Current home: Tarifa, Spain
Past overseas locations: UK, Netherlands, Israel, and a previous stay in Spain
Cyberspace coordinates: a lot of wind… (blog) and @robinjgraham (Twitter handle)
Most recent post: “Gran Bretaña” (December 21, 2011)
Where are you spending the holidays this year?
In Hampshire, England. My mother lives there now with her husband, as does my brother and his family.
What will you do when you first arrive?
Once all the greetings are out of the way I may well go for a walk. I’ll be in the town where I spent my adolescent years and there will be memories and perhaps one or two stories for my fiancée, who will be visiting for the first time.
What do you most like doing during the holidays?
TV off, lights off. Candles on, perhaps a fire. To sit in the near dark and talk; to feel connected to all the people who are doing that around the world and to those who have done it down through the centuries. I am not religious but something about gathering with loved ones in the depths of winter seems to run deep.
Will you be on or offline?
I will tell myself to be offline and will fail. Lessline? Halfline? Online Lite?
Are you sending any cards?
Don’t do cards as a result of a selfish and entirely misspent youth. Not going to start now.
What’s the thing you most look forward to eating?
Tricky. I don’t have much of a sweet tooth. If there’s goose I’ll be happy. Roast potatoes never hurt either.
Can you recommend any good books other expats or “internationals” might enjoy?
Ghosts of Spain (2008) is an account of a journalist’s (Giles Tremlett‘s) trips around the country in search of its hidden history, particularly with regard to the civil war and Franco era, and how the country has changed since that era ended with his death in the mid-seventies. It fills a gap that I would have thought was there for many expats in many countries; a chance to get under the skin of your adopted country in your own language.
Foreign Flavours is the second anthology from the online writers group Writers Abroad. The theme is food (and drink) as experienced by the expat, and the collection is nothing if not varied — from short stories to journalistic pieces to recipes; it’s a real kitchen companion. All of the proceeds from the book go to the Book Bus, a registered charity that aims to provide books to and increase literacy rates among children in the developing world.
If you could travel anywhere for Christmas, where would it be?
I was brought up on the premise that an ideal Christmas would involve snow and reindeer, so the notion of an isolated but cosy log cabin in the woods of Lapland has a distinct appeal. Family around me — great. Just my fiancée — better.
What famous person do you think it would be fun to spend some time time with over the holidays?
Richard Dawkins. We could pontificate on the merits of an atheist world view whilst getting tipsy on eggnog, pigging out on Advent chocolates and singing Christmas carols. I hear he does a mean rendition of “Silent Night,” and I’m sure he’d be good company.
What’s been your most displaced Christmas experience?
I spent one Christmas entirely alone in Holland. Broke. Cue violins — it was an episode in that misspent youth I mentioned. My least Christmassy Christmas.
How about the least displaced experience — when you’ve felt the true joy of the season?
When I was a child most Christmas cards, cookie tins and cake wrappers would, for some reason, feature images of snow-laden Bavarian countryside. Castles and cutesy villages with snowy candlelit windows in the darkness. So to find myself in Bavaria a few years ago with my fiancee’s folks, watching families sled down a nearby hill in the evening, attending midnight mass in a 14th century church with an exquisitely painted ceiling, sitting in the house with candles and glühwein and stollen; that would have to be the one that ticked all the boxes for me.
This Christmas coming will be special, too — a family gathering such as there hasn’t been for long time.
How do you feel when the holidays are over?
Honestly? Relieved, ready to get on with it!
On the first day of Christmas, my true love said to me:
AN IRISHMAN IN A PALM TREE!
STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s featured nomad (2/12) in our 12 Nomads of Christmas series.
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