millionreasons: (wine)
23rd: Brexmas. Dom organised a "last day of work" breakfast at 7 a.m, which involved getting up at 6 a.m. Oddly, given that I'm into my fourth REM cycle by then, I didn't feel tired until about 9 p.m. Maybe I should try this getting-up-at-a-horrendous-time lark more often. We went to Hawksmoor, which is known for its meat (indeed, it does a £36 all you can clog your arteries with mega animal brekkie) but the veggie option (wild mushrooms on toast with poached egg and Hollandaise) was pretty nice. The restaurant is very old school, with wood paneling and dim lighting, and soon filled up with city boys in last day of term Christmas jumpers. We arrived in the dark, but when we left, it was light, like a reversal of going to the cinema in the afternoon. I took the bus through the empty city to an equally empty Stoke Newington and was in work an unprecedented 45 minutes early.

25th: We walked over Wanstead Flats. When we lived in N16 North (the ghetto) it was just like a normal day; in E7, I thought Xmas might be different, but there were still shops open. We even saw one woman delivering pizza leaflets. We cooked nut roast, drank English wine, watched Xmas TOTP for the first time in 25 years.

26th: Driving north for Boxing Day reading James Woods' essay on going home, deliberate exile, secular homelessness. But even though I can appreciate the village where I grew up, now glittery with lights (not gaudy, never that), I haven't considered this home for a long long time. Unlike school-friends who tweet that it's good to be home in their childhood bed, more and more, I feel the north is not for me. The best bit of the day was picking out the notes to Oh Susanna on the piano as my nephew "played" the same on his keyboard.

27t:; Christmas-on-sea in Lincolnshire, a walk on the bright and brilliant seafront followed by a look around Sue's Curios, not so much a treasure trove as a place you'd not want to get stuck in overnight in case everything came alive.

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We drive over the Wolds, icy windmills moving steadfastly through the snowy air, crispy white grass, brackeny hedges tarted up by twinkly frost, Dickensian corners on windows. Through little leave-voting Lincs villages rimed up with frost, their subsidised PV panels whited up, bare trees in diaphanous white sleeves, bushes stalagmited by the weather, cabbages in fields turned cauliflower, ice-white swans on a mirrored stream.

28th: A long day of relative and friend visiting, driving across Nottingham four times, setting off for the motorway as the day is falling, lights curl off into the Monet-ish grey distance, the diamond and gold of the tailback. We follow a stream of red down the hill to Cambridgeshire, like the Magi after the star. There is a murmeration of sparrows in the pink twilight, the birds joyfully whirligigging; people like seeing kestrels or hawks by the sides of roads, but this is better. At the end of the A1, the misty city rises out of the motorway like Oz.
millionreasons: (marnie)
1. Christmas Day, we cycle over to The Crown, near Victoria Park, for a Christmas drinkie. We cycle back through the dark streets carefully; everyone's had a snifter or four.

2. Boxing Day at my parents. My presents included a pair of exfoliating gloves (I like my skin attached to my body the way it is), a Chocolate Orange (because it's traditional, like the Queen's Speech and arguments), and a card clash protector (because nothing says Christmas like paranoia about your debit card being skimmed).

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3. We travel to Nottingham to do six relatives in three hours. On the way back, misty cars loom at the top of the hill: UFO lights beaming fat and white down the road. One car leads others to Meadowhall for the sales, Pied Piper-like. A tree lingers blankly by the side of the road. The Christmas lights splash in the black wet ground.

4. Up to Mablethorpe. Walk along the beach in the bright, cold air; the first time it's been less than mild the whole of December.

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5. Back to London: rows of trees splodge against the horizon like Rorsach tests. We drive through a countryside palate of yellow, blue, green, brown; no reds to be seen anywhere. We stop in Thundridge, Herts, purely for the signage:

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millionreasons: (pankhurst)
On Christmas Eve, I voluntarily got up before 6 a.m. to meet various people for breakfast in Cowcross Street. I am not an early riser and I hadn't realised quite how dark and cold it is at that time - when a man did that "Hello sweetheart" thing, I didn't ignore him as I usually would, it was nice to see another human being on the usually busy Upper Clapton road. The 6.24 was fairly full though: commuters gotta commute. Two men who presumably meet every day talked about Christmas telly and Christmas temperatures. The pub was full of butchers and postmen, the only other women in there were the barstaff. I watched the top of the Smithfield sky get light as we tucked into our greasy spoon breakfast (at bistro prices) and then went for a coffee on Leather Lane, commuters were still surging out of Farringdon station.



