“I’d say this was a life-changing year,” I was advised for this blog today. Well, yes, quite a lot happened in 2014. It was a twisty journey which took me from London to Chicago, but I’ve never been more glad for having seized an opportunity with both hands.
For a second year running, I celebrated New Year in the Mile End flat, at a party which – looking back at the photos – was dominated by glow sticks, rooftop views and crouching on the floor of the bus home with Anna. A week later, many of us were doing robot dances together at a Recklings gig, where we also got to see Jen (yay!) again. With the family and cousin Nancy I saw Mandela, with the flat I stayed in to watch In Bruges and went out for Jeeves and Wooster, and with Matt and Caroline I drank a lot of wine at Gordon’s. Also, after a six year wait, I finally got to meet the elusive and mysterious Diamond Geezer.
As you’ll see, there was a good run for watching terrible films at Drayton Park towers. In February we endured Drag Me To Hell, before embarking on a sequel to our famous Flat Day by hugging trees together in Hampstead Heath. Josh also scored us tickets to The Commitments, and later saw fit to turn 25 and celebrate it. Michele was also in town by then, so we visited Salisbury (where 4.6% of the population are ‘some other kind of white’) and the New Forest, through which we choose the muddier but much worthier paths. Oh, and we all hit up the London Transport museum. Naturally. Red Velvet at the Tricycle was spectacular, the Scan Van fulfilled a long-desired wish to save my parents’ photos from decaying in shoe boxes, and I ended up carrying Vlad’s engagement ring across London in my pocket. Meanwhile, at work, up popped the prospect of a job in Chicago…
March was not my greatest ever month. But when Michele and I broke up, lots of people took great care of me: stopping me from doing ridiculous things using the power of flowcharts, and trying to cheer me up instead with LOL (it’s a romantic comedy set in Chicago!) and Disaster Zone: Volcano in New York (it… has no redeeming qualities). I did see good movies this month, too, like The Lego Movie, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Headhunters and, yes, Hackers. I also visited Katie during her first year at (beautiful) Durham. But I remember getting restless for a change of scene, which I guess made it perfect timing for my interviews.
Writing this has reminded me how drawn-out the transfer process felt, even though looking back it really wasn’t. But yes, in April I got my official offer, which made it pretty safe to start saying “oh, I’m moving to America” to people. People like Maryam, who met up for dinner, and Andy, who came to London for the day and agreed to go see Marx’s grave with me. Also this month, there was a great turn out to Cat’s final Recklings gig, while Biff and Christa lured us to pub to play a strange Monopoly cards game, and Abbi spoke movingly at the launch of Love Letters to the Home Office. This blog also celebrated its tenth birthday, and at the same time, I got the sad news that someone pretty key to my life ten years ago – Mr. Wrigley – had died. He is missed.
Before I left, there were lots of people I needed to see. Some of them were rather far away, so in May I went on my first trip outside Europe or North America (about time!) to see Sophie in Oman and Josh in Sri Lanka. Both were pretty wonderful visits, as was a quick day trip to Paris. Back in London, this was the last month in Drayton Park for all three of us, and the end of two amazing years living with Cat and Josh. There’s no better way to spend your early 20s than with your two best friends, and as a parting gift, Josh and I finally had the visit from Jehovah’s Witnesses we’d been waiting for. I also got to say goodbye to Chiara and Matthew in East London, to cousin Julie, to Melissa in the Corrib and to Caroline and Charles. And last but certainly not least, a weekend in Manchester with Robert and Tash.
Finally! My last drinks in The Island with family, Pizza Express with Lucy and one last News Revue, all rounded off with a Deportation Party in Islington. And then it was a very odd work week: two days in London, one day flying, and two days in Chicago. Chicago! Nolan met me outside the Blue Line station, explained which bars were too bro-y and which did great burgers, and took me to where I’d be living with him and Brett for the first two months. The summer is a great time to explore any city, and there were also a bunch of birthday celebrations: Saujanya’s – where I did the newbie initiation thing of drinking Malort – Todd’s, and my own, at Motel Bar. But one of the strangest, yet nicest, experiences of being new and open to people was striking up a conversation with two country music guys outside a bar, which led to an impromptu late night performance around a bonfire in their back garden.
