Hey folks…how are you all doing riding the Christmas Crazy Train?
The year is drawing to a close, and here in Antipodes that means we’re nearing the end of the school year too. Some kids have already finished, though mine don’t have their last day until next week.
For me, this week’s stops on the Crazy Train include/d a wedding (congratulations again to the blissfully happy couple), a presentation day for Miss Malaprop (who took out her class English award — hooray!) and The Bloke’s Office Christmas party. It’s been great celebrating milestones and achievements, virtually and occasionally in person. Despite being an introvert, I have genuinely enjoyed greeting familiar faces I’ve not seen since Lockdown ended and meeting new people, too.
It might just be me, but it feels like being in Lockdown for 17 weeks straight actually made my local community stronger. More connected. Definitely happier to see each other. And even far more likely to strike up a conversation with a total stranger (especially if it’s outdoors).
And I like it!
It could be that we’re getting better at reading each others’ facial expressions over the tops of face masks. Maybe we’re being forced to notice what other people are truly telling us when we look into their eyes. Or we may be more likely to talk about the things that really matter to us, being far more well acquainted with what they are having been denied them for so long.
Perhaps it’s premature (particularly given what happened here on the Northern Beaches last year), but I can honestly say I’m looking forward to Christmas, to seeing family and friends. I’ve ordered the Christmas ham and we’ve even sampled some of the local butcher’s turkey and cranberry sausages — and we don’t mind if we do that again, either!
December 2021 feels very different, not only because we are living in a rental property while our house is being rebuilt, but also because we’re making do without our usual utterly ridiculous colour themed profusion of baubles, lights, wreaths and other decorations. I’ve caught myself enjoying the simplicity of being able to walk around the house without crashing into festive ornaments (or, more accurately, obsessively rearranging them if someone has dared to move them).
The Christmas Crazy Train I used to ride made so many stops they made me dizzy. This year, with inspiration from one of my favourite writers, Trent Dalton, I am allowing my cheeseball heart to guide me — to figure out what’s really going to make me happy while keeping me and my family safe. If I can’t realistically fit something in, I’m allocating time for it in the New Year, because time is what I want to spend with people, particularly when we were unable to do that for so long.
And so, as I prepare for next week’s stops on the Christmas Crazy Train, which include a livestream of Marvel Girl’s presentation day and various other festivities, I’m letting that cheeseball heart open up and feel light.
I’m writing this not so long after summarising my December Delights, the posting of which was delayed by the desolation I felt when the beautiful place in which I live went back into lockdown. As time has passed I am learning, yet again, to sit tight without a fight, and to remind myself – as some insightful wag commented – that people from the Northern Beaches have been practicing their whole livesnot to leave the Northern Beaches. I am prompted, yet again, to recall how boundlessly fortunate we are to live here: residents of vibrant yet peaceful neighbourhoods, surrounded by abundant natural beauty, and bordered by the mighty Pacific Ocean in all its majesty.
And as I’ve willed myself to turn my attention to delight, I’ve found – as I have consistently observed throughout this yearlong process of observing the delightful – that actively choosing to look for things which inspire wonder and bring me joy, however fleeting, brings me greater contentment and inner peace.
It’s not an unexpected discovery.
But it’s still an insight I will carry with me into the new year, along with a (sometimes ironic) appreciation that even before I had any inkling how 2020 would unfold, I chose to follow and notice delight in all its forms during this year, the most unusual in which I’ve ever had the privilege to live.
I’m also not surprised to see that the majority of the delights I have selected as my Top Five for the year relate back to my First Principles, which I articulated many years ago now in a post I called The Wellspring: words, music and food. To these, I would now add the recognition of delight, in all its forms.
And so, without further ado, here are my most precious delights of 2020…
Looking back over my year of delights, I notice that there are not many things that have made my list…unless of course they are foodstuffs, such as Chocolate Croissants and Oysters (and yes, those capitals are entirely necessary). But I have to admit there is one thing, one object of considerable bulk and immense importance, that has made its way into my life this year and which did, upon arrival, and has in all the intervening time since, brought me enormous joy and satisfaction.
It’s my new refrigerator.
