If 2013 was anything, it was the year of totally unexpected travel. Through a combination of work, love and fun – often at the same time – I made it to seven countries and rather too many airports.
New Year in Mile End was marked by Cambridge-work-flatmate melding, a cappella Puff the Magic Dragon and certain people falling onto the kitchen floor. Later on in the month, we’d all recovered enough for snowball fights by the Thames, Underground at the BFI, creepy Wellcome Collection exhibits and a very old steam train filling Baker Street with smoke. I also took the family to Arabian Nights at the Tricycle, brought Sanna along to Ben’s Coja Records launch and caught up with Peter Mandler in Cambridge with Oliver and Abi.
Dancing reached an early peak in February (quantity, not quality wise) when Julie came to visit. She also crushed Josh in pool. In fact, it also seems to have been the month for pub games in general, because I remember Chris Ramm – our wonderful visitor from Berlin – furiously taking on a random German bloke at table football in Big Red. I also saw Lincoln with Josh, a Kat-directed News Revue and Carmen at the Albert Hall… until drama in the audience became more gripping than the opera itself. At work, Book Club was born, while at home I gloried in my first new laptop in six years. (So beautiful.)
By March I needed a holiday, and had dreams of disappearing into the countryside for a week. Instead, I ended up on what I can only describe as a lovely reunion tour: starting with Lucy’s visit, and then on to Gloucester to see Andy and Flo, Bewts-y-coed to see Josie (and do lots of walking in ‘proper hiking boots’, as the woman in the B&B insisted I buy – these would later turn out to be important) and finally Cofton Hackett to catch up with Lou, Sharon and Martin. By the end of these carefully coordinated train journeys I was much better rested, and actually ‘did something’ for Easter since the days of easter egg hunts when Cat and Josh came to stay at my parents to make a roast and dance the Hugenboogie.
Back on 28th March, just as I was leaving work, I received an email entitled “Want to visit Chicago April 8?”. Obviously I said no: I had Book of Mormon tickets for that day – my delayed Christmas present to the flat – and I wouldn’t have missed that for anything. But with some negotiation I went to Chicago anyway, and there began a lot of very happy adventures. I went twice in April, actually: the first was The One With Jamie And Deep Dish Pizza, the second was The One With Nolan’s Burrito Rap. Back in the UK, this was also the month of a good old-fashioned Knettishall Heath ramble in Suffolk and the first time I ever met the mysterious Anna in a packed Blues Bar. (She would also later turn out to be important!)
May means Eurovision, and the emergency purchasing of flags! This year, May also meant Star Trek Into Darkness, The Match Box (Tricycle again) and dragging American visitors halfway across London for News Revue. It also meant Chicago again, and Ashley’s very loud and public distaste for the Navy Pier tourist trap meaning that Michele and I were the only ones to go and ride the Ferris Wheel and have dinner. Romantically followed by a day of sudden illness, a slow Motel Bar-aided recovery and walking someone to the bus stop in the pouring Chicago rain thinking “this would go really badly if I sneezed in her face right now”.
And once again, everything just sort of comes together in June. There was Emily’s birthday party, a picnic with Holly, the Geffrye Museum with Roger and Lily Ann and John’s May Ball with Simon, Patrick and Ellie. (Top tip: if you want your life to flash before your eyes, sit helplessly on a stranded dodgem car without a token to move.) I stayed with Robert in Manchester and Henry in Borehamwood – the latter including a surreal late-night church service for one. For my birthday, Katie took me to see Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing and Cat masterminded a surprise dinner which was so, so lovely. And at all of these events, the topic of conversation led back to Chicago, and the girl who needed a sofa to sleep on in London 🙂
Said girl became Facebook official in July, as we realised that – pfft – 4000 miles isn’t really that far. Also: Daryl and Ermila visited, Katie graduated QPCS and Abbi and Paul threw a house-cooling braai as they continued their quest to live in every flat in South London. Having waited until the very last moment, I finally managed to visit Sophie in Oxford, and Cat, Josh and Anna came along in fancy dress to the Self Sisters Shebang: Tash and Katie’s joint 21st and 18th birthday parties in the William IV. Just about everybody else in the world seemed to be there, too…
My mad archiving heart got a fillip in August, with the arrival of the smartphone which can actually take nice photos. So, for example, I can tell you that I played board games with Oliver and Abi, went to the top of the Shard with mum, laughed a lot at Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa with Nour, caught up with Matt and Caroline and toured Portobello beer gardens with Josh and Anna. The family rallied for BBQ food, Katie’s exam results and Peter Capaldi’s unveiling (to audible gasps) as the next Doctor. In Norfolk, we stayed at Cat’s ancestral home and uncovered some truly shocking pantomime videos. And not to forget Berlin: yummy food, beer market drinks and – of course – the very weird and wonderful Berghain. Which I might have fallen asleep in. Almost.
