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A Disastrous New Year
Painswick Beacon

by Sarah Shuckburgh

It was a long wait for midnight. Our rented cottage had no TV, and our five children were determined to stay up. As darkness fell - at 4pm - the youngest asked "Is it midnight yet?" We'd finished supper by 7pm. We spun out a fractious game of Monopoly. Then we played hide-and-seek. By 10pm, even hunt-the-thimble was ending in tears.

Outside, Painswick Beacon loomed against the night sky, and with sudden bravado we decided to welcome the New Year from the top. Muffled against the wind, we scrambled through the darkness. The grassy slope became a daunting assault course by torchlight, with unexpected canyons and precipices, but at midnight we sprawled on the damp summit, gazing at the distant lights of seven counties. Suddenly, one of the children vomited.

Then another. "We found some vodka", admitted the youngest, "And we drank it all up". For the next three hours, in driving rain and under an inky sky, we lugged five sodden, intoxicated children, inch by inch, between canyon and copse, leaving five trails of puke and tears.

Moral: Lock up the vodka, and alter clocks and watches so that midnight comes at 8.30pm.

First published by the Telegraph

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