There it is again, then. That question. Creeping up behind you at your Christmas lunch. Drifting into vision on the first nights of December. The ghost of unmade plans. The chill down the back of your neck. The voice that returns in every silent moment.
What are you doing for New Year? I don’t really know, OK? I haven’t thought about it properly. Come on… tell us… what are you doing for the big NYE? I just said, I don’t really know. Better think of something soon, mate. Gets expensive on New Year’s Eve. What does? Everything, mate. Everything? Taxis. Clubs. Drinks. Terribly expensive. Right, well maybe I’ll stay in. Don’t do that, mustn’t do that, very depressing. Okay then, I’ll go out! Good luck, left it a bit late haven’t you?
So you bite. You grit your teeth and emit the question like a gas leak between your molars: What are you doing for New Year’s Eve, then?
"WE BOUGHT TICKETS FOR AN ACTUALLY REALLY GOOD-SOUNDING CLUB NIGHT SIX WEEKS AGO"
Your most organised friends probably bought their tickets to Oval Space or Hidden some time in March. They’ve probably already bulk-bought a fistful of pingers and are starting the pre-drinks on Boxing Day. Feeling pangs of envy at their clearly excellent-sounding plan you slink onto Resident Advisor to have a look – just a little look, no harm in looking – to see if there are any tickets left, only to be greeted by a batch of a "FINAL RELEASE, ENTRY BEFORE 9PM" ones which cost £160 each.
"WE’RE GOING TO BE IN BALI!"
Unfortunately, you’ve made the mistake of asking one of the rich friends you acquired during university, and they’ve told you, through white teeth and taut, tanned skin, that yes, they are going to be in Bali this New Year’s Eve.
We just thought: fuck it. We saw the flights, and they were only £4k return first class, and this little beach hut was only an extra couple of grand, and we just thought: fuck it. We’ve worked so hard this year. Why not do something different?
You can already see the Instagrams: the sea, the sand, the coconut cocktails, the fireworks melting over purple sunsets. New Year is always such a stress to organise, so we thought we’d just get away from it all, they will tell you, as if the only thing standing between you and a trip to Bali was the fact you hadn’t thought of it yet.
"WE ARE DOING SHROOMS IN A CARAVAN OR SOMETHING SIMILARLY SQUALID"
Prepare to sound impressed while the gremlin you’ve ended up sitting next to in the pub bores you to tears with stories of the very, very interesting package he’s expecting from the dark web in the next couple of days. 2CB, few tabs, some shrooms, some kush. Things are going to get weird, he grins at you, before sluicing some Doombar past his prickly lips.
He will start the new year being picked up by a police patrol car in a pair of soiled harem pants, somewhere north of the Brecon Beacons.
"WE’RE GOING TO A 'WAREHOUSE PARTY'"
It’s the big clubbing brand that killed nightlife in your city, back with their once-in-a-lifetime New Year’s special! Expect fancy dress, gurning 18-year-olds, major brand partnerships and the exact same lineup they had last year – DJs who are also booked to play in six other cities tonight so can only play for half an hour each in a web of ever-inwardly-spiralling B2B sets.
"WE HEARD ABOUT THIS MASSIVE HOUSE PARTY…"
So you’ve got a mate who knows someone who is going out with someone who lives with someone who knows these people having a fucking amazing-sounding party. It’s these guys who live in a converted barn in South-East. There’s a massive pond at the bottom of the garden, they're hiring a bouncer and a lo-fi DJ you've never heard of is going to be on the decks. One of the people throwing the party is a hedge funder, and the other one is Michael Ball’s nephew, or was on Game of Thrones, or something. You will hear about this party once, and then never again. You will chase the rumours through friends of friends, only to be told on the 2nd of Jan that it was the best party ever until the police / the council / Noel Fielding turned up.
"OR THERE'S THIS OTHER PARTY WHICH SOUNDS A BIT MORE... CHILLED"
Ah yes, here’s the party you will probably end up at. The party that is being "thrown" by a group of boring lads simply because they can’t be arsed to go anywhere else. It will end up serving as a liminal space between three other parties in the area, and as such will only house about 12 people at any given time. I mean, people are playing Playstation games – which is the ultimate sign of a terrible party: you’re not even going through the motions of putting on some music and trying to talk to people, you’re literally splayed out on your sofa clicking away at a game of Rocket League.