I’ve wanted to visit Canada for a very long time, so jumped at the chance to go on a camping holiday with Michele and Nisa in September amid the gorgeous and beautiful national parks. We swam in icy lakes, hiked up a mountain to a tea-shop, made friends with a random German man and lay in a tent plotting our takeover of the world: blissful. And then very soon Michele was in London, for a stroll down the Southbank with Tash, more News Revue, Hampstead Heath rambling and lots of Doctor Who indoctrination with my dad. We also saw Handbagged at the Tricycle: quite possibly my favourite thing I saw all year. Also this month, Katie and I finished our long Fringe journey before she went away to uni, and I visited Sanna and Sarah in their new flat for a very Swedish meal.
In Milan, the food was heavenly and the hotels accommodating. In Cambridge, we established that Yale has brazenly ripped off Cambridge colleges, before heading to the Granta pub with Simon for drinks. And back in London, we had milkshakes with Lucy (and learnt a lot about bees), a celebratory flat reunion when Josh returned from India and a final farewell night with wonderful AIESEC people before Michele headed back home. Afterwards, Simon kicked off the mulled wine season with the world’s earliest Christmas party and – at Halloween – Matt Hull turned up in the greatest Halloween costume ever.
The travelling ain’t over yet… in November I spent a couple of days each in Stockholm and Helsinki for work, being surprised at how different they felt from each other and feeling guilty for eating (delicious) reindeer. And if that wasn’t enough, I came home via a silly, fun and very happy weekend in Paris, staying in Patrick’s luxury pad (inc. harpsichord) and posing next to poorly translated shop signs. My nerdy transport visit of the year was to the closed Aldwych station on the Piccadilly line, but it wasn’t long before I was off again: back to Chicago for my first Thanksgiving celebrations. And also to my nerdy school visit of the year, Stevenson High School, where I failed to sell the merits of socialised medicine but won a pocket-sized constitution for my pains.
Back from the ‘burbs to Chicago city proper, I finally got to the awesome Second City improv theatre, knocked things over at the Museum of Science and Industry (sorry) and had mini-Christmas celebrations with all the wonderful people on the Sixth Floor. By the time I got home it was Christmas all around me: Cat’s coma-inducing Christmas dinner of joy, fireworks at Carolyn’s, the second instalment of The Hobbit, the usual family fun and\or screamed quiz remonstrances on Christmas Day itself, and Saving Mr. Banks at the Lexi on Boxing Day. And finally, one of the closing nights of 2013 felt very retro indeed, as Josh, Anna and I weaved a succession of night buses home from Robert’s chilled cocktail evening. I wonder if I’ll ever outgrow that?
Happy New Year to everyone, and may 2014 bring some surprises of its own…
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There will be Chicago wedding I think in the next year (you met Becky!), I’ll let you know as soon as I know just in case you’re itching to get back to the heartland. Love the Simpsons-sequel Selfs
Insufficient book club credits.
And ‘snowball fights by the Thames’ should be The (singular) Epic (yes) Snowball Fight by the Thames deserved of both a definite article and capitalisation
Amusingly, I was actually thinking of a different snowball fight. Which I think highlights how snowball-heavy January was. Again, please!
Well if you were thinking of a different one then the comment still stands. How was it? Better? I hope you used protection.
Oh, Ben. I’m sorry. It was just a stupid fling. (Like your snowballing technique… ohhh…)
It’s fine, just don’t do it again. And for the record I was aiming for the air.