The Stroke of Midnight

By way of introduction, I should explain that the kind people at WordPress have provided an ebook containing ‘365 Days of Writing Prompts’. I have resolved to do my best to follow them, but certainly wouldn’t guarantee any success (regarding which, wait ’til you see tomorrow’s….).

I warn you now, it won’t be easy. Firstly I have to write it (ooh!), then I have to deem it worthy of publishing (oops!) and finally you, dear reader, must have nothing better to do than actually read it (ha!).

Clearly, at any point, any one of these hurdles could prove insurmountable, so getting over all three for each assignment must be considered highly improbable.

I wonder which of us will give up first.

Anyway, I’m setting off off on this particular road to Hell with nothing but the best intentions, and it would be a pretty poor show to fall at the first hurdle. As an inducement to myself, the more perspicacious among you may have noticed that I have changed the appearance (the ‘theme, as we bloggers call it) of this blog. I quite like the new look, I must say.

But I digress (good start, well done, bloody typical).

“Where were you last night when 2013 turned into 2014? Is this where you wanted to be?”

At the stroke of midnight I was, as usual, standing outside my own front door, awaiting re-admittance and with it the ushering in the new year. On these occasions I typically bear bread and salt and usually coal, although this last was missing on this occasion because we forgot.

Also, we don’t have any coal.

However, as I bring in a basket of logs on a daily basis, I think I’m entitled to a bye on that one.

This ‘first-footing’ is a long-established tradition (not just in this family, obviously) and I have carried it out without fail for at least the last thirty-five years. Traditionally, the task should be carried out by a tall, dark stranger, so I qualify only on the third count.

However, not only are such persons in short supply (and no doubt high demand) at this time of year, but in these less innocent times, the admittance of a random tall, dark stranger would require an act of faith that it would be difficult to distinguish from sheer lunacy or possibly even a death wish.

Naturally, over the years the front doors have changed, as have the geographical locations of the residences to which they are attached, not to mention the climatic conditions in which this proud task has been undertaken.

Weather-wise, last night wasn’t too bad at all: a bit breezy but dry and relatively warm. Last year was OK too, and the ten years in Abu Dhabi were even more of a doddle. I would just stroll down to the end of the walkway in a t-shirt and as soon as the fireworks started I’d be back inside, ripping the foil off the Veuve Clicquot. Not exactly a hardship posting.

It hasn’t always been so clement. We lived in Scotland for twenty years, so by the law of averages I’ve been out in just about everything the weather gods have in their arsenal: blizzards, hail, torrential rain, sub-Arctic cold. I tell you, I’ve felt like Lear on the blasted heath sometimes, although fortunately not usually ‘A poor, infirm, weak and despised old man.’

That one’s a work in progress.

They do say that a problem shared is a problem halved, and there have been Hogmanays when I’ve not been the only one standing in the street, waiting for the bells. Looking around, you would sometimes see other blokes shivering on their own doorsteps, clutching the traditional accoutrements. Should your eyes have met, the approved response was to shrug and smile wanly. No words necessary.

Here in Tranquility Base, there is little prospect of sharing the night with a neighbour. There is no other front door visible from the threshold of Brokedown Palace anyway, and frankly I don’t even know whether they go in for this sort of thing in France.

They probably stay inside wolfing down the foie gras and guzzling the champagne. Although I must concede that this is a hypothesis based purely on the amount of shelf space that Carrefour allots to these items at this festive time.

Anyway, that’s where I was as one year turned to another.

But there are two parts to this prompt. More to the point, was this where I wanted to be?

You mean, standing outside a lovely house, in lovely surroundings, with a lovely woman about to let me in?

Hmmm….

Oh, yeah. That’s exactly where I wanted to be.

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