still singing Galway Bay

It’s taken me a few years, but I think I’ve finally mostly sorted Christmas in Britain in my brain.

Christmas, as Christmas, though not necessarily of much religious connotation, is a big deal in and of itself in Britain. This has taken some getting used to. Possibly the weirdest thing for me to swallow, aside from not being wished ‘happy holidays’ on a regular basis, is the fact that nativity plays are de rigueur in primary schools, but overall it’s the sheer assumption of celebrating Christmas that gets to me. (By the way, thanks to the Life in the UK Test–which I passed–I can now tell you with 2001-statistic accuracy what percentage of the population is Christian and which percentage is not. In 2001, that is.)

But I’ve learned to adjust–a paradigm shift with a slightly jammed clutch, but adjust none the less. There are some key points to remember and understand; admittedly this is mostly for my benefit and amusement, but this could be handy to anyone writing a themed fanfic in a UK-based fandom. Maybe. I suppose. Get a Britpicker, even if you don’t think you need one.
– Christmas takes on a bunch of aspects that in the US and Canada are assigned to Thanksgiving–bigass traditional meal of turkey and stuffing and veg sides with family, and specific television viewing (coughdoctorwhocough) thereafter. I’ve had people ask me what the heck US people eat for Christmas if they just had turkey a month earlier. The answer I’ve given is ‘sometimes turkey sometimes other things’.
– Christmas crackers are a small but crucial concept. These are tiny explosive devices with paper crowns inside, a joke that is appalling, and an item of the Cracker Jack box variety back when you actually got something okay in a Cracker Jack box. Those from elsewhere, think a Kinder Egg toy.
– One will be getting drunk lots as part of this holiday process, with family (potentially as coping mechanism) or on work nights out, or both. With regards to the latter, office Christmas party, yes, and then likely another night of pub and food with one’s department, and getting hammered on Christmas Eve or Boxing Day because it’s a bank holiday and one has nothing else to do save eat leftovers and drink all the things. See: coping with family.
– Remarkably little eggnog is quaffed, though. Except at Starbucks.
– Fake Christmas trees are far more common. If you asked me to surmise as to why, I would say ‘way less open land to grow Norfolk pines’, but I may be off-base here.

And…well, this is more than a point. Christmas music here is just slightly different, which gets me to what was going to be the point of this post until I went on a tangent.
I’ve gotten used to what I will hear in stores and malls and offices in the US for the holidays, that continuous piped stream of not-exactly-cheer-inducing sound. Unfortunately, the stuff I can handle most as background noise (and this may be because of upbringing) is almost non-existent over here, stuff like Mannheim Steamroller and Canadian Brass and even the darn Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

Fortunately, some of the big band stuff’s crossed the big pond, but Britain has this unique concept of the Christmas Number 1. This is the lucky track on the top of the pop charts for Christmas week, which is often a Christmas pop song. So many try and fail to gain this spot. (Christmas doesn’t always win out, though. Gary Jules’ cover of Tears for Fears’ Mad World from Donnie Darko was #1 one year, which makes me grin in misanthropic and anti-pop glee.)

And there are a few tolerable things you’ll hear constantly over here that have never made it stateside–Slade’s Merry Christmas, Everybody, for a start. Let’s not talk about how I didn’t initially believe Noddy Holder was a real name for a rock musician as compared to a name JK Rowling dismissed for a houseelf. It’s just that no one here has heard Must Be Santa! It’s a damn shame.

With regards to things I’ve heard on both sides of the Atlantic, I’m going to take this opportunity to say that Wham!’s Last Christmas is the most ridiculous Christmas song ever, except for possibly Paul McCartney’s Wonderful Christmastime, which is purely insipid. I mean, seriously, how is a song about having your heart broken and telling that person ‘screw you, you’re not special’ full of the spirit of the season?

At least Fairytale of New York, which I love, is unapologetic about its catchy bleakness. It’s got just the right kind of self-aware attitude problem to be the ultimate in UK Christmas tracks…which, fortunately, is what it is.

Even if there’s no such thing as the NYPD Choir.

all painted blue, all painted white

If you’re viewing this in post form, the right sidebar may be seriously out of whack, what with the floating post info bit over the top (at least, that’s how it looks in Firefox for me). I think it’s a problem with the newest version of this theme, but at the moment I don’t have the energy to go hunt through CSS for a fix. Please bear with me.

In my defense regarding posting here more often, I’ve spent the last couple weeks negotiating the ins and outs of applying for indefinite leave to remain, which is currently occupying my mind. It’s complex (though one would expect that, for such a permanent statement), so my anxiety has gone up a little bit.

Anyway, in the interests of being entertaining instead, some other thoughts. Maybe not about the BBC Four Exquisite Cuisine season, which has also kept me entertained over the last couple of weeks. They’ve been the sort of thing that makes Matt wince and decamp to the other room but that I love–food/cookery programme and BBC Four history programme. My only complaint is that they disappeared way too fast off iPlayer. I’ll leave the amazing programmes I would totally pitch had I the invested ear of a Beeb commissioner to one side unless requested, and I’ll also only comment that I’ve also had shows playing on 4oD to the extent that ‘Buffalo Stance’ is stuck in my head permanently. (Thx Fresh One!)

We had our first snow overnight last night here in Glasgow. Not much, and sure as hell not enough to make for any pretty photographs. Instead, it was just enough to leave some slippery pavement (about which I’ve ranted at length previously, if you search my archives from winter 2009-10…I’m too lazy).

