Ringing in the changes at New Year

Christmas lights in Galashiels.
Christmas lights in Galashiels.

Another year is rapidly drawing to close. At just 62 (and a half), I don’t consider myself to be anywhere near old. But confess I must – each year does seem to pass just a wee bit more rapidly than the previous.

Of course it only seems that way, because, with the exception of a leap year, they all take the same amount of time.

It’s difficult to believe, though, that 14 years have passed since the wonder that was the new millennium. The birth of an era that had been heralded with the forecast of computer crashes that would plunge the world into darkness and despair.

It didn’t happen, although my Christmas tree lights blinked a few times then failed on the penultimate day of the old millennium. But there was no doom or disaster because they came with a few extra bulbs and after a prickly half-hour that produced more than the odd un-festive-like curse they were working again.

Looking back, as one inevitably does at this time of year, it’s clear that the celebrations to mark Auld Year’s Night, Hogmanay, call it what you will, and the New Year have certainly changed.

When you were considered old enough to stay up and see in The Bells, it was either to some grand old Scottish music on the telly, with the inevitable pipe band, Andy Stewart or the White Heather Dancers. Or better still, there would be real live music around your ain fireside.

As a school lad I once was able to play the piano – badly. In fact very badly. But that didn’t deter me from being urged, encouraged, cajoled and even bribed to play some waltz tune which had secured for me an elementary certificate from the pianoforte association or some other such body. I progressed to a not too bad rendering of Auld Lang Syne, God Save the Queen, Andy’s Stewart’s a Scottish Soldier, and for a reason that still eludes me, God Bless the Prince of Wales (I think it may have been because I found a version that only contained one sharp).

We were allowed a bottle of homemade, non-alcoholic ginger beer which we took on the obligatory visits to relatives, neighbours and friends, where we were fed on shortbread and Black Bun.

As we edged into the world of work as young teenagers, a crowd of us made these visits on our own and the ginger ale gave way to something a bit stronger. We brought in the New Year at the clock.

In Galashiels it was the Town Hall, now demolished and the site of the Job Centre, and then at the war memorial.

And how the crowds gathered and the flasks and bottles were passed around. And there was always the argument – did the clock actually chime?

After The Bells, whether they rang or not, our first calls were always to our parents where we were fed thick soup or stovies “to put a lining on our stomachs”.

Bringing in the New Year wasn’t a one-night wonder. For us it lasted several days.

We wandered from house to house and street to street. And I rue the time I wore my new suit. A shortcut meant negotiating a barbed wire fence. And that left a triangular rip just above my left knee. You didn’t get a new suit very often then and I spent a long time hiding the damage from my parents.

Have a great New Year – 
but beware the barbed wire fence.