Then it's over.
We can relax for another year!
It's not that I don't like Christmas, it's just the three weeks before it that I find distinctly less than satisfying.
In December when the jolly sleigh bells come out and the fake-snow trimmed trees and the airconditioning in the shop gets turned down to fifteen degrees to simulate winter in the northern hemisphere, while it's really thirty-five outside, and the shops are full of stuff that I can't see in focus, partly because some Moroccan stole my glasses in Barcelona and everyone's too busy to make me new ones, and people seem to get much more aggressive and tired and bigger and slower and more frantic and definitely more numerous.
People become strange. "Ho ho ho" they'll shout cheerily as they accelerate and cut you off to get the last carpark, or they'll waddle indifferently in front of you as you are racing to catch the close of the post office, unintentionally zigging and zagging with their prams to ensure you can't get past. Isn't this the season which is contrived to spread the message of goodwill to all men?
Living as we do, in a holiday environment exacerbates the problem, there's a near fracas as holiday makers, with zinc cream and bathing suits and wearing sand encrusted scuffs into the shops, mix with women on desperate last minute missions pushing multiple trolleys and business people racing to get one more thing done before that great annual deadline.
So much sand is carried into the supermarkets by these unwashed miscreants, that the floors start to resemble an old time dance floor. When we leave we carry it on the soles of our own business shoes and deposit it in our cars, where it contrasts in a not terribly tasteful way with the charcoal carpet, adding further to our irrational annoyance.
Sure the streets are decorated with banners wishing all a jolly merry old time, and they are festooned with pretty lights, but the only lights we ever really want to see in the week before Christmas are the reversing lights of a car in the process of vacating a space right in front of us.
Now, as with every year when Christmas is done, everyone breaths a collective sigh of relief. A huge exhale if you like.
The holiday makers take over in earnest, and the mood changes.
The urgency is gone, tolerance is back.
Those of us who have work to do are focussing on our next deadline, which is of course Easter, and for now that seems so far away that we are more relaxed than usual. Relaxed enough to allow the tourists their little foibles. They have turned from being the devil incarnate, to being the life-blood of the community. If only they'd waited until after Christmas to get here, things could be much happier!
We stop wearing shoes in the supermarkets ourselves, and even begin to enjoy the feeling of sticky sand underfoot in every shop and on every footpath.
We know that it won't be long till they will be gone, so we can make the most of it until it will be our turn to return to the beaches. In the meantime we can do other things. Things that will take our minds off any of the aggravation of the weeks before.
It's a sort of warm, fuzzy time really.
It's pretty close to Peace on Earth it is, this week after Christmas.
Saturday, December 29, 2007
Then it's over.
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
Well it's Christmas in Australia,
Time to remember all the family,
gather round for a photo,
hang on dad, where did Shelley go?
Gotta get everyone in the picture.
I was originally going to post the family pic for the benefit of all. If you've ever been here at Christmas, you'd know what we look like; tee shirts, slightly reddened from the morning at the beach, bare feet under the table and plenty to be thankful for.
Then I saw these balloons on the beach at Mooloolaba this morning and saw so many analogies which were much more appropriate, for once I thought I'd leave it to the eye of the beholder.
I hope you all are having Merry Christmas!
Monday, December 24, 2007
For as long as I can remember, and that's more than half a century, Christmas trees have been the centre of our family celebrations.
I don't mean the sort of thing made of plastic or tinsel bought in a shop and stowed in a cardboard box till next year, when it gets pulled out to be re-erected only to discover one of the brown plastic legs, patterned with something that's supposed to be wood grain but looks more like the aftermath of a monster beetle attack, is missing. Invariably these things get stored till next year, but when next year comes, they look like last year's model, so they get replaced by a newer, shinier version which in turn gets stored till next year. Anyway I don't mean that sort.
Our Christmas trees were always real.
When I was a child they were erected on Christmas Eve and they were huge. They mostly reached almost to the ceiling, which for someone who doesn't reach to a table top is a very long way away indeed, and of course we'd all help to decorate it using boxes of decorations carefully preserved from year to year. Usually this happened pretty much straight after Mum had finished cleaning the chook ready for dinner the next day.
