hogmanay! (plus one eulogy) (2005-01-02 - 1:00 p.m.)

Happy New Year!

And here's hoping it's better than the old year. Well, actually 2004 was pretty awesome in general, it was just December that was nasty. I have high hopes for 2005, though (though I keep being told that January and February will be full of the worst possible Scottish weather).

Hogmanay, of course, is the big New Year's celebration up here, and Edinburgh's Hogmanay is apparently world-famous (though nobody who doesn't live here really seems to have heard of it!) I had tickets for the Street Party (where they block off Princes Street and pack it with a zillion people) and went to that early in the evening with Canucks Keri, Lysianne and Beth. They had a funfair thing set up, plus five stages with different types of live music and a lot of food stalls and things. Sadly the music didn't really start till 10:00, so we spent the early part just wandering around. I stayed for a bit of the music, but I'd been invited to a flat party and by about 10:30 I was cold enough to head for the indoor celebrations. It was almost impossible to get OUT of the street party, though - the crowd was so dense that I actually couldn't even move. I was being swept along with no choice in the direction because there were so many people. It was actually a little terrifying, and I'm just happy I'm not claustrophobic. I pity anyone who was, because they would have been freaking out.

The flat party was awesome. It was hosted by an Irish girl and packed with all kinds of people. I got there around 11:00, just as people were getting ready to head out to watch the fireworks at Inverleith Park. It turned out to be the perfect vantage point: there was a low stone wall to sit on with an amazing view of the castle, and we got a panoramic view of the fireworks (set off on all seven hills of Edinburgh) without the loud noise. The only trouble is I got completely soaked with champagne sprayed by an over-zealous Canadian right behind my head. For some reason there were also people juggling flaming torches in the park. They offered to let us have a go, and it's amazing no one set the place on fire - I don't think anyone there was in any condition to juggle fire!

I headed home around 4:30 am, along with everyone else in Edinburgh. The streets were as busy as they are at noon - it was actally pretty amusing. I ended up walking a stranded Aussie rugby player back - he'd been staying with friends near my flat but they'd abandoned him. Luckily someone had given him a slip of paper with "Please return me to 35 Murieston Crescent Lane" on it!

After I got home I got First Footed by Graham, hopefully ensuring luck in the coming year. The first foot tradition in Scotland is:

The first person to cross the threshold at Hogmanay brings all the luck, good or bad, for the year ahead. And, to follow in tradition they have to fulfil certain criteria. They have to be male, tall, dark and handsome. They cannot be doctors, ministers or grave-diggers (!) - oh, and your first footer cannot have eyebrows that meet in the middle! A first footer should bring several gifts to the door: uisge beatha ("the water of life", otherwise known as Scotch whisky) and a lump of coal. Why coal? Quite simply, coal represents a practical expression of warm wishes, literally fuel for the family hearth. The tradition gives life to the Old Scots saying lang may ye’re lum reek wi’ ither foolks’ coal ("long may your chimney smoke with other folks' coal").

Graham's male, tall and definitely not a grave-digger, though not particularly dark. I'm not sure how it works - maybe that means the household will have good but not great luck in the new year. Anyway, he did turn up clutching a bottle of very good Scotch and wearing a kilt (no coal, though), so that should count for something!

Anyway, it was a very good Hogmanay and I hope it portends a good year. Happy New Year to everyone!

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ps. You may all be very sick of hearing about my grandma by now, but I'm going to post her "official" eulogy (as read by my brother at the funeral) anyway because I miss her, and because I think she would be amused to be remembered by way of a website. She was a pretty tech-savvy octegenarian.

