Across the Pond

Andrew Knoedler

(Andrew Knoedler)

It was close to midnight in the city that goes to sleep at 11 – at least, that’s when all the pubs close. My fellow Lawrentians and I were huddling together in a crowd of thousands, watching the minutes tick by on one of the most famous clocks in the world. We hadn’t even been in London for 48 hours and we found ourselves downtown in a mass of drunken revelers waiting to enter 2011 six hours earlier than our comrades back home.
The place was Trafalgar Square – the London equivalent of Times Square in New York on New Year’s Eve. We were told that this was the place to be, so as midnight approached we left our dorm to make our way downtown. We left the Tube station and walked to the square, stopping to take pictures with a policeman and to chat with a pair of American soldiers stationed in London.
As we went further, the crowd became thicker until we were shoving and pushing and weaving our way through a wall of Londoners. When we could not go any further, we stood, ready to wait for the hour until the countdown and fireworks began.
It was a long wait, but we made the best of it. We took pictures and made friends with some of our fellow partygoers while doing our best to avoid some of the rowdiness that inevitably came our way. Eventually, the big moment came. A schizophrenic mix of British music and a cheesy announcer came on the loud speakers.
Big Ben struck a few minutes after midnight – apparently the world-famous clock is a tad fast – and the New Year was brought in with cheers and hollers of a crowd of drunk Londoners and with a blaze of fireworks.
Of course, this wasn’t the end of the night. Making our way back home took a few hours, as they let people out of the square in waves. We slowly made our way out and got into a scuffle with someone who was blowing a whistle to try and get people to move out of his way. The crowd thinned out a little, but we made our way through the streets filled with drunken partygoers to the Tube, and after a claustrophobic ride found ourselves safe at home at last.
And so we were initiated into London on one of the noisiest nights of the year by wandering the streets instead of drinking champagne and watching the spectacle on television. It’s not something I have to experience twice, but it was a great introduction to this city.