Friday, 4 December 2009

Somewhere In My Memory

December. The darkest (or lightest) month of the year. I am in the shadows, whilst my family basks in the sunshine. It's certainly how I feel at present. How is it possible to entertain two entirely contradictory ideas in one's head at the same time? It is, as the song says, "the most wonderful time of the year"...

The diminishing warmth in the atmosphere is replaced by one in the hearts of people of all ages. Togetherness, giving and sharing and of course over-eating, are hallmarks of Christmas. I have my health and I am not (yet) starving. But equally I feel very saddened, perhaps ungratefully so. It will be my third Christmas without my family and I feel suddenly very alone. It is all entirely my own doing and choice, and of course I could go back. Yet I cannot bring myself to, an inescapable internal conflict I have developed. Hurrah.

My last two Christmases, in France and England, have been spent with surrogate families, both of whom have made it clear I am welcome back this year. Both times were wonderful and I will cherish the memories. Perfect examples of the generosity of this season's spirit. However this year brings something new and exciting again - Sweden! As I wrote last month, another friend got there first by inviting me to Umea for Jul. Naturally I cannot wait, it will be my first white Christmas, but also the first time I will be celebrating on Christmas Eve, which is the custom in Sweden, and certainly with my friend's family. Which reminds me: must brush up on my non-existent Swedish...

So there is all that excitement, plus the joy of the season already overloading my increasingly feeble mind. Then something else looms up at me, and that is the absence I feel. It makes me sad to think that once I again I will not see my family for Christmas. In two years I have seen my Mother once, Father twice and my younger brothers not at all. It was my choice to leave, and that is after all what children are meant to do eventually, no? Perhaps I simply wasn't mature enough then. Or I am overly sentimental? Watching the Home Alone films isn't helping! At least he gets to see his Mummy again for Christmas.

Selflessly, I want a white Christmas, and all my family to join me. I hope Father Christmas is listening! I think I have been quite good this year.

On another note, just back from Istanbul. Sunny and warmer (ish), it was wonderful. Certainly as I was there for Eid, it was my first real exposure to a non-Christian holiday. It was marvellously exotic, but I have no plans to convert. Least of all because of the early morning call to prayer. Church at 11 is much more civilised. But I certainly recommend staying at the Kybele Hotel in Sultanahmet, part of the old city. A lovely boutique hotel with countless lamps decorating the ceilings and walls. Literally thousands of them. Equally good was their food. I'd also recommend the Galata Tower for it's magnificent views, though less so for the restaurant. Another gem, if you're game, is to reach the Western Districts of the city. They house the old Jewish quarter and some beautiful Orthodox churches. Few tourists make it. The other brilliant thing about the city is that, despite its vastness, most things are completely walk-able. The tram is good, but merely speeds up a relatively short walk.

Do try: A Hamam if you are comfortable in your own skin, and a Turkish barber if you are prone to beards and feel adventurous.
Don't try: Any food from a street vendor.

Hopefully I will come up with something equally comprehensive on Umeå.


  1. O, our gains and our losses: you describe them so well. Wishing you a Happy Christmas.

  2. Thank you very much, and to you as well. All the best for the festive season.

  3. Great post. Thanks for sharing.

    Wishing you a Happy Christmas.