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By Mike Clark
a gweed new year tae een an’ a’
And mony, obviously, may ye see. That goes without saying.
I got flu, just before the bells. I haven’t seen much of 2003 yet.
For a gardener, I suppose this is the best time to get flu. Not much doing anyway.
But this year, instead of participating, I was forced to watch telly from my bed. It was as bad as it has always been, and in my Sudafed-and-Toddy delirium, I found myself reflecting on the surreal televising of Hogmanay over the years.
Hogmanay is not about cheaply imported bands from Cajun swamps. It is not about singing dentists (a free dram to the first reader who gets that reference). It is not even about repeats of Runrig on the Rock – albeit, these repeats since the demise of Donnie, are preferable to the current Runrig on the rocks.
In fact, Hogmanay is not about anything which can be successfully televised. And after the disastrous attempts over the years, I despair of our nation’s television producers. Even a Pavlovian pooch would have twigged by now.
The spirit of Hogmanay will never be caught on camera.
Hogmanay is about the drunk turning up at your door at 4am on January 1st, falling on his face in the lobby, puking down his shirt, then offering you a dram; pulling an accordion from his back pocket, and playing magical music until he falls over again.
Then he slumbers quietly in a colourful pool of his own vomit until his mate turns up, walking stiffly ‘cos he’s p*ssed down one leg of his genes (Gotcha, spellchecker!). The mate pulls a fiddle from a hidden orifice, and together they play Strathspeys and Reels the like of which you’ve never heard since Andy Stewart was but a loon (Doric), and Calum Kennedy was sober.
The stirring, emotional, enchanting nature of their music is only slightly enhanced by your own inebriation.
Which is not only compulsory, but without which, frankly, you are wasting your time being awake.
Don’t waste your Hogmanay watching the contrived Lowlands Scots pretend TV programmes, which only fuel the myth that Hogmanay is about country and western singers, posers with kilts, and news presenters with scrawny boobs. (The latter is not a reference to Jackie Bird, according to my lawyer.)
Find a local pub in Portree, or Durness, or Ullapool, or Lairg, or even Wick or Thurso. Somewhere which is not only not televised, it’s not even advertised.
And then, if you approach quietly, imitating the local customs and traditions, and not giving away the fact that you are an interloper, an alien, foreign, English, from the Borders, or even an Aberdonian (like me), you may just find yourself involved in a real Hogmanay.
Gardening is a serious business, and some of us sow our onions traditionally on New Year’s Day. I was sober enough to try that once, and they bolted.
I have been gardening now for nigh on forty years – granted I was a horticulturally-inclined embryo – and I can only conclude that any gardening activity, other than browsing seed catalogues, before the middle of February, is taking optimism into the realms of fantasy.
Forgive me for being a wee bit revolutionary, but may I humbly suggest the gardener’s Hogmanay should begin on the 15th of November, and conclude on the 15th of February.
That way, we can pack all our alcoholic aberrations into 25% of the year, and then by working resolutely 24/7, we can make the most of the growing season.
So you’re welcome here for a dram between now and the middle of February.
It has been a privilege to offer a gardening column here on Caithness.org in recent months. I may put my tongue in my cheek from time to time, but rest assured I will do my best to offer serious and helpful information – outwith the three-month Hogmanay period, obviously!
Footnote: Although I’m still in Hogmanay mode, my natural dedication insists I remind you of a couple of things –
1. This is the time of year to clean out your greenhouse or polytunnel. All the moss and algae which has accumulated over the year will succumb to many expensive, brand-name products. They will also succumb, more economically, to a good wash with Jeyes Fluid.
2 Chit your seed tatties. Old egg cartons are ideal, ‘cos they stop the tatties rummeling aboot, and breaking the sprouts. Get them into a light place now, or the sprouts will become long and drawn you’ll never get them planted without breaking them off.
© Mike Clark 2003.