I'm sure there was the odd squabble over who put what where, but in the context of world peace, they were insignificant.
There was a special tinsel star which always adorned the highest bit, and Dad always checked the lights and had the job of stringing them up. One year he even fitted a gadget to them which made them blink.
They weren't just erected on Christmas Eve though, they were STOLEN on Christmas Eve as well.
Fifty years on, I still have vivid memories of the guilt and fear in my heart as I'd wander into the bush with my father to "steal" a tree, hoping no-one would hear the thud of the and the axe, (which had been used earlier to despatch the Christmas chook) and the heart-pounding relief as we made our getaway. I never felt safe until we were well and truly home, and the tree was hidden properly in it's bucket of sand in our living room.
We don't have a lot of conifers in Aus, actually if one was to count the number of species growing naturally one could pretty much do that on the fingers of one thumb, and we certainly had none in the areas in which we lived, so our tree was always of the Casuarina species, commonly called She-oak.
It always did occasionally seem a little odd that our Christmas tree didn't look anything at all like the ones in the Christmas cards, but I suppose I took some consolation in the fact that many of our friends had trees constructed from an even more motley collection of Eucalypts or Malleluecas.
When I was a child, our trees were always the best.
There was something very, very special about them that went beyond childhood imagination. The Casuarina has a rather bland, unspectacular form, with flowers that could be mistaken for leaves, but when lopped and placed in a bucket of wet sand, produces a spectacular sweet aroma. It smells of Christmas.
We'd wake up Christmas morning, and the house would smell of Christmas tree with presents under it, and we'd know he'd been.
The smell would be with us all day, and it would mix with the chook and pudding and Christmas cake, gently fading over the course of the day, to disappear by the end.
Much later, our children lived with "real" trees too. Theirs weren't stolen, and the chooks were bought frozen in supermarkets so I had no need for an axe. The trees were great, maybe even spectacular, but they weren't Casuarinas and they didn't smell of Christmas.
This Christmas morning, will be our first with a new generation present.
I think as a special treat for the little bloke I'll do a bit of thieving. I think I'll try to recapture the fear, and recreate the smell of Christmas one more time.
Even if no-one else understands. Even if they are happy to "make do" with the plastic and tinsel one we bought last year to decorate the place while we were away, I'll still do it.
My tree will be special.
My tree will mask the smell of the dirty nappies!
Saturday, December 22, 2007
Christmas in Australia is a time for many to celebrate their religious beliefs in a multicultural community.
For those who don't share those beliefs, it's still Christmas.
One of the great things about living here is that unlike the all pervasive North American world where we mustn't offend anyone by calling a spade a spade, (or in the UK where that perfectly innocent and self explanatory expression gives rise to a whole range of different prejudicial connotations) here thankfully we are still honest enough with each other to recognise the reason we are having a few days off, whether we share a belief or not, is that it's Christmas, it's NOT "holiday".
Of course there is substantial irony in the use of the word "holiday" to dumb down the religious significance of the period, given the roots of the word "Holy Day", a point which I once made to the Director of International Operations for the large American company in which I had an operational liaison role at the time. I was objecting to the proposed use of the "happy holiday" terminology in our stationery supplies, complaining on behalf of an overwhelming number of Australian franchisees that it was an Americanism that we could do without.
She wouldn't back down, asking about all the Jewish people we would offend.
I explained that here, Christmas the event (as opposed to the religious festival) is gathering together as a family, it's a big fat feed, it's playing cricket after lunch, it's left over ham for tea that night, and eating too many chocolate bullets. It's wearing silly hats in public. It's getting too hot and not wearing shoes and drinking just enough so you can still play a game of Upwords in the evening, or maybe drinking so much you sleep till till after tea time. It's bloke's doing washing up, and having people over that you haven't seen in years. It's a time when there's only junk on television, and it's the day before the Boxing Day Test starts. It's a rollicking good time, with trees and presents and fake snow, and tacky ornaments and lights and an amazing number of things that strangely owe their existence to traditional Christian symbolism.
