I never stop believing

We celebrated new year in Sheffield.

Judith, my friend from school, and her husband Brian who climbs anything that isn’t flat, had invited us to join them for new year 2009/2010 but the weather prevented us from travelling so the invitation carried over to 2010/2011.

On New Year’s Eve, with only a few piles of ice remaining from the pre-Christmas snowathon and having forked out for a new wheel for the car (“Suffolk pot-hole hell”), we pointed the car upwards and set off. As always we were less than 100% prepared. Without a mint humbug to suck on the A14 and A1 can be tedious.

The last time we went to Sheffield (circa five years ago) I swear there were roundabouts on the A1. This time we didn’t negotiate a single one. The straight line fairy had obviously waved her magic wand and taken them all away.

“Is there anything to suck in the glove compartment?” I asked my husband.

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He is number one navigator on such journeys. I have a tendency to wait until we have passed a junction before mentioning we should have turned.

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With the help of Miss-Butter-Wouldn’t-Melt, prissy, know-it-all SatNav: “At the next roundabout, take the second exit” and my husband: “Second exit, Lynne. That’s one, then the next one. Well done,” we arrived in west Sheffield in good time.

Our friends live within minutes of the Peak District where Judith loves to walk and Brian climbs.

In the kitchen of their home, a house that overlooks most of Sheffield, Brian was beginning to work on his beef Wellington while also trying to persuade the new computer printer to install itself.

Within moments, my husband was at the computer exploring the drivers while Judith and I rewound to the 1970s and mutual friends and boyfriends.

Brian rolled out his puff pasty. “It’s got to be really thin,” Judith instructed having checked the online recipe while my husband put his printer installation on hold.

While we variously sealed meat, rolled pastry, went to the online troubleshooter, ate cake and remembered thingy with the huge chest who used to go out with whatsisname from the boys’ school, Judith was also compiling her party CD and so there was a very “now” soundtrack to the proceedings.

A regular at Glastonbury and Latitude festivals, Judith, who is also a fine classical musician, has eclectic taste in music. The only band I had heard of was Muse.

“Is there any track you can think of that I should put on it, Lynne?” she asked, as yet unaware that the last new album I bought was The Kinks and that I am so steeped in popular culture it is veritably dripping from me.

“Well, there’s one song that is ubiquitous, this year,” I ventured.


“Yes, it’s on account of Glee.”


I could tell she was going to be disappointed. She was thinking Glee must be a great new indy band.

“It’s a popular American series about a high school glee club,” I explained. My voice tailed off as I watched Judith’s initial interest dissipate.

I tried again: “The song that’s everywhere is Don’t Stop Believing… trust me.”

Womanfully, Judith went on to one of the music websites and played the first eight bars of the introduction.

Yes, well, it was only a thought. That’s the trouble with being just a small town girl living in a lonely world.

After more tea and cake we ate a fine supper and got ready for the party. I changed into something velvety and discovered I forgot to pack my hairbrush.

“You can use mine,” offered my husband and added: “But it’s the old one.”

“The one with hardly any bristles?”

“That’s the one.”

It works for him.

Looking great except for the tangly bit of hair at the back of my head, I joined the rest of the gang and we headed for the party where our genial hosts had put on a wonderful buffet. We pressed ourselves into a corner of the kitchen as is customary at parties.The current CD was playing wall-to-wall 80s and I could see the wistful look in Judith’s eyes as she placed her compilation CD next in line by the player.

People had also been asked to bring fireworks and there was a brilliant display of pyrotechnics at midnight, many of them ignited by Brian in his shirtsleeves.

By this I mean he was wearing a short-sleeved shirt not that he put fireworks in his shirtsleeves. That would be silly and dangerous.

As well as rockets, golden cascades of screeching, sparkling whirligigs, and sudden bladder-threatening bangs, a number of airborne lanterns were lit and sent skyward to join the dozens we could already see bobbing off towards the horizon.

Having recently bought three of these lanterns I am now pretty well decided not to use them near trees, roofs, sheds, linen lines, livestock or any nearby obstruction. Until they suddenly lurch upwards, they can be unpredictable and suddenly dip downwards, getting caught up.

At around 1am we wended our way back to J&Bs (is that the name of a whisky?) leaving behind the unmistakeable sounds of Abba… no, still not Judith’s CD.

On New Year’s Day we were taken to the Sleeping Beauty pantomime at City Hall, Sheffield. It is a traditional show by a talented and well-regarded local group.

Brian and Judith used to bring their children here when they were small and now they were bringing us, knowing of our love of panto. So traditional is this pantomime that the slapstick features the same routine every year and the audience is ready for it.

Bits of “dough” get thrown out into the auditorium, whereupon they are seized and thrown back at the actors. The musicians leave the orchestra pit to avoid the line of fire but the audience is wise to this and many people hang on to their bits of dough and bombard the band the moment they resume their seats.

It was a jolly good afternoon and, of course, it featured the song Don’t Stop Believing… not that I mentioned it of course… well, maybe once or twice.

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