His name is Fillipé, and he is our brand new sleek stainless steel fridge. I had been wanting him for a very long time, and now that he is here I love everything about him: that the fridge compartment is on top and the freezer drawers are at the bottom, that on the inside he is well lit and glass shelved and spacious, that he is oh so quiet…the list goes on. Opening Fillipé’s door is always a pleasure…it’s like opening a chocolate box, except my fridge is usually full of fruit and vegetables, and glass bottles standing in gleaming rows, and – well, it’s easy to wax lyrical over something so ordinary when you have a friend like Fillipé Fridge, the most delightful appliance I have ever owned.
Being Alcohol Free
At the time of writing this post, I will have gone without alcohol for almost an entire year. I kicked off 2020 with a desire to do things differently, and one of the items highest on my list was to reset my relationship with alcohol. You see, I’m a finisher: if a wine bottle is open, I’m highly likely to see it as my civic duty to ensure it’s finished by the end of the evening. This was true even if I was at home alone, enjoying a quiet glass of vino by myself once the kids had gone to bed. Or even before they’d gone to bed. And so, on 1 January 2020, I resolved not to touch a drop of the demon drink and to see how long I lasted.
Well folks, I’ve lasted far, far longer than I thought I would – ALL YEAR! And along the way I discovered, much more swiftly than I ever thought possible, that I really didn’t need alcohol in my life at all. I’m perfectly happy without it, and feel very comfortable with my decision to eliminate it from my life in 2020. I am also learning to accept other people’s reactions when I say I’d prefer not to have a drink – many and varied as these have been.
I’ve stuck to my decision, feel ever so much better for it (mentally and physically), and that in itself has been a true delight.
Receiving a Negative COVID Test Result
Speaking of being free of things, I would have to say that in 2020 one of the greatest delights you can ever receive is the SMS alerting you to the fact that your most recent COVID test is negative. Given that I am writing this post during a lockdown and waited four hours the other day to get tested (along with eleventy-million other people on the Northern Beaches), I can tell you that receiving the negative result which allows you to venture back out of doors – the wonder, the delight! – is a truly magical thing. You could probably have seen my frenzied fist pump from space.
I should also add that I am also beyond grateful to live in a part of the world where we have excellent access to free of charge testing (Sydneysiders have done over 300,000 tests in the past week – go us!), and that New South Wales also has amazing health workers and contact tracers who go above and beyond to stop the spread of the insidious virus that has turned the world upside down this year.
Cillian Murphy’s Limited Edition
It’s no secret that I am a Cillian Murphy fan – the man is pure class. But in this instance it’s not his brilliant acting that has brought me delight, or his many and varied reading recommendations, but his love of music. Every so often, BBC Radio 6 asks Cillian to guest DJ – whether it’s filling in for Guy Garvey when Elbow goes on tour or, more recently, when they’ve asked him do a Midnight-2am shift that he prerecords from his basement in Dublin and shares with the rest of the world — and when he does, the results are impressive.
The music Murphy includes in his playlists is a truly eclectic mix, but that suits me down to the ground. In addition to bringing spoken word pieces and music new and old to my ears, I’ve been surprised to hear him throw in bits and pieces I listen to often and had (possibly mistakenly?!) thought were obscure – from Spiritualized’s Ladies and Gentlemen We are Floating in Space to instrumental tracks like Sophie Hutchings’ Tail Lights and so very many more. Murphy’s musical knowledge is encyclopaedic and I’m always utterly delighted when his playlists pop up on the airwaves.
Sunshine Over Sea
I love living close to the ocean. We are saltwater people around here, folks who revel in the many splendours of the sea. Some of us need to immerse ourselves in it, others are content to sit and look at it, but many of us need to at least catch a glimpse of it as we go about our daily whirl.
One of the delights I have savoured most this year has been driving around a particular bend near where I live, following the road as it curves upward until – at the crest of the hill, not less – the ocean appears and stretches before me in all its glory, all the way to the horizon. Often, at the time of day when I make this journey, the road I’m travelling appears to merge with a vibrant path of sunshine lighting up the surface of the sea. Would that I could keep driving onto that golden road instead of sticking to the tarmac beneath my wheels!
On one particularly memorable drive during this unforgettable (for all the wrong reasons) year, I happened to be listening to Gang of Youths’ song The Deepest Sighs, the Frankest Shadows as I made my morning drive. The music begins quietly enough, but it built to a crescendo just as I drove that curving road and crested the hill, exploding into its chorus as the sunlit ocean overwhelmed my view:
‘Cause not everything means something, honey So say the unsayable Say the most human of things And if everything is temporary I will bear the unbearable Terrible triteness of being…
It’s a memory I will cherish, and one that reminds me – almost every time I turn up that hill – that if everything is temporary (and I genuinely suspect it is), then welcoming and noticing delights may well be our best way of anchoring ourselves in the present, of bearing the unbearable, of making sense of this strange thing we call life.
