Life Starts All Over Again When It Gets Crisp in the Fall


Even the little alleys look quaint here.

It’s that time of year again, and this year, I can hear and see it all from my window. It’s October! Unfortunately, that means that I can also hear the proselytizing, preaching prat across the street yelling into his bullhorn about how we’re all going to hell. Well, at least the colours will be prettier.


Today, the streets are busier than I’ve ever seen it, and this year I’ve been more of a tourist than a blogger about it. The view from my apartment really makes me wish this building had balconies (the ones you can actually sit on, not those phony “Juliet” balconies – although we don’t even have those), but all I’ve got to do is step out the door to my elevator and walk outside.

People are already out in their costumes (probably hoping to avoid the maelstrom next weekend’s going to bring). Earlier this month there was, of course, the Zombie Walk (much more organized than last year, and I was a zombie King Henry V – yes, really). Last weekend I saw a couple of Zombie Tellytubbies, and so far today I’ve already seen Marge Simpson, Captain America, Catwoman and a cute little baby Iron Man.

(an odd effect in panoramic mode when switching from light to dark areas; kinda cool)

The Old Burying Point Cemetery (above) has been packed during the day. Tourists are generally pretty respectful of the site, even if they do leave empty Dunkin’ Donuts cups (some of which probably contained coffee or tea) all over the place. Even the weeks have been pretty busy; let’s see what next weekend brings.



39 Photos of the Most Insidiously Terrifying Easter Bunnies in Salem, Massachusetts


I rarely post while I am on holiday (especially when I’m visiting family),  but in honour of Easter this week (and the disappointing reality that “Easter Monday” does not exist in America), here’s a collection of bizarre, surreal and insidiously “cute” bunnies who will eat your soul if they stared at you long enough.

And I think that this one was supposed to have eyes. When I finally do eat him, it’ll be head-first with some holy water and communion wafers to wash it down. Or some Tia Maria and Jaffa Cakes.

The St Patrick’s Day That Never Was


Living on the outskirts of Boston, you do not want to go out on St Patrick’s Day, unless you vomit copious amounts of green beer after being beaten up by a bunch of townies who claim to have Irish ancestry.

It was a beautiful day last Saturday. Warm enough to venture out in just a dress (although today is back to scarf weather – welcome to New England), and a fair few people were out and about. Even the storefronts in downtown Salem got in on the fun by hauling out anything green they had in stock and pushing it altogether.

Gift store (I really don't want to say the name of it) - 226 Essex St

The Back Room, 203 Essex St

Essex St hat stand

Fountain Place, 232 Essex St

And of course there were some people dressed up:

Tourists in green gettin' their Irish on

And then, even more adorable (although he refused to sit still) – PUPPY!

St Patrick's Day puppy

Even that was just too much for me. So I went home, where I thought I would be free from all things green. When I passed by my neighbour’s hallway, I knew I was wrong:

The day before they put these up, they had Valentine's Day decorations. I don't think those walls were ever clear.

So I ended up just having a relaxing St. Paddy’s Day in Salem. A marathon of Black Books, some soda bread, some Irish tea and a lovely stout.

And my dragon.

Salem’s So Sweet Chocolate and Ice Sculpture Festival


This past weekend, the city celebrated  “Salem So Sweet!” Chocolate and Ice Sculpture Festival. I never know which part of that title is actually capitalized, and which part are in inverted commas, and whether or not it’s Salem’s or Salem. It seems to change – even on the same page. And the title of the festival makes no sense grammatically, sounding like Stephen King’s Boogeyman and Gollum’s bastard lovechild trying to write its first Valentine’s Day card. Salem needs  a proofreader…badly.

As they were every year, the ice sculptures were the focus of the festival, and they were different every year. There didn’t seem to be a theme (I thought there had been in previous years). Not attractively presented, they were still nice sights to encounter while strolling around town.

