December 31st; one of those familiar, unbroken, grey days in London. Fine drizzle “the kind of rain that gets you wet”, as your mother used to say.
Pastiche function band have been booked to play New Years Eve at the Corinthia Hotel, Central London. The loading bay of the prestigious Corinthia Hotel is blocked by a white delivery van.
Pastiche Band finally make it to the ballroom – there is another band already set up. Sadly for them they are in the wrong room and they have to de-rig and move.
The Corinthia Hotel is a historic, luxury hotel. Built as the Metropole it was commandeered in both World War I and II by the government. The hotel is mentioned by T.S. Eliot in The Waste Land:
Mr Eugenides, the Smyrna merchant
Unshaven, with a pocket full of currants
C. i. f. London: documents at sight,
Asked me in demotic French
To luncheon at the Cannon Street Hotel
Followed by a week-end at the Metropole.
Just as the band get set up get and sound-checked the fire alarms sound. The hotel is evacuated. Staff and patrons move out into the dank street.
Pastiche play a couple of jazz sets, moving gradually from the music of the 1940s to more contemporary tunes, we are treated so some “creative” dancing.
At the end of the night the staff bring unfinished bottles of champagne and plates of cheese and biscuits and we drink a silent champagne toast to absent friends.
At midnight out to the street, now dry, and the sparks of fireworks rain down over Whitehall Place and off across the river to the London Eye. The smell of sulphur and rumble of gunpowder, louder than Terl’s drumming…
The area is clearing, a quarter of a million people wander off past the coned-off streets and into the first morning of another year. Dustbin lorries clear the debris of the last.
A couple share a passionate New Year kiss on a London street corner in a timeless scene, and it’s done.
Happy New Year.