We all have different ways of making sense of our place and time on this planet, and I thought it fitting to end this post by including a photo capturing the same view I just described that was taken by a friend of mine, whose photography has also brought me delight this year. I asked to share this particular picture because it depicts the glimmering beginnings of the road the sun paints across the sea each day, the one I would love to keep driving onto…but if you check out his Instagram page @frank_see_fotos you can lose yourself in a wealth of images, each one more beautiful than the last. I can’t think of a lovelier way to spend Boxing Day.
I hardly expected to be writing this from yet another lockdown…yet here we are, stuck at home during the week before Christmas, wanting to be with our loved ones and hoping we might be able to leave our places of residence before December 25th rolls around.
Silver linings feel like they are hard to come by these days, especially on the Northern Beaches of Sydney. And yet, even though the current public health order means I now won’t be able to be with my mother on her 70th birthday next week, I am grateful we are not in Fiji as we had planned to be – especially with Cyclone Yasa leaving a trail of destruction through the islands where we and so many other Australians love to spend holidays.
It has taken me two days to work through feelings that have run the full gamut from genuine dread to garden variety anxiety, and now I am finally ready to turn my thoughts towards the things that have delighted me during December – well, at least prior to 5:00pm on 19 December 2020. I share them in the hope they bring you something resembling joy, and that might you discover delight in the small details that are so often overlooked.
So here, in no particular order, are my December delights:
I plonked myself down on the lounge in front of the TV the other night, a list of things to do before the school year ended scrolling endlessly through my head, and found myself watching a short piece on Australian Story entitled “To Russia, With Love”. It featured the MC and choirmaster of Dustyesky, Australia’s premiere genuine fake Russian choir. Based in the Northern NSW town of Mullumbimby (known to choir members as Mullumgrad), the men of Dustyesky sing in Russian – which they neither speak nor understand – and have made quite the splash around the world, and more specifically across Russia itself. If you fancy fifteen minutes of fun and feeling good, settle in and watch the boys tell their story in a combination of impeccable fake Russian and broad Australian accents here:
Pants with Pockets
I don’t know a single dress-wearing person who, when complimented on their attire, fails to announce “It’s got pockets!” if indeed, their garment does possess such magical accoutrements. Pockets! Who knew they would make anyone feel so good…
Well, as it turns out, savvy active wear producers knew and, after several years of envying strangers in the street with mobile phones casually tucked into their exercise tights, I have finally joined their number. Hoorah! I am now the proud owner of a pair of black tights with not one, but two exterior pockets, as well as pair of super comfortable shorts which feature pockets of the more regular variety. I can now participate in a bunch of summer activities far more stylishly than I’ve managed to before…just as soon as they let me out of the house…
Having a Facial
About a week before the school year ended my skin was feeling patchy (well, let’s be honest…I was feeling a bit patchy, if the truth be told, and I wasn’t in the mood to talk about it). What I needed, I told myself, was a facial – but I didn’t want it to be with anyone I knew. Any kind of talking while a treatment was in progress was not going to cut it for me at this late stage of the year and so, on a whim, I booked myself in for a Signature Facial at a salon I very rarely frequent.
It was perfect. The beautician, to her credit, asked me a few basic questions and then allowed me to luxuriate for an hour, pampering me in complete silence. I felt more deeply relaxed afterwards than I normally would after sleeping for ten hours. And my skin? Much, much better…thanks for asking…
Grid Lines on Giftwrap
OK, OK…this is a delight for all those who get a genuine kick out of wrapping Christmas presents. I will say, unashamedly and unabashedly, that I love wrapping gifts: I love the feel of the paper creasing beneath my fingers, the whizzing sound the scissors make as they make the curling ribbon do its thing, and – ultimately – the look of a beautifully, attentively wrapped present.
So, with these salient facts at the forefront of your mind, imagine my delight (complete, utter, undying) when I discovered that the wrapping paper I had purchased for Christmas this year had grid lines on the reverse side of the paper. Be still, my beating heart! Now, I’m a pretty dab hand at cutting a straight line, but GRID LINES! Wonder of wonders…whoever came up with that idea should be given a medal at the very least. An Oscar for Best Performance. Possibly even a Nobel Prize. I can’t love this idea enough.
