2012- a year in review

We are in the post Christmas per new year no mans land where the world seems to be revisiting the last 12 months and, for the most part taking about the Olympics, Clare Balding, One Direction, the various dead and what’s to come.
I loved ‘lympics, I really did, but this must be the year Adam Millward wins the award for shittest blogger ever. I have been terrible. I wonder why, I still live me and think I am the funniest fellow I know so I would have thought if would be so suitable that I fill the world with more of my witty musings. But I have failed. In my defence I have become a father, but the dog does little more than shred tissues, rip her reindeer hot water bottle up so I have to sew it up, eat, poo and sleep for hours on end. I cannot blame her for my failings.
I think what has happened is that I have had a crappy 2012. From start to end, it’s been a real challenge. Personally, this has been a real eye opener for me. It started with the house buying incident, which had coincided with Pete being unwell, through a summer with no holiday, further property disappointments and topped off with the worst Christmas on record. This isn’t me being dramatic, but sometimes life can be rather trying, and when you have a year that is full of these trying events, this is what stays with you.

Alas, I had in mind this should not be the year where crap dominated, and we went to Boston for a per Christmas break. Ah, lovely lovely Boston Massachusetts. A city small enough to conquer and varied enough to keep entertaining. I love a city that embraces public spaces, which is I think why I’m settled here in Sheffield in spite of the fact I sometimes crave some amenities those bigger cities take for granted (hell, sometimes it’s as simple as longing for a Pret a Manger). Boston Common was as well used a park as I have ever seen, and how the city had bought it in line with the rest of their Christmas lights and trimmings was beautiful and so festive. Trees wrapped from branch to trunk in fairy lights, bridges decked with wreaths, garland and lights, and these staying put without interference from light fingers or vandals was heart warming and poignant. Alas, I fear that in the UK our more alcoholic minded citizens or bored hobbyist types may not be as respectful. And may I also add the people running through the park at night helped bring the space out the dark and into the city. But saying that, the city had not withdrawn support for street lighting in the park, plunging it into darkness and making it feel unsafe for solo runners, which is the biggest issue for our cities parks. I am unlikely to ever embrace the idea if a head torch due to my vanity, yet am unwilling to retire to the footpaths to play inconsiderate runner and walker roulette, so the happy medium of the relighting of our streets and parks would be welcome, Sheffield City Council.

Harvard was gorgeous, yet intimidating. Much like Cambridge over here, you get the sense of being in a serious, studious place of high intelligence and achievement. You walk alongside and in the footsteps of some of the western world’s most gifted and great academics, and the town feels rich as a result. We looked at the campus and it was familiar yet new, the result of too many films and tv shows over time. It’s so funny that you look at these impressive structures and I see them as old-ish but not ancient, but quite honestly these buildings dating back to the late 1800’s are practically ark-era in North America. I felt very much like I was passing through this place of prestige….

And the food? Ah the food. As is custom, our 7 day holiday necessitated a balance of epic eating experiences and more modest ones. Crappy experiences? Hotel restaurant one night with the hideously overly attentive waiter who tried to sell me a glass of Penfolds Estate Shiraz like it was the milk of the gods, and who topped our water glasses up very 3 minutes, like clock work. Uninspired menu, uninspired evening which was only improved when we got back to the room and watched 2 episodes of Law and Order Special Victims Unit. (Which incidentally I have never avidly watched but how on earth do they come up with new and inventive ways for people to be raped and killed? It’s been on for years).

Inspired meals? Rain lashed night where we fell upon an Italian which was quite big and touristy, but had the best seafood cannelloni I have ever tasted. And Amstel on tap which is my draft lager of preference. Mexican night, with an epic platter appetiser which could have fed 4, but was polished by Pete and I, followed by a melting pork belly rubbed in a Chile en Adobo mix which was mind blowing, followed by a vanilla and cinnamon ice cream which kicked it out the park. The restaurant was called Zocolo, if you go to Boston, I would put it on your must visit list. Breakfast was taken at Charlie’s Sandwich Shoppe, a rarity- a long established, rough round the edges neighbourhood place. Believe me, you just done see them in Boston. The food was your typical bacon and eggs, pancakes and syrup affair, which is a must on any stateside visit, but the charm of the place was the sense you know this place has weathered so much change in its community, the South End, which is now a real trendsetting neighbourhood.