Outside MudPuddle Toys - The Adventures of TinTin in Salem

Outside Tavern in the Square

Outside Adriatic Restaurant & Bar

Chocolate Fountain at Maria's Sweet Somethings

Outside the Peabody Essex Museum


The kick-off was the chocolate and wine tasting at Hamilton Hall, but at $30 a ticket, it’s not for everyone, but it sold out fast. I do get the feeling that it’s the same group of people going to these things (the historic house/garden tours; the Dickensian Christmas ball etc) and were I to buy a ticket, I’d look very much out of place.

The festival’s brochure stated there was a window-dressing contest, but save for a few balloons and pink stuffed animals here and there, I didn’t see much in the way of competing. Rumour has it there was a raffle, and Milk and Honey ran a chocolate-themed baking contest on Saturday.

Outside Maria's Sweet Somethings

Downtown wasn’t terribly crowded due to the weather (bitterly cold and very, very blustery), even for February’s standards. I’d been told by a shop owner that the ice sculptures cost upwards of $500, so it’s a shame there’s never been much of a turnout, or much in the way of promotion, given the effort that was put into the sculptures.

As an amateur party-wrangler since the age of 9, I saw so many missed opportunities. Ideal additions could have been chocolate-making workshops (free or paid); chocolate liqueur-tastings; chocolate-themed menus; markets (like the Biz Baz) – indoor or out with hot chocolate sellers; or maybe inviting local dairies or chocolatiers to actually visit and do demonstrations. Maria’s Sweet Somethings did go all out with a small chocolate demonstration, some sipping chocolate samplings and a huge chocolate fountain, but the enthusiasm for the festival elsewhere was sadly…lacklustre.

Outside Rockafellas

The romantic aspect could have been celebrated by a special movie offering at the cinema and/or reviving the Movie on the Common series; an event at the PEM; a floral/gifts market; jewellery-making workshops/demonstrations; art displays – everything the city and local businesses put their imagination to when it comes to Hallowe’en, but to get that festival atmosphere back for the singles and families who actually live in Salem or visit during the off-season. People will get out of their homes, tourists and residents alike, if you give them something to do.

Isn’t that what the festival was supposed to be about?

Ice Dragon on Essex St. Decapitated by arsehole drunks on Saturday evening; was said to be the best sculpture of the lot 😦

Why Don’t We Have Something Like Martin Luther King, Jr Day in the UK?


Monday was Martin Luther King, Jr day. It’s one of the major national holidays in the US, and commemorates the life and death of a pioneer in the American civil rights movement.

As a temp, because it’s also observed by the NYSE, my workplace was closed and I missed out on a day’s wages.  This left me to ponder why exactly it is it’s celebrated at all here, and why we don’t celebrate, or have an equivalent of, this holiday in the UK.

Casting an eye over everything that led up to it was my first port of call. America is a relatively new country, founded on personal freedoms, but not after a violent claim-staking of someone else’s land and, as Puritans, fleeing from the UK (where religious freedom abounded) to have the freedom to persecute in the US. Really, then, it’s a country that’s founded on violence, pillaging, oppression and segregation. The Native Americans were exiled to live on reservations in the same way that African-Americans were segregated in classrooms and banned from cafes, cinemas and dance halls.

The UK had abolished slavery in 1833. It took the US 30 years to address the problem on their own soil, but more of an war tactic than anything borne out of noble idealism. Once Abraham Lincoln signed the Empancipation Proclamation, black slaves were then free to enlist in the North’s army in the Civil War (and many of them did). The Confederacy (South) decided to follow suit at the last minute. Guess who won?

It was a controversial decision at the time, but Lincoln knew that he needed some kind of military victory to sweeten the deal. Along came the Battle of Antietam – the North won. Lincoln basically threw up his hands and said that he’d promised God that if they won that Battle, he’d sign the proclamation. Aw, dang it. Can’t get God mad at you, doop de doo, guess I have to sign that proclamation, aw geez.

No-one challened the Emancipation Proclamation in court. There were no revolts in the street afterward, or post-signing lynchings.

A police officer takes Rosa Parks' fingerprints, 1955

But that wasn’t the end of it. Segregation was a big one. Rosa Parks was actually sitting in a “colored” section of the bus when she refused to give up her seat for a white man in 1955. Even the arresting officer said he “didn’t know” why he was arresting her, but that “the law’s the law”.

