I sat in my flat on Sunday night, with the Halls of Residence “On Call” phone next to me on the bed, a pile of undisturbed and unread library books on the desk opposite, looking out over the flashing lights of the Fallowfield takeaways and mentally planning my schedule for the coming week. I had a little twinge of excitement, thinking that in 12 months’ time I should hopefully be fully submitted and free from the tyranny of the PhD, but this was tempered by that never-changing lurch in the pit of your stomach, familiar from the last day of every holiday I can ever remember.
The annual booze and gorge fest around the University was completed with customary aplomb. The nice problem about having fingers in lots of pies is that, like a professional footballer, you are subjected to a gruelling festive fixture list, with annual dos for your department, school, halls, and work. I survived the Library’s legendary Beer Boys’ Booze Bash trawl through 6 Mancunion ale houses in one piece, although I had to go home whilst on the way to a gig at Islington Mill in Salford because my legs had stopped working. I did however make my first of what will hopefully be many visits to the Arndale Market Microbar. With some tasty and reasonably price ales on tap, the bar also has a great selection of bottled craft beers, sold at probably a third of the price you would pay for them five minutes away in the hipsterfied hang-outs of the Northern Quarter.
The party season also involved 3 Christmas dinners in 5 days, special mention for which must go to Fallow Café in Fallowfield, which served up 20-odd Christmas dinners promptly and tastily, with an appropriate little dash of foodie panache. Apologies the staff for any offence caused by tasteless Secret Santa gifts on display.
As a serious and mature student, I made grown-up and self-disciplined plans for the vacation: four days of festivities over Christmas and a couple over New Year, squeezed in between a couple of weeks of solid study, to bring me into January on top of everything, ready to start writing furiously for the next four months.
These plans went the way of last year’s Christmas tree within an hour of arriving back in the sunny climes of Wolverhampton, when I was whisked off on a tour of Banks’s Brewery, followed closely by an afternoon (and evening) sampling the tipples offered at a number of fine public houses in the local area. I fulfilled my annual tradition of completing my Christmas shopping on Christmas Eve, but managed to improve my efficiency no end by the inspired idea of bringing sellotape and scissors with me to town, and wrapping the presents in the pub, rather than at 1 am on Christmas morning after the normal festivities. I must say that the standard of wrapping was improved considerably on previous years, effecting a much improved familial reaction on Christmas Day.
A visit to Molineux to watch the mighty Wolverhampton Wanderers continue their promotion charge with a 2-1 victory over Brentford followed in the week after Christmas and my New Year’s Eve began in the local pub at 8pm and finished at about 5.30am on my sister’s sofa. In between all this excitement, I generally engaged myself in shameless grazing on my parents’ apparently bottomless stockpiles of buffet food, with a particular focus on cheese, cheese-based, and cheese flavoured items.
And so, well-rested and a couple of pounds heavier, I am now back in Manchester to catch up on the work I didn’t do at Christmas, write a PhD thesis, mark a bunch of first year exams papers, and start a new round of teaching. Despite my slight end-of-the-holiday trepidation, I am genuinely looking forward to it.
This month, I have been mostly drinking: Banks’s Sunbeam in Wolverhampton. Not really a winter drink, but pleasantly hoppy, grapefruity, and refreshing.