Hogmanay 2019

Christmas has come and gone. I am relieved on one score at least – no more Christmas music with its abundance of glockenspiel tricking me into thinking I’m getting a tonne of WhatsApp messages.

Around this time of year, during the inbetweeny-bit, a strange compulsion comes on me – to clean my living space, and tidy things. I suspect it’s a pagan tradition, but every year I succumb. 

Mon 30 Dec

I set about it with vigour. Bags for the charity shop, the Recycling Facility and the bin (quite a number of socks in the latter) were filled. Older clothes, even those with precious memories attached, were ruthlessly discarded.

I even changed the bed linen.

Two hours in, the scale of the task was becoming apparent, but with bulging sacks and a vacuum cleaner – taking momentary respite from its endeavours – littering the hallway… as Van said many a time, it was too late to stop now. Out with the old, in with the new.

Hogmanay

The purge complete, I flicked through a ski brochure online, trying to decide if I have the time and money to fit in a second ski trip this winter. I don’t, but I’m figuring out if this is a non-negotiable situation.

My niece and nephew no.1 bought me the most elegant trilby hat I’ve ever known for Christmas. It’s yellow, and covered in gold sequins. It will make the perfect accessory for this evening’s Hogmanay celebrations. 

A thought occurred. I realised I hadn’t seen the trilby hat for a while.

Panic momentarily set in, before I located it in the laundry bin, where it had probably fallen during a particularly frenzied dusting episode.

Freshly showered and shaven, wearing a shirt not necessarily clean, but freshly-ironed, I closed the browser, clamped the trilby – smelling faintly of stale underpants – on my head, and set off to the party, clutching a few beers, a half-full bottle of Jack Daniels, and a packet of stripy doughnuts.

New Year’s Day

Sometime after 3pm I climbed into my car, after an evening, night and morning spent in the company of some truly great friends. The Jack D a little emptier than it was… the doughnuts, however, still intact.

When I plug my phone into the car stereo, sometimes the System remembers what I was last listening to and picks up where we left off.

Sometimes it chooses a random song instead. Today it pulled up the near-forgotten Natalie Merchant. 

Maybe it’s the time of year, the wispy melancholy that pervades a grey New Year’s Day, the contented tiredness from a Ligretto session that began before the bells and ended shortly before 3am, but Natalie Merchant’s liquid-silk vocals prove to be a serendipitous choice.

Farewell today // Travel on now // Be on your way

Go safely there // Never worry // Never care // Beyond this day

Raising a glass to you all, wishing you a year of hopes & dreams fulfilled. Here’s to great friends that make the world a great place to be.

Thank you for reading my random musings in 2019! 

<clink>

The January Blues

And, just like that, it was January. Christmas is all but forgotten, schools go back in two days’ time, routines are gradually rebooting.

I’ve spent New Year’s Eve in a variety of ways over the years.

I’ve been at other peoples’ house parties, I’ve hosted my own parties, been shut out of a Banbridge nightclub and had to bribe the doorman to get in. Been on Edinburgh’s Princes St, kissed a strange girl and then nearly crushed in the exit rush, the year before they made it a ticketed event.

I’ve watched Scottish fireworks from Calton Hill, Australian fireworks over Sydney Harbour, been behind a keyboard trying and failing to play ceilidh tunes as folk whirled in the new millennium, been in church watchnight services, in prayer meetings, sat with friends doing a jigsaw, watched Jools’ Hootenanny.

Over the years and across the experiences I’ve learned that my favourite way to bring in the new year is less to do with the activity, and even the environment, and more about the company. Just simply being in the company of friends is how I like to close out the old, and bring in the new, no matter what we’re doing. 

The older the friends, the better, I reckon, but it takes time to grow an old friend, as the fridge magnet says, and one’s friend-circle is an ever-evolving thing. So time with new friends is an investment worth making. This year’s new friend could be next year’s old friend. A year can be a long time in a friendship.

Maybe there’s a comforting reassurance, as something familiar ends, and something new begins, that we’re not alone, there are others on this journey with us.

And so the NYE festivities, 2018 edition, began with dinner out with friends.

My flatmate joined us for dinner. I put it to him that a worthy Flat Goal for 2019 would be to defrost the freezer, seeing as it’s currently quite hard to close the door without an application of one’s size 11s. He concurred. Much fruitful conversation was had with the gang on the best technique for defrosting our freezer. Hairdryers, hot knives and towels were recommended.

My flatmate and I are a little lacking in the hairdryer department, on account of not being overly endowed in the hair department. But hot knives sounded fun.

Most of the party retired in a southwesterly direction back along the canal to Ickle Bef’s flat for a heady late-night combination of quizzes, many rounds of Ligretto, and a smidgeon of Jack Daniels.

It was here that one of the party dropped the bombshell that Jools’ Hootenanny is not, in fact, filmed live, but pre-recorded early in December. She was, by her own admission, deep in Prosecco at this point, and thus I’m not sure her testimony can be considered valid. I remain in denial to this day.

At 23:59 it was suggested we put on the TV for the bells, which – it turned out – was cutting it a little fine. The TV had been disconnected from its box earlier in the evening for quiz purposes, and the New Year arrived, technically bang on schedule but slightly earlier than we were prepared for, with Ickle Bef wrestling manfully with HDMI cables underneath the TV.

Many, many of the NYE parties I’ve attended, and especially the ones I’ve organised, have neglected to remember that midnight – the climax of the evening – actually the whole point of the evening – was fast approaching, until it was fractionally too late even for the 10 second countdown, and someone hastily shouted HAPPY NEW YEAR! And then it doesn’t really matter that one missed the actual moment, because the round of glasses-chinking, hugging and well-wishing can be just as effectively enacted at one or two minutes past the hour.

And anyway, as Bono says, nothing changes on New Year’s Day.

I woke up New Year’s Day morning. Checked my phone. My flatmate had texted.

09:05

Happy New Year! Freezer Done!

There goes my solitary goal for 2019.

Bono’s right, and wrong. It may only be the calendar date that changes, but still, it somehow affords a fresh start, a reset of thinking and priorities. The days are getting longer, albeit not noticeably so just yet. 

No blues over here, just January.

Here’s to fresh adventures in 2019!