A Mixed Bag

At Wasabi, Japanese eatery in Leeds

At Wasabi, a Japanese eatery in Leeds

In Hollywood – or maybe, more commonly nowadays, on social media – everyone celebrates a splendid Christmas with wonderful gifts and the presence of loved ones.

In my real world, my Christmas started the same as it did last year – with a ParkRun victory, which saw me cross the finish line quicker than I did last year. While the Christmas edition of the ParkRun (not surprisingly) didn’t attract as many participants as a normal Saturday edition does, 209 runners took part, which – according to the event’s Facebook page – represents a Christmas record.

But my Christmas Day after crossing the finish line was rather forgettable. All the finishers were treated to mince pies, tea or some candy. I wasn’t in the mood for tea and the candy was so-so at best. And although mince pies are a popular British Yuletide food, they do nothing for me.

Unfortunately, my Christmas was mishandled beforehand. International students at Leeds Beckett University were invited to eat a Christmas dinner at a church in Meanwood (a section of town not too far from Headingley). However, we had to register by December 19, and I foolishly forgot to do so – or kept procastinating until it was too late 😦 All would’ve been forgiven – if not forgotten – if I had managed to munch on a delicious Christmas Day meal somewhere else. But to make a long story short, that didn’t happen 😦

(By the way, Christmas might be the most dead day of the year in Leeds. Of course, all the shops are closed. But, a lot – if not most – of the supermarkets and grocery stores are closed in addition to local public transport not running).

Commercial Street in Leeds

Commercial Street in Leeds

But despite Christmas being rather unremarkable, the following day was lively. In a lot of English-speaking countries, December 26 is Boxing Day. Way back when, servants would receive gifts in boxes from their bosses. Well, that’s how I think the day originated.

I wish more stuff was on sales in Waterstones

I wish more stuff was on sales in Waterstones

Trinity Centre

Trinity Centre

In any case, Boxing Day represents for many people the beginning of post-Christmas sales. While shopping may not feel like a national sport in the U.K. as it does in France, the shops in the city centre were the “it” place as many of them were advertising sales of at least 50% off – and some up to 70% off. Most of the shops didn’t seem to open until 10 a.m., but a decent number of shoppers were out and about in the city’s main shopping area roughly 30 minutes prior.

I didn’t buy anything as I was mainly content to window shop in among other places, Urban Outfitters, Waterstones (a major British chain of bookstores) and the Adidas stores (Now that I think of it, some of the calendars I saw in a temporary calendar shop were rather enticing). I also explored the Trinity Centre – the closest thing Leeds has to a mall – for the first time (I never knew the place housed a cinema). Other than window shopping (and almost buying a decent pair of running shoes for for £30. Well, I think I could have gotten them for £30), the highlight of my day was watching Chelsea dispatch of West Ham 2-0 at a nearby pub.

Yes, it fell...

Yes, it fell…

The following morning (today) was tricky and slippery. It was a normal ParkRun morning and an abnormal one. Normal because it was cold and my gloves weren’t doing any good in keeping my fingers warm. Abnormal because drops of snow had dotted portions of the course (Parts of the UK have been dumped with snow in the last couple of days – not so much Leeds, though). But more importantly and dangerously, parts of the pavement felt like an ice skating rink. Thus, the course was modified so that we would be running on the grass more.

As for the actual race… 50 meters into it, I felt a tweak in my right hamstring. A tweak that could turn into a pulled or strained hamstring. Having to abandon the race early on was a definite possibility if the pain increased.

But fortunately, I was able to tough it out and finish second (despite running cautiously) 🙂 It wasn’t the most pleasant of ParkRuns due to the cold, discomfort and slippery course but I managed to survive.

If Saturday morning required toughness, Saturday afternoon required just a sense of humour. The film Paddington is being screened at the Hyde Park Picture House for a few days and I figured since I was bombarded with ads on the tube for the film (in addition to meeting the bear at Stamford Bridge), it might be worth checking out.

Although it’s a kids movie, I enjoyed it (once I got over the normal bits of drowsiness I encounter in the cinema) as the film made me laugh. I won’t spoil the film here but it is a wonderful reminder of my recent time in the capital as landmarks such as the Tower Bridge, the London Eye and the Natural History Museum were featured. If nothing else, despite being Peruvian-born, Paddington has become a British icon in my mind. Now I just have to rewatch the film when I’m not sleepy.


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