Hogmanay, Edinburgh's enormously popular New Year's festival, will be missing our company this year. It's a long way to go for a party and our Massachusetts hometown is promising us midnight fireworks. Maybe next time.
Our first Hogmanay was adventure and we liked it so much we did it again. And again. When they do that pan-global tv midnight sweep after Times Square on New Year's Eve, it's Hogmanay that shows cascading booms of color exploding over Edinburgh Castle. They do not show we two eating fish and chips outside in the icy chill off Rose Street as we have forgotten to book anywhere for dinner, or watching the Proclaimers in Princes St Gardens, the only ones stone cold sober as we have forgotten to bring a thermos of champagne, a flask of whiskey or a plastic liter of Buckfast, the alcopop choice of the untutored teenagers swarming the six digit member street party that rages outside the Gardens.
Hogmanay is music and it lasts for days. Determined not to miss a thing, we join the world's largest Strip the Willow, fork out 7 quid so we can carry real fire in the Torchlight Procession from Parliament Square to Calton Hill, get a little teary over the thousand massed pipers in full regalia parading through the dark night, and jump in and out of the Princes Street Party which seems to have overspread from its original venue despite Edinburgh's Constabulary's best effort. We once even bought tickets for the candlelit classical Concert in St Giles which some people swear by but it seemed too sombre a start to a whoopee night and I am pretty sure I could see chilblains creeping up my legs in the icy Cathedral chill. The Keilidh is always sold out before we commit but we grab tickets for the Concert in the Gardens which puts us in an excellent if slightly deafening position for the Midnight Moment fireworks pinged off Edinburgh's 7 hills: Blackford, Braid, Calton, Castle Hill and Rock, Corstorphine, Craigmillar and of course Arthur's Seat.
We have not (yet) joined the Loony Dook plunge into the sea on New Year's Day, but there's still next year.
Once the fireworks grand finale has come to a crashing end, there is a throat- choking moment only partially caused by the clouds of smoke around the Castle. Just like the Whos down in Whoville post- Grinch, the entire city sings. Auld Lang Syne pours out of every street, window, hill and stage, even native-speaking Japanese lip synchers join in. There is a terrific roar from those whose heads are going to be very sore in the morning and the live music crashes on.
We make our way through the crowd of silly- hatted partiers past the naked man dancing on top of the ice cream truck and students mocking our American pronunciation of Happy New Year (Happy New Yearrr with the emphasis on a light and upwardly inflected year in Scots and Happy Neww Yeer with a dead heavy flat fall on year in Amer) to one of the many strategically- sited free bus stops which the City provides to return revelers from whence they came. We climb up to the top deck front windows as we leave the celebrations for dark, snowy North Berwick, weaving our way around the eastern side of the Firth of Forth through Musselburgh and Prestonpans, Cockenzie and Port Seton. The bus makes an unscheduled stop to pick up an inebriated teenager running after it in the snow who climbs in for a round of laughing jibes with the group of girl gigglers in the back and stops again when he changes his mind and wants to get off.
Gullane and Dirleton are winking their lights out as is North Berwick when we get to the end of the line. Walking slowly with the other stragglers under a star-lit night sky, we hum a little Auld Lang Syne to the sea gently booming beside us.
AULD LANG SYNE
Words adapated from a traditional song by Rabbie Burns (1759-96)
Should auld acquaintance be forgot, And never brought to mind?Should auld acquaintance be forgot, And auld lang syne?
CHORUS: For auld lang syne, my dear, For auld lang syne, We'll tak a cup of kindness yet, For auld lang syne! And surely ye'll be yourpint-stowp, And surely I'll be mine, And we'll tak a cup o kindness yet, For auld lang syne! We twa hae run about the braes, And pou'dthe gowans fine, But we've wander'd monie a weary fit, Sin auld lang syne.
We twa hae paidl'd in the burn Frae morning sun till dine, But seas between us braid hae roar'd Sin auld lang syne. And there's a hand my trusty fiere, And gie's a hand o thine, And we'll tak a right guid-willie waught, For auld lang syne