Advent Calender 2013 – Dec 5th: Star Machine

04 Star Machine

The 2013 Advent Calender: For the 25 days of Christmas, I will be blogging each day about a miscellaneous thing I love. Not necessarily a big thing, not necessarily a small thing and not in any order.

I don’t know if you’re like me, but I like buying Christmas presents. I pride myself on being able to find something that is spot on perfect for the person you’re buying for. I don’t know where this has come from–when I was young it was definitely all about the receiving of presents that made Christmas exciting–but sometime around university it became so much more satisfying to be doing the giving.

John and I had been together for about nine months when we got to our first Christmas. In September, John had gone abroad to live in Belgium for the third year of his university course, so we’d seen each other only a handful of times since he left. It used to take me seven or eight hours, setting off from my university house in the early morning, taking the train to London, the Eurostar to Belgium, then negotiating the scary foreign-language-speaking Brussels terminal, and taking the cross-country to Mons. The journeys were great: I love trains, and I did more reading on the long trip than I did all year round. Plus, the whole thing felt like an adventure.

John didn’t feel quite the same. Mons was the arse-end of nowhere, remote and isolating, in a country where he had to constantly think in order to communicate. And I like to think the distance from me didn’t help.

I noted last year on the Advent Calender that at Christmas my Dad, otherwise pretty undemonstrative of affection all year round, used to provide a sudden slew of extravagant gifts for my mother. Every year it surprised me–and, by all accounts, her too–even though it was practically tradition. I seem to have inherited this, both its negative and its positive, and that year–2007–I determined to do the same. I couldn’t think of one specific, perfect gift, but instead put together a bag full of numerous small, well-chosen gifts.

John, the bastard, had to go and beat me at my own game. His present for me had been delivered, under cover of another housemates name, and hiding it in my house for weeks. His gift was so exactly what was right for me at the time that, in our six years together, it has never been beaten, from either side.

It’s an absurdly simple item, and yet:

photo (3)Right. A little underwhelming, you say. It’s the fault of the effusive introduction.

What we have hear, ladies and gentleman, is a star machine. Simple little machine: it projects a starfield across your ceiling. It’s galactically inaccurate, but pretty magical.

The thing is, I’m the kind of person who nests. The walls of my student room were not visible (and neither was the floor). Crammed with photographs, books, posters and a hell of a lot of fairy lights (I like fairy lights. Alot. This is my favourite shop.DSCF0254

So a star machine fit right in because a) it meant I could cover the ceiling, which I hadn’t got to yet, b) it lit up like my fairy lights and c) because it’s the kind of escapist, magical thing I love.


We’d known each other nine months. That wasn’t a short time, but it was still good going for producing a present that nailed my personality on pretty much all fronts. I was ridiculously impressed (and then, shortly thereafter, worried that my own presents wouldn’t measure up.)DSCF0906
The stars shone down on me all the way through university–another year and a half. At the end of the year, it proved a low-tech way of glitzing up the music video we shot for a showtune written by us and sung by all of our friends.SONY DSC

It’s gone with me from house to house, and five (!) houses down the line. The picture on the left was mine and John’s first flat, a place we still look back on as an oasis of happiness. In the following houses it ended up relegated to the study, but it got recovered when we moved North. It’s opposite me right now, projecting stars to match the ones I can see from my window, twinkling over Manchester.


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