Christmas was surprisingly good this year.
I always knew England was going to be freezing compared to Rome but wasn't ready for the bone deep misery of a British Winter. Cue lots of Lemsip Utra Max and glow in the dark snot.
Maidstone was as I remembered it only greyer than in June and I was sooo glad that I'd left my Police Magnums in storage now my Doc Marten's had a big fuck off hole in the left sole.
Up in Warwick and I have to thank my mother for remarrying a guy who lives 2 minutes walk from the train station. I realised after 2 days at home that the things I'd missed most weren't the ones I thought I would. Pork pies, pickled onions, mature cheddar not to mention a decent cuppa were all nectar to a wandering vagabond.
Back in Murphy's Bar on the 23rd December for a bevvy or three and true to form it kicked off in there again at closing time. I was grateful that even after several Guinness I could remember Full Nelson and Inverted Wrist Lock. Both the people I did them on were pissed up and aggressive and its always funny when you get someone in a hold they can't break out of, to hear them curse “LET GO OR I'LL FUCKING KILL YOU!”
Up to Preston in the North of England with a minging hangover the next day to spend Xmas with my pals Ally and Bill. They have two kids that I used to babysit for from when they were 7 and 8. Both are now 24 and 23 and Robert has moved into a house with his girlfriend and is saving up to redecorate the bathroom. Heather is a classical Opera singer. Interacting with them as adults after years of telling them they had to go to bed after watching The Simpsons still feels surreal.
Their cousin Jamesy has an X-Box 360 and got a chair for it for Xmas that you sit in while playing a game to be immersed in stereo surround sound. Well nice after a skinful of lager, particularly as one of his presents was the only game I wanted to play, Call of Duty: World at War. Spent a pleasant couple of hours using the flamethrower on the dashed Hun through the rubble strewn streets of Paris.
I got some right nice pressies, including a decent sweater, a chocolate selection box or two and money. Got some right odd ones as well including wind up Space Hopper toys (thanks Heath'), a pub quiz kit and a book called 'Never Hit a Jellyfish with a Spade'.
I managed to buy decent pressies cheaply in Rome as they have a street market near both the schools I work for. One stall sells back copies of an old collectors' magazine called Giochi (games) which has a handmade wooden puzzle in every issue. There's about 90 different ones in total and they're all very elegant and of the Lemarchand Hellraiser puzzle box variety (i.e. bastard hard to solve). Only three Euros each so I got ten and kept a couple back for emergencies (such as when someone gives you a present and you never got them one).
My nephew's birthday was the day after Boxing Day and we showed up for a beaker of mulled wine at the local church community centre. Loads of four year olds expending their energy on the bouncy castle. Good thing about it was that when they were reluctantly told to come and eat the plug was pulled out so they couldn't bounce on it any more as it deflated softly around them.
New Year became a damp squib as I, like many Brits, had the phlegmy whegmy woo and was tucked up in my pit by 10.30pm, to be rudely awoken by fireworks at midnight.
Spent the last three days in London with my pal Stephan. An American, spiritual body builder who gets up around 4.30am EVERY day to meditate for about an hour. Then he goes to the gym and after to work or to one of the charities he volunteers for. I find it exhausting just being in the room with him as he appears to have limitless energy and I'm convinced you'll find a photo of him grinning under the definition of 'indeffatigable' (sp?) in the Oxford English dictionary.
He has a two metre long boa constrictor called Esmerelada who lives in the lounge. This was also my bedroom and as Esmerelda had yet to be fed her monthly whole dead rat she was grouchy and glaring through her coils at everyone through the glass of her cage. Not being phobic of serpents was a good thing as she apparently escaped once and wrapped herself round the toilet, hissing and biting at Stephan as he tried to pull her loose.
Thought I'd finished the book I'm writing but my father sent over a pendrive from Crete of stuff I'd written over the summer so it's back to the editing suite. Still, means the thing is now about 300 pages long (if you calculate 400 words per page) so it's nice and chunky. Wrote to Sophie Lancaster's mother via the MySpace group set up in Sophie's memory. She said she's happy to let me dedicate the book to Sophie and asked to see the chapter I'd written about her.
On Facebook I have a few contacts from my Secondary school days. I had a miserable time at Kenilworth High and have even had counselling about the experiences. I think I was about 27 before I stopped fantasising about setting the place on fire. A lot of people who made my life a misery are on FB and the most frustrating thing I've found when I meet them in the pub or in town they are 90% of the time now perfectly decent people. This negates any right to continue to hate them and when one lad bought me a pint a few years back I paused and said “thanks. This is the first thing to pass between our hands since you forcibly took an ice lolly off me on the railway bridge”.
He blanched slightly and replied “I didn't hurt you did I?”, looking visibly embarrassed.
One nice thing about FB is that you can see what people are up to. One little bastard who made my life utterly miserable through the four years I was at school is now married with two kids, in a dead end job and spends most of his life in the boozer. He looks about 50 and has never left the town we grew up in. Shouldn't feel pleased but I do.
Another good thing is that you can make contact with people you actually DO want to see again.
My ex girfriend from when we were twelve turned up on FB some time ago and suggested we meet up when I was back in England. We met up on New Year's Eve and went for a coffee in town. She's now divorced with two kids aged 8 and 5 and is very cute. Very surreal meeting someone decades later that you last saw wearing a school uniform that wasn't at one of those “not pervy at all” School Disco things that some night clubs put on.
I've realised that no matter how old you are, your mother will still act like you're a teenager with regard to how you look. My old dear still laments my ripped jeans and beard (particularly after months of seeing me with ironed shirts, bulled boots, a buzz cut and a clean chin in my last job) and categorically refused to see my new tattoo of a fallen angel (particularly after my stepfather said “I've seen it, believe me you don't want to”). My stepsister told me I looked like a hairy pirate with my long black coat, big bushy hair and stubble to which I replied “I know you're not complimenting me, but I'm gonna take it as one anyway”.
Have started rereading Louise Hay's “The Power Is Within You”. Holding on to far too much anger for far too long has not helped me at all and this book is slowly working its little miracles. I read it years ago and found it useful, now it's just as good.
Couchsurfing.com is a wonderful idea set up by a traveller to allow others to stay for free at other people's houses when abroad or even just to meet up and have a coffee or pizza when you're in town. Travelling can be lonely and finding people that love to meet new people is always a lot of fun. I checked the Rome part of the site on Friday to find an announcement to come out for dinner at a restaurant near Termini station in the city centre. There were about ten of us in there and the organiser Valentino turned out to be a wonderful host, waxing lyrical about how he loves new experiences and getting to know all kinds of different people. He'd only been on the site a few months and had already met loads of folk and got a girlfriend off the back of the meets (a very yummy German named Janika). Sitting next to me were a very lovey dovey
couple who appeared to be umbilically attached but told me later they'd met on Couchsurfing and this was only the fifth day of actually meeting in the flesh.
The future's so bright, I gotta wear shades.