Tuesday, December 29, 2009

And a Happy New Year from Sydney

I am currently wandering round the house trying to persuade myself that my reluctance to tackle the general chaos is the result of jetlag rather than natural indolence. The staircase up to the three Drama Queens’ bedrooms is almost completely blocked by piles of assorted clothing that seem to have taken up permanent residence. Fortunately for the DQs I heard the head of the Salvation Army shops in Sydney on the radio this morning bemoaning the fact that so much stuff has been dumped outside their shops over the Christmas period that they have had to hire trucks to take it to municipal dumps and therefore I have resisted the temptation to follow through on various threats and transfer the stair-drobes into a black plastic bin bag bound for a charity shop.

We had the most fantastic two weeks in the UK scooting round our respective families who, with typical geographical convenience, live in Edinburgh and Devon. Amongst other things we were celebrating my mother’s 70th and Simon’s father’s 80th followed by a fabulous Christmas at one of my brother’s. He and my sister in law are probably still feeling weak with relief at having waved goodbye to the last of their assembled family as we were 17 in total for three days. As a consequence of all the festivities the DQ’s and I are now feeling rather bereft without the cocoon of family and the endless excitement – wondering whether I will ever see the bottom of the washing basket again seems a poor swap for the joys of skating at the Tower of London. However the children are just applying sunscreen before going for a swim so I should keep in mind some of the major benefits of living in Sydney – sun, warmth, blue sky, minimal layers of clothing and traffic jams that seem laughable after our Christmas experiences on the M11 and M25 which tested the concept of ‘Peace and Goodwill to all Men’ so far as Simon was concerned – for the geographically literally minded who wonder how on earth a journey between Edinburgh and Devon could include the M11, I should mention we also went to London, a very snowy Reading, Hertfordshire and Cambridge.

On the flight back DQ no 3 managed to throw up all over me on the Hong Kong Sydney leg. In the darkness of the plane interior I worked out it was approximately 15 years since the last time one of my offspring had covered me in vomit mid air – and as an experience it hasn’t improved much in the mean time. I was muttering on about how long it took the airhostesses to respond to my frantic bell pushes although with hindsight I can see that as DQ no 1 pointed out, attending to vomiting child must rank very low down on the list of preferred chores for the aircrew. At one point during the mopping up operations I did instruct DQ no 1 who was sitting behind me to go and get her father who was conveniently sitting on his own 20 rows away. I will admit at this point that I was giving into a petty rage he was missing all the fun of traveling with his offspring rather than any thought that he was going to be any practical help with the Mile High Vomitorium Club. However fortunately for marital relations and recriminations DQ 1 was unable to carry out this mercy mission as it transpired she was busy sticking on her false nails and his sleep was undisturbed.

Australian Immigration and Border Control officials must be the best in the world, at least from a traveler’s point of view. Landing at Sydney we were greeted with a big smile, a ‘Welcome Home’ and a bit of a joke with the children about their passport photos. When he got to mine this time his smile faded a bit, but that might have had something to do with the faint smell of vomit and general air of bad temper that was still tailing me.

Opening the pile of mail when we got home was a bit of a salutary reminder that doing the Christmas cards in a completely random fashion based on which page the address book falls open is not a particularly good idea. I am struck by remorse about the many people to whom I completely failed to send any festive indication that we were still alive and as I open their tasteful Christmas cards complete with enclosed photos that remind me of how much I like them I am trying to decide whether it is too lame to start writing a new set of cards now complete with dodgy excuses about why said card is arriving in mid January. One slight drawback to this plan is that the only Christmas cards still available feature incredibly dodgy looking koalas and kangaroos clad in festive garb riding surfboards which, even in the name of friend reconciliation, I can’t quite bring myself to send out.

Having failed on the Christmas greetings I should now wish everyone a Happy New Year – we along with most of Sydney will be watching the spectacular Harbour Fireworks and oohing and aahing in unison as 11,000 shells, 25,00 shooting comets and 100,000 pyrotechnic effects totalling 4,500 kg of explosives go up with a very satisfying crescendo of bangs.

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