Christmas Cheer or Cheerless

‘I have a love-hate relationship with Christmas,’ one friend says at the wise-old-birds meeting we hold once a month. While we feast on sponge cake with cream, strawberries dipped in chocolate, rocky road and fruit mince pies, we discuss such important matters of the world – our world. Looking at this indulgent spread, I couldn’t agree more!

Each one of us takes turns in re-living our best and worst memories of Christmas. When we get half-way through the group, someone declares, ‘No one really likes Christmas. It’s always a debacle.’

This is countered enthusiastically by another who says, ‘That’s not true. There are people that like Christmas and have normal Christmas gatherings. We’re just from dysfunctional backgrounds.’

I look sideways at my friend, you know the way you do when you don’t turn your head? We’re all getting a bit red-faced. Someone else pipes up, ‘What’s normal?’ Maybe the meeting is getting out of hand. It must be all that sugar. Or pink champagne.

The question remains; what’s normal? I don’t know many people like that. Or Christmases. (Even that word looks abnormal.)

Maybe, it’s just Christmas in Australia isn’t normal. We’re all too hot and we’d rather be swimming. The flies, swarming in through open windows, litter the prawns and potato salad, looking like tasty currants until swatted away, to be swatted away again every three seconds. We’re too irritable to be joyful.

The conversation of the group settles when one woman declares her Christmases have always been nice. Okay, there is hope! But I don’t remember what she said next. I only remember the bad stuff. Which was sometimes quite funny. But usually a bit sad.

Best and worst Christmas presents was a safer subject.

There was much laughter over the worst, but sadly, the worst was tainted by malice, lack of thought or ineptitude. (Ineptitude: haplessly incompetent – don’t you love that?) For example, a plain pair of socks to each child, every year, from an aunty. A bolt of cloth, also to a child, the colour of baby poo. Toe separators and Russian Matryoshka Nesting Dolls.

The best presents were delightful: a holiday organised by a husband including a babysitter to stay at home with the children, a doll’s dress made by mother but ordered by Santa, a bathing suit of aqua and pink, a home-made letterbox designed like a ladybird, and mine – a giant fur koala.

For me, there’s one definite highlight to Christmas. And that’s the pudding: fruity and rich with a dob of brandy butter and lashings of vanilla pouring custard.

The conversation left us with full heads of memories and hearts full of emotions. We decided that trees, decorations, pre-Christmas gatherings, families and friends getting together (despite the drawbacks) and Christmas food, made it all worthwhile.

Having eaten more than my share of special afternoon tea, my belly felt like it was getting a practise run in for the day when we don’t stop eating. That’s Christmas. It should be called Indulgence Day.

Spoilt for Choice

Tomorrow, I’m going on a trip to Kiama. Not for a week. Not even a long weekend. But for one night. I’m looking forward to it. I’m doing a two day walk with my walking group and we’re staying over-night, which should be fun.

But what’s not fun, is packing for it. It seems to me that you go to just as much trouble for one night as five. And the weather causes a quandary as to what to take. It’s Spring and the weather varies from warm and muggy to windy and cold. And thunderstorms are predicted one day and sunshine the next.

So, do I take long pants or shorts? Heavy raincoat or light? Runners for day 2 in case my hiking boots get sodden? Two caps? Obviously two shirts and a fleece.

But do I also take a comfy trackie to change into after my hot shower? Slippers?

And we’re going out to dinner, so there’s a full outfit, with shoes, and a wrap, because I can’t tell if it will be warm like last night or cold enough for a fire, like the night before!

The toiletries bag always overwhelms me. I try to find little containers to put shampoo and conditioner in. And face cream. And there’s the deo and sunblock and individual sheets of paracetamol and ibuprofen for all those aches and pains that come from hiking. And Bandaids.

I’ll need PJs but what about a gown? Pillow? Will I need swimmers and a towel?

My favourite tea is essential. But what about a teapot? Many places don’t cater for leaf drinkers any more. What about breakfast: cereal, sourdough, Vegemite?

And then there’s the necessary sustainers-of-life in the day-pack: water bottles, thermos, lunch, snacks, camera, hypothermia blanket (is that going too far?), emergency taxi money.

