And so I survived my first Aberdeen Christmas in a long while. It was with more than a little trepidation that I faced the end of the year; the niggling thought at the back of my mind initiated by the sudden realisation that my policy of disengaging from the myriad friendzoneships I was mired in had left me with no real excuse to make what had become fairly regular trips across the pond. Newcastle and London, as always, were temptingly good options – Newcastle because of the old school mates still down there, and London for the promise of piping hot moi-moi and the chance of a first face to face in near on two years with my super wing-woman K. Given my memories of my one and only Aberdeen Christmas to date – bucket loads of snow, lugging suitcases on to and off trains as I made the move up North, and missing a rendezvous with the only guy I knew in town at the time – I suppose my fears were justified if not entirely expected.
It didn’t take very long, after the long and drawn out Christmas party silly season wore itself out, for the exodus to begin – OO fled to Nigeria on the 7th, Izz following a week later on the 12th and L on the 19th. By the time I headed into work on the morning of the 24th of December, my normally bustling commute was a ghost of itself; and from the corner of Castle and King’s, Union street was about as empty as I had ever seen it – save for the odd person ambling along casually as I was. At work, there were only eight people on my floor – all of us time writing contractors, for whom the lure of a full day’s pay for a half-day’s work proved too strong for us. Three hours later, the fourth floor was all but empty, and by the time O dragged myself downstairs at 3.00pm, the main revolving doors had been shut.
George, the fairly ancient, gregarious ex Royal Marine was the only one at Reception at that time, and as I made to slip by he caught my eye and waved me over. Over the course of the year, he and I had shared more than a few moments of borderline irksome banter – thanks in part to my work mentor who insisted on making my love life, or the absence of one, and my fixation on corrosion the subject of our lunch time prattle. [In what was probably not all too unexpected, I did return from my Nigeria holiday to a picture of a Nigerian wedding plucked off the Internet with my head photo shopped on with the caption ‘the secretive bridegroom’.]
Not trying to slip one past my blind side today son are you? he says, his tell-tale half smile in full effect as I walk the few feet to his desk, giving his out stretched hand a firm handshake. I laugh and reply that given his location, even the Flash wouldn’t be able to slip by unnoticed.
Yous the last one out the building today young man, he says giving me a raised eyebrow. My standard reply -which I give once again- is to lay the blame for a bungled (imagined in my head entirely apparently) romance with the intern who filled in at reception for a month in September at his feet. We trade accusation and counter accusation before we segue into a chat on Christmas plans. I mention I’ll be in Aberdeen over the entirety of the holidays, same as he will, except for the fact that he will have to come in every other day till the 31st.
Go get pissed young man! It’s Christmas, and forget corrosion. I laugh, wave and head out on to the street, still smiling at his parting shot.
Christmas morning itself was dry and warm – for this time of the year – with temperatures hovering in the region of 6 degrees C. First up was church, and an NCIS Season One marathon, at least that was the plan. By the time I made it into church a full ten minutes late, there were barely twenty other people around, loads of us still struggling with the Christmas morning blues. Church fills up slowly, turning from a sea of red seats with gaily dressed people scattered around into a profusion of colours as people dressed to the nines turn up, almost like a time lapse video of a flower blooming. What was perhaps most surprising was that church finished in an hour five minutes – a record of some sort in my opinion.
Church done and dusted, I shook a few friendly hands, with one side hug thrown in for good measure, and made the quiet walk home to my couch, with only the prospect of watching Love Actually to look forward to. Thankfully, my friend B’s wife had other thoughts, giving me a phone call at just shy of 2pm. The incentive of free food and company were too much to refuse and I accept her offer. Thirty minutes later I was seated on their couch with F, their precocious eight year old, sharing what she had been reading recently with me – an assortment of fairly tales which I have a hard time keeping up with – and her 9 month old sister stretching her hands in my direction asking to be carried. I obliged them both, between sips from a plate of awesomely fiery pepper soup. When Mrs K sticks her head through the door and finds me smothered by both kids. She insists it makes a pretty picture, one that she quickly captured on her camera phone for future reference, as she put it. Christmas lunch was a hearty affair – fried rice, wine, and a whole roasted turkey, pieces of which remained in my fridge for reheating until New Year’s morning.
The next few days till New Year’s Eve pass in a blur – marathon sessions of football manager on my laptop at night till I eventually fall asleep, sleep ins the next morning, a quick bite grabbed and then off to the movies to see whatever’s on offer. I take in Silver Linings Playbook, Seven Psychopaths, Jack Reacher, Pitch Perfect, parental guidance and finish the NCIS Season one DVDs over the course of the next few days
When I stumble into work for a couple of hours on the 31st to clear my inbox, I don’t quite know if I’ve enjoyed my holiday or not. The three things which are not in any doubt whatsoever are that I hung out way too much with babies and children, my favourite pair of jeans fit a little too snugly at the waist, and L didn’t call.