Friday 1 January 2010

Ring out, wild bells

15st 4lb, 7.5 units. The Dog, like at least one of the people in our household, Can Not Be Trusted, so I accompanied him as usual when he expressed a clear desire to go outdoors at around 11.45 last night. Out in the garden, he and I were equally surprised to find ourselves being serenaded by the sound of church bells, drifting from the village across the icy fields. The floodlighting on the church tower had been turned off at the usual economical hour, but somewhere within it a group of people (mildly drunk people, I guessed from the occasional discordant clangs) were energetically hauling on ropes to ring the changes that marked the end of 2009. It was a moment to be savoured, and to share.

Mrs H Feels The Cold, so she only emerged briefly from the house in response to my yells of encouragement, but at 11.58 I managed to drag her away from Russell Howard joking about his younger brother’s epilepsy on BBC3 (whatever happened to The White Heather Club, and Andy Stewart singing “Donald, where’s your troosers?”) and tempt her outside, suitably wrapped up for the occasion. The midnight chimes of the church clock were already well advanced (I suspect that it runs a little early) and the night was wonderfully clear and still, with a deep frost on the ground and a full moon above, complemented by half a dozen Chinese lanterns moving surprisingly swiftly across the sky in a south westerly direction.

The overall effect was wonderfully romantic, if one could just clear one’s mind of the moans of the Wirral farmer who recently lost a prize cow, murdered by just such a lantern. Apparently the metal detritus lands in the fields, cows go “Yum!” and swallow it, and it pierces their bovine windpipes or some such. When I was in my late teens, the big rustic moan was about careless picknickers discarding the ring pulls from cans, which cows used to ingest with similarly unfortunate results. If I remember rightly, the whole impetus for the design of those press-in rather than pull-off can closures came from concern about the welfare of cattle. Surely it cannot be beyond the wit of the ingenious Chinese to devise a biodegrable lantern. Or do they just dislike cows? I can understand that, to be honest. I’ve never much cared for them myself.

Anyway, I am starting 2010 with a rambling digression (so no change there) when what I meant to say was that I kissed Mrs H in the icy moonlight and watched the fireworks bursting over the Cheshire plain, and for the first time in my life felt a faint squeak of optimism that the New Year might not be as bad as I always anticipate. Mrs H pointed out that it would be the year that our baby boy learned to walk and talk, and for once I failed to spoil the atmosphere by pointing out a few of the less attractive possibilities.

Then she gestured skywards and pointed out another object among the twinkling stars, shining moon and blazing lanterns. It was heading in the opposite direction from the lanterns and was equipped with flashing red and green lights. “What do you think that is?” she asked, and I said that I thought it was what was commonly called an aeroplane. She seemed a little deflated by the lack of poetry in my response, asking who the hell took a flight at 12.03 on New Year’s Day, and adding (correctly) that our house wasn’t actually on the flight path to anywhere.

It would be nice to report that a man then parachuted from the plane and handed her a box of Milk Tray, but sadly it didn’t happen.

So we just stood there puzzling over the fact that there were so many celebrations with fireworks taking place to the north and east in Cheshire, but none at all to the west in Wales. But then, a good five minutes into the New Year, the first Welsh rocket went up, swiftly followed by many others from a variety of widely spaced locations. A different time zone, or just a delay caused by finding someone to translate “light blue touch paper, then retire” into Welsh? We puzzled over it for all of ten seconds before we went indoors to finish the bottle of 1998 Pol Roger Winston Churchill cuvee that some kind friends had given to us as a wedding present, then toddled contentedly off to bed, where I lay awake for a little while wondering whether somewhere among the celebrations there had been trainee terrorists ramming fireworks up their backsides as preparation for their forthcoming assaults on the airlines of the Evil West.

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