What if the weather is so foul that we don’t feel like hiking? Do I take a book, iPad? Kitchen sink?

At this point, I’m exhausted! But when I think about this, and stop moaning for a minute, I realise how blessed I am that I have all this choice. I have all these things! And I have the luxury of living in a country where going away for a couple of days is normal and easy and safe. It’s a holiday, an event unavailable in too many countries where there are no choices.

Australia. What a marvellous country it is. And how fortunate am I?

 

https://kiama.com.au/kiama-coast-walk

Drought Distress

The drought in NSW and Queensland has finally hit the media: big time. If you live in the country you’ll know about the drought but if you’re in the city, you may not have heard that these states are in severe drought.

I love the country and therefore I’m more tuned in than some of my city friends, but even my own children, adults, didn’t know our state was in drought until I started talking about it. It came to my attention when I started following blogs and Facebook pages written by interesting, creative people with country links.

These are:

Photographer, adventurer and activist, Edwina Robertson whose recent activity includes interviewing drought-affected farmers and their families and educating city folk. https://www.facebook.com/onebucketofhope/

Edwina’s previous adventure, Wander of the West https://www.facebook.com/WANDEROFTHEWEST/ (A girl, her dog and a camera. A three month adventure around rural Australia without carrying a single dollar. 2017)

Farmer, journalist and children’s book author, Paula Stevenson http://paulastevensonwriter.com.au/category/blog/

The drought is worse than ever, despite Australia always having periods and areas of drought. Rainfall is at a record low, temperatures are at record highs and the area affected in these states is greater than ever before. A series of very hot summers and lessening cool-season rainfall have worsened conditions. Many dams have completely dried up or are close to it. Stock is being hand fed or sold. Cattle sale yards are bursting as agistment is no longer an alternative. I won’t go into the plight of our native wildlife.

The NSW Government has set up the NSW Drought Transport Fund of low-interest loans up to $20,000 but it seems that most farmers feel that there’s too much red tape to be eligible. Many feel it’s not enough anyway. It’s designed to help pay for farming freight-costs including water cartage, fodder transport and shifting stock. It’s complementary to existing measures but many farmers are already stretched financially too far.

Farmers are in a very low place. They’re resilient and perseverant, they don’t want to lose their top-breeding stock, their hundred-year old orange groves or their family owned properties. They’re struggling on and doing the best they can. The personal stories are heartbreaking: kids are driving trucks so that their parents can do the labour of getting hay bales in front of cattle, animals too weak to move are being destroyed, some pregnant cows are being sent to the abattoir and crops are being left to dry. This is their every-day experience.

Australia is a beautiful country: it’s full of extremes in geology, landscape, flora and fauna. It’s a paradise and a good provider for those of us lucky enough to live here. I feel that we need to share the load if we’re going to reap the benefits of living here. Living in the city is easy: many of us are on the coast and we get the sea-breeze, the sun and the rain and the luxury of going to the shops to buy our meat. We don’t even have to recognise that the meat comes from an animal if we don’t want to.

If our farmers are left to go broke, lose their family homes, abandon their properties and that iconic way of life that looks so romantic to us in the city, we will be left with dwindled resources, highly expensive meat, overseas buyers of our land, and the importing of more foodstuffs.

As Australians, we need firstly, to CARE! This may have been a tough Post to read but good people are suffering and need assistance. They need assistance to survive! So, secondly, we need to SHARE: share the message, share the load however you can. Don’t begrudge the extra cost of the milk or meat. Contribute what you can: volunteer, contribute financially, appreciate what you’ve got, encourage our State and Federal governments to treat drought relief like other catastrophe relief. Is drought different from flood and cyclone because it creeps up on us? Think about it! If we can get the farmers to survive the drought without being so far in debt that they lose the battle anyway, their farms will come good again. Rain will come.

Take the time to educate yourself even if it’s just on social media. Take a look at One Bucket of Hope. Let the farmers know we care and boost them with some hope.

Ref:

http://www.climatecouncil.org.au/resources/climate-change-and-drought-factsheet/

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/jun/10/australia-doesnt-realise-worsening-drought-pushes-farmers-to-the-brink

Photo credit: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/gallery/2018/mar/19/big-farming-across-australia-in-pictures