 4 and 5 will bring I shudder to think!

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