Posted by: christinelaennec | January 2, 2015

A new year, and a new project

We have come through the door into a new year – Happy New Year to you all!  I hope 2015 brings you many blessings.

Wreath plus hearts and angel, January 2nd 2015.

Wreath plus hearts and angel, January 2nd 2015.

Tomorrow we will be putting away the Christmas decorations and taking down the tree – which is still lovely.  I will be sorry to say goodbye to its scented branches.  I’ve enjoyed it so much.  There have been a few minor changes since before Christmas:

The angel of tea has joined the nativity!

The angel of tea has joined the nativity!

My friend J, sweet soul, gave me an amaryllis after I got back from Portland, and it is fitting that it’s been shooting up just next to my Dad’s statue:

An amaryllis has sprouted by the umbrellas and Christmas trolls.

An amaryllis has sprouted by the umbrellas and Christmas trolls.

I thought I would try something new this year for my blog.  I may have mentioned before how much I enjoy Katharine Stewart’s writings.  She lived on a croft (type of small farm) in the Highland village of Abriachan, high up above Loch Ness.  Her book The Crofting Way (1999) is a series of short essays that chart the changes in crofting between the 1950s and the 1970s.  I very much recommend it.  The book below, A Garden in the Hills (1995) was written after she had left her croft and moved into the former schoolhouse in the village.  As its name suggests, she writes mostly about her garden there, but also about life in Abriachan, reflecting back to former times.

A Garden in the Hills by Katharine Stewart.

A Garden in the Hills by Katharine Stewart.

I thought that I might try to follow along A Garden in the Hills, which is a series of small essays throughout the year (albeit starting in October), here on this blog.  I am interested to see if my life in 2015 in Glasgow has any similarities to what she describes.  I also thought that rereading these essays would give me an interesting prism through which to see my own journey (God willing!) through the seasons this year.

On January 2nd (presumably 1994) she wrote:  “Nowadays we meet in the house of our oldest neighbour for Hogmanay, drink a toast as midnight strikes and then it’s singing, in Gaelic by our host and by some of us trying valiantly to follow, in English by others, and a dram by the glowing fire for each succeeding visitor, till the room is so warm that pullovers are discarded and tea is made to revive flagging energies.  Neighbours who may not meet often, leading very separate lives these days… cherish this chance to meet…” (p. 24)

I remember some of this tradition from when we first moved to Aberdeen in 1992.  We were invited to see the New Year in at a downstairs neighbour’s, and were astonished to find ourselves in a room packed with people, each one doing their “party turn” i.e. reciting a poem or singing a song.  When my turn came all I could think of that I could sing was “I have a mule and her name is Sal, fifteen miles on the Erie Canal”!  They seemed to like it.  After the bells (of Big Ben, which I think we listened to on the radio), people went out to first-foot, with small gifts of shortbread or even something useful for the house, such a a packet of sponges.  There were people visiting from house to house until the wee hours, and yes, whisky was involved.

The old traditions are dying out, or perhaps just changing.  What did our family do on Hogmanay 2014?  We were invited to the house of friends, where we saw in the New Year by setting off fireworks in the garden, with small children safely inside behind a window and the cat locked away.  We toasted it with Bucks Fizz and fruit juice.  The family then Skyped with their father, who is away on business.  We three walked home, not far, through empty streets.  We sent a few texts ourselves, and got to bed about 1:30 am.

On New Year’s Day, we sent quite a lot of texts, and phoned a few people to wish them Happy New Year and Bliadhna Mhath Ur.

Today, the 2nd, we invited our neighbours on the street to an Open House, as we did last year.  We enjoyed getting ready for our party.  Several of the items on the table were gifts from friends, as were the gold stars.

Open House for our neighbours, January 2nd 2015.

Open House for our neighbours, January 2nd 2015.

Everyone crammed into the living room and people enjoyed catching up.  We live close together but people don’t often stop and chat anymore.  So in some respects, it wasn’t all that different from Katharine Stewart’s New Year’s gathering, except that it happened the next day in the afternoon.

Here’s to 2015 – may it be good to us all!



  1. How wonderful to gather in this way. It was just a very quiet New Year here. Someday I wish we would all be together as a family again for New Year. Not something we do anymore, saddly.

  2. Our family gathered together on New Year’s evening. It was a good time for all. The book sounds interesting, and I’m looking forward to reading here this year. 🙂
    Blessings to you and yours in 2015!