This was the lot of African-Americans – descendants of slaves who were forced over to the country, they were continued to be treated like second-class citizens, despite being citizens of the US. Slaves were given the right to vote in 1866 with the passing of the 14th Amendment, but they seemed to have no power. Being segregated in school didn’t just mean that you were sat at the back of the class – they were given less attention by schoolteachers, and had poorer access to the existing facilities that their white classmates had.

So what about the history of race relations and civil rights in the UK?

There was never any official segregation of any kind in the UK. Outdated attitudes of the day definitely led to forms of institutional racism, but there were never any “no coloreds” signs posted on the front of bars. When American soldiers came to England towards the end of WWII, they actually tried these tactics and were pretty much shut down (screw you, Eisenhower).

The Notting Hill race riots in 1958 sprang up from a growing disregard towards Caribbean migrant workers who were actually invited by the UK government to come here and work. Boosting a post-war economy, it also stirred up some long-forgotten Colonial-esque bigotry and resentment that these people were taking jobs instead of being enslaved into doing them.

We didn’t have a heroic, pioneering orator the likes of MLK Jr. We did have Paul Stephenson, a man who led a campaign against a Bristol bus company’s anti-non-white hiring policies. The bus company overturned their policies on 28 August, 1963. The same day that MLK Jr gave his “I Have A Dream” speech.  He also got a barman fired for refusing to serve him in a bar that banned non-whites. Still alive at the ripe old age of 79, he’s received an OBE, an honorary Masters degree and the Freedom of the City of Bristol (the first non-white to receive this honour).

So why is ignorance and prejudice that much more prevalent here, and less so in the UK? I’ve experienced more ignorance and heard more racist brain-farts in my few years living in the US than I have in a lifetime of living in England. Is it because Britons live in such a nanny-state that a woman on a pram can be (rightfully) arrested for shouting foul racial abuse on a tram? Or is it that common sense is just that more easily available to us because we’ve left our backwards, Colonial thinking behind? Or perhaps it’s just that dangerously ignorant morons don’t get into power, but rather harmless, progressive buffoons?

The UK is not perfect, and racial tensions are far from gone everywhere, but, there are charities, organizations and resource groups that seek to put an end to racism before it has a chance to take effect, and help people who have been victims of racism and racial abuse, Liberty being one of the bigger ones. You’ve got the Citizens Advice Bureau to point you in the right direction, such as reporting offensive online content to the Internet Watch Foundation. And if your case is big enough, there’s always the Equality and Human Rights Commission, the Court of Human Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights.

The US was founded on principles that all men were supposed to be created equal, but they quickly changed their minds on that one, and perhaps that’s where the fury at inequality came from. In the US, your civil rights resources are the feeble-bodied ACLU and Reverend Al Sharpton. But at least Bob Jones University finally lifted their ban on interracial dating.

In 2000.

Something tells me that LGBT rights and equality have a long way to go Stateside. It took a lot for this day to be recognized – North Carolina was the one of the first naysayers, and even John McCain actually voted against it. Japan celebrates it. But it’s good to know that, even though the UK doesn’t celebrate it,  I used to live in a country that acknowledges civil rights leaders from outside our tiny little enclave.

Statue of Martin Luther King, part of 20th Century Martyrs at Westminster Abbey

AnEnglishwomaninSalem in England


The last two weeks went by too quickly.

That first weekend of packing, organizing, last-minute gift-buying and remembering that I cannot wrap anything and then plonk it in a suitcase went by immeasurably slowly, though. Like a dolphin trying to run after a dinosaur.

On my last working day of the year, it turned out that no-one else from my team was in the office. I probably could have turned up whenever I felt like – perhaps a bit of shopping, grabbed a few coffees, maybe a mimosa and a crepe from Gulu-Gulu, then work from home with a beer using Coven’s free WiFi?

It was tempting. But fear of being caught honesty got the better of me and I left on time, actually turning up at the office earlier than usual. Why? Because no-one else in Salem seemed to be at the train station, either. Two weeks before Christmas and it was already starting to look like a ghost town.