Christmas Day was similarly busy. We went for a walk in the sunshine on the marshes and it was like the first warm day of Spring when everyone emerges to take the air. The same on the interwebs - everyone was tweeting as normal. I suppose it's Dickensian of me to expect Xmas Day to be special, to do things one wouldn't usually do and eschew normality.

On Boxing Day we travelled north in a posh hire car. It had heated seats and the driver could set his or her temperature to be different from the passenger side. All very fancy until a tyre blew and Dave had to change it on the hard shoulder, me sitting watching the cars roar past, the curved windscreen making it look as if the cars were skidding across their lanes, which was unsettling. As soon as you're not part of the traffic, you're vulnerable. We drove the rest of the journey, past the familiar flat fields of Lincolnshire with its windmills, wind farms, pheasants, chunky spired churches and long grey skies, on the spare wheel.

We went for a walk along Mablethorpe's prom, snow sitting in the footsteps in the sand, looking at the moody, bruised brown sea, passing places offering spiritual healing for people and pets.

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Leaving the frozen coast, into the valley of the Trent with its snowy verges and bleak trees. Past russetty and evergreen slanted and sunlit woods. The steaming spires of a power station. Doncaster is under snow, enough to be pretty, not too much to be inconvenient.

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Sunday, we drove to Cleethorpes through a monochrome landscape, passing over straight Roman rivers. Parents dragging kids on Christmas sleds, horses in fields investigating snowy landrovers, smoke-shaped clouds in a '50s style powder blue sky. A van sheds its topload of snow putting us, for an instant, into a motorway snowglobe. We walk along the prom near the pier, watching the disco donkeys, and eat chips in a caff. We drive along to Humberston to meet Claire and go onto the Humberston Fitties, cute Dungeness-esque prefabs, each with its individual charm. Robert Wyatt apparently lives here, although we don't see him. At the end of the chalet park is Tetney marshes, an RSPB reserve.





Onwards to Pleasure Island, which is more or less closed but features a sweet little light railway that runs all the way into the town, a pub in a signal box (one of Britain's smallest hostelries) and a lovely train cat called Harry who sits on the old fashioned suitcases (that contain his Whiskas pouches).

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Afterwards, we ascend to the top of Ross "castle", an official imitation ancient ruined monument/folly and then onto Marple's cafe for a restorative hot chocolate.

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Monday. The Don Valley looks lovely in the early-lit snow, the grassed over slag heap becomes snow capped mountains the blank trees sit smothered in fog. We drive onto Rugby, where neither of us has been before but now we have and let's not talk of it again.

Photo 1 by Rob, 2 and 3 (from the car) by me, 4 and 5 by David, 6 and 7 by me.
millionreasons: (pankhurst)

We spent Christmas Day in London and went up north on Boxing Day. People on the twitter were posting instagrams of the rural scenes viewed from bedroom windows in their home town. This is what it looks like where my parents live. That's Maltby pit, which shut down this year.



On Boxing Evening, we went to Sheffield to have a curry. Walking 'round the city centre at 5.30 p.m. was quite odd: cold and still and empty.

On Boxing Day II, we drove down to Nottingham to see David's many relations. He has more cousins than the number of people in my entire family. Afterwards, we eschewed the motorway for the scenic route back through North Notts, stopping off at Newstead Abbey, ex-home of Lord Byron, and more importantly, free in the winter time. Instead of being part of the English Heritage franchise, it's in public ownership, run by Nottingham council. After being stuck in a car or in hot rooms for two days, it was great to run around in the countryside. We wandered the grounds: the classical formal garden, the Japanese garden, the currently bleak rose garden. We met a nice cat.





We drove back, admiring the effort that people had put into their Christmas lights even in this recession. London is far too refined for OTT decorations. In one Islington window, I saw a tree that just had lights, no tinsel, not baubles, no kid-made toilet-roll angel. Another had a modesty panel around the tree!

