Friday, December 2, 2011

A night at the theatre, a nightcap with my radio, Christmas with my family

We  went to see an Alan Ayckbourn play for my mum's birthday last Thursday. Season's Greetings takes place over 3 or 4 days at Christmas in a household beset with continuous low level warfare between extended family members. A warning of what to expect of my first family Christmas since 2000, perhaps.

Going to the theatre is something I've barely done over the past 10 years, partly because of the obvious language issue, though English drama does exist in Taiwan. But it was also to do with the way you live as an expat. You don't lead the same life, have the same routines, move in the same circles that you would do in your home country.

For the time being, I'm living in my parents house and that shapes how I lead my life to some extent. In Taiwan, our living room was dominated by the TV and being a modest sized apartment with no balcony or garden, the living room was the place to be. Consequently, when I wasn't doing anything else, I quite often had the TV on in the background. I'd stumble out of bed, sometimes hungover, and flop in front of the telly until I felt like doing something.

In my parents house it's the kitchen that dominates. I've readopted my lifelong habits of reading the newspaper, listening to Radio 4 and drinking litres of tea. Much more healthy than vegging in front of the telly, I think. I'd been careless enough to lose my tolerance to caffeine in Taiwan - to the extent that I couldn't drink tea after 10pm. I'm happy to say I've now reverted to taking a large mug to bed every night to accompany Sailing By and The Shipping Forecast - pure poetry, if you haven't heard them, have a listen.

I'm looking forward to Christmas. It will have a freshness that perhaps it doesn't for others here. That's not to say we didn't celebrate Christmas in Taiwan. Every year a group of friends centred around Martin, Jim, Ben and myself would do our best to put on a family Christmas with all the trimmings. Martin always made a particular effort on the process, whereas Jim and Ben were perhaps more concerned with the results. I would spend time and money traipsing around the foreign supermarkets in Taipei looking for Christmassy foods, mincemeat to make my mincepies, an approximation to brussels sprouts (that supposedly nobody likes), quality cheeses, cask conditioned ales. We even managed to get gold of Christmas crackers and one year, a Christmas pudding. At that time of year, they were my surrogate family. I'll miss the expat Christmas as much as I missed the "real" Christmas when I was in Taiwan.

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