But I got to spend time with the family. This was something I can never get in America. I can blog and complain all I like, but when I go home to England, there’s really no reason for me to blog at all.

I’ve had a cold for the past 2-3 months. So it’s probably not a cold anymore. The fact that I attempted to treat it with 2 days of leftover antibiotics actually made the damn bug stronger. But yes, it is a bacterial sinus infection (I’m not the kind of moron who treats colds with antibiotics), caused by having to commute and work around some rather thoroughly disgusting, unhygienic troglodytes.

I took a cue from my roommate and carried on with the painting, including some more sci-fi-themed Crimbo cards. The cheap bristles on from my cheapo brush were ideal for giving my Chewbacca a bit of a 3D effect. Take THAT, Georgie.

Scheduling time with friends and family took up so much of my time I felt like I wasn’t home enough, as in, inside the actual house. But everything had changed so much. My parents had taken up the carpet, taken down the shelves and taken out the old rotting wardrobe, and repainted the walls. Everything echoed a bit. My clothes were in piles everywhere. A bit creepy, like I was dead.

The living room had been cleared within 20 minutes of 6 people beginning it all (I supervised), old couches were thrown out and the entire layout/dynamic/TV placement of the whole room was turned around. The cat, having no idea where to sit now (as she’d been told to stay away from the cluttered area where the couches now sat), continued to sulk under the table until a box was offered next to the telly. But not before we put a Winnie the Pooh Christmas hat on her head.

"I hate you guys."

Speaking of the cat, as soon as I walked into the door, she stood at my feet, looked up at me, meowed a rather angry/impatient meow, and immediately punched me in the leg then bolted off like a lunatic.

(This is what she does when she wants to play)

Mince pies, Christmas, mulled cider, my birthday, video games, CAEK!!!11 and lots of dinners, lunches, shopping trips and Big Bang Theory marathons. It all went by too fast. If I ever get a salary increase/permanent job offer, I’d like to try to get back more often. I wasn’t jet-lagged coming back here (because it was a same-day arrival), but awfully so going to England. Even a long weekend or a week off scheduled around a bank holiday (US) would work. I miss it too much. It’s good to have somewhere far away to come back to, somewhere you know you belong.

Questions That Need Answers


It’s difficult to get answers on a lot of unfinished business I have left for the year. It’s like a list of New Years’ resolutions, but things that need to be done before the end of the year, and that aren’t fun and whimsical ways to kill a week.

1. What happens if you don’t have health insurance in Massachusetts?

The short answer is, you get fined. And if you refuse to pay the fine, then you might go to jail! If you’re on a high-enough income, you could afford the $600 a month program for a married couple that the MA Health Connector so helpfully recommends as the cheapest “Bronze” option (which doesn’t cover anything). This is the regular recommendation for “higher-earning families” because my husband and I make less than $1000 per year over the maximum income limit to be eligible for health insurance programs for low-income families.

Rents are disgustingly high here. Those income limits should be revised, but it doesn’t even matter – as a legal immigrant, I’m not eligible for low-income programs anyway! Regardless, I have no interest in going on “low-income” programs. There’s no shame in it, but it is such a ridiculously polarised view of personal finance – either you’re poor or you’re rich. Where is the fucking middle-class in America?


2. Why do I come down with flu-like symptoms every time it rains?

I have actually moved in with a friend of mine, thinking that the lack of heat and possible mould in her basement was making me sick. Everything I’ve read online seemed to point towards mould allergies (developing or existing) as the culprit. But I’ve since moved in with a friend, and she doesn’t have mould anywhere in her house. I am a wimp about the cold though – I tend to keep it warmer, but now that I’m sick, I can’t be trusted as a reliable temperature gauge, so I let her eat all my Nestle cookie dough. She’s so obsessed with it that hopefully she will get sick and know how it feels (just kidding). But I’ve been like this for a while, and the mystery is starting to get on my nerves. Usually I would see a doctor, but that is more of a privilege here.