The Christmas Tree
I’ve written before about our tradition of creating a new colour scheme for Christmas each year, and it will now go down in family folklore that the Year We Were in Lockdown the tree was decorated in white, gold and hot pink. The smell of pine needles has permeated the house, and we have carried the decorative theme through from the hall table to the piano top and on to the tree itself. The Angel Shazza has taken up residency at the top, presiding over what may yet been the most subdued Christmas we have ever had, but still reminding us that even in the darkest hour there is hope.
So there you have it, friends: five December Delights for this most unusual of years.
I would love to hear yours, if you have them…feel free to share them in the comments, or to pass this on to someone who needs it.
Wishing you all a very safe, happy and healthy Christmas,
Clearly the former POTUS follows my humble blog and can’t wait for MY Best of 2019 Lists….
Barack Obama tweeted his best books of 2019 today.
Because he is Barack Obama (and even though we live a considerable distance across the Pacific, don’t we wish we were still seeing a whole lot more of him), he simply put up a list of what he thought were his best reads of the year. No doubt book sales will hit stratospheric heights momentarily…
Now, as any of you follow this blog with any semblance of regularity may know, this is the time of year when I, also, typically put fingers to keys and let you know what my favourite books, songs and viewings were of the year. And while I cannot even begin to pretend to operate in the same league as Barack Obama (I suspect it sufficient, at this point, that we reside on the same planet), those of you who follow this blog already know that this year had not entirely gone to plan. That said, previous years did not exactly go to plan, but sometimes we need to learn lessons more than once to make them really sink in…
So far, December 2019 has brought us the end of the school year, more Christmas parties than we care to mention, a special outing to Cirque du Soleil (magnificent and something we would highly recommended were it not for the fact that we saw their final Sydney show of Kurios), and a godawful lingering case of the flu — which has now metamorphosized into equally lingering head colds that require us to take a family sized box of tissues wherever we go, even if it is only to the beach less than one kilometre from our front door.
And so…yes, I know, I’m running late on all these posts and won’t get them done in the next day and a half before New Year’s…I will be letting you know what my Best Of 2019’s were in — yes, you guessed it…
Because good things come to those who wait.
Happy New Year, y’all!
And I have lists. You know I do…lists of my final top 5’s and shortlists and even thematic lists (though they may not make the final cut — you’ll just have to wait and see).
With every best wish and several tenterhooks to hang off,
As 2019 draws to a close, I’ve been looking back on the past twelve months and trying — as I tend to do in this little patch of cyberspace — to make sense of it all. Like all years, there have been moments of achievement and moments of challenge, but if I’m totally honest there’s one thing that symbolises 2019 for me: the Odd Sock.
I’m an organised person, which is both a gift and a curse to those who live with me. For the vast majority of my life, socks of all kinds have been carefully kept in pairs. Some of my friends have been known to tease me for hanging socks with their pairs on the clothes line. Needless to say, those same friends find it endlessly amusing that I have designated rows on the clothes line for each family member so I can sort the laundry as I fold it into the washing basket, which quite obviously enables me to get the family’s laundry sorted much faster than they can mutter things like “anally retentive”.
Now, I would normally be completely comfortable with being an object of house-keeping ridicule were it not for the awful fact that I currently have an entire drawerfull of odd socks in my house.
Never have I ever been beset with such a proliferation of single socks! Some are sports socks, some are ankle socks, most are white socks, and noneof them are my socks. And yet, there they are…more than a dozen of them, a collection that would liberate a small army of house elves from servitude were they to discover them.
My sense of order is somewhat offended by the presence of an entire tribe of single socks residing in a drawer usually reserved for stationery and postage stamps, but after my initial dismay wore off, I have to admit a part of me is quietly relieved.
For some odd reason, at some point during this year the sight all the odd socks reminded me of a quote from Melinda Gates’ powerful book The Moment of Lift:
I suspect most of us, at one time or another, say “I quit”. And we often find that “quitting” is just a painful step on the way to a deeper commitment.
This year has thrown a bunch of changes and logistical challenges at me, and I’ve had to find ways to adapt and adjust. I’ve had to let some of my (probably too high) self-imposed standards slip a little, and find new ways of caring for myself so I can care for my family. I’ve had to encourage my kids to step up and do things for themselves, which has had the flow on effect of them becoming increasingly self-confident and self-sufficient.