She pulled rank, and we had Happy Holiday wrappers for all our sandwiches that year.
I sent her the Christmas card we received from our friends, the Lehmanns.
Merry Christmas wherever you may be.
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
It's the week before Christmas, and every parent in the country seems to be driving around in cars full of little angels, elves, Marys and Josephs on their way to kindy concerts or school break-up functions.
We've had our share of those, "had" being the operative word rather than "enjoyed", although they did extract a certain warm parental pride. We could never understand why all those other kids were on stage trying to take away from our own little stars' performances.
Perhaps the world can be grateful that we didn't own a video camera, because it will never find out about Shelley's brilliant one-legged portrayal of the virgin Mary giving birth outside the stable, while a stunned Joseph looked on.
The pillow looked nothing like its grandfather.
Youtube, will never know what it's missed.
Perhaps the ultimate insight into the psyche of a true star came during one memorable performance, when a glorious little angel of our acquaintance, having been the centre of the world spotlight for the time it takes for an entire nativity ensemble to complete a rendition of "if I were a wiggly worm", including full reprise (twice), suddenly burst into tears.
Inconsolable she was.
As the nativity throng moved with some gusto into the second verse of "Christmas where the gum-trees grow" she was sitting, sobbing on her father's knee, trying between gasps to get out the words, that would explain her demeanor.
"I didn't want to be an angel", she explained,
"I wanted to be a sheep."
Saturday, December 15, 2007
I like photographing windows.
In our environment, windows are introverted, shaded to keep out the sun, open to let in the breezes, but never closer than a regulatory six metres from a roadway, hiding what lies within from the casual pedestrian, not that the formal pedestrian would get a look in either. In suburbia here, pedestrian sightings are rare.
From within, windows in Australia provide nothing more than an anonymous view of a distant world. From the outside they mostly serve merely as fenestration.
In other places, they are more.
In these places they are portals to a community which finds itself ambling within a few footsteps of the space within. They are a link between what goes on inside, and the world outside.
They are close enough to allow the vouyeristically inclined a peep into the inner workings of someone else's life.
Some have solid shutters firmly closed, leaving no doubt as to the attitude of the resident with regard to unwelcome intrusion.
Some are open, laid bare, leaving nothing to the imagination.
Others are framed with lace curtains, like the edge of a ladies petticoat barely visible below the hem of a skirt, maintaining modesty, yet leaving sufficient clues with regard to what lies beyond to engage a fertile mind for the seconds that it takes until the next window appears along the way.
All of them lie quietly, waiting, ready to tell their story to an unsuspecting world.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Andrew's Grandma passed away this week after a short illness.
We didn't know her well. If the truth be really told we didn't actually know her at all, but we had met her, and for much too short a time had conversed, and wished we could have talked some more. Even now we can't recall her name.
We were in Goolwa, at the South Australian Wooden Boat Festival, along with forty or fifty thousand others which we were aware that we were in the town in which she lived. We hadn't planned to visit her, after all, one doesn't necessarily feel obliged to visit ones friend's geriatric grandpersons does one?
She wasn't the sort of person to take that lying down apparently, so she sought us out. One of her sons had sponsored some kids in the quick and dirty boatbuilding competition, and she wouldn't miss seeing that, and of course she knew we were there so she set out to "bump into us".
We were standing with Michael at the time.
An elderly lady with one or maybe two of those four legged walking sticks that stop just short of being a zimmer frame walked up to him and asked: "Do you know a Jo and Peter?"
Hmmm. This aroused our curiosity to say the least. I let Jo speak first, which was probably a mistake because from then on between the two of them, Michael and I couldn't get a word in edgewise. Even Jo was having trouble.
It was just coincidence that the picture we were using in our brochure to promote the PDRacers included her grandson and his daughters, her great-grandchildren from 3000 kilometres away, but she didn't seem at all surprised. She was appreciative, but would have expected us to use that one!
She was just as excited for her great-grandchildren as they were to be, when Jo showed her the souvenir fridge magnet she'd bought for them.
