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Thursday, 1 January 2009

Fabulous fireworks and fiendish crowds made NYE 2008 a striking affair. It was my second time in recent years to go down to the water of Sydney Harbour to see pyrotechnics and mingle with the throng.

And throng they did, with a vengeance. I am not young and not apt to drink in public places. It is disturbing to me to see so many intoxicated people - mainly young people, aged under 30 - carousing in the streets as though tomorrow would never come. Many would greet the new year with a hangover.

The worst crowds gathered in the aftermath of the pyrotechnics, as thousands made their way to Milsons Point Station attempting to secure a berth on one of the free trains provided by CityRail. A dangerous situation emerged. The screaming, energetic crowd filled an underpass of the northern approaches to the bridge, depriving many - some parents brought their young children with them - of oxygen and movement.

Ugly scenes resulted from the crush. "Police, coming through," repeated a young man with slicked up hair and no shirt, as he led a parcel of humanity through the crowd waiting, patiently, for a chance to board a train. There were also real emergencies. I asked one young man if the girl with him was alright. She was slumped standing up, her head lolling about like a broken puppet.

"Take her out!" I yelled. "She's claustrophobic," he answered, but he did what he was told regardless of his charge's lack of physical danger. People jostled slowly forward, edging past the tunnel's entrance toward the station entrance a few hundred metres up the hill.

The fireworks ended at about 12.10am. At 2am we finally made a train, dodging the revellers along the narrow platform of Milsons Point Station. The train proceeded to Wynyard. Here it stopped. The doors opened and an amplified voice was heard urging the passenger in carriage eight to stop doing something. Still the train didn't move.

Not for want of trying. I pressed the emergency help button twice to try to get some information about the train. No answer was the reply. The sound system was mute after the warning to the passenger on car eight. We were cattle and the overseers were silent.

By this time of the evening any feelings of pleasure remaining from the fireworks had well and truly worn off. A couple of passengers began retching. Passengers scrambled to save their clothes. Still nothing moved. The doors opened once more.

The train had been stationary at Wynyard for 20 minutes. I barged off the train with my friend and we made a circuitous route down the city's length, onto a bus, and out to where the car was parked in Darlington.

I arrived home at around 4am. It was like escaping a disaster. The thousands of drunken youths on the streets give me little hope for humanity in 2009. The slackness of CityRail's performance even less.

We photographed a possum in Victoria Park, nibbling away at something. A pair of girls passed, one holding onto a pair of silver, high heeled shoes. Their rapid steps retreated. We made it home. We even picked up some food to eat in the early hours, in Newtown.

Things return to normal, regardless of how impossible, even improbable, they seem at the time. I slept a few hours this afternoon, although I'd had almost nil to drink the night before.







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