As we celebrate the arrival of 2012, my thoughts turn to my mother and 1912, the year in which she was born. Had she been alive this year on her hundredth birthday, she would have received a telegram from the Queen. She would have loved that!
A much treasured photograph of mum
Mum was never a great lover of Christmas but she loved New Year. Looking back, I now realise that she probably found Christmas a great strain. It is an expensive time and money was always tight in our household. She would have worked really hard to provide presents from Santa, especially the year I asked for a desk. It had to have a lift up lid and a bench attached... but I digress!
One stand-out New Year for her happened when I was a small child and we were living in Manchester. On New Year's Eve, my brother and I were allowed to stay up until midnight. My mum always insisted on having a groaning table of food and would send my father outside just before midnight with a lump of coal, a silver coin, and a piece of bread to await the midnight chime. These traditions, if upheld, would mean we always had plenty of those things throughout the coming year. This particular year, the midnight bell rang out and we waited, and waited, but my father did not re-enter the house. After what seemed like fifteen minutes (but was probably only about five!) we all heard footsteps in the hallway and the largest man of African origin you have ever seen, entered our sitting room. We all screamed, including the man! It is hard to imagine now, as our world is so integrated, but back then there were no people of different ethnic backgrounds living in our locality. Recovering from the shock, we quickly discovered that the man was lost and in the dark, had seen our open front door and hoped he could be re-directed. However, mum had other ideas. This man had 'let in' our New Year and therefore had to be invited to stay and participate in our party. The fact that he was of African origin only added to the occasion, as my mother believed that it was very lucky to have a 'tall, dark, handsome man' to usher in the New Year. When my father eventually returned, having been distracted himself by a drink with a neighbour, he found us all at the dining table being entertained by this amusing dark stranger. We never saw him again but he was never forgotten. Every year on New Year's Eve, mum would ask 'Do you remember the tall, dark, handsome stranger?'.
I wish you and yours a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year. May it be filled with all that you desire for 2012.