She was bright, alert and cursed her stick and how stupid and old it made her look. We hoped that when we were her age we could be as sharp, and active and make such an impression on people we'd never met.
We hoped that when we were her age we'd be able to find someone we'd never met, at a festival among 45,000 people just by asking strangers. We hoped that when we were her age we'd be fit enough to curse our walking aid while standing all day watching our great grandchildren.
We hope now that when we're gone, someone we've spoken to for only a short time will remember us just as fondly.
She could have been in her seventies.
She was ninety-two.
Sunday, December 09, 2007
Today Steve, the eldest of our ever increasing brood turns thirty, so this week only, you may post your comments of good will below if you truly love him!
OK you don't actually have to love him, only his mother and Jenna could do that, but you can pretend, or I suppose since this is the world wide web, no-one is likely to see them, so you can send your wishes even if you only sort of like him.
Come to think of it, send them even if you think you've seen him somewhere before but can't put your finger on it.
I have to say, that despite the risk of singed eyelashes, he managed to get quite close enough to the cake to extinguish all the candles, which of course were so they profligate that after they'd been removed, slices of the thing bore more than a passing resemblance to bit of swiss cheese. Hmmm caramel mud cake tasting swiss cheese at that!
There are lots of things to reflect upon when one celebrates a birthday, but really the best thing about your kids getting older has nothing to do with the responsibility, maturity, grandchildren, joy, skills, talent and all those sorts of things that improve with age.
It's got nothing to do with reflecting on one's own advancing years either.
The best thing about your kids getting older is that each year the cake has to get bigger to hold enough candles, so there's more to go around!
Have a great day Steve!
Saturday, December 08, 2007
Imagine you were mucking around with your boyfriend, your sister and her boyfriend, and your friend and his girlfriend, and you decided to take lots of photographs of yourselves. Nothing compromising of course, but fun, spur of the moment stuff not really meant for anything more than a quick giggle among close friends.
You download them onto your father’s computer, throw out all but the ones you want to keep, burn those onto a disk and immediately erase the lot before getting on with your next distraction.
If your father was a bit diligent about computer management, and had automated the back-up process so that archives were happening every hour or so (just like the new Mac OSX Leopard does - have I mentioned the new iMac arrived yesterday?), there’s a fairly good chance that, without any sinister intent, that before any incriminating files could be erased, somewhere on a hard-drive in the cupboard next to the desk, another copy would already have mysteriously come into existence.
Every few years, whenever I upgrade my computer, I try to do a complete audit of all our archived material, removing files that are never going to be needed, synchronising others that might come in handy one day.
It’s a task which ranges between dead boring, and highly entertaining, and while some would argue it’s entirely unnecessary, it can be a bit like looking through a shoebox found in the back of a cupboard.
There’s a veritable Aladdin’s cave of memories long not remembered, receipts, photographs, invitations all to be opened, sighed over, then archived again to await rediscovery, probably in five or six years’ time, during the next cycle of computer replacement.
Why am I posting this, some may wonder, after all the picture is hardly compromising, and the explanation fairly mundane. Surely not just to announce that the poor old eMac is being put to sleep?
Think of it as insurance.
Just in case, on a computer far, far away, someone somewhere discovers something that incriminates me in some small way that would be bound to cause embarrassment were it to see the light of day. (However unlikely that may seem.)
Just remember kiddies, I have the negatives!
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
When we first travelled on the Great Ocean Road, much of it was unsealed, and it was known as one of the Great Scenic Drives in the country, if not the world.
We had an old Peugeot in those days, and if there was one thing that Pug loved it was being flogged on windy dirt roads, and even if it didn't love it really, it certainly got used to it. It was 1975 I think, when we took off from Brisbane on a relaxing four week driving/camping tour of South Australia, Victoria and back through Canberra, a distance of around 7,000 kilometres.
We made it home in ten days.
We visited again only a few years ago (and have a few times since), and noted in its new paved and somewhat straightened form it is now billed as one of the Great Scenic Drives. Displaying a maturity that that matched that of the road, we decided to take our time along its route.
