Each New Year I am reminded of two occasions when I got very drunk. The first was when I was 16. I was invited to a New Years’ Eve party by one of the girls at the salon where I worked. I purposely went without any dinner that evening expecting there to be food at the party. There were two married couples, another apprentice I worked with and me. I made a real effort with my hair and make-up, caught the bus and hoped, not having been to this house before, that I found the right stop. They welcomed me with ‘What can I get you to drink?’ I asked for the only drink I was comfortable with – port. As the evening progressed it was obvious there was no food on offer. I was constantly ragged with, ‘Drink up! Don’t let the side down, Julie’, and ‘Sweet sixteen and never been kissed!’ All I remember is people hanging out of the window shouting, ‘Happy New Year!’ and being sick all over the carpet before I could reach the toilet. One of the married men ran me home at 2am. I was still drunk but I managed to give him directions to my house. Once outside he turned to me and gave me a very passionate French kiss. Then he escorted me up the path and asked for another kiss under the porch light. I had two feelings: one was that this kiss had stirred feelings in me I didn’t know I had, and the other was absolute shame. I stumbled upstairs to bed and was sick again in the night. In the morning I was too ill to go to work and my father thought my behaviour inexcusable. I was not only drunk but a married man had driven me home alone! In the coming weeks this man would come to pick his wife up from work with his mate, both of whom were at the party. While I swept the salon floor they would sit talking about me with their heads together, making me blush. I don’t know if he ever told his wife about ‘the kiss’.
The second time, four years later, I was in Scotland with my fiancé and his parents, aunts and uncles. Hogmanay, I was to learn, was a big deal. The scotch was flowing well before midnight. We were all having a good time, dancing to music and sinking the drinks. When the clock struck 12 I couldn’t stand up. They all thought this was hilarious – it’s what people did at New Year – and if you got off your head you were one of them. First footing was talked about and there were a lot of comings and goings but I was taken to bed, which I had to share with my mother-in-law to be. They all kept popping in to laugh and joke with me and I remember imitating their Scottish accent in my stupor. In the morning my fiancé was out for the count on the floor, with his finger stuck in the neck of a whisky bottle. Even now, I can’t abide the smell of whisky! Or port!