Wednesday, 1 January 2014

My Uruguay. New Year's Eve....Day.

The shrink wraps of cheap cider are being stacked high behind the impromptu stalls. A lady is setting out her stand of fireworks, her children squandering the profits with demonstrations of bangers and squibs. The TV crews in regulation artist black, are erecting antennas, unfurling cable reels and shouldering cameras. The flames of hell are raging in the asado pits, halved cows lie butchered on marble slabs. Already a pall of reek drifts through the morning, mixing with an air of saturnalian expectation. Yet, it's only New Year's Eve...Morning. A car passes and a confetti of paper flies from the sunroof, to be distributed down in the gutter. It will be joined throughout the day by all the other shredded government office calendars of '13, a ticker-tape of till rolls and the accumulating trickle of cheap cider.

A witness to another nation's traditions. One to set alongside the lucky colours of the Latino Nuevo Ano; Red Spain, Pink Argentina, Yellow Peru, White Brazil, prosperity promised, by the hue of your new knickers. Or the synchronised grape swallowing, timed to the chimes, in Spain. The advice to eat pork as pigs root forward, but remember no fowls as they scratch backwards. Fact is, superstition, food and money are synonymous for future prosperity; black-eyed beans look like coins and leafy spinach resembles paper money. The last, I can't help wondering, was a concoction stimulated by an exasperated parent with a chard-phobic child. Now, thanks to the daily paper I'm informed that Scots will have Puritanically swept the hearth and home, before opening their front door at the first strike of midnight. This I can confirm; however the paper asserts as true that "it is obligatory for the English to watch the television programme: 'hootenanny', with Jools Holland. As Wikipedia would say....(citation required).

We head for the nearest town beach, only to find it near deserted. The action isn't here. Just the power walking grannies, elegant roller skaters and the usual shore fishers ruminating on their Yerba Mate, contemplating a vacant sea. I well know where the 'action' is, and we find it soon enough. Rounding the corner of the Plaza Independencia we're met by a Wall of Brewery. The disgorged offices of Humanity under the influence of old year. A maelstrom of cider spume and beef reek, into which we're not overly keen to swim. Avoiding the heart of the action, we find small podsof revellers breaking away, yet still armed with fizz. Not so much for the consumption as for it's quality of podium spray. Any champion would be proud of her skill.

There's the feel of a party that will last all night, so we offer a body swerve, the intention to head back to that plaza as night is falling. Return. It could be another world. We've fallen through a time warp. There's a pastel pink sunset and an utter and total silence. No evidence. No people. No party. Everybody's gone to the moon, or the beach we left a short while ago. Gone, cleared, tidied away the detritus of festival, all that is left is a superstition of guttered calendars.

I'm sitting the following morning in the shade of Plaza Matriz, under the spreading plane trees. The bell of the Iglesia strikes midday. Slowly the local populace are emerging, joining the cruise boat trippers who've been wandering since the earlier hours. Sitting, collecting my superstition of good luck, drifting money spiders floating in the light breeze.

"Kill a spider, bad luck yours will be, Untill of flies you've swatted fifty-three"