I discovered recently that old Robbie Burns probably nicked most of the words for his poem which eventually became everyone’s favourite midnight ditty from an old man who sang it to him, but James Watson in 1711 obviously had access to the same song because his poem and at least two earlier ones are strikingly familiar. Perhaps The Highlander tale of immortals is true and the ‘old man’ got around. Either way, it is a great song to stir the nostalgia and encourage kindness, no matter how drink-inspired it may be at some celebrations.
My husband of course believes that the best way to start a year is to be sleeping before midnight on New Year’s Eve. Although that is probably his old-man curmudgeonly ways kicking in, as an idea it has some merit. This morning the two of us went to mass first thing, listening to Beethoven’s 9th being belted out, not something we could have done if we had tied one on the night before.
Fortunately, last night, our neighbours from hell went out to a party so our sleep was only punctured by the usual idiots releasing fireworks before, at (and long after) midnight. Since one son was waiting tables at a fancy restaurant for his Bulgarian slave lords, one is still in the UK, and rode the London Eye before the New Year struck, two daughters were out at Kirstenbosch and a sleepover with her bestie respectively, the youngest was left with two old farts who were less than enthusiastic about a late-night gig.
We compromised by agreeing to hit the Spur early and then head home, but it and several other restaurants we drove around looking for (for an increasingly irksome while), were closed. Ending up in a queue at the local McDonalds was NOT on my plans, but since a teenage boy can easily be entertained by the Golden Arches’ servings, I was willing to placate him with sugar disguised as a burger (Andrew bought Nando’s).
It was kind of sad being in there though. While the assembled hungry people consisted of a fair number of couples intent on going home back to poolside togetherness and an assortment of moms and scraggly children, imploring to sit on the counter, or be picked up, I was struck by the loneliness of those queueing for a single quarter pounder meal and then having to return home to an empty apartment, either just with little babe or entirely alone as one youngish man seemed to be. And he looked so forlorn. It must truly suck to be the one youngster NOT with a special person or not invited to a year-end bash.
While the throngs bopped to the thud-thud of what passes for music these days at venues from Long Street to Eden on the Bay, that chap was going to eat his stodgy cakey bun and processed meat all alone possibly without even any post-Christmas, bedraggled decorations. And what saddens me more is that I failed the Burns ‘cup of kindness’ test of inviting the melancholy man to join us because it is ‘simply not done’ to bring strangers back from McDonalds. I do understand the danger inherent in approaching random single men and asking them home (my sister would have apoplexy), but he looked so dejected that I felt sad for him. Of course he could have just been really fatigued and was looking forward to a night on his own with a beer and the football highlights and was thinking to himself, ’Look at that middle-aged crone and her loud son. She shouldn’t be buying him such bad food.’
But I resolved (after saying I was going to be open to the prompting of the Spirit in the New Year) to ‘pay it forward’ in another way, this time literally (correct usage, please note, Liam) when I went to buy our socks at Pep this morning (tradition now on New Year’s Day, which can be a trifle anti-climactic) to buy everyone a pair of Socks, hence ‘Sucky Sock Day’ in our house because my family loves such footwear and is not put off by receiving them as gifts).
‘I’ll pay for the shopper behind me,’ I thought and that will start 2016 off well for them’ … And then there was no one else in the shop! Where are the poor when I want to be kind?! Still feeling like a frustrated philanthropist I got to thinking though: Perhaps God wants me to respond to HIS promptings and not create my own safer do-good moments. I could at least have chatted to the chap in the burger joint. Perhaps that was all the connection he needed.
Then there was the litter on our beaches both from Hogmanay and New Year’s Day. Having been brought up to pick up and take home one’s trash, it pains me to see the beaches and surrounds looking so soiled by humans. The howling South-Easter on New Year’s Eve was no excuse for the potential damage to sea and birdlife caused by plastic and glass. Caitlin, our eco-conscience, has a no-straw policy and on our stroll this morning before the council workers descended on the strand to pick up after indolent revellers, we filled three packets of soggy sweet wrappers, beer bottles and countless straws. Before you mistake me for a good citizen, gentle reader, I have to confess that our mini-clean-up began as an enterprise to disguise the remains of Maggie’s previous meal that she was in haste to expel along the way, hence the handy Spar bags. But I suppose it was a ‘cup of kindness’ to the sanitation workers who had slightly less bending to do, not to mention the wildlife protected from plastic pollution.
Small prompting; small kindness.
And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere!
and gie’s a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll tak’ a right gude-willie waught,
for auld lang syne.
For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.
Robert Burns (1788)