New Year’s Eve or position Old Years Night is the final day of the Gregorian year, universally celebrated on December 31 even in non-Christian nations. I have no doubt that there was an ancient pagan celebration at the end of the year and the beginning of a new one. Those people who choose to celebrate the event, these days in the UK, usually do so with a party or social gathering, spanning the transition of the year at midnight. In England the precise moment is observed when Big Ben, the clock on the tower at the Palace of Westminster, chimes midnight but, on this one occasion instead of 12 chimes it is the 13th. chime which denotes the changing of the year. It is then traditionally the time that all join hands and sing Auld Lang Syne.
As a young man I used to attend the Chelsea Arts Ball which was one of the recognised prime venues for the event. I usually went with a crowd of other people as some form of tableau. I remember the last one we did was entitled â€˜ Trammersmithâ€™. We built a huge Tram onto an old motor lorry chassis. The finished resultÂ was meant to represent the final Tram which ran in Hammersmith before they moved over to buses.
Years later when I was in Aden, Southern Arabia, we would all go to the Union Kormaksar Club (the only combined golf and yacht club – so far as I’m aware – in the world) . Again a large group of us would get together and dress appropriately as a tableau or following a particular theme. I remember one year our tableau celebrated the introduction of â€˜The Pillâ€™. (The contraceptive pill having only recently been made available), emphasising the fact of the large Victorian family compared with the modern family, able to the planned and restricted by the Pill. The first 10 members of our tableau were dressed as Victorians, the adults in Victorian dress and the children appropriately attired. The boys in little sailor suits and the girls with hooped dresses, accompanied by a nanny pushing a baby in a grand looking pram. Then followed theÂ â€˜modern coupleâ€™ pushing their one child in a pram. I was that child!. I had a large nappy, made from a bath towel, a bibÂ and laced bonnet and a dummy made from a balloon and a circular piece of cardboard. I must have been quite a sight.
On my way home, in the early hours of the morning, going along the Maâ€™alla straight, towards Crater, we came across some Scottish soldiers, the worse for wear, (the Scots always making a big thing about New Year’s Eve and therefore frequently overdoing the drink) They were heaving rocks at a taxi driver who was cowering behind his cab. I leapt out of my car, in all my infant attire, and yelled, ” What on earth do you you think you are doing“. Hearing the voice of authority they dropped their rocks and meekly went on their way when I sent them packing. (Apparently there had been some argument about the amount of the taxi fare). Having told the soldiers I knew exactly who they were I told them that they would all be on parade the following morning,
I can only assume that not having the faintest idea who I was, and despite being dressed as a baby, they assumed that I was one of their officers. Who was it who said that â€˜clothes maketh the manâ€™?
The New Year’s Eve parties were quite a tradition in the years that I spent in Aden. We did not always go as a tableau, or group, occasionally we decided to go as individuals. I remember one year going as a Masai warrior. I was very slim in those days and I covered my body from head to toe in the ochre paint worn by the Masai. The true Masai warriors were always virtually naked but drapedÂ in a large cloak. I dyed the tiniest pair of underpants to match the ochre on my body and so therefore, to all intents and purposes, appeared to be naked like the Warriors. I wore a cloak, a MasaiÂ Â headdress, a beaded belt with a short panga (sheathed dagger) and was armed with a tall spear. I was a fine sight! The individual contestants were invited to circle around amongst other guests so that the winners could be chosen. There was one elderly lady there, sitting on the edge of the circle, viewing the contestants through her lorgnette and every time I passed by I heard her say, “Disgusting”. I think she loved every minute of it at her age! I won first prize.
TheÂ New Year’s Eve parties, in Aden, were great events as we had little to do between Christmas and New Year and spent most of that time preparing our costumes and getting ready for the party. On the night we tended to take our â€˜boysâ€™ (servants) with us who looked after our food and drink needs having taken the odd case or two of champagne with us. I think breakfast was served around 4 a.m after which we would all go for a swim. The thought of such a long evening now quite exhausts me but then we were young in those days.
When we came back to the UK, in 1964, we would attend the pretty standard New Year’s Eve parties that are given in this country. Lasting until midnight when we would all sing Auld Lang Syne and when our energy wilted after that we would wend our way home. When even those parties became too much for us would celebrate the event at home, perhaps cracking a bottle of champagne at midnight. Now, very boringly, we go to bed at our normal hour and wish each other a happy New Year the following morning.
So, in that spirit, I wish all my readers joy, happiness, good health and prosperity in 2011 -none of us know what it holds for us but in the meantime go on blogging. Just to around the year off I include a couple of photographs taken by the good doctor of yours truly in my study working on the laptop. One at the top and one here