So here we are.
The last night of 2016.
When I was growing up, the entire extended family (apart from Uncle Bob who was living in Africa) would congregate at my grandma's little terraced house. We children would have been there since early evening, with strict instructions not to go outside (difficult since the toilet was at the far end of the backyard) after a certain time so that the new year wasn't let in prematurely. The adults would join us after a round of drinks or two in one or other of the many pubs in our part of town, with me always thinking how glamorous my red haired mum looked with her makeup and going out clothes.
Uncle Jack, the only dark haired family member, was always the first footer, more often than not wearing his porter's uniform after a long shift at the local railway station, holding the obligatory piece of coal to be placed on the fire and knocking on the door as the church clock struck midnight. The kissing (oh, how we kids giggled at the sight of all the uncustomary embracing) and the handshaking and all the wishing for a happy new year would begin in the by now crowded small back room.
Aunty M would cut into the Christmas cake (my family never ate Christmas cake before the new year had arrived, a tradition I've found impossible to continue) with great ceremony, with an anxious grandma checking the middle was cooked. Generous slices, with accompanying chunks of white Stilton cheese, would be handed round on china plates and tots of whisky for the men and small glasses of sherry for the women distributed (the only time alcohol made an appearance in grandma's house).
Then Uncle Jack would take up his seat at the piano, the singing would commence and, much to the delight of us children, the party would eventually spill out into the street as we all joined in a noisy (slippery, too, after a fall of snow one year) conga line.
Tonight, there'll be just the three of us. I'll light all the candles (hopefully without repeating a previous hair lighting incident) and we'll spend the evening eating snacks (I'm thinking tapenade, feta and sundried tomato crostini) with a bottle or two of fizz. As the countdown to midnight begins on the telly, one of us will be appointed first footer, shoved outside and the door locked just in time.
Tomorrow will be the first day of something new.
I wish you all a very happy and healthy 2017.