|Last New Year I was in Sydney - apocalyptic fireworks!|
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
This post should go live at midnight, some time after which my boyfriend and I will be heading back from our friends’ house party. When we arrive home we shall deploy the motley collection of objects I shall take with us or previously place near the front door step: a box of matches/lighter, a bottle of drink (usually whisky but could be wine or juice), some salt, a piece of wood/coal, and bread/something edible. We will make sure he goes into the house first, for he will be the 'first foot' through the door in 2015, carrying these objects representing fire, fuel, food and drink, with the hope that the whole year to come will see us well supplied with these essentials and therefore Good Luck.
|First-footing Kit - salt, coal, whisky and bread, aka the basics.|
When I was a bairn in the north east of England, New Year’s Eve was celebrated as much as it is in Scotland under the name of Hogmanay, though in the south it wasn’t much noticed. Up here, everyone would set out party food (grapefruits studded with cocktail sticks bearing cubes of cheese, pineapple chunks, silverskin onions and stubs of ‘cocktail sausages’ and the like) and drinks (the usual stuff but possibly even sophisticated Snowballs; exotic ‘Egg Flip’ or Advocaat with lemonade and a dash of Rose’s lime, plus a cocktail cherry) in their houses and then people in the street went from house to house carousing, until just before midnight every door had a man shivering outside it, exchanging banter with fellow victims, pushed out into the snow clutching his symbolic objects, waiting for the chimes of Big Ben to drown out Andy Stewart’s White Heather Club on TV. As soon as midnight chimed, these exiles charged gratefully back indoors to continue getting mortal.
|Sophisticated party food of my childhood. We knew how to live!|
It’s supposed to be a tall dark man who fulfils this role, my boyfriend happens to be both, but you get as near as you can to this with whatever is to hand. Why a tall dark man? No idea. Has it worked? Hard to say – bad things have happened but I’m still here so I must have had enough food and fuel to keep body and soul on nodding terms. I'm already luckier than many to have a home for my boyfriend to stand outside waiting to first-foot. This time last year I was in Sydney watching spectacular fireworks over the Harbour, but there's nowt wrong with Whitley Bay.
|Whitley Bay - nowt wrong with this!|
I’m still keeping up first-footing because I love old traditions, especially local ones which can be forgotten so easily – I often read indignant claims that celebrating NYE is an ‘American’ idea we’ve slavishly copied in the last few years – but also because it’s worth giving magic a go. We still believe in magic, many of us, whether we’d admit it or not. Every bit of lying water still has coins dropped into it, it’s an ancient reflex, to appease or please the spirit guardians/nymphs or whatever we feel in our primitive souls is there, even if it’s a litter-strewn pool in a crappy shopping mall. We still ‘touch wood’. We develop methods of trying to have some control or say in things that are too big to control but vital to our survival – the weather, the crops, the sea. Traditions should be binned if they involve suffering or denial of human rights, but five minutes of frostbite are nothing to the northern male (or female).
|Magic! coins in water, an ancient reflex of modern times.|
Now as the year changes, people are making resolutions, looking back at their 2014, looking ahead with hopes and fears, wondering what the new year will bring. As writers we wonder about all the things we can’t control – will anyone buy/publish our books, ask us to perform? Will it be better or worse than last year? Will we be able to write the ideas that whirl in our heads, or will we be found out as the talentless pretenders we sometimes fear ourselves to be in our darker moments? Perhaps the Tweets and Facebook statuses of some writers, constantly telling the world they are writers and #amwriting, are a way of claiming, and hence possibly creating, control over their writing lives. Otherwise I’m not sure why anyone else would care, we don’t tweet ‘#ampeeing’or #amscratchingmynose’.
|Published this year: poetry &...|
|...my 2nd crime thriller|
|My stage play on John Simpson Kirkpatrick at Gallipoli, restaged mid-May 2-15|
May 2015 be a magic year for you and yours, whether you #arewriting or #not, and may you have food, fuel, drink, and a home for first-footing.
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