Ken Boddie

2 years ago · 4 min. reading time · visibility 0 ·

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How Dark is Your First Foot?

How Dark is Your First Foot?

Hogmanay (or New Year's Eve in Scotland) was a time when, as a young lad, I keenly awaited the welcoming in of the New Year.  On the first stroke of midnight, all gathered together in a tidy tenement 'hoosie', we'd all wish each other a "Guid New Year", followed by an inevitably tuneless attempt at rendering Auld Lang Syne, perhaps successfully singing the first verse and chorus and then hoping that someone in the room new more.  This song, which has now become a world-wide New Year classic, is accredited in its present form to the famous (arguably infamous) Rabbie Burns, and its lyrics are reproduced below (courtesy of Wikipedia and other origins):  

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and auld lang syne?
    For auld lang syne, my dear,
    for auld lang syne,
    we'll tak' a cup o' kindness yet,
    for auld lang syne.
And surely ye'll be your pint-stoup!
and surely I'll be mine!
And we'll tak' a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.
We twa hae run about the braes,
and pou'd the gowans fine;
But we've wander'd mony a weary fit,
sin' auld lang syne.
We twa hae paidl'd in the burn,
frae morning sun till dine;
But seas between us braid hae roar'd
sin' auld lang syne.
And there's a hand, my trusty friend!
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 tak' a cup o' kindness yet,
    for auld lang syne.Accredited to Robert Burns in its present form but reportedly from an earlier song.

As we murdered the lyrics we'd awkwardly cross our arms over our chests and hold hands with our neighbour in a circle, a not uncommon sight in many a place these days.


And then it was time to go on our merry way, 'first footing'.  First we'd visit the neighbours' houses, then our family, and then various friends and acquaintances.  Over the next two days, the streets would be full of revellers, all winding their merry sure footed way (and then wobbly and circuitous way) across town.  We'd brave all weather, sleet, snow wind and rain, being mostly young and invincible (but some not so young and who should have known better), all warmed by the effects of a beer (or two) or a few drams of whisky.

Tradition would dictate that the 'first foot' over the threshold in the New Year would be a tall, dark and handsome male. Needless to say, I didn't qualify on any of these male counts.  The dark male requirement reportedly dates back to the days when the Vikings were raping and pillaging along the east coast of Britain, when opening the door to a ginger haired or fair haired, axe-wielding specimen of blood thirsty manhood was considered to be unlucky to say the least.

At this point I should state that the title photograph is the closest I could get to portraying a Viking aggressor.  It was actually taken while I was on a visit to Osaka Castle and underwent the obligatory Samurai dress-up.  "Needs must when the devil drives" and the photo portfolio is somewhat lacking.

And so we'd go onto one house after another, bearing a few gifts such as shortbread, a lump of coal, and some alcoholic beverage or other (usually a wee dram from a large bottle of whisky) for both the host and visitor. Don't ask me to give a definitive explanation as to why the lump of coal, other than it being the obvious choice of fuel with which to stoke the coal fire, common in each houses back then.  Quite a few sources suggest that the association of fire and fireworks with Hogmanay dates back to the late sixteenth century when the predominant Protestant Church of Scotland discouraged and dismissed the celebration of Christmas in Scotland as a papal elaboration.  This resulted in New Year's Eve, and the welcoming in of the New Year, being the predominant celebratory activities at that time of year and, to some extent, this attitude still prevailed when I was a lad, apart from the magic of Santa Clause.  Furthermore, fire has reportedly a pagan connection with Hogmanay, when evil spirits were historically cleansed from the household.

As a further note to support the historical fire connection, the small town of Stonehaven, located south of Aberdeen (the city of my birth in north-east Scotland) is famous for its fire ceremony on Hogmanay. Many young male stalwarts partake in the swinging of huge fireballs on long metal poles as they make their way down the main street.  This fireball ceremony is thought to have pagan origins linked to the Winter Solstice, with the fireballs representing the power of the sun as it cleanses the world of evil spirits.


Speaking of evil spirits, it's time for me to partake in a wee dram of single malt to celebrate in the New Year. After all, the temperature here in south-east Queensland has dropped to a chilly 31 degrees Centigrade (88 Fahrenheit) and I feel the need for something to warm me up.

So there we have it, Hogmanay as I remember it, all those years ago. All that remains then is for me to wish you all a Happy, Healthy and Prosperous New Year and "may your troubles be as few as the teeth of a hen".

Here's tae us!
Wha's like us? 
Damned few! 
And they're a' dead.

7c98fd53.jpgWhen not researching the weird or the wonderful, the comical or the cultured, the sinful or the serious, I chase my creative side, the results of which can be seen as selected photographs of my travels on my website at:

The author of the above, Ken Boddie, besides being a sometime poet and occasional writer, is an enthusiastic photographer, rarely leisure-travelling without his Canon, and loves to interact with other like-minded people with diverse interests.

Ken's three day work week (part time commitment) as a consulting engineer allows him to follow his photography interests, and to plan trips to an ever increasing list of countries and places of scenic beauty and cultural diversity.


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Ken Boddie

2 years ago #33

I’ll drink to that, Prav.

Ken Boddie

2 years ago #32

Geez, Ian, I hope you don’t have your patients laughing their heads off. 🤔

Ken Boddie

2 years ago #31

Thanks, Lada. There are some, however, who might disagree with you, but I don’t ‘mind’. 🤗

Ian Weinberg

2 years ago #30

Professionally speaking, I'm generally into rareheads!

