This Festive Season I Have Been Mostly…


A sketch for ill_advent


The descent into winter, and the festive season, begins for me with Mr Story and my anniversary, right at the end of November. This year we celebrated our five years together with a special lunch out at Ametsa, a present from lovely friends Steph and Jorge, before going ice-skating – an annual tradition in honour of our first date. Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on your point of view, I’ve now trained myself to ice-skate only holding on to Mr Story’s hand, and using him as a counterweight to turn corners. Without his reassuring hand, my hand feels strangely empty and I panic and wobble, even if I’m skating by myself in reality.

Another annual tradition formed over the last five years or so, is a big group meal, a Christmas dinner with friends. This time we walked along the river in Richmond, on a gloriously sunny day. We discussed my and Mr Story’s poor film record; we haven’t seen Star Wars, Indiana Jones, or just about anything that anyone thinks is a given. We’re now pencilled in to be shown the Star Wars films at the same time as friends’ future offspring, all sat in a row in front of the telly, and asking the same questions I imagine. After confirming this plan, we piled into a lovely pub for food, drink and chatting, catching up and admiring and envying Christmas jumpers.

Throughout December I managed to draw along a little with an illustration project, #illo_advent, as well as being kept very busy with not only Christmas post, but a sudden flurry of bespoke illustrations for weddings, presents, and anniversaries. December was fuelled with homemade mincemeat, (Mr Story made a batch of 48 pies for his work), Christmas gin and coaxed along with hot water bottles and our twinkling Christmas tree.

Our only snow came watching Edward Scissorhands – a brilliant adaptation, that warmed my childhood heart. I loved that film, and remember clearly feeling tears of rage and sadness each time I watched it when they turned against Edward.

This Christmas was unusual; Mr Story generally works Christmas Eve and Boxing Day, but luckily this year he didn’t work the 24th, so we set forth west early in the morning, and after a cup of tea with his grandparents in the midlands, we arrived on the Welsh borders. From being woken up on Christmas Day by streaming sunlight over the hills, to our tiny nephew’s Christmas pudding leggings, a mountain of presents, a morning walk before returning to just-out-of-the-oven light and fluffy brioche, to Christmas lunch itself, roast potatoes and rich Christmas pudding, wind-up reindeer races and hours crying with laughter and eating cheese, playing Balderdash, it was pretty much all, or indeed more than, you’d want from a Christmas.

We returned to London on Boxing Day, for Mr Story and I to return to work briefly, before spending some time with his family. Mr Story’s birthday falls on 31st December, flanked by another family birthday and New Year’s Eve celebrations. To mark his birthday, I took him for dinner at Trishna. It was amazing. The food was spicy and rich and full of incredible flavour. The smokiness of the paneer tikka made us both stop, point at our dishes and check the other person was tasting it too. I really recommend it for a special meal – those tasting dishes are just lovely. Do make sure you’re hungry – we had to be rolled out after a five course tasting menu – I don’t know how anyone could manage the seven course menu they offer!

Somehow we managed room later that night for copious bubbly and even cheese, in celebration of New Year, as well as birthdays, with Adam and Elaine.

This first week of January, I’ve been working remotely, and Mr Story has been relaxing before starting his next job. We’re on the Isle of Wight, with access to a gym and swimming pool, as well as lots of good walking places, and excellent pubs. With the cold weather in the week after Christmas, and little time in the week before it, I’d got rather behind my jogging schedule that’s preparing me for a 10km at the beginning of February.

I really dislike gyms – they’re always dark, plastic, closed-off basements with loud music and machines. Even if I hate the jog I’m doing, my thought is ‘at least I’m out of the house’. I discover new streets where I live, get distracted by interesting looking shops and pause for breath at traffic lights. In the gym, I have also found it comedically difficult to remember to press buttons to slow down and speed up while on a treadmill. I’m rather used to my legs just speeding up or slowing down by themselves. This does not work on a treadmill. Repeat, this does not work on a treadmill.

That said, it has been useful to disregard weather and sunset times, and use the treadmill to get up to speed (see what I did there?) with my schedule. 10km is looking a lot more likely now that it did a week ago. Having only just emerged from the the festivities, and also having gone only few days without working, new years’ resolutions for myself or my business haven’t yet been forthcoming. I can feel the rhythm of the weeks changing though, as we head into the new year, and I hope I have time to take pen to white board, or pencil to huge paper, and brain to spreadsheet, to work out bigger plans. I’ll let you know if there are any exciting developments.


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