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Nell Wilson woke slowly from a dream where she was bound fast, unable to move as something sharp pierced her upper leg. Where on earth was she? This was not her bed and why was she pressed hard against this unfamiliar wall in this gloomy room?

Suddenly memory came flooding back...........................

“Nell, Hilda, over here!!” Dr Meg Kelly's clear voice cut through the noise of trains releasing steam, the shouts of busy railway workers and the greetings of countless reunions. Gratefully, Nell Wilson and Hilda Annersley struggled towards the sound and embraced their friend.

“Is this all your luggage? Good, I've a taxi waiting at the top of the stairs.” said Meg, expertly elbowing her way through the crush.

Once their cases were stowed in the back of the black cab and they could sit back, Meg frowned. “You both look exhausted. Was it a rough journey?”

“We've had worse!” said Nell with a weary grin. “Not a sleeper to be had for love or money, of course, and our compartment was crowded. Still, it was lively enough! We had a singsong, accompanied by a rather good melodeon player, as it happens, and everyone was very friendly. We could have been extremely drunk if we had taken up a quarter of the offers to ' have a wee dram to keep the cold out'.”

“Or ended up missing our stop and landing in Aberdeen!” giggled Hilda, who felt light-headed from lack of sleep.

“Now there's a fate worse than death.” laughed Meg. “Yes, the Scot travelling home for the New Year is a hospitable beast. Just be thankful you were on the overnight train and not one of the daytime specials! A couple of years ago, the last train from London got stuck in a snowdrift on the Fife side. Passengers for Dundee, and round about, got off and walked over the bridge, the rest trooped off and first footed people in Wormit and on some of the farms. Apparently a good time was had by all! And here we are.”

The taxi drew up outside an attractive terrace and they were soon in Meg's tiny but welcoming flat. After a necessary wash and brush up and a light breakfast, Hilda and Nell were delighted to crawl into an ample bed settee and were soon deeply asleep.

It was already dark when they both woke, but Meg laughed off their apologies. “A good long sleep is just what I would have prescribed for you both. I have no idea when or where we will next lay our heads down. I know you have spent Hogmanay in Scotland before, Nell, but that was the Highlands, and, from what you say, a big house. This is different! Now, just let me do the dishes, change your sheets, rake out the ashes and get the rubbish emptied and we can get down the road to Ma's. She's really determined that you will have a good tightener before we go out!”

And she swept the cups and saucers onto a tray and off to the sink leaving her guests to look at each other in some apprehensive bemusement, wondering what peculiar form of torture could constitute a 'tightener'.......

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