Our grandma, Daphne Ferrey, was born here in Rocky at her parents’ house, right across the back alley from the home where she died on Dec. 22. Her parents were Annie and Will Strong, who had moved to Canada from England and had been early pioneers in the Prairie Creek district. By the time Grandma was born, her family had moved to town and her father was a businessman in Rocky.
After Grandma finished high school, she moved to Edmonton to attend Alberta College and take a secretarial course. This was during WWII, and after she finished the course and moved back to Rocky, her uncle Bert Parsons found her a job working for the Midland Coal Company in Drumheller. When Grandma was in Drumheller she met a nice lady at church, Mrs. Ferrey, who had a son serving overseas with the RCAF. The son’s name was Aubrey, and when he returned from the war and met Grandma, it was not long before they were married. (June 1946). Grandma and Grandpa lived in Drumheller for a time, until in 1948 Grandpa Strong offered Grandpa a job in Rocky at his business, Strong and Son, a garage, car dealership and farm equipment dealership. Grandpa accepted the offer, they moved to Rocky, the business became Strong and Ferrey, and Grandma and Grandpa lived here for the rest of their lives.
Eventually Grandma and Grandpa had children, Geoff and Betty Anne. Besides running a household and raising her children, Grandma worked part-time at the town office. Later when the kids were older she moved on to a full time job at the Red Deer Health Unit as the secretary and office administrator which she continued to do until she retired in 1987.
Grandma took it all in stride when both Geoff and Betty Anne decided to get married the same year, one choosing spring and the other fall. She was delighted when the grandchildren began arriving: Anne, Will, Tim, Sam and Grace Ferrey and Kate and Matthew Alexander.
All these facts can’t begin to describe what Grandma was to us. She was the best grandma anyone could have. She loved us and loved spending time with us. For as long as we can remember, we were constantly going over to see Grandma, sometimes several times a day, to watch TV with her, or do crafts or play games. During the hockey season, we would spend several nights a week watching the hockey games at Grandma’s house, with her gladly joining us, despite her loathing for Don Cherry. As far as we know, Grandma spent almost her entire life with no interest in hockey, and furthermore, no ambition to acquire an interest in it. But when we started to come over to her house to watch the games she became one of the biggest hockey fans and Oilers supporters around.
She was always had time for us. Grandma loved to attend our school concerts and fundraisers. She was always involved in not only the big events but also the daily happenings of our lives. Although there were many miles between her and her grandkids Kate and Matthew she always was interested in what they were doing. She loved to talk to them and Betty Anne, to go and visit, and she loved to expound on their accomplishments and activities.
She loved to bake. On the occasions that she traveled to see Betty Anne in Bonnyville or Auntie Barb in Yellowknife she would strap on an apron and spend lots of time in the kitchen baking buns, cookies and all sorts of goodies. When it was time for her to return home, their freezers would be full of baking, pies and soups for later. She would bake dozens of buns for functions or for friends when she was home as well. She spent many hours making goodies for others, especially at Christmas, when many were recipients of buns, chocolates or nuts and bolts. In fact there are still a few bundles she prepared for this Christmas that are already packaged but still need to be delivered. These care packages are legendary and traveled all over to nieces and nephews in Yellowknife, Portland, Edmonton and Brandon, as well as other places we probably don’t even know about.
This church, Holy Trinity, was very important to her, and even when some things were not done the way she thought they should be, she remained a faithful and committed member. She was one of the ladies who spent a lot of time catering when money was being raised to build the hall next door. Grandma was a tireless worker for this parish. She was very faithful in her jobs such as doing the Sunday bulletin weekly and was the envelope secretary for many years. She had a favourite spot to sit and would come early to be sure to get her seat, then visiting with her many friends as they arrived. The marmalade she made each year to put in the annual ACW bazaar at Christmas time was legendary. People have been known to stand with their hand on a jar before the bazaar was officially opened so they would be sure to get some as soon as the opening prayer was finished.