I’ve also had to let the odd socks stay single.
At the end of the day — and the end of the year, for that matter — I am at peace with the odd socks in my life. I can laugh at the irony of so many socks being unpaired, despite my desire to “keep it together” on every personal and professional front. I am content to embrace the odd sock as a symbol of my deeper commitment to my family and myself, and to know that the way we measure success — in happiness and time spent together — is what works best for us.
And if an odd sock is the worst thing I have to put up with in life, then life must be pretty darn good.
2014: Tropical Vibes Christmas in hot pink, tangerine and gold.
I’m a happily married woman — let me state that, straight up, seeing as though the title of this post clearly implies otherwise. The Bloke and I have muddled along together for the better part of two decades, and we’re planning to do so for a lot longer yet.
But there are two other men, other than The Bloke, who have made me the happily married woman I am today. Two men who, like my dear husband, have seen me at my best and my worst. Two men who have witnessed me lose it with my kids more times than I would like to admit, but who have also seen those same children grow to be the beautiful, self-sufficient and (mostly) polite creatures they are today. Two men who have have seen my house look like a tornado has just swept through or like a sparkling jewel where everything is clean and in its ever-so-right place.
2015: Traditional Christmas in red and forest green.
And now, dear friends, (sob….choke…splutter) the time has come for these two men to leave me.
These two men — architects of my continued happiness and transformers of my humble home — are, of course, are my Cleaners.
(Apologies if my tears have actually permeated cyberspace and are pouring through whatever screen you are reading this on…)
To be fair, The Cleaners and I have broken up before. There were a few weeks here, sometimes a few months, when they were too busy, or needed a break, or whatever it was — but this time, this time, it’s for real.
Don’t get me wrong.
2016: Nordic Christmas and the first appearance of the Angel Shazza.
I know in my heart the time has come for The Cleaners to move on. Truly.
Just as they have witnessed my kids growing up (OK…and me…they had to see me doing a whole pile of that growing up business, too), I’ve seen them transform, too.
I’ve watched them grow up, get real (other) jobs, ride rocking rollercoasters of relationships, come out, get promoted, break up (luckily that one wasn’t for real), reunite, get clearer and clearer on what they want in life, get promoted again (and again), and go back to studying. I’ve seen them do difficult things, like navigate visa restrictions in the era before marriage equality, and bury parents and loved ones, and do so with grace and courage. I’ve seen them succeed in becoming amazing, well-rounded, successful and brilliant young men.
2017: Tiny “We’re Going to Fiji” tree in rainbow ombre to celebrate Marriage Equality
And I guess that’s where we come to the heart of the matter: they are not The Cleaners any more.
They’re truly awesome human beings, one of whom is even more obsessed with Christmas (specifically: themed decorating) than I am.
Seriously — we begin discussing possible colour schemes in October and send each other slow-motion video reveals of our fully decorated trees…and let’s not even get into our long-standing debate over real versus artifical…
And that is why this post is adorned with the trees of the past five Christmases in all their radiant glory, under which there has always been a gift for each of them, and there always will be.
Because they’re not The Cleaners any more. They’re part of the family.
2018: Thrice-decorated (because it fell) gigantic tree in orange, turquoise, silver and lime.
Time flies, as any wag will tell you, when you’re having fun.
But here in Sydney, as our glorious summer holidays are drawing all too swiftly to a close, my mind has turned to Virgil’s original words, written in his Georgics centuries ago.
Sed fugit interea, fugit inreparabile tempus, singula dum capti circumvectamur amore.
Fast flies meanwhile the irreparable hour, as point to point our charmed round we trace.
VIRGIL trans. Rhoades
We have had a fortunate summer, sun-filled and surf-drenched, with barefoot days and balmy nights.
And while the clocks sometimes seemed to slow during the past six weeks, time — inescapable, irretrievable time — has slipped steadily, stealthily by.
I mean it’s there, if I look for it. I know I could find snippets of it between the pages of the dozen novels I’ve read since Christmas, or catch a glimpse or two between beach towels flapping in the breeze on the washing line. There’s probably a drop or two left in a wineglass on a windowsill somewhere, and a few morsels thrown in with the leftover salads in the fridge. I will no doubt discover a few more bits in with the various brightly coloured cards and plastic pieces of board games we’ve played during the heat of the day, or find some slipped into the pocket of one of my kids’ shorts with a couple of movie ticket stubs.
