The Long Night

Chicago, Illinois. Downtown - 2018 by M Dalby

* Game of Thrones Season 8

* Chicago's 6 month winter

* SAD, and general depression

Game of Thrones spoilers ahead.

So many awesome movies have been filmed in Chicago: Ferris Bueller's Day Off; Batman Begins / The Dark Knight; Home Alone; Uncle Buck; The Fugitive; and My Best Friend's Wedding, to name just a few. A simple Google search will unearth a glut of other great movies made in Chicago, not to mention the television shows, comedians, and writers this city has produced - "Daa.... Bears", anyone?

Terrible Segway Alert!

One fantastic show that is not made in the Windy City is HBO's adaptation of G.R.R. Martin's, 'A Song of Ice and Fire' series of novels - A Game of Thrones.

Game of Thrones - HBO 2019

I came to A Game of Thrones late, like a lot of wonderful additions to my cultural life. I had never heard of Carl Sagan until I was 30 years old. Shocking that a physics and philosophy geek could go three decades without hearing the famous 'Pale Blue Dot' speech, or watching the masterpiece that is "Cosmos".

The Rough Cut TV production, "People Just Do Nothing" was already three seasons old by the time I watched it and realized that it wasn't a shite documentary about a load of southern chavs at all, but a masterfully written, performed, and produced piece of television which parodies (and accurately reflects) the lifestyle of the British underclass. Characters like DJ Beats, MC Grindah, Chabuddy G, and Lady Miche do in fact exist, and those characters are expertly observed. At the other end of the spectrum, The Thick Of It, is a masterclass in writing and improvisation which I didn't discover until after the final season had aired.

People Just Do Nothing - BBC (Rough Cut)

Wheeling 'round Westeros

I finally watched Game of Thrones in May 2017, and like many others I fell in love. I was hooked by the vivid characters, hyper-violence, and political intrigue. I was enthralled by the frenzied way it subverted TV tropes, and killed off main characters mid season. From that moment Jaime pushed Bran from the tower in episode one we knew this show was different. Later, I became spellbound by the rich world-building and magical elements. I watched every single episode, finishing a binge marathon to catch up in time to watch the second half of season 7 'live' when it aired in the summer of 2017. Then something devastating happened - season 7 finished.

For the first time ever I was forced to wait. When the Red Wedding ended I immediately watched the next episode to see the aftermath. When Ned Stark was decapitated I could see straight away if Ariya got away. I didn't have to wait a week. Or worse, a year. When Jon Snow was branded a traitor and murdered by his own Night's Watch brothers I was stunned, but only for so long as it took me to load up the next episode. Can you imagine seeing that scene and having to wait a year? Well, most people had to.

It's always a little depressing when you finish a box-set run to catch up, then have to wait for the next installment. Because the next season of GOT is the last, effectively the third act of the story, there are huge action set-pieces to film and edit. The amount of Visual FX work on this last season will be great. Bringing to life a huge army of zombies, and three dragons, is no small task. Even removing a mustache from an actor after shooting pick-ups can be 'Super' expensive and arduous.

So I have filled the last 12 months or so with as much GOT material as possible. I started reading the novels, downloaded the audio books, read the supplementary literature, and watched hundreds of hours of YouTube videos, which dissect, discuss, and theorize on the outcome of this epic tale.

We are closer than ever to that final season now, with it looking like a Spring 2019 release. There is one thing standing between me and the finale, however - winter.

Winter is here.

A Meterologist's Dream/Nightmare

For those of you who are British, you will no doubt recognize a fellow Brit's obsession with the weather. It's our number one 'go-to' topic for small-talk, and this town begs for comment. The joke goes:


You can't have all four seasons in the same week.


Hold my beer...

There is a mysterious phenomenon here called 'the lake effect'. It refers to Lake Michigan and the effect that body of water has on the weather in Chicago. I've tried to understand it but I'm still at a loss. It's super hot, say 34C.... Lake effect. It's super cold, say -23C... Lake effect. Excessive snowfall... Lake effect. I'm not entirely sure how the lake does all this, so for now let's just say it's 'magic'.

Lake Michigan, Chicago, IL

Last winter was my first, and I survived. There were weeks where the temperature never rose above -10C. Almost every other day was so brutally cold you would get frostbite within 15 mins of exposure. The hairs in my nose would freeze rock hard within seconds of going outside. I had two pairs of gloves on at one point, and still got frost bite on my fingers. Add this cold to the dark, the long dark teatime of the soul (as it were), and it becomes tough for me.

Seasonal Affective Disorder

I am one of those people whose mood is greatly affected by the amount of daylight they get. For as long as I can remember I've felt a noticeable change in mood during winter. I just feel more tired and hopeless at that time of year, it seems like just as Westeros is bracing for the long night, so am I.

Ask anyone who has suffered from depression and they will tell you just how hope-zappingly tiring it can be. How advice like, "just cheer up" is like telling a penguin to "just flap it's wings"... It's a chocolate bar, it ain't gonna fly. So, like millions of others, I've tried various strategies to lift my mood. Substances, mindfulness, meditation, exercise, watching comedies, and planning for the summer - and that's where I have most success.

Throughout my life, whenever I have written down tasks into a list, broken down into sub-categories - baby steps, I've been able to stay focused, happy, and fulfilled. Maybe it's a control thing. Or perhaps it's the focus that distracts me. Whatever it may be, I intend to do the same this winter.

To get me through, here is my Winter 2018 survival plan.

1 - Network more (I'm so shy I struggle with this).

2 - Hit the gym three times a week.

3 - Re-draft my feature screenplay, "The Unforgiving Minute".

4 - Finish building my website.

5 - Turn my poem, "Purple Moons" into a narrated, visual story.

6 - Plan and shoot a short film for entry into the 2019 film competition circuit.

As you can see it's all work related. At 37 years old, moving from teaching to media, I have no time to waste.

This is what helps to get me through the long night - productivity.... I have no dragons, after all, and right now in the Northern Hemisphere - winter is most definitely coming.

Do you suffer from SAD? How do you manage the condition? Are you a GOT fan? Who will sit on the Iron Throne at the end of the story?

Images: BBC; HBO

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