It seemed that Grandma knew everybody, and their life stories, too. All you had to do was mention somebody’s name and Grandma had a story about them. People my age, Dad’s age, even people her own age, she knew them all, often knew their families, could tell you all about their family history, and often had a little story about what an uncle, father, or cousin had done as a child. She was a very accepting person and had many friends of all ages. When Grandma and Grandpa first moved to Rocky, it was the beginning of the Dutch influx to Rocky after the war. She and Grandpa made a point to employ the immigrants, and give them the help they needed to get on their feet in a new country. Even fifty years after the house was built, she was still so proud of the Dutch built cupboards in her kitchen. She really adopted many other people and their children and treated them like family. There are many more than just her immediate relatives who loved her enough to call her Grandma Ferrey. She was always willing to throw on another plate at mealtimes when one of the family came home with unexpected guests.
Grandma was also the “go to” person for any family information. She inherited the family contact book from Auntie Flo with dates of birth of most of the family starting in grandma’s time and continuing through my Dad’s generation up to the present. She kept in contact with many of our English relatives and, in fact, she and Auntie Barb just recently returned from a trip to Britain where they visited with many of their cousins and old friends, as well as some of grandpa’s cousins (whom they had never met). In her last few years she kept in close contact with those who weren’t in Rocky through phone and e-mail.
Anyone who knew Grandma will remember her big smile. She definitely shared the Strong trait which was to giggle, not always at the appropriate time or place. She had a very quick wit and infectious laugh. Auntie Betty, Auntie Barb and Grandma would often talk about the times they struggled to keep from giggling in church or even when they caught each other’s eye during a conversation.
Grandma loved to shop and always bought a huge amount of groceries for one little old lady. She had two fridges, two freezers and a huge pantry downstairs filled to the brim with food. When the year 1999 was about to turn to 2000 and everyone was worried about Y2K, we knew we would be all right. All we had to do was go over to Grandma’s and there would be enough food to feed all of us until spring, if necessary.
Grandma loved to drive. She got started early, with her dad teaching her drive when she was young, and she never stopped. She helped to teach both Tim and I how to drive, although her notion of how fast we should go and ours were somewhat different. One of her favorite stories is the time that Tim was out driving with her, and he took her around the corner on two wheels, a story which she told with a scowl if Tim was present, but a big grin if he wasn’t. One of her greatest pleasures was to drive her friends uptown to get groceries, or for appointments. She disliked highway driving, mostly the high rate of speed expected. On the occasions when she had to go on the highway, out to the lake or to friends’ houses, she would take back roads, and attempt to drive the same speed on the highway as in town.
Grandma was very involved in the community. She was known as “Balloo” when she was a cub leader. She also spent many hours typing for many groups or individuals that needed her assistance. She was involved in Eastern Star and for many years was the secretary for that group and more recently spent her time helping to fundraise or even to decorate for their events. She also volunteered for years at the hospital gift shop.
Grandma was open-minded and adventurous. She learned to use the computer while in her 70s, and even though she seemed to think that the infernal computer had a mind of its own, she kept using it for e-mail and to type the church bulletin as well as other documents that people asked her to do. She never failed to return one of the e-mails that I sent her while I was away at school, filled with the usual news of family, friends, and Rocky life in general.
Grandma loved to visit Auntie Barb in Yellowknife and made many friends up there. She also started to travel at an advanced age and experienced everything from a Twin Otter ride to Victory Lake NWT at age 81, to trips to Florida, Portland and Arizona. This was capped off by the impromptu trip to Britain in October with Auntie Barb and our sister Anne which she thoroughly enjoyed.
She loved to be challenged, whether by a crossword puzzle, new experiences or even her favorite TV show Jeopardy, which she and Grace watched diligently.
As far as role models go, Grandma has few equals. She showed us how to practice unconditional acceptance. Her good humour, generosity and zest for life always impressed us and that’s something that we’ll carry with us and always try to live up to.

backwards ~ onwards

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Missed anything?
moved! - 2008-05-12
Sunday = time to ramble on - 2008-05-11
apparently I'm doing monthly updates these days. Sorry. - 2008-05-04
watershed - 2008-04-06
end of trip - 2008-03-31

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