I feel more than a little nostalgic about the first snow of the year. One of the traditions at my Smith College house (TYLER: BEST OF GREEN) was to have a First Snow Party early in the morning after a snow…or in the afternoon, should it fall that way. There was hot chocolate and snacks and a wee fire in the fireplace going, and we all made paper snowflakes and had banter and it was amazing times.

To most readers this is going to sound like something out of, I don’t know, Chalet School or something. But it’s real, and it was lovely, and I don’t give a damn how twee it might sound, in a post looking back on it. (For those who might not be acquainted with me, I’m pretty anti-twee.) It was home, and I doubt any of my friends and housemates would disagree.

Sweet Sixteen’s Turned Thirty-One (but rock n’ roll never forgets)

I turned 29 a week ago Saturday. Admittedly, this is not so very old, in the great scheme of things (and it sure ain’t how old I feel), but at the same time, it looks daunting written out in black and white, feels daunting when I stand here and look back at what I wanted to do by 30. I’m pretty sure everyone does it, but god.

I haven’t written anything here for a year and a half, despite good intentions. In the meantime, I got a job, I settled into Glasgow, I went to…lessee…four weddings, no funerals, knock on wood.

So, for yet another time, I’m reinventing my blog to reflect my current take on life. I intend to post content at least once a week for my 29th year, though unlike Lis, I don’t have a twenties bucket list, and anything I put on there would probably cost too much or be too dependent on other people to be accomplished. Then I’d just be disappointed in myself, and that’s no good.

You will not find me writing:
– anything about my job or my coworkers in a professional sense, though I may refer to them in a non-work context.
– much about the UK government’s stance on immigration, though this is something I do care very much about.

Unlike in the past, I intend to do more:
– writing about fandom. There’s been an astronomical cultural shift over the last few years, and any shame I had about being exposed as a fangeek in an oblique sense is growing smaller by the day.
– writing about food, which is what I used to do, and I like it, and I don’t really care if it makes this blog oddly toned.
– writing about gender and queerness and the like, because if I’m on Twitter talking about it, it’s ridiculous not to here.

And now that we’ve set all that out, I’m going to go watch some more of Avatar: The Last Airbender, the series not the abysmal film that we are not going to talk about. I realize I’m about five years late to the party, fandom-wise, but seeing as Netflix UK has deigned to give us all of it (also S1 of White Collar yay, but where is more Mythbusters boo), it’s high time I watched it. I’m about eight episodes in, and I’m enjoying it even on the world-building alone, much less the characters.

As an aside, I’m grateful that A:TLA set the stage for some seriously clever and nuanced ‘kids’ cartoons to come out of the US lately. Off the top of my head, this household heartily recommends Scooby Doo: Mystery Incorporated, which must be made by a bunch of fangeeks due to all the amazing references, and the reboot of Thundercats, which takes what was basically 80s era product placement and makes it compelling SF.

…and if you’re new here, the tone of this blog is pretty well set. I need to not be tempted to go into Other Things I’ve Been Into Lately, namely the more esoteric parts of DC Comics and Ariana Franklin’s Adelia Aguilar mysteries–let’s save that for a rainy day.

(There are lots of rainy days in Glasgow.)

Don’t mind the weather when the wind don’t blow, part deux.

I know, talking about the weather is small talk and quintessentially British (also, by the way, quintessentially everywhere else I’ve ever lived). But it’s been six years since I last lived through a Scottish springtime, and I’m having a hard time adjusting.

Partially, I blame that on the fact that we had a ridiculously nice April, all things considered. It was sunny and warm and delightful for the better part of three weeks, which is long enough for you to get used to it, unfortunately. The last week and a half, though, things took a turn for the worse.

The rain’s not a problem. It’s pretty much expected, and at least it hasn’t been cold. It’s the pattern of rain that really does it, as it’s not something I’ve experienced anywhere else, a uniquely Scottish phenomenon.

It will be dark and dismal and windy, and then out of nowhere it starts throwing down rain. It might not be torrential by definition, but it feels like it with all the wind. Then, ten minutes later, it stops, and there will almost inevitably be a break in the clouds and a brief golden moment of sunshine, before the dark clouds blow back in again. And then it will do the torrential rain thing again for some time.

Really, it’s almost as if, and pardon me for getting uncharacteristically poetic and/or cheesy, the sun’s a parent poking their nose in the door after their child’s been squalling for them. Reassuring, before we, the children, are told to Get To Sleep and the door is shut.

Almost endearing, as long as you don’t get caught out in it.

Now run along before I start talking about being confused by sunrise/sunset times.

Will you ever win?

So Lis posted starting a thirty days meme, the other day, and I can’t help but find myself chewing on what she had to say.

There’s a reason I’ve avoided this particular meme in both public and private blog spaces–partially because thirty posts about songs is a bit of a muchness for someone like me who doesn’t have a musical theme to their blogging–but also because I get hung up on the very first question. I have about ten favourite songs and even more favourite books. I’m not sure how I’m supposed to answer, if I should pick one depending on the day and my mood, or what. What if I look at it the next day and think it’s rubbish?

Which is a bit ridiculous, thinking I’d regret my choice later on; it’s merely a blog post, after all. But I do tend to overanalyse this sort of thing.

So that’s why I was glad to see Lis saying she’d seen lots of people hemming and hawing, as most people I’ve seen doing it have been quite definitive. Like her, I do think it’s possible for people to have a be-all-end-all favourite. And if you had to hold me down to it, I guess I could pick a song.

Just don’t make me pick a book.