Home for Christmas

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas! Yes. I know it’s been, err… a while, but let’s not get bogged down with that. Oddly, though I am still living in London, I’m writing from my real home – Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

Ahhhh… is there anything that says “Home for Christmas” like snow blowing across a highway with nary a turn sight?

Getting here at all, let alone in time for the holidays, was nothing short of a Christmas Miracle given the tragi-comedy that played itself out at Heathrow Airport over the last week. For those of you living under a rock: five inches of wet snow fell in an admittedly short space of time last Saturday morning and paralyzed Heathrow to such an extent that:

  1. Flights were cancelled for days on end and thousands, or more likely tens of thousands of people had their holiday plans ruined.
  2. Every day the newspapers were filled with pictures of people who’d been sleeping on the floor in the airport for two or three or four nights in a row, along with tales of woe about missed weddings and honeymoons, Christmas plans in tatters, and one particularly poignant story about a terminally ill little boy who missed his flight to Lapland to go see real reindeer. (Maybe he should have gone to Covent Garden, where they had real rein deer AND women in elf costumes…)
  3. The Prime Minister offered to send in troops to help clear the runways and get the planes moving.
  4. Colin Matthews, the man who heads up BAA (the company that runs Heathrow) and whose name will, I hope, become synonymous with indefensible and blatant incompetence for years to come, decided it might be politic to give up his yearly bonus for 2010.
  5. And, FIVE DAYS after a moderate snow fall that brought virtually every aspect of the English transport system – air, trains, and roads – to its knees, it was still very very unclear whether my flight would leave on time, or at all. (As an aside – Toronto’s Pearson Airport can apparently clear a runway of snow in FIFTEEN MINUTES. Yes, they get a lot more practice but honestly, Heathrow is one of the busiest, most important airports in the world. They really need to up their game.)

But miraculously, I arrived on Wednesday to find things at Heathrow lurching back towards normality enough that I only had to wait outside the terminal building in a tent for about an hour, and eventually got checked in and boarded and took off almost as if the airport knew what it was about.

Camp Heathrow…. waiting to be let into Terminal 3. They were only allowing people to enter in batches. And only if you had a confirmed flight that was actually scheduled to depart. And only within about two hours of your departure time. Then again, they did give out tea and warm bacon sandwiches and Snickers bars to people waiting. They may not have snow plows, but they have catering.

And so I made it back to Winnipeg, a mere nineteen hours and six times zones after I left the house, and then spent the next day driving for eight hours to Saskatoon, and then went to bed very early feeling every-so-slightly ragged around the edges, and then woke up at three o’clock in the morning, which turns out to be an excellent time to get a lot of Christmas present wrapping done.

And how is life in London? Well, it’s good and bad. I still feel very unsettled – work has turned out to be… challenging (to put it mildly), but I’m on to a second round of interviews for another job which is very good. Home (now in North London) is serviceable but just doesn’t really feel like home, which is not great. But I get to move back to the big, happy house in Brixton in February, which is very great. I’m hashing quite a bit, which is good and fun, but I’m not doing a lot of proper running, which is bad. And you may have noticed I haven’t exactly been blogging my face off. It’s just been very easy to let the effort and weight of simply existing in the city in these dark, damp, cold winter months to consume all my energy. (I was shocked to realize during my long drive over the frozen prairie yesterday, that it gets dark at least an hour earlier in London than it does in Saskatchewan. I leave work at 4:30pm in London, and it’s already pitch black. Charming.)

I guess what I’m saying is that the last few months have been sort of a grind. The weather, the darkness, the job uncertainty, it’s all robbed me of motivation to do much of anything. So I’ve recently come to two conclusions:

  1. I have to get out and run more. I’ve just found a running club that turns out to do a Tuesday evening track workout at a park about ten minutes from my current digs (Hands up everyone who knew there was a 400-metre track and well-appointed clubhouse with changing rooms at Finsbury Park… yeah, me too.). And they do a Wednesday evening group run at Hampstead Heath. So that’s definitely on the agenda, along with a race registration of some kind for the spring. Maybe not a full marathon just yet, but something to get me a bit more focused.
  2. I want to start blogging properly again (pause for delirious cheering and deafening applause….). It was always my intention to blog in London but like I said, the motivation has been lacking. It’s now clear that I simply have to force myself to do it, and I think I’ll feel better for it. There are things I’d like to tell you about life over there – quirky stuff, funny stuff, annoying stuff, interesting stuff, helpful stuff… just… stuff. And it may even be nice to continue to have somewhere to get out the demons that crop up too.

So that’s the plan. Run more, blog more, and just try to wake up a bit. However, having said that, I also don’t think that Go See Run Eat Drink is the place for this new plan. The trip – the planning, the execution, the aftermath – it’s all ancient history already. (I can barely fathom that This Time Last Year I was “celebrating” Christmas in the pouring rain on the Serengeti.) So while I plan for the blogging to continue, it’s not going to be here. I’m going to try and spend some time over the holidays getting a few new posts in the bag, and trying a new space on for size. I can promise you that the blogging won’t be as prolific as it was when I was travelling, (especially near the end, when it seemed I could write two thousand words about lint), but I will give it an honest effort, and you’re welcome to nudge me if I let things slide.

So Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and watch this space for further news…

Festive me, with Rob H’s Longer Hair Experiment still underway…