Lada 🏡 Prkic

2 years ago #29

I like how your mind works. 🤣🐔

Ken Boddie

2 years ago #28

And to you and yours Paul Walters. But I reckon your ‘Scimitar’ trumps my Samurai blade.

Ken Boddie

2 years ago #27

Since you appreciate a wee dram, Praveen Raj Gullepalli, I should let you in on a well known secret, since, over the years, I’ve often been asked what is the best thing to have in your whisky. Of course, if you’re drinking cheap firewater, then it doesn’t really matter what you add, but for those of us who are more discerning, and have picked a smooth and mature single malt, there is only one thing to add to your whisky, and that’s more whisky. Slangevar! 🥃

Ken Boddie

2 years ago #26

Remind me not to annoy a rooster, Lada \ud83c\udfe1 Prkic ..... especially a Jurassic one. Could be quite a few ‘troubles’ there. 🤣🐔

Ken Boddie

2 years ago #25

I trust you didn’t break anything, Pascal, throwing yourself down a mountain on two thin planks of wood. ⛷

Ken Boddie

2 years ago #24

And to you and yours, . I hope we see more of you in print in 2019.

Ken Boddie

2 years ago #23

As long as you’re laughing with me, Ren\u00e9e \ud83d\udc1d Cormier, and not at me. All the best for a successful New Year, coach. 👍

Ken Boddie

2 years ago #22

To maintain the subject of the follically challenged, Ian Weinberg, I must confess to always having had a crush on redheaded women. No hair just red heads. 🤣😂🤣

Paul Walters

2 years ago #21

Ken Boddie Happy new year you Viking /samurai devil you

Lada 🏡 Prkic

2 years ago #20

Ken, after seeing your Viking-aggressor-Samurai-like photo, I was even frightened to read. :) It's great to learn more about the Scottish tradition and the custom of first-footing. I would not mind that the first guest who enters the threshold in the New Year to be a tall, dark-haired handsome male. 😉 What caught my eye is a saying, "May your troubles be as few as the teeth of a hen." In fact, several years ago researchers managed to grow chickens with teeth by coaxing their DNA. Chickens are distant relatives of dinosaurs, and such results showed that chickens retain ancient ability to grow alligator-like teeth.

🐝 Fatima G. Williams

2 years ago #19

Happy Happy New year 2019 Ken Boddie Cheers 🍻

Pascal Derrien

2 years ago #18

A great and entertaining read to start the year with 👍😉

Renée 🐝 Cormier

2 years ago #17

Haha! You always make me laugh.

Ian Weinberg

2 years ago #16

absolute hairesy!

Ken Boddie

2 years ago #15

Reminds me, Praveen Raj Gullepalli, of two oversized bunny rabbits bemoaning their circumstances. One turns to the other and says, "I washed my thing last night and can't do a hair with it". 🤣😂🤣

Ken Boddie

2 years ago #14

Perhaps a bit of poetic licence, Prav (Praveen Raj Gullepalli in #2 below. I do, however, like the warmth of Queensland (provided I can escape into air conditioning occasionally). I turn into a real wimp when it gets cooler and couldn't stand living in the southern Australian states. Being a former Scot who can't stand the cold, married to an Indonesian who can't stand the heat, all goes for many an argument over windows and doors open or closed vs air conditioning on or off.

Ken Boddie

2 years ago #13

Ha ha ..... snot enough hair to stay slick and spick, Renée, but thanks anyway. 😄

Renée 🐝 Cormier

2 years ago #12

Ken, may your troubles be as few as the teeth of a hen and may your hair stay as slick as the snot on a rooster's lip.

Ken Boddie

2 years ago #11

Many thanks for that link, Franci. The virtual tour of Scotland’s west coast, accompanied by the pipes and drums of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, brought a tear to my eye.

Ken Boddie

2 years ago #10

Only one cure for that, Kev ..... lots and lots of dad jokes. 😄

Ken Boddie

2 years ago #9

But then nobody’d open the door for me, Neil ...... unless I messaged them in Norse code. 🤣😂🤣

Most interesting post Ken Boddie. The tune Auld Lang Syne has such an interesting background. I think you will enjoy this -

Kevin Pashuk

2 years ago #7

Once again an informative and entertaining treatise my friend. I personally get worried at the end of every year... turns out I have Auld Langxiety.

Neil Smith

2 years ago #6

That photo is hysterical Ken. I'd love to see the reaction if you turned up on the doorstep dressed like this and wielding your tradition viking katana. 😁 Happy New year. 

Ken Boddie

2 years ago #5

Actually, Ian, although I love the taste of the odd Smith’s Glenlivet, it’s been a while since I imbibed, although ..... shhhh ..... don’t tell anyone. I have a certain reputation to maintain, as a former Scot and practising poet. In reality I lost way too many brain cells in my reckless youth and don’t really have too many to spare these days

Ken Boddie

2 years ago #4

Sorry, don’t know where that ‘s’ came from.

Ken Boddie

2 years ago #3

I’ll take that as a compliment, Lyons. 🤔

Ian Weinberg

2 years ago #2

Hopefully not too many of your country-folk see that opening pic Ken Boddie - they may cut off your single malt supply! Best wishes to you and yours.

Lyon Brave

2 years ago #1

Interesting theme for a bebee article

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