Apart from coming face to face with the end of the world, my years in Scotland were among the happiest of my life. I loved the beauty of the Highlands, the bustle of Glasgow, the elegance of Edinburgh, and the charm of Dumbarton, the town where I lived, on the banks of the Clyde.
I loved the people, too – their raw humour and generous welcome was far removed from myths of meanness and dourness with which the English had cloaked them. I always looked forward to New Year’s Eve, or Hogmanay, which for me was even better than Christmas. There were always invitations to party with friends, and of course, welcome in the New Year with the auspicious ‘first foot’.
One New Year’s Eve I was invited to a friend’s family home for Hogmanay. The Scots are great party animals, and wicked practical jokers. At this house, the mother was very pedantic and particular about New Year – everything had to be just right, and for two years running the first foot over the doorstep after the clock struck midnight had belonged to a fair-haired person. For good luck, it has to be a dark-haired person of course.
So she sent her youngest black-haired son outside with strict orders to stop anyone coming to the door until he had been called to enter at the magic moment of Midnight, effectively waylaying any naughty blondes who might be on their way to the house – Mam was sure her rascally older sons were responsible for it, as they were notorious practical jokers. These scallywag brothers weren’t put out, because as soon as Mam’s back was turned, they put the clock back 15 minutes.
“Mam, Mam, it’s frigging freezing oot here! Mam, for God’s sake, Mam, I’m getting frostbite on my bum…”
“Not until 12 o’Clock,” Mam yelled back.
It was only when she saw her two incorrigible boys doubled up with laughter in the kitchen that she cottoned on…
Happy New Year, everyone.