…A Guid New Year to ane and a’, and mony may ye see, and during a’ the years tae come, happy may ye be!
My Grandpa always sang this on New Years Day, with or without his fiddle under his chin, often several times, and we all had to join in. I find it less melancholy than the more popular Auld Lang Syne. To be happy, that’s the prize, the thing we strive for. I remember him as a happy man, cheery and sociable. He died in his sleep at the age of 75 after winning a last table tennis match at the village Men’s Club.
With many Auld Years Nichts behind me, I’ve been looking back at old journals, spanning my life from teens to old age. Did they record ‘happy’ new years? Here’s a selection of diary entries from the past six decades.
1962 1st January Got up early and took Dale (our golden labrador) for a walk, The burn was frozen. Daddy took us to Barshaw Park and I skated and then went to sledge with D and E (younger siblings) It was great. I helped Mummy get everything ready for dinner, The good cutlery looked lovely on the white cloth. Aunt B, Uncle D and Aunt E arrived about 4.30. We had a marvellous dinner, our puppet play was a great success and table tennis continued the whole evening.
1966 January 1st A new year. Will it be a new era in my life? I am going to make an effort to get the most out of life instead of passively sitting back and envying other people. (Friends of my parents were coming to stay) and go to a dinner dance) M sent her evening dress down, it’s in my room – I tried it on. It is corally pink chiffon – sort of Grecian. I tied my hair back. I looked thin in it.
Note: Quite a few diaries from 1969 to 1988 are missing – I suspect I have them stored away somewhere. During these years I finished university, started work, got married, had three children. I think they will make interesting reading.
1989 January 3rd. WANTS LIST. 1. New Stair carpet 2. Go on a course 3. Buy a new novel 4. Produce a play 5. Get completely fit. 7. Visit London. 8. Start some creative knitting 9. Do some drawing. Note: I think I achieved most of these. Getting completely fit is one which I have repeatedly failed to do.
1991 4th January Been fighting gloom all day, fairly successfully. I have to deal with this lurking depression. It’s like some kind of malevolent creature, ready to snap at my heels when I turn my back. Note: Depression has been with me throughout my adult life and my journal entries often reflect my efforts in trying to deal with it. Following a clear diagnosis and effective medication, I have now had five years without an episode.
1992 1st January Mum and Dad are here. We had a very low key Hogmanay. Walked from Pittenweem to Cellardyke and back today.
1994 1st January A new year again and the pattern of life is much the same. I’m sleeping well. I’ve rediscovered the joys of having my teddy to cuddle. I seem to remember just how I held him as a child. Very comforting.
Note: He is a Chad Valley bear from 1950. Originally he had a blue satin bow, brown glass eyes and a growl. His fur failed to grow back after I tried out my hair cutting skills. He has been much loved and much mended.
Note: 1996 was a bad year for me and my family. My son was ill, I had spinal surgery and my long marriage ended. I moved out of the family home and decided to avoid my first Christmas alone by accepting an invitation from friends. It seemed like a good idea to fly off to the sunshine, but it was really hard. I was weepy and homesick but I was nurtured and looked after.
1997 January 1st, California The year has begun nicely with champagne in the jacuzzi with my close friends and their family. Resolutions? Have faith in myself, stay calm and in control, live well, listen, be open to new experiences, treat myself kindly. I don’t know how how I’m going to cope when I get home. I suppose I’ll just have to.
1998 January 1st A difficult day. Started off not wanting to get out of bed, crying bitter tears again, feeeling sorry for myself, but got up had a shower, cleaned the stairs. January 3rd Just back from local party. I had a lovely time. I felt fine, able to talk positively about my plans for the future. Note: I had just been accepted for post-graduate study to become a dramatherapist.
2001 1st January Happy to begin this New Year with the man I love. Last night in Edinburgh was wonderful: dancing at the Queen’s Hall, freezing on the Big Wheel, hot chocolate… Note: A year later my life had changed again. Cannyrob and I are still together.
2003 6th January A new year. Christmas is over, It was probably one of the best I have had. Highlights: house decorated, lots of fairylights, new bookshelves, pictures up, playing new guitar, reading ‘Goodbye Mog’ to the family (we’d read all Judith Kerr’s books). Cannyrob and Younger Daughter dancing to Meat Loaf, Watching ‘Babettes Feast’ at home, ‘Lord of the Rings’ at the cinema with Older Daughter
2004 December 30th, Bruges. I feel a million miles away from home and work stresses! Christmas was really good. Having both daughters and son all together for 4 nights was lovely.
Note: As in many families, there were a number of years when my parents, previously sprightly and active, became increasingly unwell and frail. I have diaries from these years but they feel too personal to share yet. My mother died at the end of 2010, my father in 2012.
2013 5th January I’ve had such a happy Christmas. Sleeping better although I wake up early which is quite nice in a way. Have bought some things: red satin pillowcases, wolf suit, new phone for landline. Nothing too outrageous (except maybe the wolf suit)
2020 4th January This has been a tranquil Christmas, with adequate time for preparing, with a wonderfully scented Fraser Fir, a new and flowering Christmas Cactus. We’ve had all the family here, as well as visiting Cannyrob’s family in West Fife. and We’ve been doing a new jigsaw, one of our Christmas traditions….Last year’s was too hard and took us till Easter! This one is proving more rewarding.
Extra time with Younger Daughter and Wee Boy over New Year was lovely with a walk to the park and down to the harbour. We watched ‘The Tiger Who Came to Tea’ one of the favourite children’s books in our house. We invented a new family game with festive mice (made by the amazing Jen Black of Wooltide)
I spent happy evenings sculpting little figures to put in a wooden print case. These were inspired by Pegeen Vail’s ‘Girls in the Arches‘ painting. (Guggenheim Museum, Venice)
I wonder how other people’s ‘New Years’ have begun. Is the expectation of ‘happiness’ unrealistic? Maybe contentment and comfort are more achievable goals for most of us.
In a world of uncertainties, a time of retreat to hearth and home has been an essential break for most of us, although I am aware of how hard it can be to get through these enforced festive days when life is challenging and the normal routine of activities is taken away.
There was a time when I thought I’d lost everything that made up family life, but it is good to realise that there are many ways of being a family as the year pass and things change.
Do let me know by commenting below or emailing me privately if any of this resonates with you. Wishing you the very best in 2020.