Well here I am facing into my third Australian Christmas and I have to admit to not being altogether thrilled about it. It’s one thing when you sign on for the big adventure, when you agree to up sticks and travel to the other side of the world and in the bigger scheme of things you are fine and enjoy all that your new place of abode has to throw at you. However, hiding in the seams of the bigger scheme are those times when you just can’t get your head around where you are. Christmas in Australia is one of those times for me. The Aussies love their summer Christmas – as they should but for me it’s just not Christmas.
Christmas for me is so many things. It’s about home, open fires, over the top decorations, seeing family and spending time with friends, wrapping up against the cold, walks in frosty forests or on wind-swept beaches, sharing wonderful food, having a few drinks in the local pub, impromptu sing-songs, fun and laughter. The west of Ireland is an incredibly special place to be at Christmas time. Decimated by emigration over the years it is a time when people come home and it is this that creates an amazing buzz. People are happy to be home and those who are at home are ecstatic to have their family members back even if it is for only a few short weeks. Christmas Eve in any of the west of Ireland towns is a day for last minute presents, picking up “the bird” and joining the old friend you just ran in to for a drink or two.
Later on in the evening most people make their way home and their journey is lit by candles twinkling in the windows of all the houses. This is a tradition that dates back to ancient times and is rooted in the old Brehon laws of hospitality – whereby a stranger knocking on the door must never be refused. In later times it was understood to symbolise the lighting of the way for Mary and Joseph as they searched for somewhere to stay before the birth of their child. Nowadays it is seen as lighting the way for Mary and Joseph but also for those who are returning home.
One of my favourite things to do on Christmas Eve is to stand, in the darkness, at the window of my parents house, high up on the hill, and look out across the island as it twinkles in the night. It’s a beautiful sight and one I’m looking forward to seeing again, just unfortunately not tonight.
Wherever you are this Christmas I hope you enjoy it – Roisin.
It’s one thing to commit to a blog. It’s another thing entirely to find the time to actually write it! When I committed to this blog a number of months ago I had a long hard think about whether or not it was a good idea to even start it if I was never going to have the time to attend to it. I looked at all the commitments I have, sized up where I could adjust my schedule, allowed for contingencies and decided I could manage it. My aim each week is to have a post up by the weekend and failing that at least by Sunday morning at the very latest. So far I’ve been doing ok…… until last week and the week before that……. And here is the problem – when it came to allowing for contingencies I couldn’t have imagined a total crash of my computer system or, just the week after that catastrophic event, the arrival of a super-storm! I had been thinking along the lines of sick kids, school holidays and unexpected visitors. Obviously I need to up my contingencies game. So, note to self – when it comes to planning contingencies in the future perhaps I should plan for bigger contingencies than most. Mind you, contingencies don’t come much bigger than the super-storm that hit Brisbane last Thursday!
Two storm cells came together and formed The Beast – A Supercell Thunderstorm that unleashed hell on Brisbane in just over an hour. One minute I was out the back of the house in blazing sunshine and sweating my tooshie off and the next I was looking out my front door, with my jaw on the floor. “Oh dear,” I whispered as I stared at the sky with cold blasts of air rushing over me, “what’s this?”
Within seconds, a strange cracking sound started, then a blast of thunder exploded over the house. The sky was totally dark by now and it was as if night had descended upon us but not for long as sheets of lightning lit up the landscape. And then they came – golf ball sized hail stones catapulted out of the sky and pummelled everything around them. The noise was deafening.
Now, it should be said I’m from an island on the west coast of Ireland and am no stranger to the fury of mother nature. Storms on Achill are brutal and fierce and I’ve experienced some of the worst. However, in all my days, I have never seen hail stones the size of golf balls! And we were lucky, as the storm intensified, hail the size of tennis balls fell in other parts of the city and how it fell!
It rained down mercilessly, like God was emptying his Eski (local slang for cooler box.) Nothing was safe and the damage has been extensive.
Cars in particular were badly damaged.
Many houses had their windows smashed and the office blocks of the CBD (Central Business District) also suffered.