Sunday, 31st December, 2023

[Day 1385]

Meg and I slept in for a little while this morning which is surely a good thing. By the time we had got ourselves up and ready for breakfast, it was time for the Lorna Kuennsberg show except that in this holiday season, it was not being aired. So we made do with the Sky News rolling news program until our Eucharistic Minister called round at 9.45. We were delighted to see her and thanked her very much for the Christmas present which was the book of ‘The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse’ upon which the delightful cartoon (shown again on Christmas day) was based. We exchanged news of each other’s Christmas activities and I also took the opportunities to discover what she knew about the various happenings in our local church. During the course of her visit, we received a phone call from our University of Birmingham friend and we agreed to meet in the Waitrose cafeteria later on that morning. As we entered the store, we bumped into our Irish friend and our Italian friend – so big hugs all round with two of my favourite female friends. We had our coffee and a nice chat with our University of Birmingham friend and then the time came for us to part but we took the opportunity to buy some provisions in the store before we left. Then it was a case of getting home and cooking our Sunday lunch which was mainly a case of using up provisions that we already had in stock. But whilst in the store this morning, I took the opportunity to buy some reduced chorizo flavoured sausages which will provide quite a treat for us tomorrow. We have contemplating how best we might spend the morning tomorrow as it is New Year’s Day and the majority of shops, as it is a Bank Holiday, will probably be closed. I consulted the web to explore whether the Touchwood Centre in Solihull might be open tomorrow as we know there is a John Lewis store within it. We discovered that the John Lewis store and other shops would be open today but not tomorrow which is not exactly the sort of news that we wanted to receive. On the other hand, the Merry Hill Centre down the motorway is open tomorrow but does not contain any of the shops that we are minded to visit. So we are still contemplating the nature of our little trip out tomorrow, not knowing what is open and what is not.

No doubt, each family in the land has its own little rituals associated with New Year’s Eve which, of course, is today. Some couples would always make it a priority to either throw or to attend a New Year’s Eve party with family and close friends, the idea being of course to stay up until midnight to see the New Year in. Meg and I have never gone in for that sort of thing but there are various things that I like to have done on New Year’s Eve. This is to ensure that in our principal living rooms, we have a copy of the appropriate calendar so that tomorrow maorning (or even later on this evening) we all have 1st January ready to display. Of course, the Scots make a big thing of Hogmanay which is more important to them than Christmas Day and they have the tradition of ‘first footing’ in which a tall dark stranger is meant to enter the house by the front door, consume some whisky and perhaps some other comestibles on the way through the house and then leave through the back door. This is meant to symbolise the spirit of the New Year entering the house and chasing the remnants of the old year out of the back door. I also seem to remember that the stranger should be bearing a piece of coal (as the provider of light and warmth?) in their hand and perhaps some other artefacts as well. My mother, although not Scottish, used to engage in a scaled down vesrion of this ritual. Being a one parent household, there was rather a dearth of tall dark (male) male strangers so my mother had to improvise. This usually consisted of typing a small lump of coal around the neck of our our typically bewildered cat, which did have the virtue of being practically black all over. The cat was then thrown out of the back door just before midnight, being left along for a crucial minute or so and then being called back in in the New Year bearing the coal round its neck. What the cat thought of this charade I am afraid I never knew. But we did introduce the practice to our next door neighbours in Hampshire (as the husband was naturally dark in complexion) and they participated in the suitably pagan rite just for the fun of it. When we meet with our group of friends at our little gathering next Saturday night, I must remember to ask them if there are any similar traditions here in the Midlands. As it is, we are looking forward to next Saturday where we will consume, by courtesy of our French friend, a specialised confection which she will bake called ‘galette des rois’ and the recipient of the lucky token hidden inside the cake can be King or Queen for the night.