Christmas spirit

I’ve had a very nice week. On Wednesday I finished work for a short Christmas break, and since then I’ve engaged in what could be described as life. Thursday, Christmas Eve, I spent most of the day with mother who wanted to come down to Brixton to stay with me over Christmas. It was initially my suggestion, as the thought of spending Christmas with her on Holloway Road like I always do was too horrible to contemplate, and the thought of letting her spend it there on her own was even worse. The flat in Brixton was certainly big enough for the both of us, with the king sized bed in the bedroom and the sofa bed next door. I decided to let her have the bedroom as I knew the cat liked to sleep in the living room, and thought it would be rude to expect her to put up with the cat coming and going all night. So I set up camp in the living room for the next three nights, not getting a great deal of sleep as a result. The cat, despite being cute as a button and mostly adorable, does not really sleep at night, choosing to walk all over the bed while I was in it and trying to bite my hands off every time I let them show above the covers. It’s lucky that I like this cat a lot!

After to-ing and fro-ing across London all day Thursday helping mum ferry Christmas provisions to Brixton, I took the gay meeting at Hinde Street in the evening as usual. Being Christmas Eve, there wasn’t going to be a huge turn out. In the end only five of us showed up; it could have been a disaster but it was actually a really nice meeting. A good friend visiting from LA gave the chair, kicking off some truly inspirational sharing, then a few of us went out for dinner afterwards. The late trek back to Brixton was hardly enjoyable – I desperately wanted to be able to go to my new home in Waterloo, which is so amazingly close to everything, but I had over a week left of looking after Dean’s cat to see through.

Christmas Day was surprisingly lovely for me. In the morning I walked to the all day meeting at Flood Street, Chelsea, something that has become a Christmas tradition for me (I’ve gone there every Christmas for the past three years). Realising that it was my third sober Christmas, I felt really good about being there from the start. Though I didn’t know anyone there to begin with, I felt cheered by the warm festive atmosphere. The meeting hall was packed, so much so that I had to stand at the back for the first hour, not that I minded. The sharing was mostly happy, to go with the festive cheer in the air; lots of people shared immense gratitude for the fact that they had this place to come to get away from the yuletide madness in the outside world. I really felt that gratitude on Friday morning. Not that there was much madness to get away from, it was just nice to have access to recovery on the one day of the year when everything else is closed.

I had to walk there and back, which took over an hour each way – I was surprisingly unexhausted by the long journey. Walking through London on Christmas day is always something of an experience. With all the shops and restaurants closed, it can feel a bit lonely, like everyone’s left town and you’re the only person alive – before recovery that sense of isolation would have bothered me, but of course now I have places such as Flood Street to go to alleviate that feeling. I was actually quite charmed by the unusual peace and quiet on London’s streets. Strolling by the Thames with the cold winter sun and not a living soul in sight was particularly special. I had a classical music playlist playing on my ipod; Barber’s Adagio for Strings thrilled me as I crossed an empty Chelsea Bridge, staring out at the weak sunlight on the frosty River Thames.

Back in Brixton I spent the rest of the day cooking turkey with mother and watching junk festive telly. On Boxing Day, the signs of spending too much time with mother began to show. We decided to head to town early to make the most of the post-Christmas sales. There were many bargains I hoped to score, including a new pair of shoes. Unfortunately, no matter where we looked, I couldn’t find the pair I wanted anywhere. I saw thousands of pairs that would have been adequate, but I have always been incredibly picky when it comes to shoes. There is a part of me that likes to obsess about fashion, the part that would like to think that one day I’ll be some sort of style icon. To become that person, I simply have to have the perfect shoes. Sadly, shopping with mother is never easy at the best of times. When I can’t find the shoes I want, it can be extremely testing. After a few hours of pointless traipsing around, she began to get tired and ratty; I snapped at her a few times like a stroppy teenager. I felt myself reverting to that child who used to go shopping with her because he had to, because she had the money and the power to get him what he wanted. I hated that feeling and knew I had to bring our shopping trip to an end quickly.

We returned to Brixton empty handed and more than a little worn out. As soon as we got here I realised that I didn’t feel like a kid any more, and it was a relief. Apart from a few curt words, there hadn’t been any altercation between us that day. We’d avoided disaster. Later on I was especially grateful for the knowledge that I’d managed to realise what was going on before it got too late to do anything about it. I’d seen myself getting angry and I’d made a decision to walk away from the situation. It could have been so much worse.

On Sunday, mum went back home. I felt bad for her once again, as she’d grown to adore the cat just like me, and I think she quite liked living in Brixton. Like me, she once had thought that it was a dark and dirty part of London, riddled with murder and drugs. I suppose there are parts of it like that, but those things are everywhere in London. It turns out that Brixton isn’t especially bad after all. The area where Dean resides is rather nice – extremely quiet, I have to say, for central south London. I still don’t think I’d want to live here permanently, but that’s probably because I have a home in Waterloo now, one of the best parts of London.

Today’s been another busy one, as I spent most of the day with my American friend on his last day here. We visited the 60’s exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery before going on a long walk around the centre of town. The purpose of the walk was partly to find a shop where I could buy a digital camera. Having been paid last week, I had money to spend, and I do sort of need a new camera. Well, I don’t actually need it like I need food, but when my friend was taking great photos of the London skyline this evening I felt rather envious of him. I didn’t get a camera tonight in the end: like with the shoes on Saturday, nowhere could I find the perfect one. When I got home I still felt the urge to spend some of last week’s wages, so I went online and ordered some nice speakers for my laptop. That urge to spend is something that has worried me in the past. It’s the reason why I’ve kept a daily spending diary for the past year, why have a bottom line not to spend more than £10 on average a day. I have to say I’ve broken that bottom line a few times this week; all I can hope is that I don’t break it again for a while. On the one hand, spending is really nice and fun and life affirming – why shouldn’t I treat myself every now and then? – on the other hand, it’s got me into so much trouble in the past, and like I said earlier, I don’t need any of these things that I’m buying.

As they say, you can’t take your money with you when you’re gone from this world, so why keep hold of it? There is such a fine line here, between kindness to self and recklessness. I believe I’ve really gotten on top of my spending addiction this year, to the extent where I’m actually paying off my debts for the first time in my life, and I really don’t want to go backwards. The political part of me hates how I continue to fund the capitalist system that I’m supposed to hate with my impulse purchases. But you know, sometimes, I have to have things. Things are what make the world go round.


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