This is the place you’re "only popping in at", the one where you’re "showing your face", the one you’ll accidentally end up counting in the new year at when you realise Uber is totally over-subscribed, leaving you standing on a freezing cold patio watching some bloke called Paul try to write his name with a sparkler.
"I AM IN A RELATIONSHIP, OK?"
Oops, guess you just asked your mate who has recently gotten themselves into really good relationship what he / she is doing for NYE, and yep, they are going to be spending it with their new beloved. They are going to be booking hotels, they are going to be eating slap-up dinners, they are going to be taking selfies on bridges, they are going to be snogging in front of the fireworks, they are going to be in bed by 2.
"WE’RE ALL GOING ON A CLASSY RURAL SESH"
AirBnBs are fast becoming the new nightclubs. Nobody wants to go out and get fucked any more. They want to book cottages in seaside towns, go on nice long walks, ruin cosy pubs for the locals and then get fucked. So, some of your mates have found some ten person mansion in the Hebrides and they are going to take a bunch of MDMA and laugh at sheep for a couple of days. Probably your well-off media mates, to be honest: nice opportunity for them to lock themselves in a cottage with a bucket of gear and chew each other’s ears off about search-engine optimisation and the state of online content. You’re not invited, no.
"WE ARE GOING TO PAY A TENNER TO GET INTO A PUB"
Picture the scene: you were in here last week for free, but this time you’ve paid over the odds for that tattered raffle ticket you were given on entry. Still, worth every penny for the tinsel hanging behind the bar and the mulch of human bodies that are slowly subsuming you on the squelch towards the bar. There’s a "DJ" playing Blondie songs off their phone, and your coat is going to smell of cigarette smoke for the next 60 years.
"YEAH, I’M WORKING IN THAT PUB"
You’ve fucked it and asked the poor sod who is going to be behind the bar in the aforementioned establishment. You ask, in vain hope: Still, that’ll be fun, right? You can get pissed, right?
No, not really, they tell you. It will be too busy.
"WE’RE HAVING A DINNER PARTY"
This is how you will be spending every New Year’s Eve past the age of 40, so probably not a bad shout getting a few dry runs in during the next few years. Trouble is, at a dinner party there is nowhere to escape. At least, at a house party, if someone starts gassing about Baby Driver being the film of the year you can walk away and find another room. At a dinner party, you’re strapped in for the whole crazy ride, my friend, like a peasant-thief having bad chat pelted at them in the stocks. There is no wriggling out of this very long discussion about whether or not you can separate art from the artist.
"I WILL BE AT HOME WITH MY PARENTS"
I see how this happens, but that doesn’t stop it from being tinged with melancholy. This is normally the result of someone finding the ordeal of organising New Year’s so stressful they eventually decide not to come back after Christmas. So satisfied are they by the endless wheels of cheese and the box of red wine that’s been sat, wheezing its guts into sticky glasses for the past week, that they simply never come home. Might sound strangely idyllic, but bear in mind there is no FOMO quite like that of scrolling through your mates' Insta-stories while watching your father dribbling yawn-juice into a glass of Advocaat as Jools Holland brings the bell hammer down on another uninspired year in your uninspiring life.
"EEK! WE’RE HOSTING OUR FIRST MURDER MYSTERY!"
This response means you’ve probably just asked your friend who went to drama school, or maybe your friend who loves "anything vintage, anything a bit quirky". Yes, they are spending New Year’s Eve with their inner-circle pretending to be a family of Italian mobsters, thanks to a box they were given for Christmas last year. The host will be playing Bonnie Bonvito, the mobster’s wife, and she will spend the evening doing a terrible New York-Italian accent and getting very cross whenever anybody slips out of character. Not for me, personally, but that's just my personal taste.
"JUST GOING TO GO INTO TOWN AND SEE WHAT HAPPENS"
Ah, the sadist in your group, who thinks it will be fun to head out and "see where the night takes us" – which means letting the night take you in and out of a variety of different queues outside a variety of different terrible clubs you wouldn’t touch any other night of the year, but are suddenly willing to pay £30 to get into. Lots of wandering the streets, lost at sea, probably bringing the new year in from a rain-spotted bench or the back of an Uber.
"I’M NOT ACTUALLY SURE WHAT I’M DOING, TO BE HONEST"
Eesh, you say. Leaving it a bit late, aren’t you?