Although we had done the Newcastle run the week before Christmas, we decided last minute to visit again for New Year to keep Mum company. There were plenty of people to look after her over the Christmas weekend and she was in good spirits on account of her grandson’s first birthday on Christmas Day. But as New Year was always a happy time for Mum and Dad, parties and family get-togethers were part of their shared life for 50 years, I didn’t want her to have a sad New Year’s Eve. With this in mind, on Saturday morning we drove up a reasonably quiet A1 with a cool box full of Tesco Finest canapes, beer, Cava and a big vat of chilli.
My Auntie Pat and Uncle Alan joined us all for the evening and, buoyed by the success of this game at Christmas, we even had a few rounds of charades, the highlight being Dougie pretending to urinate over everything for a film which will forever be known as The Piss Family Robinson.
As midnight approached we channel-hopped between Jools Holland’s jolly Hootenanny and the BBC reporting from the Thames with the usual inane interviewing:
“So where did you get those Union Jack hats?”
“I had to walk to the other side of the river: took me three hours”
“Well it was certainly worth it: well done”.
Then began the annual debate as to who would be the first-foot. For the uninitiated, in Scotland and the North East of England in particular, a first-foot is the first person to cross the threshold on New Year’s day who brings good fortune for the coming year. Rules have relaxed slightly in that the first-foot can be a member of the household but they must be outside before the stroke of midnight. Tradition has it they should be a tall dark-haired male.
There were three males in the house. Uncle Alan used to be a great first-foot but now his beard and hair are rather white, so he’s probably more welcome the week before, and his chosen point of entry would be the chimney. That left Dougie and Rory.
It was at this point I decided to google first-foot traditions and discovered that the tall, dark man should not be a minister, grave-digger or a doctor. We never knew that. We’ve been using Dougie as a first-foot for years, not knowing he has been a constant harbinger of doom and pestilence. Bugger. So it was down to Rory to save the day. Not keen to move his backside from the comfy sofa, he was equally put out that he was to be shoved out into the cold and miss the final countdown. His moans were ignored and we ran around finding all the things he needed to bring with him: –
Coin – for prosperity – we gave him 50p
Bread/Cake – for food – a chocolate brownie
Coal – for warmth – he nicked a pretend one from my mum’s gas fire display.
Drink – for good cheer – a bottle of whisky.
Once he had the whisky in his paws he looked a bit more lively and we shooed him out of the front door with a minute to go. The rest of us counted down, cheered, kissed, watched the fireworks and waited with bated breath for our first-foot. He seemed to take a while and I was worried he’d sneaked off with the The Famous Grouse so in the end I had to shout at him through the letter-box.
When he eventually walked through the door he was, indeed, a bringer of good fortune, with the biggest smile I’ve seen in ages and which, amazingly, I happened to catch mid-grin on my camera.
Happy New Year to you all and ‘Lang may yer lum reek’.