But now, at the end of my favourite month of the year, there is only a day or two left before school resumes for my girls — a new start for one, a familar return for the other — and I will admit feeling slightly nostalgic and a little bereft. The irreparable hour has well and truly flown, and I am reminded of my favourite childhood picture book, Robert McCloskey’s Time of Wonder, about another summer, spent by another family comprising, as ours does, of a mother, father and two sisters, far away in Maine.
I know this feeling is universal and, ironically, timeless: Virgil wrote about it in the first century and McCloskey was still picking up the theme in the twentieth.
But I also know that there will be a certain heaviness in my heart and a lag in my step when we wend our way from point to point on our own charmed round this evening…down to the beach for one last swim as a family, and back home again for a BBQ and a quiet glass of wine.
That charmed round isn’t going anywhere — and I am well aware we are beyond lucky to live where we do — but it’s never quite the same once school has started again, and the long summer days have lost their laziness, and a perhaps a little of their loveliness.
Take a farewell look at the waves and sky. Take a farewell sniff of the salty sea. A little bit sad about the place you are leaving, a little bit glad about the place you are going. It is a time of quiet wonder — for wondering, for instance, where do hummingbirds go in a hurricane?
Choosing my Word of the Month for December was an absolute no-brainer: it is, and could only be, CELEBRATE!
We seem to have a special investment in Christmas (particularly) and the Festive Season (more generally) here in the Southern Hemisphere. Our Christmases may not be white, fur-lined or fir-filled as they are in all the traditional carols, but here they are blue-skied, sunny and trimmed with sand and surf.
More importantly, they represent completion as much as they do birth. There is a real sense of “we made it“… the school year is over, workplaces tend to shut down, and everyone gets swept up in a whirl of carol nights and Christmas parties celebrating the end of another year.
We all watch Love Actually for the umpteenth time, despite the fact our winter coats have long been stashed away. Summer arrives, in all its splendour.
Stone fruits are in season — mangoes and plums, peaches and nectarines — and seafood and salads seem the obvious choice for dinner, particularly when paired with prosecco or a crisp sav blanc.
And even though several people have commented to me recently that everyone seems so stressed at this time of year, but my own experience has been quite the opposite. When I went to the grocery store the other day to do the last Big Shop before the Big Day, I was amazed by the number of strangers who smiled at each other and engaged each me and others in conversation — there was a palpable sense of Christmas cheer in the air.
So I wish you, and anyone who has followed the Blue Jai Creative journey this year, a Christmas worth celebrating this year. May it be filled with the things that warm your heart and nourish your soul, wherever you find yourself.
And me? I’ll be with my family, making Christmas last as long as we can until New Years Eve rolls around, enjoying long sultry days and balmy summer nights until we welcome 2019 with glorious starbursts of fireworks above Sydney Harbour.
I…really like Christmas…it’s sentimental, I know, but I just really like it…
I’m one of those people who really gets into Christmas. I look forward to it — can’t get enough of decorating the tree, wrapping presents, creating table centrepieces and playing carols.
Every year we pick a different colour theme to use throughout the house, from the wreath on the door to the baubles on the tree, not to mention the wrapping on the presents beneath it. Somehow it seems to make Christmas fresh and shiny and new each year, and we know from the colours exactly which year it was whenever we look back at the photographs.
But yesterday I got a text from a very dear friend proclaiming that she is already over Christmas — that she can’t wait for it to be through.
And I realised, not for the first time this Christmas, that I’m one of the lucky ones.
Every single one of my living blood relatives resides in the same city as me. Just about all of our marriages are all still intact, some of them after more than forty years. And while I wouldn’t describe the vast majority of my family members as normal (whatever that means), we still all speak to each other…well, most of the time, anyway.
I do know just how lucky I am. I’ve celebrated Christmas thousands of miles from home and family members, and spent my childhood celebrating it twice as a result of my grandparents’ divorce — or three times if we made the long trek up the Pacific Highway to do it all again with my relatives in Queensland too.
Looking around at my circle of friends I see so many dear ones who have made Australia their home, and who still have family elsewhere. I know that at Christmas their thoughts will inevitably turn to England, Scotland, Ireland, the Netherlands, the United States, South Africa, New Zealand, Poland, Austria, Brazil…and I also know that however much we love it, Australia is a long way from most other places.
