Should Auld Acquaintance Be Forgot…

Well here we are on the last day of 2015. Very shortly, Julian Calendar’s latest offspring, who shall be nameth 2016, will make an appearance. It is anticipated, the announcement of the arrival will be made live on TV by Jools Holland, around midnight.

I plan to toast the appearance of the offspring with a Marks & Spencers ‘Meal for Two’, my wife and a glass of ‘vino de millo’. This is a particularly potent wine, which if imbibed to excess renders you armless as well as legless.

Karen and I haven’t done a great deal on Hogmanay for many years. One of the main reasons being that I worked a number of New Years Days over a 20 year period. This generally meant an early night on New Years Eve, or if I did stay up a more sensible approach with my ‘celebrations’.

Growing up, my parents tended to have a house party to see in the New Year. In the more neighbourly 1970’s, there was keenness of communities in the north east of England to celebrate Hogmanay in the style of their close Scottish cousins.

AUld Lang Syne

The party would start at pub kicking out time and after Jimmy (a Scottish neighbour) had blessed the whisky. If truth be told, it wasn’t exactly blessing the whisky, more him getting to the bottle first. He’d follow this by singing ‘Auld Lang Syne’ under the influence, prior to crashing into the record player.

My parents didn’t always use a record player for the entertainment. One year, to make the music harder for Jimmy to sabotage, the musical entertainment was provided by my audio cassette recorder.

I’ll always remember that first tape recorder with fondness. It was was given to me by my grandad Strachan in the mid 1970’s. It had the quirky anomaly of the recording alignment being awry, which meant that you could only record on one side.

Due to it requiring recalibration, if you flipped a recording over, the tape played the music backwards.

It was bizarre to listen to and meant I had to spend double on cassettes. However, on the plus side, I did learn how to sing the Don McClean classic American Pie backwards, which I’m sure it’ll come in handy one day.

Strangely, Jimmy became far more eloquent and lucid when he joined in with the lyrics being played in retroversion!

My parents party’s was generally attended by neighbours within our cul-de-sac of 1960’s built semi detached houses.

As I got older, in our inauguration into people watching those under the influence, my younger brother Ian and I were given permission to stay up later. Sitting with a glass of pop and a bag of crisps, we saw a new side of ordinarily placid family friends, while letting their hair down……… Apart from the bald bloke at number 14.

I’ve not seen that New Years Eve community spirit since leaving the north east in the 1980’s. I’m not sure if it even exists anymore to be honest……. I suspect not.

My wife lived a few miles away in a town called Birtley. She remembers the 1970’s as a tough time for her family; particularly in the years her mum’s hit man business was struggling. Karen recalls ‘The Birtley Bullet Shortage’ of 1977 as a particularly fraught time in her parents home.

I didn’t know her, or her family, at the time. However, retrospectively her dad claims in that era he collected protection money for a group of lobsters. I think he meant mobsters, as I’m not aware of the local organised crime being fronted by crustaceans!

I first met Karen on a New Years Eve in 1982. She was seeing a lad who was a friend of a mate, at the time……….. Well, she was until her third martini when she was seeing two of him. Only kidding, she was drinking pineapple juice as I recall, as she was under age!

I was with friends in a pub called The Beaconsfield on Low Fell. She made quite a first impression …….. It was that of Norman Wisdom!

Little did I know within four months she’d be my girlfriend and I’d spend the next 30+ years with her, in one capacity or other!

After the pub’s last orders, I bode Karen’s group farewell; prior to wandering home where my mum and dad’s house party was in full flow. Jimmy had recently blessed the whisky and was in the process of staggering into the stereo, mid Jackson Five song! ………. In his state A,B,C wasn’t as easy as 1,2,3!!

I joined our Ian on the sofa, who was sat with a beer watching TV. If memory serves me correct, he had Andy Stewart’s Hogmanay show on. We’d recently rented this TV, which my dad secured at a cheaper monthly rate as he’d secured sponsorship.

The picture on it was quite good, however, having ‘Low Fell Skip Hire’ emblazoned over the screen did spoil the viewing experience a tad!


After joining Ian, we clashed cans of Skol lager and wished each other a ‘Happy New Year’. In accompaniment of our sipping of gassy beverages, we proceeded to half watch Moira Anderson sing a duet with Kenneth McKellar on the TV.

I don’t recall what the tune was, although I wouldn’t bet against ‘You Take The High Road’. This was ruined shortly afterwards when our Caledonian neighbour knocked over the TV in his inebriated state.

There was a superstition that the first visitor to your home in the new year, or ‘first foot’, should arrive with a piece of coal for luck. As everyone in the street had a gas central heating, coal wasn’t readily available, so people just took their gas bills instead.

Hurry up and take the picture will you! … Moira Anderson’s on!


The parties tended to end around 3am, or when Jimmy had broken all entertainment channels within the house. Whichever scenario arrived first!

As I said above, those nights have not been recreated since I moved away from Gateshead and my parents moved back to Leeds. I’m sure they’ll both have fond memories of those times. Although. with the damage to entertainment equipment. their home contents insurance premium must have been bloody high at the time!

To close my 216th and final blog of 2015, I want to say thank you for taking the time to read my ramblings this year. Hopefully, you’ll stay with them next year.

All the best for 2016!


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