We came home yesterday, stopping off first in Stilton, where the cheese-related tourism was far more muted than in Cheddar. There was just a fancy hotel where the menu included a Midlands Cheese Board. I expected at least The Cheese Experience or The Blue Cheese Tearooms. So onto Huntingdon, ex-home of Samuel Pepys, Oliver Cromwell, and John Major,. The olde high street has been preserved by creating a horrible ring road around the town, which we ended up driving around three times, fortunately not widdershins. There were no twee tearooms here either, but we were served fairly efficiently in a pub. The Ouse had burst its banks and the riverbank was now a lake. Not pictured here are the sheep who were still grazing on what is now an island. I do hope someone comes to rescue them if and when it starts raining again, otherwise it's going to be like Atlantis or Dunwich.



Driving home for Boxing
Just passed Leicester Forest East
I'm driving home for Boxing Day
Had a Ginsters and a Feast
It's not been so long
Just over a year
Going north feels wrong
But it's just one day
Driving in our hire car,
Driving home for Boxing Day.

It's gonna take some time
Roadworks on the M1
Top to toe in tinsel
Oh, I got mince pies in the boot
But soon there'll be presents
Get my hands on Xmas loot.


millionreasons: (Default)
We crunched through snow on Christmas Day as we traversed an icy Walthamstow Marshes, so it was definitely a white Xmas and I don't care what William Hill says. The ramble reminded me of the one Alan Partridge took - I wonder why the council haven't been 'round to salt the ground to make it less slippy.

We spent the rest of the day cooking and eating (no cauliflower, no bread sauce), opening presents (amongst some good presies, David has bought me a pair of tongs "as a joke" - this is what Mark gave to Dobby for Christmas in Peep Show. Tres amusant. I consider serving his Xmas Dinner a la Corrigan, i.e. shredded, but we only have a ribbon cut rather than a cross-cutter shredder) and watching Muppets' Christmas Carol, Scrooged and Dr Who. Watched these three versions of Dicken's seasonal entertainment, we found a fatal flaw in the story in that when he wakes up on Christmas morn, Scrooge sends a passing urchin to the butcher's shop to buy the biggest turkey he can find for the Cratchitts. But if the point of the story is to keep Christmas special, kickstarted by Bob C wanting 25th off work, then should the butcher's be open? I think not. Talking of Muppets, it's about time they branched out into covering other classic stories. How about Muppet Centipede Muppet Farm? Miss Piggy'd make a lovely Napoleon.

After Dr Who, we wander through dark N16 streets to DJ's house where cheese is eaten, cava and sherry is quaffed and Trivial Pursuit games are only very narrowly lost.

It was just like Christmas

Up the M11 to the frozen north where the tales of three foot snowdrifts seem to have been somewhat exaggerated. We have, rather surprisingly, accidentally hired a BMW which handles like a rather boring dream about motorways. I suppose the car make is appropriate as we are heading to the childhood home of one Mr J Clarkson. Arrive chez parents and spend the rest of the day eating, arguing over a quiz and watching telly, including 1985 TOTP (Jennifer Rush, Baltimora, Phil Collins, US Band Aid, and Billy Ocean - "You want the truth? Well this is it. I hate the 80s, the 80s were shit!"), the Dan! Dan! Dan! Dan! Dan! Dan! Dan! Dan! episode of Alan Partridge, and the highlights of Australia 98-10 and England 150-0. I love seeing Andrew Strauss's little face all a-glee almost as much as I like Ricky Pointing's all a-glow with irritation and disillusionment and various pundit duties awaiting.

Boxing Day Blues

Set off through a snowscape of Notts and Lincs, past Gainsborough power station blowing mistily in the background, as if Monet had rejected painting the Houses of Parliament for heavy industry. Arrive at Dave's parents' house and spend the day much as the last two has been spent: eating and TV watching.

But in the morning, we take a bracing walk on t'prom in search of the bathing beauty beach huts. It's not raining but we end up soaked from the mist. Usually when we're here, it's 10 degrees colder than the rest of the country but beautifully bright and you can see the weather 10 miles away.











I fall asleep in the car and dream about Kate Bush hosting an episode of Come Dine with Me and wake up in Leyton where all the shops shine like jewels.

January 2017

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