The City at Christmas

Back to work today. I can't say I feel quite human yet, but I'm getting there.

The city feels empty. It's a gloriously sunny day, warm for December, the sort of day you'd like to enjoy by talking a long walk alongside the river and then warming up with a pint inside some cozy pub. But there's no one here. On the roads, there are few cars and fewer cyclists; in town, the pedestrians seem sparse, and walk not in groups but alone (hurriedly) or in pairs. The Christmas cheer that came over town a few weeks ago, the lighting of trees, the late-night shopping, the wood-smoke smell, all of that is paling, waning.

Everywhere I ever go I have the sense that at Christmas, things start to implode: slowly the cities lose their people, as if no one lives here, as if this isn't home, as if we all have to run somewhere else because we live here for 99% of the year and Christmas just isn't Christmas if there isn't movement involved, somehow. But the truth is that we do live here, this is home, there's no need to leave.

Still, I like the emptiness now, the still, the quiet. It lets you see the city, and enjoy it, even. There are patterns to Oxford's population, I suppose because in essence it's a university town, at the whim of its flitting students. I've never before been here in December but I'll tell you this: it's a different place altogether.

The Man is making me a belated lunch in response, I suppose, to my pathetic sniffling. So the house smells warm, and good, and we'll make our Christmas cheer together. It's only a bit past three but already that refreshing sunlight is waning into dusk, and schoolchildren are trudging down the street, and evening rituals are being put into play. We let late come early, in this season.