The best meal came on our favourite evening. Grill 23 was sold to us by our concierge when we asked where to go for steak. She said “do you want A steak or THE steak?”. Now the cheapskate in me wanted to say “a steak”. I knew the emphasis was based on dollars rather than cache. We of course said the best steak. The benefit of the restaurant was that it was opposite our hotel, so was very convenient. That evening we were off to the Holiday Pops concert at the symphony hall, so I was giddy enough. We turned up at a beautiful restaurant, with a lovely staircase at its centre. Dark oak panels and smartly dressed staff greeted us and took us to our table, where we were placed by the bar. A large group of city-types came in for drinks, and stood around us as they did so. We asked to be moved once one of them used one of the sides of our table to rest their buttocks upon.

Now ordering steak is an important job. I have learnt the different cuts through my cookbook readings. I know the differences between rib eye, sirloin, rump, skirt etc. it is based on where on the animal it comes from. Now I am really at a loss to know what a New York steak is. When I asked the waiter, he said “well it’s a New York steak sir” I asked where on the animal it comes from, he told me “it’s from a similar area to a rib eye”. I’m not sure he was entirely sure himself, but I tried it. Oh. My. Days. It was the most sensational steak I have ever tasted. You could have cut that steak with a match stick. Out of this world. Whatever a New York steak is, I’m a fan.

The concert was incredible. It was recorded for next years cd release. If you can hear a woman warbling during the singalong section, and a British voice saying “Jesus, can’t she tone it down for gods sake” then the acoustics were strongest in our section. The brochure boasted about the building being fully air conditioned since 1976. We felt no benefit of that addition, it was like a furnace. I was almost fast asleep during Handel’s Messiah. But I picked right up for Sleigh Ride.

The shopping was incredible. J Crew is my new Jam. I don’t think I’m using that phrase right but I thought I’d have a go. Love their stuff. Conservative with a small c, it’s fashionable without making me feel like a try hard, it also succeeded in being reasonably priced (I stare accusingly at you, Ted Baker, with your £300 winter coats).

So I arrive back in the UK ready to have myself a Merry little Christmas. I ice my Christmas cake. I make Ina’s pork, pine nut, cranberry and fig stuffing, I maple-glaze parsnips, I make a spinach gratin. I take these gifts, like modern offerings, to Pete’s olds for Christmas. Pete’s brother decides to join in and brings his own unique gift, along with his wife and two children, from France.

What could this be? They have been in Reims, so is it Champagne? Foie Gras? Chocolates? Alas no. It was the Norovirus. So, like dominoes, we have all fallen. The children bounced back like children do. 1 spew, 2 spoons of calpol, and 3 episodes of Dora seemed to do the trick. I have not been so lucky. As everyone settled down to dinner, I was upstairs, delirious with fever, having projectile vomited across the bathroom. I passed out at one point, a low point seeing as the extended family had to tend to me whilst I was in e briefest of briefs. A sight I never wanted my mother in law to have.

The grand sum of my meals since Christmas Eve is as follows: 1/2 omelette,1x bowl of soup, 3 x pain au chocolate (mini), 1/2 croissant, 1/3 portion of roast turkey and veg, 1 x prawn cocktail, 1/2 turkey curry (mild).

I’m in calorie deficit over the holidays. It’s incredible. I still feel rough. I have achieved so little. My belly feels like it is permanently battling the effects of extreme alcohol consumption. You know that sore, sensitive feeling after a heavy night? I’ve had that since December 26th. So as I said, terrible Christmas. I even missed Downton Abbey. Bad bad news.

So that’s that for 2012. No great loss to me. 2013 has to be better. It has so little to beat in my humble opinion. Ok, so there is no Olympics, but there is no winter vomiting bug either, touch wood. Key this be the year I buy a house so Daphne can have a garden. This also can be the year something else happens. I don’t know what, but call me Noel Edmonds as I’m going to do some cosmic ordering. Universe I want to do something more. Something bigger than my usual routine. Send me a challenge that can help change my direction. I’ve written it down, now people have seen if, lets see if it comes my way. I will be ready, and hopefully my eyes will be open enough to say yes.
So world, I’ll be seeing you on the other side. A bit paler, a bit thinner as well, and infinitely happy to be seeing the next chapter in and closing the one marked 2012- the year I flashed the in laws. That will forever make me shudder.

Blog later everyone, happy new year!

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

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