Monday, December 31, 2007

Another Hogmanay

Having enjoyed reading Jon's teary, nostalgic stories of Christmas past, I decided some reminiscing of my own wouldn't be out of place.

Christmas for us was usually spent in Dundee where your enjoyment of the festive season was generally measured by how much food you could consume between dawn and dusk - not eating meant not enjoying and that would simply not be tolerated. From the bacon stuffed rolls which left your dressing gown smeared with butter grease and tomato sauce to the industrial vats of prawn cocktail, it was heaven for a 9 year old with an appetite. Indeed there is a well worn family story where Gillian, who could be relied upon to work herself up into a vomitus over-excited wreck on Christmas Eve, was only cured of her boke by the ingestion of two cheese and tomato pizzas.

Another lasting memory is of the organisation involved when squeezing four or five adults and up to six children, plus guests, in a cottage originally built to house a crofter and possibly his wife. Place mats were laid each meal time in the livingroom on every available horizontal surface. A middle spot on a table was nice as there was less chance of things ending up on the floor, or of one of the dogs helping you to finish. Seats near the fire were at a premium earlier in the day when the house had yet to heat up, but by evening the furnace blast meant that only the cat and dogs could get within a few feet of it. This gave them the best view of the (off) TV and a perfect vantage point from which to let off casual farts in the direction of your Vienetta and Ice Magic. Feeding aside, the sleeping and washing arrangements alone were impressive enough. Bunk beds and inflatable beds were frequent friends as you were given your place in the sleeping hierarchy.

We were a family who still did "turns" - I did a mean Margaret Thatcher impression, and once an optimal amount of alcohol had been consumed the various uncles and aunts from many generations would indulge in some music hall classics to pass the time. One advantage that we had over the Broons was a "television", but this was in the days when the war for children's minds was still being optimistically fought by parents who believed two things - 1) that family derived entertainment was more fun than Tiswas and 2) this was a fight which could still be won. We could debate if either, both or none of these is true but it won't help me in 1982.

Anyway. Hogmanay as a child was perhaps less exciting, barring the thrill of being allowed up late. Once or twice we were taken along to parties then put to bed before being "gently awoken" at early o'clock when it was time to go home. I would not wish this torture on any child and will try to avoid it with my own. Jon's blog reminded me of those first few "allowed out" New Years when the rules of social etiquette were still being learned, then ignored. Hogmanay evening would be spent touring the houses of...people we knew. Calling them all "friends" would be a bit false considering many of them I have never, and will never see again, but we knew enough "friendly people" to organise or instigate quite the tour of Tain. Traps would be laid for us, though; on arrival at Tower Gardens for example I would be presented with a generous basin of neat whisky from my host or hostess which would then be refilled at a pace Oliver Reed might have called "a bit much". It was all my teen male ego could do to drink them as fast as they were presented. But then later in the evening any of my visits to the toilet would be accompanied by sharp intakes of breath and some tut-tutting as I weaved my wibbly wobbly way past vases and display dinner services before engaging other guests in inappropriate conversation. These truly were "the good old days". As time went on Jon and I became less of the social butterfly type and concentrated more on becoming connoisseurs of witty stories, droll recollections and the contents of other people's drinks cabinets.

We also frequently set out to prove that the right amount of alcohol prevented hypothermia. When it's 2 in the morning, and snowing, and you've been drinking whisky since midday, and someone says to you, "Let's go down to the beach" you really should say "No." But the memories of running my hands through my hair to dislodge the ice only serve to celebrate the anti-freeze properties of The Famous Grouse.

So, tonight Lorna and I will hit Tain town centre again after all these years. We are attending the Hogmanay street party organised, I think, by the Tain Gala Association Ceilidh band, fireworks (one assumes) and home by 00:10 if all goes to plan...

Monday, December 17, 2007

A Cold Snap

Ah, Christmas is almost upon us. Where has the year gone? We really knew it was this time of year over the weekend when I took part in the Santa Run, visited the German Market the braved John Lewis for some frenzied shopping action. The Santa Run involved 2500 people dressed as Santa doing two laps to Princes Street gardens in aid of a charity. I was hoping for a race but was disappointed to receive no race number and to be held up by children dressed as reindeer and babies in prams as I barged my way round both laps in search of glory. There was even someone on crutches for goodness sake - what's Christmassy about that? Anyway, it was well worth it for my Lidl bag containing water and a banana at the end, and at least I had support in the form of Little Santa, pictured.
The German Market is where German wanderers tempt us with their rustic traditional wares - salt crystal candle holders and models of motorbikes made out of nuts and bolts. You know, very German stuff. The mulled wine was worth a look though, laced as it was with rum.
The last week of term was as busy as usual, full of parties and plenty of "media studies" - our name for watching a DVD. It was Bugsy Malone for P7 this year, and before showing it we announced to them that we planned to put on the stageshow in June. Because they are such a keen class they began singing along, and claiming the parts they wanted to play - a good sign for us if the enthusiasm continues.
Kit enjoyed his Christmas Party at nursery. He won a Santa face cloth and towel set and didn't cry when the "big" Santa arrived, so that counts as a big success. People keep asking us what he's getting for Christmas but I'm afraid we are being a bit unimaginative and putting some cash into his savings account...boooring, but he still doesn't know what's going on and we reckon his other relatives will cough up enough sparkly wrapped goods to keep him happy.
In January Lorna changes to part-time hours at last. I say at last because it's something she's wanted for a while - more time with Christopher - and now she is able to plan all sorts for events and activities. Another benefit is that I have many Friday half days during the second part of the school year so we'll plan little trips swimming, climbing or such like.
Some bad news on the 24 hour cycle front... having neared the end of our training and bought most of the extras we'd need, including ludicrously expensive lights sent for the USA, we are having to pull out! Unfortunately Mike had a wee accident - he fell off his bike (!) and has craked bones in his arm and shoulder. It was his racer, not even the mountain bike, and he was caught out by a greasy patch on the road. Nobody is more fed-up about this than Mike. I have mixed feelings. Part of me is disappointed having prepared for it for so long. But part of me is quietly delighted not to have to do it! There were suggestions from people that I find a replacement partner, but that's not really in the spirit of teamwork. I felt it should be Mike and I or not at all. Besides, it was his camper van we were going to be using...