December 31, 2013
Wintery New England 2013 icily blusters its way towards an even colder 2104. This year, we will cozy up by the fire at home with little ones, while their parents enjoy our town's pre-blizzard First Night celebrations, which usually means a choice of dance venues (reggae, jazz, dress-up, folk, rock and pop). They will join thousands of revelers watching the great ball over the hotel rise to greet the new year and hopefully the local paper will be able to repeat last year's headline, " First Night generates lots of fun, no arrests." We may or may not bundle up the littles to join the throng in singing Auld Lang Syne and try to pick their parents out of the crowd.
Last year we were in Wales.
Huge fans of Edinburgh's fabulous Hogmanay and London's spectacular Thames-side fireworks, we passed all that by to spend a quiet night with friends in their tiny village on the Gower Peninsula. It was wet in Wales. Just as they have this year, tempestuous rains had fallen for days. We'd watched farmers ferry sheep from flooded fields to higher ground and the news showed a lot of watery high streets. When it lightened for brief spells by the sea, the fog was so dense that I'd gotten completely turned around on a late afternoon welly -walk (squish, squish) along the sands, an hour's tramp on well-known paths turning into three, with night coming on swiftly in the perpetual gloaming.
We started the evening at the pub. Dinner at the Britannia was a set course of lamb curry, scallops or steak and ale pie followed by live music in the bar. When it's New Years in a small village and someone says, "Everyone is here," it's true. As the flames in the ancient fireplace warmed the elderly partiers settled in the farther corner, everyone else stood and chatted. Ribald stories and increasingly hearty guffaws grew louder and funnier as rich pints of Gower Gold were pulled behind the bar and handed around to revelers. Two young musicians in white sneakers (trainers) took the microphone and sang the crowd through a program of generic oldies and Welsh classics with a singalong from everyone including those down back by the fire. The Welsh National Anthem (a consonant-rich rugby must) comes last before the duo take an ale break.
Pleidiol wyf i'm gwlad,
Tra môr yn fur i'r bur hoff bau
O bydded i'r hen iaith barhau
I am devoted to my country.
So long as the sea is a wall to this fair beautiful land,
May the ancient language remain.
We left the pub at a neighbor's kind invitation to a party of local choristers, and when the countdown began, we stood in a circle in his garden, high above high tide far below. Joining hands as the call went, " 5, 4, 3, 2, 1" the circle broke into a melodic Auld Lang Syne floating up and across to the sea below. Quickly followed by a series of Elvis songs (Elvis is still Very Big in Wales) we gazed up to the strong stars and sang along as best we could, calling the New Year in, ushering the Old Year out. We wandered back to our cottage in the night dark with the stars to guide us, the song following us up the hill, around the corner and past the phone box, the wind picking up to whistle us down the long lane to our bed and the New Year.
Up the Ben Link Back:
Hogmanay Happens Without Us (New Year in Edinburgh)
Link Back: Up the Ben and Down the Boozer December 30, 2010