Sugar, Spice and Other Tragedies

It’s been just little bit crazy around here lately.

I’ve been working like mad day and night since my promotion, fighting a million billion small battles and growing into this neurotic, insomniac monster no one in their right mind would want anything to do with.

But it hasn’t all been bad. We’re building these very precious, slightly deranged and infinitely hilarious friendships in the office, and I just love, love, LOVE my team mates. It has hepled that we’ve been hanging out together outside business hours a lot lately, and that one of my first endeavours as “department dictator” (I have been called that once or twice. Or six times a day. All in good spirits, I tell myself) has been to organize a team building trip. Fun. And. Games.

So you see, I’ve been busy. I’ve been recruiting, I’ve been doing performance reviews, I’ve had Christmas Jumper days, Secret Santa shopping sprees, Thirsty Thursdays in our favourite West End pub. Then the office Christmas Party last week, and a cocktail dress I last wore more than ten years ago (still fits, whoah!). On the home front, we got a new armchair for our guest room (AND got it delivered before Christmas! SCORE!), I brought all our geranium plants inside, almost killed them in the process (they must have lost more than half their leaves since) and then winter decided not to come after all, I ruined St Nicholas (again!) after stumbling upon V’s gift for me two weeks before the day, and we put up the biggest and most amazing Christmas tree our little family has ever had. So yeah. Take that, Christmas! We’re ready.

There are still a few things on the list. The Christmas cards we’ve picked for our neighbors are still stacked, blank, on our coffee table. I’ve got one last Secret Santa gift to get for a gift exchange we’re organising with a bunch of close friends, and I haven’t even thought about what I’m getting him, nevermind brave the after work shopping frenzy on Regents Street. Our tree has been without a topper since we decorated it a couple of weeks ago, and though I bought one a few days ago, it’s still in a carrier bag somewhere, lost in this field of half full carrier bags our living room floor is these days. There are piles and piles of laundry to sort through, and mountains of unopened mail. Last minutes tickets to buy and Christmas brunch menus to plan.

It’s quite a daunting little list come to think of it. But if I’m good at one thing, then I’m good and making scary lists and immediately forgetting them.

And then.

As I’m typing this, we’re on our way back from a week’s holiday at my parents’ place in Romania. With the events of the last few days still raw in my mind, it’s probably not the best time to write about it all. I should let it settle, let things fade a bit before I poke at them with my bare hands. But how broken I feel. And how I never learn. How I never, ever learn.

All the Little Lights

So yes, I thought I’d go ahead and get myself a little bout of bronchitis just to make things interesting.

What can I tell you, it’s great. I’m not getting any sleep, I can’t breathe, and I’ve coughed myself into this constantly pain ridden-creature who can barely sit up in bed, never mind walking, sipping and thinking coherent thoughts. My ribs ache, my chest aches, oh and it feels like I’m growing a new limb in the back of my throat, one that spends its day rhythmically punching me from the inside. Just as demented as all my other limbs have proven themselves to be in time.

I’ve taken three days off from work this week. This from someone who’d only taken two sick days in total during the last four and a half years in this country, humanity!

I pretty much dozed all through Monday, barely dragging myself to the kitchen to put the kettle on and rest my head on the counter while the water heated, then back to bed and dreams of my mother washing my hair in the bathroom sink when I was a kid, her hands rubbing and turning my head expertly, like she was rinsing vegetables for soup.

Despite another sleepless night, Tuesday found me in better spirits. I managed to make it to the living room, where I spent the day on the sofa, wrapped in all the blankets we own (three), drinking industrial quantities of camomile tea, reading National Geographic and messing with the remote. Towards noon I actually found it in me to deal with this years’ batch of holiday cards, and then, motivated no doubt by the small stack of ready to be delivered red envelopes on the coffee table, I decided I’d actually get out of my blankets and sort out our Christmas decorations as well. It’s worked out fine, more or less, mainly because we’re not decorating a lot this year. The tiniest tree in the living room, a wreath centrepiece on the dining table, and window lights. I’d managed to put half the lights up before I succumbed to a coughing fit that got me feeling dizzy and short of breath, and only passed once I lied on my side for a minute or so, counting my breaths.

So our place sported a slightly depressing, half Christmassy look for a day or so.

On Wednesday I actually put some mascara on and traipsed to the train station, determined to finally make it to work. Just my luck though, every other train turned out cancelled due to, wait… for… it… shortage of drivers.