In the only “developed” country in the world with NO commie pinko universal health care, the doctors most people see are WebMD or Yahoo! Answers. There is no NHS Direct website, no NHS hotline, and definitely no NHS, period. If I search “runny nose” and “sore throat” as symptoms I will discover I have everything from ragweed allergies to a CSF leakage. Most people get worked up into a panic because Dr Internet, the only doctor who doesn’t discriminate, is telling them they will all die.

My sinuses are worse than ever. It seems that the harder it rains, the more tissues I use up. Having gone through 2.5 boxes today, this proletariat is going to visit her doctor in the UK, where, as a citizen and still ordinarily resident of the UK, she is fully entitled to do so, for tests, consultations, medication and brand new organs if fucking necessary. Hopefully I can stick it out until then.

Behemot: In Soviet Russia, healthcare improves YOU. ...Because we spent $10 million reforming it in 2011.

3. Why do airlines jack up their prices willy-nilly?

I have always wanted an excuse to say willy-nilly in writing. But after four months of waiting around on my manager, I was finally given approval for some unpaid time off, so that I can go visit my family and friends for Christmas (and my birthday). I decided to wait until I could afford it.

The funny thing is, is that once you’ve saved up the right amount for a plane ticket home, the airline somehow senses this and doubles the price of your ticket. So instead of paying £372, I’m now being forced to pay £689. Thanks, Virgin Atlantic. Even though you offer seatback TVs and tiny little ice creams in the summer, the fact that I’m somehow saving money at this price by part-paying with air miles is too much for me to fathom. Though I do enjoy your cheeky advertising.

Sadly, I can’t afford it, and there’s a good chance that I might not actually be able to be with some of the most important people in my life for a couple of measly weeks. Which will leave me unemployed for 2 weeks, on my own, and unwell, with no medical insight. Merry fucking Christmas!


Salem’s Holiday Happenings…Sort of


House of the Seven Gables

Salem is a beautiful city. It makes such an effort to cram a variety of events into the Haunted Happenings calendar in October, and tourists stampede here in sage-seeking droves. You can’t swing a dead witch’s familiar without hitting something spooky or Hallowe’en-themed; it’s easy to pick at least one thing per day to do in October. It’s a really…happening time of year.

In rolls November for the lull. Fair enough – it’s getting colder, and that one day of Thanks means that everything is more family-centric, travel-centric and indoor-centric than touristy. Most of the tour companies and 3D haunted houses pack up shop for the season, and some realize that a month’s worth of takings isn’t enough for Essex St retail rent, and abandon ship entirely.

So during December, you’d think that a small town like Salem that knows how to party like a big city would get in on some of the over-commercialised adorably tacky Christmas gaudiness. You’d expect there to be tons of events: christmas parades, tree-decorating contests instead of pumpkin-decorating contests, or caroling performances instead of haunted houses.

Nope. None of that. The “32nd Annual Christmas in Salem” offers some tours of historic homes, and plugs for the Christmas Carol-themed Trolley Ride. While I didn’t get to see the former (although it seemed interesting), I’ll probably shell out $22 for the latter, just for lack of choice. Abysmally slim pickings from a small city (sorry, it still feels like a small town to me) that is so deeply mired in luring in tourists for one month out of the year, to essentially capitalize on atrocities that have nothing to do with $200-seances, cheesy ghost hunt tours or cat costume contests. Even though that last one (and many of the other events in October) were fun to attend, it seems that there’s nothing for us residents to enjoy once the Haunted Hubbubings dies down.

Something I had never done, even as a tourist, was to go to the House of the Seven Gables. Participating in the Christmas in Salem program (along with like two other businesses), they were offering sort-of tours of the house that is now next to the house where Nathaniel Hawthorne spent four years of his childhood (the house that was actually moved from a few streets over). It’s a big tourist attraction, and is near the ferry, an ice cream shop, two bars and the oldest candy shop in America.

This time of year, you can still wander through the house, sort-of guided (“go into this room now”), but the rooms are occupied by actors citing monologues from famous Christmas stories. The problem with monologues is that they are literally just one person talking. Not to you, but at you. In an old-timey voice in a bad accent saying old-timey prose/poetry.

