New Year’s Dive, Scheveningen, the Netherlands

I hate New Year’s Eve. Normal pubs charge you money to get in, people seem to think they can act like complete idiots and the night is almost always a total letdown.

For years I’ve stayed home with a movie, a bottle of champers and my cats. This year, I had a new boyfriend and no fixed abode, so I decided to do something different. I was in the Netherlands over Christmas, visiting Thomas and his family, and our plan was to stay in and watch telly for New Year’s Eve. But when I woke up that morning, the first thing I thought was, “We have to do something fun for new year’s! We must go to the New Year’s Dive!” I excitedly told Thomas this the moment he woke up, and he sleepily agreed, so we booked a hotel in Scheveningen, jumped in the car and headed north to Scheveningen, a beach town near The Hague.

As soon as we got there, I felt ill. It was the worst timing. I had a fever, I was hot and cold and my bones hurt. Midnight was creeping closer and my desire to get out of bed was getting lower. But I was determined. So I downed a blackcurrant Lemsip, dragged myself out of bed and put on all my clothes. I looked like the Michelin man.

Realising that a taxi was a very expensive, and at that time, unavailable option, we got in the car on the off-chance there’s be parking somewhere within two miles of the beach. We drove around for ages, but all the parking meters had a 30-minute maximum. But our luck was in. Thanks to the fireworks maniacs of the Netherlands (they’re only legal between 10am and 2pm on New Year, no other time of year, so people go a bit mental) a parking meter had been obliterated by fireworks. No one would know how long we’d been there!

We got out the car and crossed the road. Right behind us there was a massive bang, as if someone had shot a gun right behind our heads. We looked back at the smouldering firework in the middle of the street – right where we’d just crossed. I felt like I was in Afghanistan, dodging landmines. I could have lost my legs! And it wouldn’t have even been for the good of my country!

As we walked to the beach, kids threw fireworks in our path and massive explosions were going off everywhere, the sound reverberating off the tall buildings and along the roads trees and trash were on fire. It was terrifying.

We got to the beach at about 11.15pm, and in contrast to the streets, it was completely dead. Hardly any people, bars were closed, no big bonfire as promised by YouTube videos of past years.

We walked up and down, disappointed, until I suggested we go sit on the sand and have a glass of wine from the bottle we’d brought. As soon as we hit the sand, we noticed a massive lit-up 2012 sign facing the sea. No one knew it was there! We sat facing the water, bracing ourselves against the odd sandstorm and discussing whether we would tell people that, while we’d spent NYE on the beach, it was actually pissing down with rain, freezing cold and not, in fact, in Thailand, as people might assume.

At 11.45pm we turned around to see if anything was happening. The beach was packed! People were playing with sparklers, the 2012 sign was flashing, and everyone was in a great mood.

As midnight struck, loads of previously unassuming white vans opened their doors and thousands of white balloons filled the sky. Fireworks went wild and a huge bonfire started up down the beach. What a difference 45 minutes can make!

 

 

The next morning was the famous New Year’s Dive. It involved 10,000 people wearing orange bobble hats and running into the ocean at midday. When we got down there the beach was heaving – it was taking place on the exact spot we’d been sitting the night before. The atmosphere was electric. A band played onstage, jollying up the crowd, and the originator of the dive was there too, although he’s about 100 now.

At midday, they counted down and everyone ran into the water and out again. It looked like fun and I cursed my sickness for stopping me from joining in. Next year I swear I’ll do it… Brrrrr…