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Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Losing my (first) footing

I have always loved New Year’s Eve.  It seems such a time of real joy, optimism and goodwill.  Admittedly, the inevitable hangover of New Year’s Day leads to feelings of depression, pessimism and downright belligerence, but it’s nice while it lasts.

My earliest, and fondest, recollections of New Year’s Eve are when we used to live in Anglesey Road, Burton upon Trent in the 1950s, not too far from the Loco Sheds.  At midnight on 31st December, all the whistles and horns of the steam and diesel locomotives would be sounded in a great cacophony of celebration.  Lying in bed, tucked up against the cold, I used to love hearing this explosion of industrial exuberance.

As the years wore on, I became less likely to be ‘tucked up in bed’ at New Year and more likely to be clutching a pint in some smoke-filled boozer (probably a reasonable description of me, then).  Most of the memories of these celebrations, and the brain cells supporting them, have vanished in a sea of youthful alcoholic excess, but some remain firmly embedded in my consciousness.

One of my most tedious New Year’s Eves ever, happened in 1984.  I found myself sitting in the lounge of our local club with three friends, playing dominoes.  As the previous New Year’s Eve had been spent with my then girlfriend in a whirl of romance, I’m sure you can appreciate why playing dominoes was not a fitting substitute.  As the evening wore on, everyone else went into the Bar to enjoy the, somewhat dubious, entertainment. When midnight arrived and the strains (and it was a strain) of ‘Auld Lang Syne’ filled the air, we four stood up, solemnly joined hands and sang, wished each other Happy New Year, sat down and resumed the game.  That was it.  I swore then never to spend another New Year like that (and to do something about the entertainment too) and I didn’t (and did), but that’s another story for another day.

I’m quite prepared to be corrected by every amateur meteorologist within a 20 mile radius, but I seem to remember that New Year’s Eve 1979 was a bitterly cold night, with ice and snow still lying on the pavements.  Myself and a whole bunch of friends embarked on a pub crawl, starting in Guild St. and heading up Station St.  I remember the Midland Hotel, the Devonshire Arms, the Roebuck and the Station Hotel, but after that it’s a little hazy!  What I do remember is walking one of the girls back home, somewhere in the region of the Town Hall.  We spent some time saying goodnight (funny how long it used to take then, wish it did now) and I eventually, and reluctantly, set off home. 

Filled with enthusiasm and alcohol, I marched up the entry, waved goodbye, strode forward…and immediately fell flat on my back.  A look of horror flashed across my companion’s face but I ‘heroically’ brushed aside her concerns and hauled myself up again.  I waited for her to go inside before starting off again.  There was a good reason for this.  I knew from bitter experience that, once I started falling down, it would keep happening.  I always have (sober or otherwise).   I seem to develop an irresistible attraction for terra firma in icy conditions.

I now had to walk from the Town Hall area to South Broadway St., a distance of about 2 miles.  To pass the time away, I counted the number of times that I hit the deck.  In all, I crashed to the ground 26 times.  I remember, with great clarity, the last occasion.  I had just turned into All Saint’s Road from Uxbridge St., just a stone’s throw from my house.  As I turned the corner, a couple across the road shouted “Happy New Year!”, I responded cheerily, waved to them and watched my feet head for the sky and my derriere for the ice and snow.  “Are you all right?” the couple asked, full of concern, “It’s ok,” I replied from my horizontal position, “I’m getting used to it now.”

I think I might adopt that as my motto.  Happy New Year to you all.

The first collection of stories - "Steady Past Your Granny's" is now available in Kindle e-book format for just £0.99 at Amazon UK and Amazon USA and now read the new bumper collection of stories, Crutches For Ducks  also at and , at the special price of just £1.99 - now extended to end of January, 2012.