Assuming they all got some form of debilitating bronchitis, I decided I’d be caring and understanding for once, and eventually coughed my way back home and into bed. Later in the day, I finally managed to hang the rest of the lights in the window, which I must admit has made me feel a lot better than the gallons upon gallons of sweet tea and mountains of Strepsils of the past days combined.

I’m loving this time of year. Despite the zero snow situation, the psycho coughing, the driver-less trains, the seriously disgusting way in which I’m being treated during my last days in the office (I will not rant about this. I. Will. Not. Rant!!!).

Christmas is in the air, despite all that. And it makes me happy that we’re enjoying it in our new home, and away, just the two of us, and in the company of wonderful friends. I’m happy that we’re making it work, that we’re trying at it, despite the difficult year we’ve had and the sort of unsure times waiting for us ahead. And I’m feeling great! OK, not right now. Right now I’m still pretty much the zombiest I can be, though I’m proud to report that I have managed to make it to work and eat a couple of biscuits without feeling my throat peeling raw.

All in all, life’s good. I’m off home soon, just in time to turn the Christmas lights on as it’s getting dark. We’ve wrapped and labeled all of this year’s presents, and they’re now stacked around the living room, waiting for people to arrive. Our red enveloped cards are making their way to Romania, different corners of London and faraway sunny places as we speak. I’m planning to try my hand at some homemade mulled wine tonight, so that I’m not caught unprepared when the time comes. Then it’s homemade bun-less burgers and greens and, if I’m feeling particularly rebellious, mince pie. Lights blinking in the window. No rush, no worries, no drama.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that we’re ready. We’re absolutely, no doubt about it, ready. Bring it on, Christmas!

Age. Ice Age.

It’s so cold in this office that I’m half expecting to grow icicles any time now.

Two sweaters, my Uniqlo down jacket and a winter scarf wrapped three times over and still I’m utterly defeated by the constant blasts of freezing A/C aiming at me from all cardinal points.

And I’m not alone. We’re all shivering in unison, bundled up in layers upon layers of wool and cotton, sipping shots of boiling tea and coffee and secretly plotting to set fire to a couple of desks in the middle of the room and dance a little savage dance around it to get our blood pumping again.

In the meantime, I comfort myself by fantasizing about how I’ll be leaving this place for good in two weeks’ time, hopefully towards warmer, cozier horizons.

Oh and speaking of, I don’t know what my lovely manager Steve has been telling people as to the whys and hows of me leaving this job, but every soul in the office now treats me like I’ve got the plague. They all feel oh so very sorry for me, constantly asking me if I’m OK, all the while keeping themselves at a safe distance like I’m spreading incurable unemployment germs everywhere. Just brilliant.

Arctic working conditions and silly open office soap operas aside, I’m feeling good. I’ll be trying out my new job for two whole days before we’re all off for the holidays, plenty of time to decide if I want to stick around or not. Just kidding, obviously, I’m a happily mortgaged grownup now, and my dreams of taking a few months off for a change after this December are, when faced with the alternative of working and making actual money, just that: silly, childish dreams.

So it’s decided, I’ll be back to my windowless office state of affairs before you know it, with new, exciting geeky things to moan about.

Until then, I’m hopelessly caught up in planning the coming weeks’ entertainment: a trip to a little Christmas Market somewhere south, our first UK Christmas with friends equally reluctant to visit their families this year for the usual soul drenching portion of holiday drama, a Phantom Of The Opera evening just before New Years’, and obviously some form of New Years’ celebration which is sadly still a big, fat, scary blank in my December Crazies calendar.

Exciting times, right?

Daily online moaning fix taken care of, I’m now off to the company parking lot for a while. It may be December out there but believe it or not, it sure feels warmer than in here. And they’ve put up Christmas lights everywhere. And a stand selling real coffee, made out of real coffee beans, and in paper cups with bright golden stars on them. As you can see, it takes very little to make me happy these days. It may well have to do with the fact that my brain is halfway frozen into a dangerous, yucky snowball, but hey, what can you do. Sparkly golden stars for everyone!

Fifty Shades of Green

I kind of ruined Christmas this year.

Well, not really Christmas, but Saint Nicholas Day, which V and I have grown to favor over  Christmas since we moved to London. It’s been our dearest holiday as kids, and not many people we know here celebrate it, which makes it feel deliciously clandestine. Oh, and it’s so much fun!

On the evening of December 5th, Romanian children wipe their winter boots squeaky clean and leave them on the doorstep or the window sill. Then overnight, Saint Nicholas drops by, and if the boots are shiny enough to eat off of, he fills them with gifts.

