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New Year and Snakes Blood Soup

I have never seen in the New Year in Scotland.  I have been there
for the period between Christmas and New Year lots of times, but
generally drove back down for the night itself to be spent in Calais
Gate with chums.

Last year was spent in with the lost
love. So soon after Dad going, it was not really a happy occasion. In
fact I recall I went to bed early despite there being an Elton concert

This time my sister telephoned me in
early December. She said that a charity swim was being organised at
Inellan down the road from where she lives. She asked "would I join in?"

"Of course!", without thinking, I confirmed that I would do it.

the weeks went by and the day approached I became a little hesitant. As
I drove from home to Scotland through the snow I watched the outside
temperature fall from a balmy 0°C to -6°C.

days wore on and my trepidation increased. As I have explained before,
2nd Christmas was great, but between Christmas and the dip, only time.
Even that's not entirely true, since we went for walks, and played Lego
so diversionary activities were plentiful.

sister confirmed a few days before that Old Years Night (as our Nan
calls it) would be spent at a dance organized by a local dairy farm in
the Toward community hall. It turned out to be great and ranked as
highly by me as a barn dance wedding I once attended near Brighton. The
best ever wedding of a friend I have ever been to, but that's another

The New Year dance was great. A bloke with a
synth and a mic, sang a range of songs including some traditional
Scottish dances (which is always a good laugh so long as you can follow
the people in front) including 'stripping the willow,   the dashing
something and something else'. It was a real laugh.

New Year came, balloons fell from the ceiling, my sister and brother-in-law danced.

2010 was here! Hoorah! Gone was the back-end of the worst period in my life.

Then came morning.

Christmas my sister had bought me a "Keep calm and carry on" t-shirt
and we decided to wear the same as a uniform. I had found my sun hat
from a few years ago and we both had blue shorts on.

should at this point be explained that we knew a few people who had
borrowed wet suits for the dip, but for some reason, we decided that if
you are going to swim in the freezing cold, you might as well do it.
"Wet suits are for wimps", we chanted!!

The support
crew (brother in law and nephew) were both carrying the cameras and
'snakes blood soup' (which tasted remarkably like tomato?) was poured
into the Thermos flask.

My sister and I ran next door
to gather some more troops (successfully getting swimming agreement
from two with the rest of the family in support – G looked particularly
fragile but was in fine spirits).

Then the time came. 
A hundred or so strangers lined the beach at Inellan and a few other
people were in fancy dress with wings like 'arctic fairies' ready to
take the plunge. In all I estimate that 25, or so, of us were there for
the swim.

Having duly signed the obligatory health and
safety disclaimer and paid our £5.00 entry fee, a wonderful fancy
statue of liberty started the countdown.

We were off.

sister and I had already agreed to swim further out than any others and
that swimming was not confirmed unless total immersion had been

I was proud to say that my sun hat floated at least twice straight from my bobbing head.

gained our footing and both stood up. Shaking hands to the sounds of
shrieks and screams of the natives running for the shore we calmly
chatted for a bit and agreed to go in again one more time. This time it

We got out and waded in as controlled a fashion as we could into shore.

Warmed by towel and snakes blood soup, a shot of whiskey was passed to each of the swimmers by the organisers.

We all congratulated each other and having got dressed, proceeded to get back into the car and return home, triumphant!

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