The Cat and Matt In The Flat

Reunited in Christmassy jumpers

Reunited in Christmassy jumpers

No work this week, in honour of Thanksgiving Cat and Matt visiting. Yay! This was Cat’s first trip to the land of the free and it feels like we packed in almost as much to do as the quantity of food we packed into our bellies, kicking off with a very American folky rockabilly gig (Old Grand Dad, Wild Skies) with Billy and Taylor.

Actually the world's 12th tallest building

Actually the world’s 12th tallest building

In general the weather did guide us towards indoor activities, and so we did not go and stand in the cold for the Magnificent Mile Christmas parade, but gathered with Agata, Michele and Sam to watch it on TV from the comfort of my apartment instead. This was a good call, not only because we could add some British Christmas touches (think Bucks Fizz, jumpers and Fairytale of New York) but also because we stumbled on Family Fortunes Feud afterwards, which turned into a reliable staple for the rest of the holiday.

Finally made it to Green Mill. Sssh, no talking.

Finally made it to Green Mill. Sssh, no talking.

We also saw The Guide to Being Single, a “very musical theatre” guide to dating in Chicago, as well as hitting up the the Chicago History Museum, Willis Tower (during the day this time) and – finally! – Green Mill, a jazz club famous for being a haunt of Al Capone. We weren’t sure if the “no talking” rule would apply to him, because it certainly didn’t seem to apply to the very loud whisperer behind us, but it was a very cool place to me.

Faces for freedom (and stuff) at the Chicago History Museum

Faces for freedom (and stuff) at the Chicago History Museum

Oh, and the food! Deep dish Chicago pizza at Pequod’s, at which Cat and Matt befriended two large men from Philly while I stole their food. Utter devastation at Kuma’s Corner: a heavy metal-themed burger bar where the mac and cheese alone is liable to wipe you out. And not to mention many, many breakfasts at The Windy City Café. But my favourite meal has to be the patented Cat Hurley Sunday roast, which transported me back to the days of Drayton Park. Only with more American football on in the background. Go Bears.

Winter approaches

It’s here. It’s happening. In the frozen flows from the outdoor pipe, the biting wind, the stinging in your hands as you fumble too late for gloves: the much warned-about winter is advancing. I’m writing this blog curled under a blanket on the sofa, clasping some life-preserving Tetley tea. Give it a couple more weeks and I might even consider a scarf.

At least the lights are out

At least the lights are out

At Ellen’s Master of Peppers chilli-making competition on Saturday, Agata and I celebrated being here for five months already. Time really has gone so quickly! (“Don’t blog about this as if all Americans hold chilli-making competitions,” warned Kristina. “And don’t blog that I told you not to, either!”. I’ve officially been here long enough that people are wary of my misreporting… now isn’t that something?)

Last week I also saw two more Common Room promoted plays. The first, Strandline, was an adaptation of a Northern Irish play from a few years ago, and was somewhat… confusing. It’s a shame when you leave a theatre wishing rather meekly for a bit more exposition of the plot: gets in the way of all those emotions you’re supposed to be having. I got more out of Watch on the Rhine (featuring friend-of-the-blog John Stokvis), and not just because of the lovely set, with seats scattered in all four corners of the fancy country house living room. This play dates back to 1941, as an anti-Nazi rallying call for an America not yet at war. It’s not exactly the most subtle of messages: if it was written today, I’m not sure I could stand the strength of the halo which beams from the anti-fascist hero and his too-perfect family. But as a piece of history, it was thought provoking.

Interstellar

When we were young, my dad made sure we watched 2001: A Space Odyssey and Contact. I think he was always a bit disappointed that the promised near-future of spaceships and moon bases from his childhood never really came to pass (yet). But in these films – and it’s so rare to find this kind of sci-fi on screen – it was still possible to believe in a future for human beings among the stars.

I just got back from seeing Interstellar with Nolan, Saujanya and Chris, without knowing much about it in advance. And I have to say, for me, this is that film for our generation. It’s a stunning achievement. A masterpiece. It’s visually beautiful, of course, but unlike Gravity there’s so much more to it than that. This film trusts trusts its audience enough to play things out with sufficient scope to tell a very fine story. If you can’t tell, I loved it, and I’m very grateful that it got made.

That said, I can see this one dividing opinion. If you don’t love it, and it won’t be for everyone, three hours is a long time to sit through a movie. But for me, it was also the perfect afternoon build-up to the Doctor Who finale tonight. Exciting! Today is a good day.

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