Lighting up the new year in style

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The tree is put away, the tinsel removed. The plastic tat that Santa brought has been designated to toy boxes and playroom spots away from the relative calm of my living room.

The cupboards are no longer groaning with food that we don’t eat at any other time of the year and I’m no longer groaning from the after effects of eating the same.

The wine bottles have been taken to the recycling bin, the “magic reindeer food” is however still congealing on the back step - a soggy glittery reminder of Christmas past.

The children are now counting down, perhaps a little reluctantly, to the return to the routine of school and I’ve given up my Christmas writing break and am now working, hell for leather, on my new book which is due with my publishers all too soon.

I’m trying to build up the courage to go back to Slimming World. I have even googled running shoes suitable for the larger lady - which is a big (excuse the pun) step in a new direction for me. By the end of the year I may even buy a pair.

It is time to put away the all things Christmassy and move on to the new year. But not, thankfully, without my share of lovely Christmas memories.

These included enduring ‘Jingle Bells’ on a loop sung by a rather enthusiastic three year-old who may not be fully versed in the real words. (I had to break it to her that it was not “bells on bottoms ring” ), watching Room on the Broom approximately 264 times and playing with Play Doh until it was all congealed into one big browny lump of goo as opposed to the varying hues of Disney Princess it had been.

I spent a considerable amount of time listening to the finer workings of the XBox and listening to a one man commentary on Fifa 13 being shouted from the boy’s bedroom. The boy has got to an age where spending Christmas actually in the company of the people who gave him the gift of life - never mind funded the Santa bounty - is so uncool. So I also have precious Christmas memories of pleading with him to spend some time in our company, perhaps to curl up together and watch a movie, and being blown off. Ah... happy times.

But the highlight undoubtedly (without sarcasm) of the festive season for us was our saunter along the quay on Monday night for the fireworks.

There we were, probably all a little battered and bruised from our Play Doh building, XBox fighting, Jingle Bell overdosing deciding that by hook or by crook and whether we really wanted to or not we would be going to the fireworks and, whether we wanted to or not, we would bloomin’ well enjoy ourselves.

We wrapped up and set off up the Quay, thinking sure it wasn’t that cold at all and it would be grand. An hour later, as we waited for things to kick off, I was starting to feel a mild dose of hypothermia kick in.

The wee doll, who refused to wear her bright pink Hello Kitty furry hat/scarf/glove combo was starting to turn blue despite wearing her best winter coat and, eventually, my scarf and gloves. The boy was worried that he wouldn’t get a great view and while I tried to jolly everyone along I started to think it might just be wiser to get back in the car, travel home and watch what we could see of the spectacle from the warmth of our own back bedroom.

We were just reaching the point of familial harmony no return when the music started and not far from us the Lords of Lightning kicked off their show. The boy, who had been gurning about the cold, became entranced. Even now, several days later, he still on occasion looks at me and says, with wonder in his voice: “Mammy, he was shooting lightning... OUT. OF. HIS. HEAD!”

That performance was no sooner done than the strains of Frank Gallagher’s soundtrack started to sound around the Foyle and the chattering crowd, who had perhaps been complaining (like us) stopped complaining and started watching.

I don’t know what it is about this city - but we tend to go to things expecting to be disappointed. We expect to walk away from something we have been anticipating with a bee in our bonnet.

But instead we, collectively at the quay - including me and my grumpy, frozen children, watched with wonder. As the music rang out around the Foyle and the fireworks along the railway line and across the Peace Bridge burst into life we were wowed.

There is no adequate way to describe the emotions I felt that night - and the emotion I felt around me. To watch your children, wide-eyed with wonder staring as the sky lights up to welcome in a new year is humbling and inspiring.

A woman next to me said the night gave her hope for the year to come - it certainly did that.

But more than that it gave us a touch of magic, a sense of community and a sense of togetherness as family which I won’t forget for a long time. And there was not even one bit of Play Doh involved in the whole shebang.