Sheila and I escaped the cold blasts of Canim just past, hiding on the other side of the world in Brisbane, Australia, where the sun shines hotly and the rains are warm.
We arrived here Christmas Eve, just in time to catch a whiff of the Aussie approach to Christmas. Walking in my daughter’s suburb that evening, sporting my festive shorts and flip-flops, we watched the light displays people had set up.
They were quite along the Canadian line actually, with some houses covered with lights, strings upon strings, with flashing Santas, reindeer, candy canes and snowmen. There were many crèche scenes, too, the Aussies being on the whole not hesitant to show their faith.
The big difference here, though, was the families were all outside celebrating. As children ran around enjoying their games in the darkness, moms and dads were sitting under their portable canopies soaking up some good Aussie brew, cooking bits on the barbie, and having a good laugh with their friends.
In the heavens above, there was good old Orion with his faithful dog Canis Major trudging along high in the northeast. Strangely though, they were reversed left to right, and upside down, as if one were looking at their reflection in a mirror.
Low on the southern horizon stood Crux, The Southern Cross, a landmark to navigators and its image now part of the Australian flag.
On Christmas Day, the sun rose hot and clear in the east. It proceeds to its setting through the North, not the South as it does at Canim.
For an old bloke, whose mental compass has long been set, this leads to a permanent state of disorientation. Keeping the car pointed in the right direction takes a lot of cues from the grandkids. “No grandpa, the other way!”
The Christmas feast usually centres on seafood, prawns, crab, and fish, delightfully served cold. Turkey is sneaking in, however, and for expats it is often the choice. Like home, it is a time for a great gathering of family and friends.
This suburb boasts a small creek, which trickles or roars through its thick bushy and overgrown ravine depending on the current rains. The kookaburra’s laugh ripples through the still air every morning and evening.
Like a very large kingfisher, the kookaburras have a local diet of snakes, lizards, toads. Their call is “so Australian” that it is used as the call sign of Radio Australia International.
However, there are a lot of other critters in that tangle, too. In the quiet of the night, a myriad of shrill cries, low hoots, twangs, chirps, whirring sounds, whistles, warbles and clicks come from the bush, imbuing in this tenderfoot a firm resolution to stay on the path.
Last but not least, after a scientific test requested by Ken Sleeman, I can assure you water in a sink in Australia does indeed go down the drain counter-clockwise.
That’s all for now. Until next time, here’s wishing you many blessings.