4th July is – of course – Independence (from us) Day, which I celebrated by eating a large number of hot dogs on Kristina’s balcony while people set off fireworks in the streets below. Also up there on the patriotism scale in July was downing Budweisers at Girl Talk’s bizarre Made in America concert. I saw Edge of Tomorrow, which was great, and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes which was less great. Other highlights included the Shedd Aquarium, discovering Twin Peaks (and creating its spiritually similar Furtive Liaison), the very first Common Room – beginning an unbroken tradition of 2014! – and, wonderfully, getting to see Billy Joel at Wrigley Field. Much less fun were the stressful hours spent hunting down places to live on Craigslist. But in the end I found somewhere great, and with the help of Nolan’s U-Haul, moved to my new home at the end of the month.
So I settled in with my new flatmate, Billy, and gloried in walking to work in 15 minutes. I also got to hang with cousin Sophia and Al, go sailing with Lauri, watch The Blind Side in Montgomery Ward Park with Suzanne, and enjoy an excessively long White Sox game against Todd’s beloved Blue Jays (who lost). (In general, both my knowledge and appreciation of baseball were hugely improved in 2014.) I was also invited to a really fun pub crawl organised by the League of Chicago Theatres, through which I also scored tickets to a musical adaptation of Coraline. The second half of my August was spent in Kuala Lumpur with Zee, Ellen and the Groupon Malaysia team. This was another really awesome trip, and it’s such a pleasure to be able to travel and work with great people along the way.
Back in Chicago, the start of the new school year came with a couple of mentoring programmes to volunteer with. This was also the zenith for going on dates with some really cool and wonderful people: including to Second City, the Improvised Shakespeare Company, the Botanic Garden and simple – but lovely – beers by the beach. I also found my way to a rooftop pool party with a bunch of Billy’s high school friends, saw Guardians of the Galaxy and was delighted that others at work were interested in a day of rollercoasters at the Six Flags theme park.
One of the absolute highlights of the year was Jamie and Paul’s wedding in San Francisco. A totally wonderful day, amidst a global family gathering, was made even better by the follow-up Chicago visit of my parents and Tash. Together we did a bevy of touristy things, conjured up suspiciously glorious weather for October and jumped around on the roof a lot. This month Randi and I also struck theatre gold with Alice and Bethany, while I also tried rock climbing, Chinatown and karaoke. Emily Boyd dropped in for pizza and drinks, Brother Matthew answered our questions on the doorsteps of his church, and on Halloween I failed to don an adequate costume but was still allowed to eat sushi and critique Star Wars.
If I’m still here in 2016, I imagine I’ll view the Presidential elections with a mixture of excitement and dread. Until then, the 2014 Midterms will have to do for my experience of American democracy, and although the night itself was pretty grim, it did at least put paid to the constant TV ads. Thankfully, pretty much everything else in November was utterly glorious. I’m talking about Ellen’s chilli cooking competition, more theatre trips (Strandline and Watch on the Rhine) and my favourite film of the year, Interstellar. Most exciting of all, Cat and Matt came to stay with me, and we packed in a lot of fun, food and Family Feud. Afterwards, Cat stayed on for a fabulous Friendsgiving hosted by Kevin and Grace, and then Randi and I set off on our Michigan roadtrip adventure.
Carrying home a Christmas tree is an important tradition to maintain, and helped bathe December with a festive glow. I met AJ, Catherine and Jason, laughed at their unfamiliarity with opening Christmas crackers correctly and played a suitably competitive session of Munchkin. Agata hosted a gingerbread baking workshop, Kristina threw a party with the first, long-awaited mulled wine of the season, and Nisreen and Mike presided over a game of Apples to Apples. Matt and Ben was brilliant while The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies marked a final visit to Middle Earth, not to mention the Christkindlmarket, the Groupon Holiday Party and my first dizzying experience of the futuristic Oculus Rift! And Christmas itself, while low-key in the apartment by myself, was also a surprisingly magical combination of Muppets, chocolate, Skype and reading under a blanket like a happy old man.
Thanks to everyone who made this year great, and happy 2015!
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