Evening... Christmas Evening.

With 6 hours to go before Christmas Day 2006 begins in Pacific time I might just be able to sneak under the wire with some warm winter wishes before blogcrastination gets the better of me. Of course having been in LA for almost 4 years now it would be imprudent of me to mention the C-word so I hope you all have a very Happy Winter Solstice.

I realize that there is a tendency at this time of year for people to spontaneously produce a 17 page dissertation of family news and trivia that normally revolves around how gloriously young Timmy did in the 15 meter wibbly trouser race at Piffington Junior School Non-Competitive Community Day. Therefore here is a bullet point overview of keywords:

lovely weather, 195 lbs, gym, weights, running, thinner, engaged, bling, hawaii, Manchester, Christmas, job done.


Mostly lovely. Some fluffy white clouds were spotted last week. Photos were taken and local news stations were contacted. Rain is mostly a distant memory having last been seen in anger in about April - maybe March. Summer was hot. A light cardigan has been required for about the last month and last week the apartment required some heating. Christmas Eve was back to normal and T-shirt on the beach felt quite warm.

195 lbs, gym, weights, running, thinner

Having slipped into the US habit of eating out too often and not being worried about paying $7 for lunch I gained a spare tire last Winter and rose to a glorious 195lbs (14 stone). In an effort to prevent a cataclysmic slide into breakfasts of funnel cakes and quarts of ice cream for lunch I attempted to simmer down on the food intake and start some more activity.

D.I. Horwitz arrived on the scene early in the year and convinced Adam and I to start going to the University gym to lift weights. From day 1 it was pretty clear that the British ideology summarized by ‘personality conquerors brawn’, was not going to impress the 50lb dumbbells.

Soon after this fellow British Postdoc Ben Thompson decided the weather was far to ‘lovely’ and grumped off to Montreal. After this my grip on Britain started to slip away. Gym trips became more regular, alcohol consumption and BMI dropped, I conquered my fear of toe penetrating flip flops and got more friendly with next-door neighbor and long time personal trainer Jed Needle. Luckily for Catherine (she might argue) these were not indicative of an approaching closet evacuation. In fact, Jed is married with a delightful daughter, men wearing flip-flops in LA is fairly acceptable (sweet – dude) and the alcohol seemed to be messing with my guts (totally).

Days and months of cloudless skies, perfect temperatures passed and the concepts of rain, chill, damp and drizzle were rapidly slipping from my vocabulary. Karl Pilkington occasionally brought me back to my roots but even he wasn’t enough to curtail the onset of — wait for it — jogging! The abomination of it. Not once since school had it occurred to me that I should exit the building and spontaneously break into a trot for no apparent reason. Jogging was a torture send down upon us by rainy days at school - it was not something to be engaged in by sane people unless being pursued by an angry mob / fiancée. My downfall was brought about by a gadget – a Polar heart rate monitor complete with ‘man bra’. With the voice of shame and reason (Ben) now departed I began what I will now rename ‘running’. With Jed on hand I was introduced to ‘the art of running’. Contrary to popular belief (mine) you don’t just sprint out the back door and see how far you get before you collapse. Rather there are critical breathing, stride, pace and mental(ist?) issues that must be learned. I remember clearly the feeling on one of the early runs a strange feeling of elation and thought that you could run forever. Of course, this didn’t last and a couple of hills later and with my heart rate 195 (one beat per pound?) I felt like the old days - I was about to die. I can now manage the UCLA perimeter without vomiting and have done this fairly regularly recently.

Engaged, bling, Hawaii

After a ‘dating period’ of over 8 years, Catherine and I are officially (Irish Times) engaged. A Canadian diamond was finally selected after months of research and examination to meet an exacting configuration (golden ratio) for a custom ‘East-West’ design ring. A trip to the delightful tropical island paradise of Kuai followed by the delightful lump of lava that is the Big Island of Hawaii provided an ideal opportunity for questioning. I decided to go with ‘remote and barren’ rather than ‘romantic and cozy’ setting for a rather unconventional proposal setting at N19 18.676 W155 04.370. This delightful spot is approximately 4 miles hike across solidified lava from the nearest non-lava covered road, about 50 miles from a town and about 2,300 in any direction away from a major land mass. However, molten lava could clearly be seen in the post sunset gloom as I attempted to kneel / crouch on spiky rock. Luckily she agreed and somewhat later was furnished with the completed bling encrusted appendage.


Along with this news comes another somewhat important item from our perspective. That is that Catherine has secured a position at Manchester University and we will both be heading back to the UK early next year. This will of course involve a large amount of upheaval and I will have to rapidly find suitable employment in the coming weeks. We will be leaving behind the constant ‘lovely weather’ and entering an almost completely unfamiliar world. The extent of my knowledge of Manchester comes from a trip to the airport at 5am on the way to Greece. Luckily Suzanne Fielding has been living near Manchester for the last year and will hopefully be able to give us some local tips.

Christmas, Job Done

With the impending return and various visa issues on my part, it turned out that Christmas in the UK was not going to be on the cards for the first time ever. Both Catherine and I have never been away from home during the winter solstice period but luckily for us Andy and Eilidh happened to be wandering on their way to NZ and are with us as I type to enjoy a hopefully beautifully cooked Whole Foods turkey and roast potatoes. It is all a little strange not being in England for Christmas especially since people here seem almost schizophrenic about it. In one sense they are mad for Christmas with Santa being completely reinvented by Coca Cola, and in another they just ignore it and have only 1 day off before going straight back to work on Boxing Day (which doesn’t even have a name!). Oh well - we will create a little corner of UK/Ireland in Santa Monica for the next few days and will be thinking of the dark damp nights back home from afar - possibly for the last time.

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