Happy new year! I am back in Chicago – in cold, cold Chicago – after my first Christmas back at home in four years. Usually I sorta skip past Christmas itself on this blog, but to mark the occasion I have some actual Christmas photos for once. While in London we also saw Oslo, a play about the Oslo Accords between Israel and the PLO which began as a secret, unofficial backchannel. I learnt a lot about the process, although of course it is somewhat marred by the fact that there is very obviously no peace at the end of it. In a more upbeat spirit, I hadn’t seen Chicken Run since it came out, and it is amazing. Not enough to put me off chicken pies (I had many pies in the UK) but I did start playing the soundtrack on a loop.
Not pictured: all of the games! From racing the cars inside the Christmas crackers – crackers have really upped their game since my day – to the brutality of Scrabble and, of course, the tradition of charades and my Christmas Quiz. (I don’t think I did too badly as there were no physical injuries.) We also played Codenames, Room 25, Citadels, Coloretto and that one when you have to work out the name stuck to your forehead. Oh, and we watched Doctor Who together! Although it was all a bit ponderous this year, and left me more impatient than ever for a fresh start with a new Doctor and her new adventures.
Christmas was wonderful, basically. Special thanks to Carolyn for hosting us, and to my mum for inadvertently doing some of my present wrapping for me.
After Christmas, Randi and I decided to spend a couple of days in the Peak District before New Year. Our journey there was the most British affair ever, as our train slowed to a halt due to ‘horses on the track ahead’. Network Rail had apparently sent a team to herd them away, but as we inched closer it became apparent that the train was going to perform the herding duties itself. On the one hand, it sorta beggars belief that we have literally had railways for longer than any other country and still cannot figure out a way to build a horse-proof fence. On the other hand, we were in no rush and it gave us an impromptu couple of hours to wander around Sheffield. I’d never seen Sheffield before, and it was nice!
Not as nice as the Peak District, though, which was beautiful and perfect for hiking. We did the famous ridge walk to Mam Tor, which offered great views and also an opportunity to experience some sustained and aggressive hailing for the first time. The next day it snowed, and we did some more gentle walking around Hope and the surrounding villages. It is difficult to successfully ‘stick to the track’ on a public footpath through a field which is completely covered in snow, however. Not even if you have a map.
I’m never able to see everyone I want to see in my visits home, but I did pretty well in the final few days. Randi and I had lunch at Portobello Market with Sanna, and then lots of pasanda and London Underground gossip with Simon on Brick Lane. And on New Year’s Eve, Josh and Anna hosted us and Robert for a quiet night in together. We were much less energetic than we used to be – no midnight pillow fights, just wobbly selfies – but it was exactly what I needed and a perfect way to ring in the new year.
Given that temperatures in Chicago are reaching -20°C, I do somewhat regret accidentally leaving my coat, hat and gloves behind in London. But on the other hand, it was great motivation to rush to REI and stock up on the most warming winter clothing imaginable. So hit me with your worst, Chicago. I’m ready.
Gillian Self, Sharon Dinkin, Michele Trickey, Chloe Marie Watkinson, Susanna Märak-Freeman, Bruno Antonio Quintanilla Leon, Katie Nichols, Jason Zhou, David Boss, Francisco Toledo, Randi Lawrence liked this post.