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Sunil Peck

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Sunil is a journalist based in London. He supports Manchester United, and says he will never forget the time he answered his mobile phone to be greeted by the unmistakeable Scots burr of Sir Alex Ferguson.

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Winter Wonderland

24th June 2003

Christmas is coming at long last.
I've been looking forward to it with boyish enthusiasm for months, and even though I've not been to any Christmas parties yet, I'm brimming over with joy and festive cheer. This jubilation is unusual for me, because this has been the first Noel I've looked forward to in donkey's years.

I know a lot of blind people who dread Christmas, complaining that they keep getting cards that talk when opened or that have tactile pictures on the front. They moan that year after year they're given CDs for presents, by friends who seem to assume that music is the best gift a blind person can receive. I've not experienced this though, and normally end up getting pretty good stuff on the day.

The most important aspect of the festive season is, of course, the presents people give you. However, by the time I hit the age of sixteen I had enough money to buy all the clothes and gadgets I previously relied on Santa to bring me. So all the anticipation of being bought things I would not otherwise get my hands on at Christmas, disappeared in the blink of a Little Drummer Boy's eye.

This year is different though, because I'm about to jet off to New York for a few days break with my brother. I've splashed out on the trip so it's not a present from anyone; but for as long as I can remember, going to New York is something I've always dreamed of doing. I've always thought of it as some kind of mythical, magical place. I've yearned to go to the Big Apple in the same way I used to yearn to hang out in Toy Town when I read the Noddy books at school. I just can't wait to hit Central Park, Broadway and the rest.

Although I'm off in a few days, I haven't yet worked out exactly what I'll do when I get there. I just know it'll be great. I've been speaking to people who've spent time there and the more I hear, the more excited I get about touching down at JFK. They all gush about a fast-moving and vibrant metropolis teeming with people, bars and restaurants from all over the world.

Since booking the trip a couple of months ago I've thought about little else. While wedged between someone's shoulder and a briefcase on a packed rush hour tube the other week, it struck me that the way I've been lusting to be in New York now is similar to how I used to lust for Christmas Day as a kid. It's all about an overwhelming sense of anticipation. We've been planning this trip for over a year, but our jobs have prevented us from sorting anything out until now. I've been spending hours surfing New York-related websites in an effort to plan exactly what we should do when we get there. Back in the days before we could afford a trip to New York, we used to have endless discussions about what we should ask Santa to bring us for Christmas. Then in the days leading up to the big day, we would spend hours foraging in wardrobes and rooting under beds around the house hunting for hidden presents.

We had a great time hunting, but we were hopeless at it and only ever found a small number of the things we'd eventually unwrap on Christmas Day. Of course, that meant that the day always turned out to be a bigger thrill than we had anticipated! I'm really hoping that New York surpasses all our expectations too.

Whatever we do stateside, I'm sure we'll return with a sack full of prezzies and skyscraper-size credit card bills. I'm also sure that any prezzies we buy will not be as good as the toy helicopter I got for Christmas when I was eight. It was the perfect present. Unexpected, lethal and it made my mum really angry. It was fairly small as I remember it, but it had a large round rotor blade on the top. It slotted into a launch pad with a winder on the side. The winder hooked up to the rotor blade through the bottom of the helicopter, and the idea was to get the rotor blade spinning fast by turning the winder quickly before propelling the helicopter into the air. The rotor blade was bright green and I used to duck down close to it to see it whizzing around. Predictably, a couple of times I got too close and gashed my lip on the spinning blade. I didn't care though, because I got a huge buzz from flying the helicopter through the living -room. It crashed into the Christmas tree, tore decorations off the wall and, to my mum's relief, came to a sorry end just before the new year after crashing into the lamp shade, dropping onto the coffee table and finally snapping in two.

But enough about toys getting smashed up because 'tis the season to be merry. I can't wait until I'm walking in a New York wonderland ... and I hope you have a rock 'n' roll Christmas too.

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