This time we'd stop and smell the roses, or any other introduced species of flora which we happened upon in our travels.
We'd visit every lookout.
We'd walk along every beach.
We'd walk hand in hand along the clifftops and watch the sun setting over the water, which in retrospect, given that the clifftops all face south, was probably a wee bit ambitious.
Undeterred, and armed with those simple objectives we left Cape Bridgewater one fine sunny if not a little cool and windy day, heading east, and not long after pulled into the first observation spot along the cliff top.
We climbed down and walked along the beach.
Then we stopped at the second spot and walked as far as the top of the stair to the beach.
By the time we arrived at the third, we stayed in the car and briefly admired the view. Then we looked at each other, and laughed out loud.
We were getting old.
Once there would have been opposite lock, a handbrake turn in the gravel carpark and a quick glance over our shoulders at the view as we bounced off, continuing our journey barely losing any speed, let alone momentum.
In my new mature state, I'd even turned off the engine!
Sunday, December 02, 2007
When I first set up this page in October 2002, I had no idea what to do with it, to a great extent I still don't.
At the time, I reckoned that by just poking round in the dust, something would evolve, or maybe it wouldn't. Should I find a purpose, or leave it as a solution waiting for a problem to appear? It's original purpose was to provide update news for a website which I never completed.
One thing I did know was that I wasn't going to be writing Haiku, which at the time seemed to me to be a particularly difficult thing to do if the quality of any of the work I'd read on other blogs was to go by. It seemed particularly difficult indeed for Americans writing in a language other than Japanese, and since the only words I know in Japanese are vaguely connected with the manufacture of motorcycles, any venture in that direction was doomed to failure.
For a few years I used it to experiment with various web publishing applications, and then for reasons that don't seem quite clear it morphed into a depository for links to other sites.
Then of course the two realisations dawned:
1) As I got older my memory was becoming less reliable
2) What was that other thing?
and so it was that the Fading Memories pages came to be.
Saturday, December 01, 2007
It's a week since the Federal Election, and the world hasn't ended.
Elections here are very much like a football grand final really, I think they employ the same marketing people as well.
They have about the same impact in the medium term as well if the truth be known. Never the less, People queue up all day at the"Australia Votes" venues wearing their team colours, then in the evening the match telecast begins, and there's a bit of cheering and some wailing and gnashing of teeth, the victors give a speech talking about how great their team played, the losers give a speech congratulating the victors, and talking about how well their team played, but without luck on the day, and the fans go off to the pub to either drown their sorrows, or revel in the victory.
The next day, the world is unchanged, except that there is less speculation on the outcome, and a bit of analysis of what could have been, and anyway the cricket season has begun in earnest, so there's plenty of other things to write about in the papers.
We were with a bunch of blue team supporters on the night of this grand final. The solitary red team voice was quite subdued, but not as subdued as the blue team people became when the results started coming in.
After a few hours the blues captain was taken out behind play, and the crowd became very subdued indeed.
When the vice captain from the red team started to get the scent of victory, one could even hear a few desperate mumbles from the crowd, even a gasp of horror as though he'd just made a head-high tackle.
The vice captain of the blue team gave the first speech, and he looked pretty fit, like a winger who hadn't seen much of the ball for the whole game. When the captain came on, he looked ok, but he was probably just going through the motions because he was still concussed. He reckoned it was his last game as captain.
The captain of the red team came on, and he was barely puffing. He told everyone that they intended to keep the trophy for a while, at least as long as the blue team had, and all the blue supporters got even more miserable, and went to bed, expecting the world to end by the morning.
The blue team reckon they'll have a bit of a break after their loss and they won't be doing too much till they get a new coach.
The red team, well they're off to the rule book to see if they can't put off a rematch for as long as possible.
While this was happening Aaron Baddely won the Australian Open, and Queensland didn't do too badly in the cricket, so the weekend wasn't a dead loss for everyone.
The sun, apparently unaware of the ramifications of the game, rose the next morning, and we went to the beach and bathed in it's warmth.
(That last bit was specially for Shelley and Julian)