  3. It sounds like you brought in the New Year with fun, dear friends and family. I look forward to reading your posts throughout this new year. And, I wish for you and your family many blessings.

  4. The book your mentioned sounds lovely. I also love your tea angel !!!
    Happy New Year and I wish you all the best for 2015.

  5. I do love your idea Christine, of writing some essays about your life there in Glasgow! I am so excited to hear that you are turning to writing once again! I know it has been a difficult couple of years for you and the creative process was put on the back burner due to necessity and love. You are such a beautiful writer and to read your stories will be a wonderful thing to look forward to in the New Year. I really enjoyed reading about the old New Year traditions and the song you came up with gave me a little giggle. It seems that you are keeping old traditions alive still, and it sounds lovely. Here’s to a wonderful and creative New Year for you! xo Karen

  6. The first installment of your 2015 project is an interesting and fun read Christine…your choice of a song to perform was delightful. The customs of the past seem similar to how you celebrated this year. On New Year’s Eve my youngest son and I went nearby to play Bunco with friends and got home just in time to hear our family at home count down to the dropping of the ball in NY City. Someone in our area put off some fireworks. We toasted the new year with sparkling pomegranate juice in inexpensive clear stemmed flutes, and my oldest son texted me from Bayside New York. New Year’s Day I watched the colorful Rose Bowl Parade on TV and then watched with great excitement as the Oregon Ducks won their Rose Bowl football game! May you and your family have a very blessed and creatively satisfying 2015. xx

  7. Looking forward to reading your short stories, I will try to get hold of a copy of the book. We had a very quiet new year but celebrated Christmas with family. Thankyou for your well wishes, wishing you everything you wish for yourself for 2015.

  8. The various New Year celebrations you describe all sound lovely, and I’m looking forward to reading more of your reflections on Katharine Stewart’s year and your own. Wishing you and your family a wonderful 2015!

  9. Can’t wait to read what you will write as part of this project this year!!! We were always told of the old Hogmanay traditions when we lived in Airdrie but no one we knew was still participating in any of them. Sounds like you have had a delightful celebration and how wonderful that you had your neighbors over yesterday! Getting ready to have 4 neighbor ladies for tea this morning!

  10. I look forward to seeing your ‘new’ style blog. Your New Year sounds like fun, I like your open house idea, we could have done with something like that after the family New Year party we had to use up the left over food and drink! I hope this is a good year for you and your family and hopefully we can meet up soon – I have a knitting problem I need help with and you are the very person to help I think!! lol. x

  11. Looking forward to reading, you write so well.

  12. I decided to download A Garden in the Hills and read along. So many of the books that are mentioned in blogs are not available in the US unless you want to pay a lot for postage so I was happy to see this one was available through Barnes and Noble at a normal price. Looking forward to reading about your 2015 and writing project.

  13. happy new year, my friend. you have such a wonderful way of story-telling. glad your new year was fun and full of friends.

  14. Sounds like your New Year celebrations worked really well. Perhaps because of the climate differences, Australians seem to focus on going out into public places on New Year’s Eve, rather than enjoying home-based gatherings of friends and neighbours. I think I would enjoy the festivities in your Open House much more than the big events here.

  15. Happy New Year Christine, thanks for sharing this lovely post..

  16. Happy New Year, Christine. Wishing you all the best in 2015. Loved this post and I will try to find these books. Looking forward to all your posts in the coming year😊.

  17. Thank you all for your new year’s wishes, and your very positive reaction to my idea of reflecting on Katharine Stewart’s essays. I was amazed (and flattered) that you are looking forward to reading my thoughts, and that a few of you are going to read along. I just hope I won’t disappoint you! We’ll see what happens.

    oldblack, I should have mentioned that in Scottish cities -notably Edinburgh- there are very popular Hogmanay outdoor celebrations. Until we had two children, we used to enjoy watching the Stonehaven Fireball Ceremony. I clearly recall standing for well over an hour in freezing weather waiting for it all to start – with a shared flask of whisky circulating! (we could have used one of those on the unheated train…)

  18. /Users/fionamacdonald/Pictures/iPhoto Library.photolibrary/Masters/2014/12/29/20141229-165402/IMG_0385.JPG
    Hi Christine – apologies if this does not work (I have a mental block about my fancy computer and iPhotos) but this is meant to be a pic of a street sign I took in Quimper in the summer. I hope you like it!

  19. OK, that did not work, did it? I

    t’s so annoying!

    • Sorry – was it a Laennec-related sign? Thanks all the same.

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