Topsy Turvy Trip

121231_064255_0284Hello my lovely readers!  I’ve been away from this blog for too long, but for good reason. A family trip to husband’s homeland of Australia over Christmas not only put a large distance between me and England, but between me and a computer. This, I have to say, has been a very good thing in many ways (my shoulders in particular have never felt so pain free) but it has also made me rather out of touch with my beloved blog.

Of course, those of you who’ve been following my Silent Sunday posts will know the annoying truth that I’ve been in a land where clouds are something to jump for joy at.  In fact, the whole experience has been one of Topsy Turvy-ness through and through.

130105_125512_4879In Oz, the sun is something to hide from and even to avoid at one’s peril. You shut the doors to keep the heat OUT.  The sight of clouds brings jigs of joy.  You stay indoors at midday because it’s too hot. You wind up the windows in your car to stay cool. Your normally straight hair goes curly. And people apologise for it being too hot! They even hang their Christmas baubles outdoors on trees in the road…

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This takes quite some head-bending to get used to. After 3.5 weeks, I was getting my head around it all, and then we had to come back. Where it is now minus 3.  Where you shut the doors to keep the heat IN and rush outside if the sun makes an appearance to bask in its gentle, British, glory.

Oh how bizarre.

Essential cooling devices for my eldest

Essential cooling devices for my eldest

To add to it, Perth suffered an unprecedented (at least in recent history) heatwave for Christmas season.  Temperatures soared to at least 40 degrees IN THE SHADE for 8 days in a row.  Let’s just say by the end of Christmas Day I knew what it was like to BE the turkey…. Funnily enough, our hosts on Christmas Day did BBQ a huge Dickensian sized turkey, and at one point discovered the gas had gone out for an unknown period of time.  It crossed my mind that it wouldn’t have made a jot of difference. I was right.

To add to the general strangeness, Christmas is an understated affair, unlike the crazy, British consumer culture of scream-in-your-face-that-it’s-Christmas-and therefore-you-must-want-to-buy-everything-in-a-shop/garage/restaurant-or-it’s-not-really-Christmas.  I could hardly believe my eyes, but on our first journey from the airport to our first house-sit, a journey of about 22km across Perth, I hardly saw any references to it.  At first I found it weird, but then found it incredibly refreshing.  It’s not that the Aussies are non-consumerist (far from it, they’re very similar to us) but it’s because Christmas falls in the middle of their summer holidays. In other words, they don’t need something to lift their spirits and literally brighten up the gloom of mid-winter, and they have far more fun things to be doing than shopping (if only, I thought).  And besides, the Christmas tradition that was cultivated in northern European and American countries simply doesn’t translate in a hot climate.  Santa looked ridiculous dressed up in fluffy red and white attire.

‘Opposite Land’ is what I came to call it and it’s stuck with my children…

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Despite the heat, we had a fantastic time experiencing the stunning sights and sounds of south west Australia: imbibing the smells of the bush (eucalyptus, kangaroo paw and jarrah); being treated to white sandy beaches and the most stunning azure seas (heaven to my aquamarine sensibilities);
130105_114328_4827laughing at quirky Antipodean animals (sleeping koalas, fat wombats, and skinks), avoiding thankfully never-encountered snakes and red-back spiders, and enjoying the hospitality of some wonderful cousins and friends.
Its a tough life being a koala

Its a tough life being a koala

Cute 'fairy' penguins

Cute ‘fairy’ penguins

130102_084311_0483 Highlights included stroking a kangaroo (incredibly soft), visiting the stunning Perth Zoo, Penguin Island, discovering a massive shell on floor of ocean complete with its owner (see above pic), the kids discovering they had more cousins in Australia than at home, and swimming in the aquamarine waters of Meelup Beach which my son called “shark-infested waters”.

Cameraman filming at Meelup Beach

Cameraman filming at Meelup Beach

He was actually only exaggerating a tiny bit. A Great White shark that was ‘wanted’ by the local authorities for hanging around too many beaches in Geographe Bay that week, decided that Meelup was also a lovely place to swim, only 2 hrs after we left it, and as a result they closed it temporarily! It hit state news that evening – I was very relieved to see that the TV cameras didn’t show another ‘great white’ there the same day…

 

But family holidays aren’t all plain sailing. If I’m honest, it wasn’t all easy. Spending almost four weeks with your family 24/7 was challenging particularly as I didn’t have the freedom of driving the car and got barely any time to myself, not helped by the kids being ill for the first 5 days enforcing an unexpected quasi quarantine (sadly British viral bugs weren’t spotted at Customs and allowed through…).  And then there’s the jet lag. Moving 6 times was a lot for my 6 year old who missed the security and familiarity of home and didn’t enjoy the heat, expressing it in whingeing and going off his food. In hindsight, I’d not have bothered about what he was eating.

Our return hasn’t been as tough as I’d expected in terms of holiday blues. People ask me if it’s awful returning to this, but I actually feel just incredibly fortunate to have got out of the gloom for almost a month. Its fantastic to see friends again, particularly as the possibility of moving out there has reared its head once again, driving home how much I appreciate my friends, British culture and countryside, which would be totally out of reach if we moved (even if only for a short time which is the only amount I’d consider). My husband, however, is looking a bit like the end of the world has hit and gets rather annoyed if anyone says “You should be smiling, you’ve just been in Australia!”. A normally mild mannered man gets rather hot about the collar if spoken to in this way…

Britain really does have some fantastic redeeming features. So, hang on in there, all of you from these climes struggling through the mid-winter gloom. Spring isn’t far off. And winter can be so very pretty…

 

4 thoughts on “Topsy Turvy Trip

  1. What a great post – thank you. I can completely imagine that Christmas would take a back seat in the midst of such riotous sunshine and heat! What is it like in June/July/August? Is there any kind of festival to relieve whatever gloom may fall at this time of year? Because that’s really what Christmas *is* from my (Northern Hemisphere, atheist) point of view! Thanks very much for sharing!!

    • Thanks Liz for your warm words. I know this might seem completely unbelievable, but I don’t think Perth ever experiences a period of ‘gloom’, at least not to the extent we do. They definitely have a winter which is why we don’t go there in our summer (not paying a fortune to wear cardigans and jackets in 13 degrees), but the sun doesn’t go on vacation like ours. And yes, that is what Christmas to most people. I just wish I could run away from the shops in the same way again, just minus the fires, friends, family and mulled wine (can’t have too much alliteration there….)!

  2. Thanks Suzanne! You’re very welcome. Took me ages deciding pics from the 400+ we have! Wow, how fantastic that you’ve been to Margaret River (you may well recognise Meelup Beach then, not far from Dunsborough) and that your friends live in Perth! And yes, its been far too long since I wrote anything (can’t you tell?!). Lets talk next week.

  3. Ah, so refreshing to read a post from you and especially one about sunshine! I loved your photos and what an amazing time you have had (despite illness and being too close for comfort at times!) Our best friends live in Perth and we had ‘our best holiday ever!’ (according to my eldest daughter) a few years back – such a beautiful place 🙂 So strange seeing their pictures of Christmas in Margaret River whilst we were skiing in the French Alps – amazing that our world has such diverse climes. Welcome home 🙂

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