I go with the girls to a themed wonderland in the heart of the city – there are stalls and games and bars and lights and we’re licking mustard off our fingers. The shops are filled with things to buy and every day my email inbox fills with gift ideas and offers and tips and recipes. I know I should be but I’m not feeling particularly festive; people start things too early with shopping already done and decorations up by the 1st.
But it’s easy to let it charm you.
On a late Sunday afternoon I go around to see Frankie in her new house; I’m so glad she’s found a home and we go up to her bedroom on the top floor, watch the lights go on down Gillespie Road, she strikes a match for the candles. As I cycle home, the crowds are coming out of the Emirates, singing.
Days off from work go in a blur of drinks and parties and going to the market under the clit-clat of the train line for the crown of meat. Then, Christmas Day is the first one we’ve had just the three of us, the only ones left. We lost the last grandpa the spring just gone and we said afterwards that whatever we did for Christmas, however we worked it out, we’d do it differently. The morning is one of sharp, clean air and I run around the park, Mum beside me until we come back for coffee and bread and salmon and candles lit at eleven and then luck of being here.
Later, we walk along the railway line and surprise people when we say hello, northern ways don’t change. Seeing the backs of houses are like looking behind curtains, into people’s houses, yellow squares of light as the afternoon darkens at half three. We walk an hour and then turn back, though the way home will be quicker; we’re going slightly downhill and the oven is on.
At a party up in Manchester, his friends are there and they greet me like one of them. Matt’s brother works for the Iona community and we talk about Mary; a girl in Madrid is on the search for a good man. We drink clouded Ouzo out of plastic cups. And then another party on the last night of the year in our flat – friends and new people, picking up glitter, stars on the floor that catch the light, later and later.