Out with the old! In with the New Year! Be sure to add that second bit or poor grampa’ll be feeling a chill wind coming in with the bells.
All right, I’ve had a wee snifter already but I’ve looked at the clock and it’s officially Hogmanay! A time when all tall dark-haired men are seized upon at doorsteps and their pockets rummaged thoroughly for lumps. The coal etc. found they will be ushered in as harbingers of good luck for the coming year. Tall dark men are favoured because it’s said the true Scots are dark-haired and tall blonde men at the door used to mean Vikings and more bad luck than Telly Savalas’ head-lice. Blonde women are considered lucky though – possibly because of the fertility suggested by the child-bearingness of their Nordic hips. Luckier still are the couple that come a-first-footin’ up the path with a nicely clinking plastic bag.
It’s Hogmanay!! When Scots all over the planet grow jolly on barley juice (“Wha’s like us, eh?”) then maudlin (“O howly! Waily!”) then emotional (“This could well be the last one I see! Oh uh-huh. Yes it could well be. It could well be the last one any of us sees. It’s all going to hell, all of it” *Great sweeps of the arms to indicate the enormity of the number of the things that are going to hell* ) then Bolshy (“Nemo me impune accessit! D’you hear? NEMO!”) then defiant, tedious, then back to jolly again before singing the ould songs and passing out to be found the next morning by a sensibly-shod tweedy lady’s labradors, lying in a ditch, foetal, thumb-sucking and softly snuffling the old year’s dreams and drams away.
(Hogmanay is also the very best time of the year to use run-on sentences)
It’s Hogmanay!!! The only time of the year anyone ever drinks Advocaat.
It’s Hogmanay!!!! A time for shortbread on the good plates, whisky in the best crystal and flushed aunties getting better and better measures from ruddier and ruddier (and often ruder and ruder) uncles.
It’s Hogmanay!!!!! A time when it’s OK to snog perfect, but often imperfect strangers in the street. One year in a freezing Aberdeen I was kissed right on the gob by a passing fellow who, I grew hideously aware, as his face drew back and I began to get a look at him, had a great, crusty cold sore over half his lower lip. God knows how I didn’t get it but I reckon the cold in the Granite City that night wasn’t allowing many germs, complex or simplex, any chance to flourish. They were probably huddling together for warmth deep in his pustulent lip behind the wall of scab. Pah-phthoo! Pah-phthoo! Phthoo!
For the Problem Household it’s been a year of mixed blessings. Chief joy was the kids. The Problem Children have transformed from pre-school mud-puppies into proper sticky-out-tummied little girls rushing off to Kindergarten each day, hardly remembering how they used to cling to their mammy’s legs and want to stay home with me all day. Problem Child the Second lost her first baby tooth today and tooth-fairy dust is settling still on her pillow of great hope. Nothing I will ever do in my life again will be better than the girls.
My granny died in June. I loved her with all my heart. She lived with us all throughout my childhood (our house was built onto the back of my grandparents’) and played a huge role in bringing me up. She taught me to read, to love books and was a constant source of wisdom and fun. We were best of friends and I remember days when it was as if there wasn’t anybody else in the world but us and the cake we were making, or the book we were reading, or the daffodils we were tying or one of the collections or projects we were always working on. I was allowed to do all sorts of messy things in her kitchen I wasn’t allowed to do in our’s. My brother and I were free to poke into nooks and crannies all over her creaky, old house and I never felt so safe and secure as when she was playing the piano for my grandpa and me to waltz to. She was always very proper but had a twinkle in her eye and a razor sharp wit that seemed to grow sharper the older I got, but of course, I was just growing up and getting the joke more. She was a granny for all ages. My friends loved her and a few would go and visit her whenever they went home to Lewis, right ’til she was near the end. She had infinite time for me, it seemed, until her’s ran out and I will miss her deeply til the hour my own run’s out.
But Hogmanay was a great favourite of my granny’s. She liked Glenlivet at Christmas and Glen Morangie at Hogmanay. She would hold court, holding forth on all sorts and all the time holding her whisky – she assured us it had no effect on her whatsoever except a little swelling round the ankles – and she’d have us all rapt at her stories and fun. So this year, I’ll be raising a glass to my granny, thanking whatever God sent me my unexceptional but wholly amazing children, and as the ancient tradition demands*, sweeping away the dying year to make way for the promise of the new.
And I will be raising a glass or seventeen to you lot of fine blogging pals, declaring “Lang may your lum reek!” which means “I hope your chimney will always smoke” and is by way of saying long life and prosperity and stuff.
So then. Blogpals I salute you! You make me chortle and guffaw and think and engage on an almost daily basis. You rock. Slainte mhor agus bliadhna mhath ur! Which is by way of saying “May your neighbour’s sheep never eat the washing off your line.”
Scoff you not, you ungrateful bleggarts! You never know when you’ll need that. It could happen day or night but I’ve protected you now see – your scanties may air unmolested.
*Scottish people take this more seriously than others I think although I dunno why. Something to do with the Scottish Kirk not letting us have Christmas for a few hundred years, saying it was a papist ceremony or whatever. Something like that. It sounds like them. That’d make you want to make up for with a big splash at the New Year. But I remember being horrified when I was wee when I heard my uncle’s fiancee from Nottingham had said on the phone she didn’t wait up for the bells and usually just went to bed. I had an idea of her all dusty and cobwebbed with the old year like Miss Havisham before she caught on fire and I remember being genuinely surprised at her relative freshness when I finally met her to be her bridesmaid.