Sunday, 7 January 2018

Grace's Great Voyage Down Under, Week 7: Merry Christmas, and everything else.

In case you missed my posts so far in this series, I'll reiterate the key point I cannot seem to say often enough: I am not a travel blogger. 

However, I really want to share some things about my recent travels. 

I’ve decided to write posts in the future about my trips to various Other Places – but not necessarily the way a seasoned traveller and blogger might. I’m going to write about specific things, moments; some will exist in a big compilation post while others may stand alone. For instance, if I had an especially magical dinner date, or discovered a secret spot nobody had told me about, or even just had a conversation with a native (of which I have already had many, in Australia!), then that might exist in its own post.


We four; the team.


When it was suggested that we venture up this one street that puts on a Christmas lights display each year, I think all we Brits thought of home. The 'crazy houses' we see in the run up to Christmas; the ones we drive past on the way home at night that sometimes are just a blur of red and green neon. The half-hearted homes, that only manage to loop little fairy lights around half of one tree in their front yard - it's the thought that counts. Then there's that one street in the next town over that raises money for a big local charity in December each year by stringing up every house with every colour light and every festive prop...giant snowmen on lawns, a singing Santa at the letterbox, handmade sleighs with plush reindeer on roofs. It's all very cute. 
However, this particular display on Forest Oak Drive...was on a whole other level. There were foam 'snow' machines with disco lighting in garages, Netflix Kids movies projected onto gigantic screens above front doors, whole gardens of lights set up to flash and change colour in accompaniment to pop songs blasted from state of the art speaker systems, and there was even a massive sausage barbecue stand set up for the public in one driveway. There were at least a couple thousand people - mostly families with screaming, delighted and foam-soaked children running amok - massing in the street. It was around 7pm, 25 degrees and humid as f*ck. That sugary sweet rendition of 'Santa Claus is Coming to Town' was playing, and automated reindeer were nodding at me. It was the definition of surreal. 

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4/9 cousins. 10, if you include Andrew (the one with the beard)'s son (which I do, as 'cousin once removed' seems a little too cold.)


Auntie M and I mixed the perfect cocktail in a plastic bucket early afternoon on Christmas Day; the iced strawberry daiquiri mix I'd bought her was a little too sweet - I'll just say 'pink Calpol' - so we added about a dozen limes and a pint of lemon juice. Then a bottle of vodka. Then some sprigs of fresh mint that I made sure to clap between my hands before adding them to the crushed ice. Then more lemon juice, and another bag of ice. Soon, it was just about drinkable. 




Rain suddenly comes as we walk along the beach front, but the sun stays put, strong and bright; I hear a couple yell 'sun shower!' and smile to myself as I duck for cover.




I'm not sure which journey I enjoyed more on Christmas Day; the drive to the cousins' place in the maxi taxi crammed with suitcases and carrier bags full of gifts (plus the cocktail bucket, of course) and a fuzzy radio playing something sounding like that big Bruno Mars hit from a couple of years ago, the kids excitedly screeching...or the drive back after dark when the Punjabi taxi driver dude told me all about his family and then upon hearing I was a writer, suggested I find a rich man to marry in London - "he must be rich - but also a good man. Make sure he's good!"


Me, on Christmas Day. It was 33 degrees and I could feel myself burning after just 3 minutes in the scorching sunshine. My eyebrows were soon filled with sweat, and my (enormously majestic) thighs were squealing in pain. Mmm, hot.


Clouds drift, so slowly, across the twilight sky as we walk to the Surf Club for drinks. They look like deep blue smoke. And the sea desperately swirls beneath, trying to keep in time. 


The Nook espresso kiosk, also known as 'The One We Went to After Mandy's Wedding 4 Years Ago'.
Still just as good today as it was in 2013. Bright colours slightly faded, maybe, but coffee just as excellent.


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