Now it’s time for me to ensconce myself on the sofa while Randi is working and begin the traditional flurry of blog writing before the year is over, starting with a catch-up for the rest of December since we got back from the States.
After receiving the all-clear from our let-us-out-of-here-already PCR test, and absorbing festive spirits at a warm and cosy pub in Deptford, the big excitement after getting home was hosting Josh, Anna and Cora for their first sleepover at our place. We had so much fun together, especially when Cora began showing off her brand new walking skills in our kitchen.
The next week we were unexpectedly joined by temporary flatmate Sam for a few nights as all of her alternative places to stay in London were eliminated as options one-by-one by omicron infections. Right on cue, this week also became mad-dash-for-vaccine-boosters-before-Christmas week. I have huge appreciation for the amazing staff at the Queens Pharmacy Vaccination Centre in West Dulwich, who delivered a shot of Moderna to both me and Randi with great efficiency as well as finally being able to provide one of those coveted “I’ve had my Covid vaccination” stickers. In fact, as we celebrated Randi’s booster at The Rosendale pub down the road afterwards, there was a lovely sense of community when both two fellow pub-goers and the woman serving us popped out for unplanned shots before the centre closed for the day.
Our next turn in the great game of pre-Christmas omicron dodgeball (™Tash) was on Saturday at Christmas at Kenwood, a smaller version of the Christmas at Kew event we did in 2019. Side-note: Randi and I walked across Hampstead Heath in the dark from Gospel Oak station to get there, and I don’t think I’ve ever walked across the Heath at night before. It’s magnificent, and quite muddy. Anyway, at Kenwood we were joined by mum, Katie and Tessa for a mulled wine-infused stroll through Christmas lights, fires and lasers before heading over to Willesden where – much to my surprise – everyone accepted my suggestion of eating at Beer + Burger.
Without any big Christmas parties, the other thing which really helped to stir holiday feelings was going downstairs on Thursday night for a mini-gathering with our neighbour Angela, her friends Louisa and Chris and some very excited young children who put on a play for us and reached a heroic peak of deibels. Randi also cooked a surprise dinner to celebrate our first anniversary of moving in, along with a selection of truly delicious ginger and chocolate cookies which lasted all through Christmas. Tash also popped in for an evening, I made my final blood donation of 2021 off a busy-but-not-what-it-was Oxford Street, and I also gave up trying to understand how our existing thermostat worked and replaced it with a fancy Nest device.
And before you know it we had packed our bags and set off up North(West London…) on Christmas Eve. Remarkably, everyone survived through the battery of lateral flow tests and we had all made it home together. Christmas dinner tasted particularly good this year, and games included Not Alone (organised by Katie, in which everyone else plays against Katie, and each new iteration of the rules seemed to favour Katie), Debatable (which arrived in my Secret Santa bonanza from Tash and was played with much emotion in the evening with Andrew, Bonnie and Susanna) and a reverse-Charades variant with lots of cheering and booing which Grandma was not pleased with.
On Boxing Day evening, continuing the theme of celebrating Christmas in smaller groups, we gathered beside the fire in Sally’s garden to drink wine (and polish off Randi’s cookies) with Josh and Cindy who miraculously made it over from Canada. Randi and I then hopped on a delightfully speedy night-time bus journey back home (thermostat primed for action in advance from the top deck, naturally) before the final event in this year’s Christmas schedule: immersive theatre at Doctor Who: Time Fracture.
Now, originally this was supposed to have been Katie’s birthday present back in July before it was derailed by flooding. And as Christmas approached, the idea that an immersive theatre experience wouldn’t be knocked out by infection seemed laughable. But the “we’re sorry, the show is cancelled” email never arrived, and on Monday afternoon Katie, Randi and I reported for duty at Unit HQ for an adventure through space and time.
Skip this paragraph if you don’t want any spoilers, but one cool thing about the show is that the audience goes on different journeys depending on where they happen to run after the first section. So, we ended up having an amazing time with Queen Elizabeth and William Shakespeare – including a scene in Shakespeare’s office where it was just us alone with these two – while others met different people in other places. We loved our interactions, while crouching from Daleks, running from Cybermen and getting cornered by Weeping Angels in the dark was genuinely terrifying. Plus, the intermission on the travelling spaceship/bar with live music made us feel like we were genuinely on an intergalactic cruise. An awesome experience and highly recommended.
After the show, Katie came back to ours for an overnight stay and kindly agreed to teach us how to play Citadels again. This was one of games which I was most excited about recovering from the back of Robert’s closet in Chicago, so I was very pleased to be playing again even if I still haven’t won a game. The next morning we took a leisurely walk to Beckenham through Beckenham Place Park (or BPP to its friends) before saying farewell to Katie and looking forward to the final few days of 2021: quiet, restful but – hopefully – high in blogging productivity. One down, two to go 🙂