It was dark when I walked to the bus stop this morning. The full moon was still squatting in the sky as beanie-d people scraped ice from their windscreens. Later on at work, we put up the Christmas decorations. I stood on top of the bosses desk with an armful of tinsel, gawking out the window in a “Holy Northern Hemisphere, Batman” moment. I’d never seen fog like this. It was so thick it seemed fake, like a smoke machine shrouding an 80s metal band.
Everyone’s saying how Christmasy it feels. My colleagues whistle carols as they stagger in with their lunchtime shopping bags. Down in Princes Street, there’s German Christmas markets, an ice-skating rink and a giant Ferris wheel.
Yet I’m struggling to adjust my thermostat. Christmas to me is the blast of December heat when you leave an air-conditioned shop. It’s invitations to barbecues and sitting in outdoor cafes getting plastered. It’s fretting about how white your calves are. It’s mangoes and pavlova and prawns and the smell of chlorine. It’s the faint dread in your stomach, knowing you’re in for a day of petty family squabbles, bawdy jokes and the annual inquiries about your piddling career and lack of love interest.
But now here’s my sister and I, thousands of miles away from all that. There’s an occasional twinge of homesickness and longing for sunshine, but we’re secretly chuffed to be excused from the usual festive routine. We won’t be driving round the countryside, my right arm turning pink, listening to our Xmas 2003 Reluctant Family Tour mix CD. We won’t be swearing coz we can’t find a petrol station, we won’t be watching cousins fake gratitude at gifts, we won’t be eating salad. Best of all, no one’s going to be asking us when are we going to meet nice boys.
Our Christmas will probably mean slopping around the house in our tracksuit pants, hoping it will snow. We’ll cook roast lamb and potatoes and indulgent desserts and scoff the whole thing ourselves. We’ll sink a few bottles of Aussie red and drink to the strange scary sweetness of freeeeeeeeedom.