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