A New Year dawns.

The New Year Ninch and a moment in time

So that’s it, all over for another year. Now we have that lull, the flat days post-Christmas, pre-new-year. The airwaves are full of what to wear and where to go for the year’s biggest party night. “Stay at home in your PJs with a warm drink,” says I.

I don’t like this time of year. The wonder of Christmas is over and we have that creeping back to real life woe – you know what I mean. I’m a ‘Ninch’ otherwise known as a new year’s ’Grinch'. And with good reason, allow me tell you why.

For me, this period makes me recollect one of the most eventful years of my life, one I will never be allowed forget. For it was a year wherein I lost, large. Even today, family in the know will call me, albeit affectionately – “Loser!”

That year was my one and only chance to be top of the leader board, bestowed king of the jungle. And dear readers – I blew it. Despite what the humble winners say, the smell of losing lingers like an old nappy.

At the time, Mam and Dad were live-in publicans of a sprawling public house in Manchester. My siblings and I had floors of rooms to explore, a small dance floor with a stage on which to sing and dance; and that night we each prepared for the performance of our lives.

On the eve of my mega failure, the pub was packed with New-Year’s-Eve revellers. My brother and sister were upstairs in one of the reception rooms rehearsing hard for their new year’s performances. I was downstairs with Mam, the two of us reluctant participants in the competition.

With alcohol fuelled fervour, the revellers cheered Mam and I on. Some even placed bets; and I was odds on favourite to win, “Come on, you can do this!” they chanted. The pressure weighed heavily on me; I was never a natural competitor. Mam smiled down at me and tapped my head, encouragingly. Then she continued pulling pints behind the bar whilst I held onto her, like a limpet.

Dad, ever mindful, said to Mam and I, “The two of you go on upstairs, I can manage down here.” Mam’s response was to head swivel her, ‘No,’ and take another drinks order from a giddy group wanting a double round before the clock struck 12 – Mam was a grafter.

Only when Mam delivered her last round of the night did she grimace in pain and shout over to Dad – “Call the midwife!”

When the midwife arrived, she looked at Mam, glanced at her watch and said to Dad, “You might want to call the Manchester Evening News, there’s a good chance I’m delivering the new year’s first baby,” she declared; guiding my exhausted mother upstairs to deliver my good self. The midwife turned and ordered, “And I’ll have a milky coffee, please.”

Dad panicked – we didn’t have any milk!

In a countdown where every second matters, I was marginally defeated. I clung on a tad too long and had to concede defeat to a girl from Bolton. I’d missed the opportunity to make my arrival in the world an auspicious front-page moment. And thus, I was burdened with the most dismal of birthdays, the first of January, without the accolade of being January’s first born baby. And to boot, Dad missed my arrival as he was running up the street, knocking on doors looking for a mug of milk for the midwife.

Over the years, Mam and Dad loved telling me my birthday story. And now it’s lovely to tell it to you, here.

“The forgotten birthdays,” is what my friend calls them; her daughter was born on the third of January. Birthdays in January are rubbish, trust me. Early January, and most people are generally under the weather. I feel particularly bad for those whose birthday falls on the third Monday in January ‘Blue Monday’ the most depressing day of the year. So, let me take this opportunity to wish all my fellow forgotten birthday folk: HAPPY DAY.

And to everyone else – as the sun rises over the metropolis of Cavan on the first day of January, I wish you all: love, laughter, and so much more in 2024.


WordSmith: A friendship borne on a Christmas morn