Wherever you are and whatever you face, these are the people who make you feel safe in this world…
I can’t take away the distance, or whatever dysfunction might affect your family situation this Christmas. But it is my fervent hope that you get to celebrate with the people you love, who mean something to you, regardless of whether they are related to you or not.
What I can do is share with you my favourite Christmas song. It’s not a carol — but a beautiful, irreverent, heartfelt piece by the inimitable Tim Minchin. For me, it captures the spirit of Christmas in Australia, and sums up the way my family celebrates each year.
I can’t watch it through without tearing up.
But if you’re on your own this Christmas, or if your family situation is fractured or somehow faulty, or if you’re nine thousand miles from the people who dared to bring you into this world and gave you the courage to roam it, or if you are lucky enough celebrate Christmas surrounded by the people you love, or whatever your circumstances are — this is for you.
And me? The Bloke? Marvel Girl and Miss Malaprop?
We’ll be seeing my Dad, my brother and sister-in-law, my nieces and Mum…we’ll be drinking white wine in the sun…
The season of attending a seemingly endless whirl of Christmas parties and festive functions involving various degrees of fun, stress, inebriation and/or sugar.
The season of juggling multiple (not to mention competing) schedules to ensure that everyone gets to their ballet concerts, client drinks, end of year school assemblies and only Rudolph knows what else — and woe betide you if you forgot to charge your phone and failed to video your offspring’s rousing rendition of Jingle Bells for the grandparents to watch later.
And the season of wondering just how Marvel Girl’s school managed to schedule a swimming carnival and a carols night on the same date…and of trying to remember to smile (rather than grin fixedly or simply scream) when Santa Claus turns up on a trailer with a sack filled with brightly coloured lollipops to hand to your already delirious preschooler a full hour after her bedtime…
One for my bookclub lovelies…
It really is the season, the silliest of seasons, perhaps…but in amongst all the absurdity and there’s still a lot to be thankful for:
I remain (eternally) grateful, for example, that the lovely ladies in my book club are all firmly of the view that licensed premises are the best place to convene our meetings — particularly if there’s a courtesy bus to take us home. Every last one of us will put up with our husbands’ japes about our reading glasses having stems rather than lenses if we can be left to talk about our…er, um, chosen book — yes, I’m sure it was a book we were discussing — every six weeks or so, no matter what time of year it is.
Nobody likes a half-assed jingler…part of my Christmas wall in my kitchen.
I am equally glad that Christmas gives me a brilliant excuse to indulge my love of cheap and tacky decorations and to bedeck my home with banners, candles, baubles, wreaths and whatever else we have to hand. I love that my little Miss Malaprop reminds me most days in December that “there’s no such thing as too much tinsel!”, but I am also quite relieved that Marvel Girl was prepared to change the tone of her letter to Santa so it didn’t bear quite so much resemblance to a solicitor’s letter of demand.
I am definitely appreciative of the fact that my children are learning to verbalise what they are feeling at this time of year: from the dizzying, wondrous, joyfilled, frequently candy-cane fuelled heights, right down to the despairing depths of the massively over-tired, over-excited, and over-just about everything.
It’s easy to run out of steam, riding the Christmas Crazy Train…
I will admit that my heart did break a little bit this morning when a pair of mournful greeny-blue eyes looked up at mine and Miss Malaprop confessed that “her love tank was not very full”: it seems that riding the Christmas Crazy Train isn’t always easy, especially for small people desperately counting down the days until the arrival of one S Claus.
But I am also grateful that she spoke up, so I was able to surprise her with a love-tank filling visit to The Kitchen Nook, her favourite cafe to hang out in before preschool, and that upon arriving there we simply sat down and were presented with our regular order (one life-preserving long black, one not-so-hot chocolate) with a smile and a nod — without even having to ask for it.
It’s the little things, people…they don’t go unnoticed, and they count — regardless of the season.
Because that’s all it took, really: it may not seem like much, but a few minutes spent sitting together in a welcoming cafe, sipping our drinks and having a bit of a chat was all that was required to help us rediscover our Christmas spirit.
Spend time, speak love…
And when you strip away all the parties and presents, the baubles and the bling, and even the tinsel, that’s what this season is really about: spending time with people you love, and making sure that you’re speaking the same language.