He’s not as well-to-do as Santa Claus, our Nicholas fellow, so his gifts are usually a mix of trinkets and chocolate in its many forms, though in my case, no sweet tooth to speak of whatsoever, he’s proven to be quite ingenious over the years. One year he actually STOLE my boots, and replaced them with another, brand new pair, in turn overflowing with a bounty of tiny bags of salted popcorn. Gotta love the old guy, right?

Well, anyway, that’s how Saint Nicholas Day is meant to work.

As far as how it’s worked for us this year, that’s a whole different story.

Yesterday evening found me absolutely fuming.

Three or four canceled trains later, I’d been waiting in the freezing cold in Clapham Junction Station for over forty minutes, no book and no internet connection. Not that my fingertips were in scrolling or page turning shape anyway, as they’d frozen into fingernailed icicles a long time before. Eventually I got on the-only-running-train-in-London, one that must have circled my intended destination six times over before eventually making it there, almost an hour later. Lovely V, probably anticipating I’d be blaming him for my ordeal, as I tend to do whenever there’s no one else to blame, picked me up from the station and we drove to a nearby Amazon pickup point, where our super-duper-Black-Friday-deal food processor was waiting for us. I must admit that made me feel a bit better. I mean, I’ll probably be dusting it more often than actually using it, but I can’t help getting high on new-stuff-we’ve-got-new-stuuuuuuuuuuff euphoria every time we get, well…, new stuff. So on the drive home I was slowly defrosting and feeling like life was worth living again.

Then it happened. I ruined Christmas Saint Nicholas.

As V was setting up the food processor, I almost broke my neck stumbling over his backpack, which, to be fair to the guy, was in its regular place, smack in the middle of the living room. So totally my fault.

Anyway, once I made sure my spine was still intact, I picked it up and moved it to a less trafficked corner. And then I saw it, the package inside, wrapped in a way only V can wrap, like it’s just been in a tumble dryer for a full cycle. I’d have pretended not to see it, I’m nice that way, but he’d come to check on me after hearing me tumble, and saw me seeing it. He SAW me see it. End of story, goodbye Saint-Nicolas-is-still-almost-a-week-away folly, we simply HAD TO exchange gifts then and there, he decided, I’d ruined the surprise.

Now, wouldn’t it have been brilliant if I didn’t have my gift for him ready too? It would have made a much better story, I know. But I’m such a Saint Nicholas maniac, that I’d bought his present a long time before, had it wrapped up in Rudolph themed paper and hidden at the back of my sock drawer, which is where I tend to keep all my dangerous secrets.

A mess of torn gift wraps on our floors for the first time this winter. For the first time since we got the place, come to think of it, so I guess we’ve crossed another threshold of our life here.

Not all things are new, though.

Every year since we started dating, I’ve been giving V a green sweater for Saint Nicholas Day.  I hadn’t intended starting a tradition, but he liked the first sweater so much that it grew into a brightly colored, third member of our little family. This occasion calls for the green sweater!, he used to say, and I laughed. He started buying jackets and shirts to best complement it, and I thought he was crazy, but hey, if sweater-crazies is the worst kind of crazies he’s got, count me in!

So every December since, I’ve added to his collection of various-shades-of-green protective layers. They’ve got their own small section of his wardrobe now, and every time I come across it, this block of greens I’ve picked from places all over, it feels like we’re really doing this together-thing the right way. Who knew we had it in us.

I was going to end on a Happy Saint Nicholas Day note, for those of you who happen to be celebrating it, but it’s still way too early. So a “Happy Random Tuesday!” will have to do for now.

December This and That: It’s Raining Bullet Points

I haven’t been writing for a while and I feel incredibly rusty.

  • There’s been very little snow in Romania and I haven’t had a chance to practise any winter sports. So I’ve spent my time off stuffing myself with home made sausages and sweets. I am now geeky AND fat, which, I guess, is progress. Thanks mum!
  • I’ve set absolutely no New Year Resolutions, apart from the yearly Goodreads challenge of 75 books, which is probably way too optimistic for this year (considering I’m way too fat and lazy to even turn pages), but we’ll see.
  • We’re still looking to buy a house/flat/tent (at this point our standards are becoming pretty low) and we’re consistently bickering throughout the process. I’m considering suggesting to V. that we start fighting in English. At least that way we’d get a chance to practise our English swearwords, and those always come in handy in work meetings, don’t they?
  • Speaking of work. There’s very little to do at the moment therefore I have become quite the YouTube expert. Be proud. Be very proud.
  • In the meantime, it’s raining. All. The. Time. For weeks now. As expected, my optimism is reaching new heights.