So I got to listen to A Child’s Christmas in Wales being performed by a Cornish/Irish accent that was supposed to be Welsh, a rendition of The Night Before Christmas that lacked the genuine enthusiasm required for old-timey poetry recitations, Anne Frank with a wicked awesome New England accent and some Bahston-tahkin’ Ebeneezer Scrooge and Jacob Marley. The Little Women scene was OK. And we got to meet the unofficial resident cat:

Why do all long-haired cats insist on sleeping on paper?

For the Anne Fahkin’ Frank portion of the performance/tour, we had the option of entering the attic through the Secret Passageway, which was so narrow and winding that it freaked out every single senior citizen who was in our group (i.e. everyone but me):

Narrow, long and winding. Like your mum.

Later that evening we went to a Krampus-themed art show at The Fool’s Mansion. If you don’t know who Krampus is, click here. Summary: he’s a Nordic Christmas tradition, and is an evil, devil-like beast who actually hangs out with Father Christmas as his Bad Cop. If you’re nice, Father Crimbo gives you a gift; if you’re a bratty little arsehole, Krampus comes to steal your soul. People actually dress up as him as a holiday tradition. Look at all the fun he’s having here:

It’s the only suitably plausible way to goth up the Christmas season, so I would have been shocked if no-one in Salem hadn’t tried to get in on something like this. Like most art shows, most of what was on sale was horribly expensive and probably best for a niche audience (myself sadly included), but for us miserable cheapskates, almost every piece of proper artwork was condensed in postcard/Christmas card form. Drinks and snacks were free (unlimited mead, red wine and children’s souls), and a good time was had by all until approximately 2am (four hours after it was actually supposed to shut). I think the DJ wasn’t sure what he was supposed to play at a Christmas-themed Goth night in a shop selling Nordic-inspired holiday art, so he played the Edward Scisshorhands theme three times and then started to play the Pet Shop Boys (WHY is that considered Goth music here??).

Hello, December! :D


It’s December 1st, so that means it’s Christmas every day! There is one particular radio station in Boston that plays round-the-clock Christmas music beginning the day after Thanksgiving, so as a Brit I feel a little behind the times. There’s really no post-holiday breathing room, here; the stores were already carrying Christmas-themed flannel bedsheets during the second week of October (sadly, this carries forward when, halfway though December, you start seeing Valentine’s-themed crap).

One thing I was unable to find that readily was an advent calendar. In England, you can’t move without swinging a dead Selection Box; everyone and their mum has an advent calendar of some kind. It’s the perfect excuse to allot a daily morsel of chocolate (portion control, good for diets) and get into the holiday Christmas spirit.

I went everywhere searching for something that I had taken for granted all these years. All I could find in Walgreens was some dodgy-looking thing that looked as if someone had left it there from another store. None of the amazing chocolate shops or gift shops in town carried anything like this, and even the mall was a dead end (what a surprise). All I could find was this Whitman’s brand “chocolate countdown calendar” that had pictures of Snoopy all over it. I’ve yet to try it because I am currently hiding under the blanket from the freezing cold (was perfectly fine all day before I set foot back in this house).

Another thing I’ve been unable to find here over the years has been christmas crackers. I had a long conversation at work with a colleague who was astounded that I couldn’t seem to find any, because apparently, they had them in every supermarket. He said they were near the biscuits and cakes. Then there was a pause and I figured out he meant snack crackers. The only place I’ve ever, ever found them locally has been in Williams-Sonoma, who they are selling some pretentious toff Victorian-inspired bollocks for $20. For a pack of 6. SIX!

STR/AFP/Getty Images

I grew up celebrating Christmas – not because I was born in England, but because my parents themselves had grown up with their families celebrating all kinds of holidays, just because they knew a lot of people of different faiths. And they grew up in India! So to me, it’s interesting how different the holidays can be when moving from one English-speaking country to another.

