The Life We Choose – Episode 83

There was a lull, then, before darkness fell, the lamps were lit and Langrigg’s Hogmanay celebrations began, spreading from house to house, from Raw to Raw. Children were allowed to stay up late, dumpling was consumed and crowds gathered in houses known for their hospitality. Songs were sung, accordions, whistles and even spoons accompanied the singing and dancing, where room could be made for it.

In Mary Ellen’s there was a plentiness of black bun, shortbread and ginger and elderflower wine, but no strong drink was allowed.

Tricky was still a hero, so Mary Ellen brought him his melodeon from the big press on condition that he would only play and sing one song. The company were then treated to a rendition of “Granny’s Heilan’ Hame” and the best they could do was to join in and drown out his singing.

Sarah and Daniel had been tempted to stay in the cosiness of their new home, but felt obliged to visit Mary Ellen and Pate on the last day of what had been a whirlwind of a year. Carrying a basket of New Year treats for Mary Ellen and a special cake for Rachel to share with her brothers and sisters, Sarah and Daniel made their way down to a Langrigg already ablaze with lights, keeping to the cart tracks where they could.

Jeanie and Isaac Makin were sitting, contented, by a blazing fire, their children safely tucked up in bed.

“We dinna keep the New Year,” Jeanie explained. “There’s enough company here for us.”

She nodded towards the bedroom where the children were safely tucked up in bed.

“Aye.” Isaac nodded, and allowed himself a smile.

Sarah explained that the basket of treats was a token of appreciation for Rachel’s help at the Wee School. There was talk then of her cleverness, her ambitions.

“I’ll give her extra lessons and when she grows out of the Wee School, Miss Bunty has promised to help,” she reassured the Makins.

For a while, they plunged into the merrymaking at Mary Ellen and Pate’s house. As they came in, they found Tricky behind the front door, searching vainly for his melodeon.

“I had it a meenit ago, an’ there’s no’ a sign o’ it onywhere,” he complained.

The kitchen was packed and the company were enjoying a rendition of “The Sunshine Of Your Smile” by Dreels, the bridegroom, who had never been heard to sing before. His bride had retreated to the scullery in embarrassment.

“I hope he’s no’ gonnae make a habit o’ it,” Ella said to Sarah.

After a while, Sarah and Daniel exchanged glances across the sea of merriment and slipped away, pausing only to assure Mary Ellen that they’d be back the next day when things were quieter.

“Aye, the place for you tae see in the bells is your ain wee hoose.” She smiled. “This year in particular,” she added, seeing them out of the back door while the scullery was empty for just a few moments.

The moon had risen in a sky that seemed almost as clear as day and made snow billows glitter in its light. Sarah and Daniel made their journey home hand in hand, turning now and then to look at the dark sprawl of Langrigg, studded with jewels of lamplight, the winding gear of the pit etched black against the sky and standing sentry over the village.

As they breasted the last incline, standing at last outside their little home, they smiled at the welcoming sight of the lamp they’d left to spill its light out over the snow. Hand in hand, they turned again to look out over the shimmering landscape.

As they did, the sound began in the distance, first bells from distant churches, joined by the deeper tones of pit hooters, all mingling and travelling miles across a moonlit landscape to signal the start of the New Year.

Smiling, Daniel took Sarah in his arms and kissed her.

“It’s all before us, love,” he said. “And who knows where the road will take us.”

Sarah turned away from the landscape that stretched away in glittering perfection to a hidden horizon.

“We’ll take that road together. That’s all that matters,” she murmured, taking Daniel’s hand, smiling up at him and leading him to the door.

The End.

Alan Spink

Alan is a member of the “Friend” Fiction Team. He enjoys working closely with writers and being part of the creative process, which sees storytelling ideas come to fruition. A keen reader, he also writes fiction and enjoys watching football and movies in his spare time. His one tip to new writers is “write from your imagination”.