Winter this year has been rather unpredictable. There were murmurs of the worst snows in decades during autumn which actually turned out to be a whole siege of rainstorms. While Stirling wasn’t too badly affected compared to other areas of the UK, we did have some floods in town and winds that got dangerously high on campus. I was very nearly blown off the bridge during Storm Abigail.Weather side, this semester saw my very last exam of my degree! Fourth year psychology students aren’t supposed to have any exams but I’m on the deviant programme which means I had to drop back into third year to complete a course I couldn’t do in Canada (I’m not a student delinquent, I promise). To honour the biannual tradition one last time, revision appropriately descended into insanity, but this time in the form of writing incredibly well-received cat-related practice questions for the entire course (I wasn’t joking about the insanity). This largely coincided with my addiction to the app Neko Atsume for which I refuse to apologise. It’s too cute.
Over the course of December, our flat decorated the kitchen and corridors with paper chains, snowflakes and wreaths all in time for our magnificent Christmas dinner. It was probably one of the finest dinners I’ve had (no offense, mum!) and was entirely down to my good friend Ayumi, whom I’m trying to convince to start a food blog. Everything was homemade, from the salmon en croute to the two types of stuffing, right down to the pesto for the crostini starters!
Four starters, three different mains, heaps of potatoes and vegetables, and two desserts all on a student budget! Afterwards, we swapped presents for our Secret Santa, played a round of White Elephant
and far too many horrifying rounds of Cards Against Humanity.
Then it was off home for Christmas, this time by train. I had a time of it getting to Edinburgh Waverley thanks to an assortment of different delays at every change I had to make, but I eventually stumbled out of Kings Cross after having snapped some shots of the River Tyne when we stopped at Newcastle.
Mum treated me to a trip to the National Theatre to see Jane Eyre not long after I got back. It was my first time at the NT and I wasn’t disappointed! The performance was very impressive and featured a band centre-stage surrounded by a very minimalistic wooden set.
The walk back to the tube afterwards along Embankment was unintentionally torturous, providing me with a fantastic reason to stay in London after graduation. Not only do I have no idea what to do with myself once I have my degree but I have no idea where to be either.
…Not letting myself dwell on that for long, I was on the road again to go to Manchester. It was my first time in the city and I was struck by how similar it is to London. They’re both big, old, industrial cities and it’s easy to see the history in all the buildings, though Manchester seems to enjoy tearing them down and building new ones.
Giant Santa made of fairy lights notwithstanding, the town hall reminded me a lot of London’s Natural History Museum and the Gay Village overlooked the canals, which reminded me of the Grand Union Canal
We were only there for two nights and unfortunately a lot of what we wanted to do was shut because it was Christmas Eve. I’m pretty disappointed we couldn’t make it inside the John Rylands Library but I suppose it’s an excuse to come back one day! That said, we did manage a bit of sightseeing, including a wander around Affleck’s (Manchester’s equivalent to Camden Market) and peek into the Royal Exchange Theatre which had this incredible stained glass roof. The theatre itself sits in the middle of the hall forming an arena and looks very futuristic.
We also managed to get a table at at a gorgeous vegetarian restaurant called 1847 (so named because the Vegetarian Society was founded in that year) and I’m still dreaming about those onion bhajis…
Anyway! On Christmas Day, we drove to Warrington for Grandma’s 90th birthday and Christmas dinner (in that order). It was a busy two days with a lot of food, family and festivities which got the better of Grandad as you can see…
You’d think they’d have a quiet life at 90 but my grandparents were just recently interviewed for Radio 4’s You and Yours! I don’t know how long it will be available, but for now you can listen to them talking about their frankly palatial retirement home at the timestamp 30:45.
I had a nice and quiet New Years Eve (just the way I like it!) hanging out with Kiran‘s house bunny and celebrated the following day with a roast with our neighbours. We have a tradition of having a massive roast dinner as two families when we’re all in London for Christmas and we managed to squeeze one in for New Years just in time. It was lovely with a lot of wonderful food but after my third roast dinner in a month, I’m confident I’ll be heading back to uni the size of a house.