Even though I’m heading back for Christmas, I’m still interested in what I can get here that I can also get in the UK. But I’m not interested in buying UK imports of things (there’s a reason Woolworths used to sell 99p crackers), I’m interested in the American take on those things. But the Christmas season is just beginning here – I’ve noticed that every business and public part of Boston had their decorations up starting today, and I’m seeing more and more houses on my street decked out with Crimbo lights. I know there’ll be loads more put up by this weekend.

Most people at my work have already bought their tree, set it up, and done all their Christmas shopping. I have yet to do any of those, even for the short portion of the holidays that I’m here. If I can get a tree like this, though, I might have to finally rent my own flat just to have a place to display something as awesome as that.

Happy Thanksgiving


Today is a day where every American forgets the violent invasion of the New World and enjoys a peaceful day off work with friends, family and freaking huge amounts of food. Basically, what us Brits do for Christmas.

My first ever Thanksgiving, the husband and I went to the mother-in-law’s for the day. I wasn’t working at the time, and my sister-in-law was driving us up with her kids and her partner. Being used to dressing smartly for Christmas, I ended up  being somewhat overdressed in a nice Julien Macdonald green number (OK, it was from his Debenhams collection) while everyone else was rocking Land’s End.

It also wasn’t my mother-in-law’s house; she was a live-in home care assistant for an elderly lady whose family lived up the road, but couldn’t be bothered to actually show up. So they had just left her alone for Thanksgiving. Charming. She was happy to have all of us (two of my husband’s other siblings came too), and it was a fun day of garden American football, playing in leaves, video games, pie-baking (four – cherry; apple; pumpkin and cherry-apple) and lots and lots of other food.

All of the vegetables were mashed and pureed – I thought this was for the elderly lady’s benefit, but it turned out that that really was a type of tradition. A little weird, especially considering that we had, well, failed to provide ourselves with any kind of turkey substitute, both of us being vegetarian.

Thanksgiving has been accepted as a family-centric tradition for a long time. More so than Christmas, but the idea still seems foreign to me for the most obvious reasons: we don’t have it in the UK, I don’t eat turkey and I have no family here. You’ve got the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade (a huge parade in NYC), an American football game and, again, a truckload of food.

The feast I made in 2009: vegetarian roast; caramelised butternut squash; chili-cumin roasted sweet potatoes; onion mash; apple-walnut stuffing (made from scratch); cranberry sauce; veggies; salad; pumpkin pie

Speaking of food, most of what I see on TV and read about what others make usually have ingredients regional to New England – cranberries, apples, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, yams and other gourds, butternut squash – all local fare. Other items such as pecan (pie), cornbread (stuffing) and Collard greens are Southern traditions that were spread by travellers. Other traditions are things like turducken, a mutant meat monster popularised by sports broadcaster and video game inspirer John Madden:

yep, that's turkey, duck and chicken.

But the fact remains that most traditional Thanksgiving food is largely influenced by New England traditions. Why? Because when the Pilgrims swanned into what they thought was India, they ran out of food (killing Native Americans and stealing their land is hungry work) because supplies were improperly organised, so the Native Americans kindly offered up a lot of their food to share, completely unaware that this random act of kindness would evolve into a holiday glossing over the origins of itself and bastardising the act in the first place. This has now become a non-religious, national holiday, which plays a part in why everyone and their mum and Atheist partner or Catholic sister-in-law or Wiccan cousin can all celebrate together.

This website is an excellent resource for the history of all things Thanksgiving, but in summary, the first few Thanksgivings in New England were based off of English harvest celebrations – funnily enough, nothing I’m used to seeing in England. Ever. Washington was one of the first Presidents to declare it a national holiday, and magazine editor Sarah Josepha Hale got Abraham Lincoln to  declare two yearly Thanksgivings, one being the last Thursday in November. After Roosevelt pushed it back by one week to lengthen the Christmas shopping season in the late ’30s, it was reinstated to the last Thursday of the month a few years later.

My husband’s family Thanksgiving gatherings have sort of died out for the time being, so yesterday I did what most English people do before a national holiday and got proper drunk. I spent most of the day sleeping off quite possibly the worst monster hangover I’ve ever had, and only woke up a few hours ago to watch Thanksgiving-themed TV episodes on Hulu.