Monthly Archives: December 2006


Another grain in the sand of time moves on tonight and with it we shall see the end of one year and the beginning of another. At this time of my life it passes as from one week to another. I no longer feel I must stay up to hear the bells or gongs announce its arrival. Whether I am alive or dead, asleep or awake the New Year will begin at the stroke of Midnight.

Hearing the wind howling and the rain beating against my windows I am glad not to have to travel out in it tonight. The Outdoor Festivities for Belfast have been cancelled due to the adverse conditions. I have candles at the ready in case we lose power. My plan for the evening is to have a little drink later on before getting tucked up in my warm bed with a good book.

I have no desire to dwell on the highs and lows of 2006.

Instead I will recall a variety of different ways I have seen in the ‘New Year’ in the past. In my childhood my father would re-light the Christmas candle in the living room window and we would all kneel and pray for all those who were no longer with us. The ‘Prayers’ seemed endless and I am sure I was not the only young member of the family wishing I could go party with my friends.

In my early working days in Dublin, I did have the opportunity to party and one memorable one was a party with work-mates. One of the lads hosted the party while his parents were away. During the evening some bright spark let a pan of oil spill all over the kitchen floor. Thinking of how my friend’s mother would feel if she came home to a dirty kitchen, I set to clearing it up. I was still on my knees with bucket and floor cloth as the bells chimed.

A few years later when I lived and worked in Germany we spent a memorable New Years Eve with friends in the Taunus Mountains. We had a late dinner and as midnight chimed we toasted one another in Champagne and sang ‘Auld Lang syne’ before going outside to light some fireworks and watch as those in other hamlets and villages around the mountains climbed and filled the night sky with colourful patterns.

In the late 70’s I travelled north to spend the New Year holiday with my new found love. We partied with some of his friends and a good time was had by all. One year later we decided to spend our first New Year as a married couple, quietly on our own. It was rather special as that was the evening our daughter decided to remind us that it was to be the only time where we would be alone, by giving me a kick for the very first time. She never stopped moving from that moment on. Five months later she was born.

Another year in those early days I decided to host New Year at our house. I carefully planned the guest list and we invited about four couples. I spent time planning and preparing the food and refreshments for the party. On the evening we set up the table and sat back with a drink to await the arrival of our guests. Midnight came and went and there was no sign of our guests. At about 12.30am still on our own and feeling let down we started to clear everything away. Just as we finished there was a ring at the doorbell and the first couple arrived. They were followed about 10 minutes later by the next couple and so on. They had each been to several houses before coming to ours. Why, oh why did they not think to tell us that this was their usual routine?

I think I have given you enough of my celebrations from the past so now may I wish you ‘Enough’ for 2007.
This little poem is something I found on the Unitarian Church website sometime last year.

  • I wish you enough sun to keep your attitude bright.
  • I wish you enough rain to appreciate the sun more.
  • I wish you enough happiness to keep your spirit alive.
  • I wish you enough pain so that the smallest joys in life appear much bigger.
  • I wish you enough gain to satisfy your wanting.
  • I wish you enough loss to appreciate all that you possess.
  • I wish you enough hellos to get you through the final goodbye.

It’s not what you say, it’s the way that you say it!

“Why don’t you ever listen?”  She was always saying these words.  Perhaps if she had taken a little more time to explain in the first place we would not have had such difficulty.  Her tone of voice, always dogmatic, certainly didn’t help.  My Aunty Peg lived alone and her house reflected this in its tidiness.  She was a very talented and organised person and when she put something away it stayed there until she next required using it.  Our house was so very different.  “Legs everywhere” I often heard my mother say.  It was no exaggeration because there were eight of us in a three bed-roomed semi-detached house.  The saving grace was the long back garden and a field behind it where in fine weather during the long summer days we spent our time inventing new games and playing the old ones for hours on end.  Calls to meals, prayer and bedtime were the only reason we came indoors.

So why was I supposed to be listening?  There I go again already I have forgotten what she was saying.  Maybe it was the voices and laughter in the room next door that seemed more interesting than the chore I was learning about.  My brothers were never expected to spend this length of time learning to do household things, so why me?  Sometimes I wished that I had been born a boy!  They had such an easy life.  Girls were expected to do things like washing clothes, cooking, baking, mending and ironing.

Today I was supposed to learn how to darn a sock!  Why would anyone want to wear darned socks, I ask you?  Surely a lumpy bit at the toe or heel of a sock would prove uncomfortable and rub on the skin.  “If it’s done properly it should not be lumpy” I am told!  “Well I can’t do it any better” I say through my tears.  “If it’s not good enough do it yourself!  Anyway you can get socks for half nothing in Guiney’s”   The real problem for my aunt was that the scissors was missing when we started on this lesson.  I searched high and low but could not find it.  I know that one of my brothers used it to cut wire a few days before and probably left it in the shed at the bottom of the garden.  I dared not tell her this or we would have had World War 3 for the remainder of her holidays.

“Where was the chocolate box that I gave you for a Needlework Box last year?  Everything should have a place and be put back there when it is finished with”!  The box was gone long ago.  We were more used to shoving the packet of needles and whatever thread we had, back into the clutter of the top drawer of the side board.  The scissors was usually left out to be used later for whatever task was next.  It could be to cut the rind off bacon, cut a piece of string, a dress pattern or the wire I mentioned earlier.  The one scissors did for everything.  That was mammy’s way so it was good enough for us.

Yesterday it was a “Master Class” in bed making.  In those days we had sheets, blankets and quilts.   My Aunt insisted that the bottom sheet was tucked well in all around the mattress.  The corners were folded like pleats and tucked in very neatly leaving no bulk.  The same method was used for the top sheet and the blankets.  Mind you it was only the bottom corners and the sides that were now tucked in, the top part of the upper sheet and blankets were flattened out and folded back in a large fold leaving the sheet uppermost for about 18 inches.  The pillows were then puffed up and placed back on the top of the bed. Next we had the quilt.  It was a cover that often matched the curtains and it was again tucked in at the bottom and the sides hung down to the floor while the top portion covered the pillows.

The bed may have looked neat when it was made up but it was not comfortable for sleeping in.  My aunt was a nurse and learned this method of bed making during her training.  The bedclothes were so tight that it was impossible to move ones feet and I have since learned it was a major cause of the medical complaint called ‘dropped foot’ (think Inspector Morse).  As beds in those days had head and tail boards making beds played havoc with a young lady’s fingernails.  There was no chance of them ever growing.

My Aunt lived and worked in England and returned for her annual Sabbatical to our house each year.  The novelty of her visit soon dissolved with the packets of Spangles and Mars Bars.   Each year she had at least half a dozen things for me to learn.  Why is it that some people can tell you a story and in doing so leave you with a memory and a love for doing a particular task while others almost demand that you learn and turn you away from something that might have become a hobby or a business in future years?  I am glad I had more than one aunt!