New Year’s Friends, Fireworks & Memories

Olivier and I at Pinocchio Restaurant in December 2011 just before new year.

Hoorah for January,  the best month of the year. Only New Year heralds a respectable chance to wipe the slate clean and, armed with resolutions, to begin anew on this adventure called life.

The best attraction of the first month, though, is that it shuts the door so effectively on all the downsides and disappointments and (for me) the absolute tragedies of the old year, 2012.

And so it is that on New Year’s Eve I take that familiar road from Adelaide to Hindmarsh Island, where husband Olivier and I lived for 12 months while our new house was being built. It’s a jolly reunion of mates from our sea-change era, at the island home of long-time close friends. Many people at the gathering have helped me adjust to my new reality – becoming a widow.

Smiles are the passport for fun tonight and twinkling lights entwined in the shrubbery sets the scenario for merry-making.  Music is strictly 80s and 90s and the food – with everyone bringing a plate – comes in waves like the ocean not far away over the sandhills.  Home-made Indian-style Samoosas  and Aussie sausage rolls, Maxican guacomale dip and smoked ocean trout is handed around like “pass the parcel” which triggers the taste buds for the feast which follows.

Ham-on-the-bone may be  the focal point but it is surrounded by a United Nations of foods- Italian lasagne, Moroccan-style eggplant casserole, prawns, Greek meatballs and salads galore.  Wine flows like the great River Murray lapping very close to our hosts’ back yard.

Yet, at around the time our hosts begin pouring that last drink for midnight toasts, I take my leave and explain that this first New Year’s Eve without Olivier, I want to be alone. I understand why  Greta Garbo made that statement so famous.

Mercifully, there have been no tears and much enjoyment and lively conversation with friends and strangers alike, but I do not want to find myself at midnight within this milling throng of couples yet alone without my own loved one to kiss.

In this mood of remembrance, I am jolted back to the harsh facts of life when I am pulled over by the Breathaliser police just before the bridge.
There are no side roads here and we are sitting ducks. Fortunately, I did not drink that last full glass of wine and so I pass the test. “You don’t look as if you have been drinking, Madam,’’ says the fresh-faced policeman.  “No sir,’’ I say heaving a sigh of relief.  Losing my licence would have been a nasty start to 2013.

There is a favourite spot of ours in Victor Harbor just down from the landmark stone whale and here I park the car along with many other vehicles.  Revellers have spilled out onto the lawns and while they overlook Encounter Bay below us and wait for the fireworks on the causeway, I think upon how this Bay is so pivotal to my life with Olivier.  If the South Australian Government had not decided to celebrate the 200thanniversary of the meeting right here (actually about five miles out to sea) between British navigator Matthew Flinders and French sea captain, Nicolas Baudin in 2002, then Olivier and I would never have met.  The other important development to clinch our meeting was that I was the cultural issues writer at The Advertiser and nothing was more cultural than writing about how different we would have been as a society if by a sheer flick of fate we would have been French.

Olivier’s and my favourite view of Encounter Bay where I returned on New Year.

I might never have met him, but for providence – that unlikely meeting at sea of two captains when their countries were at war. This thought fills me with pleasure at such an opportunity dropped into my world which helps ease the emotional pain of the now – living the first New Year without him.

However, there is a much more emotive reason for seeking my own company if only for this final 15 minutes of 2012.  On New Year’s Eve nine years ago 2003/4 Olivier and I became lovers for the first time and now I move back  mentally  into that delicious moment, which transformed my life.  I can easily visualise his handsome face and imagine his arms around me because I wrote about it in my memoir From France With Love.  Yes, it is recorded, but right now I want to keep it in my mind,  and in my heart I still feel his love which never wavered from that night. It is very comforting.

Then the sky bursts forth into colourful sprays of fireworks and the crowd outside the window erupts into cheers welcoming 2013 – as I do, too from inside my little leather and chrome cacoon, our car.





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