What are you up to tonight? This evening, when the wind that is currently whipping through Edinburgh abates, might you head up Princes Street to see the fireworks going off by the Castle? Will you stop for a romantic kiss under the Balmoral Hotel clock at the stroke of midnight? Or will you just stay at home, switch on the television to watch the fireworks go off somewhere in the world, and save your kiss for the mistletoe by the hearth? (Come to think of it, I haven’t seen any mistletoe this year!) Maybe it will be a case of ‘kiss-and-make-up’ after the vagaries that come from the hot-housing of families and visitors during Christmas week. Whatever your plans are – or however they may evolve – may it be a happy and gentle tip into 2018 and may you take pleasure in those around you; even if that is the cat on your lap or the dog by the door. For it is a tricky time of year, not least a hard day of the year, to stay rooted in the pleasure of the moment and to be really present with those around you without spooling off into the past or bouncing away into the future. A past we might misremember and a future we will almost certainly falsely predict. Granted, if ever there was a night for spooling and bouncing, it’s tonight – it’s inevitable, we will all do it. But how we pursue the future and grasp at the past can fashion us into a spectrum of states from being as over-excited as a Bengal Flare shooting energetically into the sky, all colours blazing, to a curled-up, lumpen mess of gin-soaked snot and tears hidden under the pile of ironing in the kitchen corner. Ok, these examples might be two extremes, but we’ve probably been both of them at some stage in our lives. I know I’d rather not be either tonight!
The last time I spent New Year’s Eve in Edinburgh was seeing out 2015 and seeing in 2016. At the stroke of midnight in my sister’s house we sang Rabbie Burns’, Auld Lang Synge, “Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind”. The Scots know a thing or two about remembrance without being overly sentimental. Burns reminds us to look back, remember, and preserve old friendships – even in the face of death. Hold hands, smile, lift your chin, maybe you’ll be the recipient of a wee wink from across the room…. and here we go again.
Now, two years later, I’ll be singing the same song, back in the same place. I’ve been practising the old Scots version with my niece. It has the most beautiful lyrics. The last verse is about holding hands, having a drink together, toasting the past and remembering people who aren’t here – either separated by miles or by loss.
“And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere,
And gie’s a hand o’ thine,
And we’ll tak a right gude willie waught*
For auld lang syne.”
I wish a Happy New Year to you all, and may the sun rise on a wonderful 2018.
*Gude willie waught = friendly draught / goodwill drink