Christina Kennedy

Hogmanay Party

May as well go to bed early. With any luck be asleep well before the bells. Ruairidh may phone at midnight though. Oh well, let’s get the vegetables ready for tomorrow. Ruairidh’s none too keen on steak pie but surprisingly fond of vegetables for a nine year old. He’s looking forward to coming tomorrow. Dear little nephew, what would I do without you?

Glass of wine to alleviate the boredom of peeling veg? Why not? Could have gone to the club with Lorraine and Alex. Not really my scene. Probably be expected to play Bingo. A long night—seven till well past midnight. I’d have been liable to drink too much and David would have recognised the ravages tomorrow. No hiding these things between brother and sister. Now for the trifle. Not enough room in this kitchen. Damn this wee Wimpey Box!

Could have gone out for supper with Margaret and Heather. Heather doesn’t approve of me. Anyway, some Hogmanay that would be. In Paris we had half a bottle of wine between four of us at dinner.

Another glass won’t go amiss. Don’t mind staying in at Hogmanay. Nothing can match the New Years at Aunt Jean’s in the Seventies. What a build up. We looked forward to it for weeks. Christmas lights at Cardwell Bay. A warm welcome from Aunt Jean and Uncle Campbell … security in continuity. Excitement mounted as the clock climbed towards ten, then eleven. Almost wetting ourselves with enthusiasm as the old year breathed its last hours. Just like at Halloween when you were a child about to go guising. Aunt Jean would check on the soup. Uncle Campbell put out glasses. We fought for our turn in the little old fashioned bathroom. I had a dread of being locked in and missing the bells. One by one we’d come back to the living room suitably attired to bring in the New Year. The cousins always wore kilts. Campbell had found his in an old junk shop in Greenock.

Uncle Campbell would go out just before midnight. Strange tradition to first foot your own home.

Then it would be here! Bells from St John’s, sirens from the boats out on the Clyde. Aunt Jean would answer the door to Uncle Campbell. He’d come in bearing coal for the fire. Happy New Year! Glasses were filled. Aunt Jean had her only drink of the year and the first of many cigarettes. The door bell would ring again and again … neighbours, friends, friends of cousins. As time progressed they came back every year, students then graduates, then bringing partners and spouses. When the cousins were abroad, still their friends came at New Year to first foot Aunt Jean and Uncle Campbell.

It changed over time, as most things do. The last New Year I spent at Aunt Jean’s I didn’t set out early enough and brought in the New Year with the taxi driver on the dual carriageway outside Langbank. Aunt Jean wasn’t amused with me for missing the bells. Campbell came down the path resplendent in his junk shop kilt to pay the taxi driver. “Happy New Year to you, sir!” Folks passed away, moved away. In her later years Aunt Jean said New Year wasn’t worth the candle.

Should I run round with the hoover? For pity’s sake it’s only a Sunday becoming a Monday. Have another glass of wine.

…Not bad stuff this. Who can I phone? Sheila and Ronnie are in France, Rona and Derek in Aberdeen, Bobby and Fiona goodness knows where in the Caribbean. Think I’ll refresh the old hair rinse. Grey coming through on New Year’s Day, grey coming through all the year round. Superstitious nonsense but put the rinse through anyway. Tedious task … take a book and the wine bottle with me.

Wonder what John’s doing this Hogmanay? Hope he’s OK. He seems to become more reclusive with the years. He never was the life and soul. One New Year he insisted we sit in the dark to discourage first footers. Hope he’s alright wherever he is now … but glad it’s not here. Hope to goodness he doesn’t ring at midnight.

This book isn’t very inspiring. May as well read up on some work stuff till it’s time to take the bag off my head. Open another bottle of wine. It’s Hogmanay after all.

Well, that’s the hair dry. May as well dress up a bit. Hogmanay and all that. Another good bottle of wine. Think Deborah’s in next door. Should I ask her to come through for a drink? Better not, she’ll stay too long or fall asleep like she did last time.

All dressed up and nowhere to go—on the last night of the year on the outskirts of the city hosting the world’s biggest Hogmanay Party. But don’t you need tickets—and is it not young people who go? What the hell. All’s on course for the New Year’s Dinner. Nothing more to be done this evening. Not in the mood for that early night now. Hooded waterproof, boots, scarf, gloves, one more glass of wine … and it’s off in the direction of Edinburgh City Centre. Bright lights, action … here we come.