I’ll tell you one thing, Christmas songs were absolutely not invented for Australia. I’ve been walking around supermarkets listening to Dean Martin croon ‘Oh the weather outside is frightful’ when it’s 26 degrees without a cloud in the sky. I’ve heard ‘Walking in a Winter Wonderland’ and talk of snow glistening in the lane as I head on boiling hot tarmac roads through perfect sunshine to the beach. Elton John might have been urging us all to step into Christmas, but Australia hasn’t even bothered to get up off the sofa.
Yes, it was time for our first Christmas Down Under! We arrived into Sydney on Christmas Eve and headed straight to Stu and Sue’s as they had very kindly offered to put us up over Christmas. Our first order of the day was a proper Christmas dinner cooked by Stu with our loveable Sydney family;
Don’t ask about the finger thing.
After much wine and beer the night, somewhat inevitably, descended into games and present giving.
The games then, inevitably after a few beers, descended into competitive farce and ended up with two teams claiming victory and one team drawing rude phallic symbols on their answer paper. And that kids, is the true spirit of Christmas.
The true spirit of Christmas also reared its reindeer antler decorated head when Ben announced he had ‘generously’ (wait until you hear the quality of these presents before you decide if this is generous) got us all a gift.
Ben’s 17 and thinks he’s funny (in fairness, he quite often is), so here is a list of presents that everyone received.
1. Potato Masher, Plastic
2. Toothpaste, Colgate
3. Pringles, Salt and Vinegar
4. Salsa, Mild
5. Crisps, Smiths Original
6. Salad Dressing, French
7. Spam, Can
8. Shower Scrub, White
9. Cream, Whipped
10. Weet-Bix, Box
Naturally, I got the Spam. Such is life.
We drifted to sleep hoping Santa would have picked up our change of address this year and feeling nervous excitement at this mad Christmas Day we were about to have.
The day turned out, actually, to be a load of fun. After present opening in the morning, we headed to the beach for beers, swimming, cricket, waves and some very competitive Hoopla.
It was a very weird but very fun experience, with Santa hats in the sun being just one of the things that felt plain odd. In a lot of ways it wasn’t like my past Christmas’s – it was spent in public rather than at home, there was sun rather than disappointing rain, it involved me sitting on sand rather than at the dinner table and the chocolate was of lower quality and quantity. But ultimately everyone was happy, and fell asleep on the sofa at the end of the day. And it was still alcohol-centric. Maybe it’s not so different after all.
So I’m not sure about Christmas on the beach. I’m incredibly glad I did it once, but I did have a certain pining for being sat taking on a tub of quality street, surrounded by everyone’s presents, wishing for snow that absolutely wasn’t coming whilst listening to my grandad hilariously criticise the state of modern music on the Top of the Pops Christmas special.
Boxing Day dawned and with it a laid back day of doing little. We headed up to Tania Park to watch the start of the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race. Despite my usual hatred of crowds it was a spectacular view of the harbour and got even more fun when the boats nearly crashed into each other. With a slightly disappointing lack of crashes, the boats rounded the headland to race and we headed to Manly beach to relax.
After a stunningly poor surfing attempt from me and a sharp exit from the water when we saw a bluebottle jellyfish about 5 inches from my left tight, Boxing Day was coming to a close. The only thing left was to watch a movie.
Now, which movie would you pick if you were about to spend 2 more months travelling the coast of a country renowned for shark attacks?
The correct answer is NOT JAWS.
So we watched Jaws. I’ve no idea who on the Australian television programming committee approved that but these are the people who think ‘SUPER SCARY PLANE LANDINGS’ deserves a prime time slot so there you are.
The 27th of December was spent first welcoming Dawn and Nick, our new arrivals, into Sydney with lots of beer when they landed late on Boxing Day, before sleeping and then moving into our AirBnB home for the next 10 days before my family arrived in the evening. With the house filled with food, beer and wine, the homely feel was completed when they arrived with belated Christmas presents in the evening and safe to say we were happy as Larry, whoever he is. Our Sydney family was expanding faster than our waistlines were (mostly due to Christmas dinners, I must say).
The next day was strictly limited to lying on beaches and eating very good Mexican food, in an attempt to both show off the Australian lifestyle and also allow people with jet lag to ease it off in probably the best surroundings to deal with jetlag.
Our next day on the Alex Odlin tour of Sydney (reasonably priced hilarity included, full days of fun for the family – please contact me for a quote. All you have to pay for is my flight and accommodation) was city based, to do some classic sightseeing. Ticking off the Opera House, Botanic Gardens and the Harbour Bridge, we then proceeded to what I personally believe to be Sydney’s finest sight – The Opera Bar. This sits under the Opera House concourse with spectacular views of the Bridge and doesn’t actually cost much more than most bars in central Sydney do. Unfortunately it’s a very hard place to leave when the sun is shining and the beer is flowing, so we didn’t. We stumbled back on the ferry that afternoon, unsure whether it was really the waves that were making us unsteady.
We returned that night to another excellent Christmas dinner by Stu and Sue, cooked for those who had missed the first one, but with the happy coincidence of Katie and me getting our second. It was absolutely top notch and I would highly recommend it, if it weren’t for the fact that it would be a little odd for Stu to have strangers turn up at his door and demand his turkey dinner. Please don’t do that.
Anyway, the next couple of days were mostly beach related, though did also include one absoloutely knee crushing walk around North Head Reserve near Manly, in which we lost half the group (temporarily), ended up far too deep into the Australian bush to be comfortable, had to squeeze through a tiny hole in a brick wall and eventually collapse onto a beach.
Before we knew it, New Years Eve was upon us and after battling Sydney taxi companies, with a few local connections from Sue we ended up in an 8 seater taxi heading for Kirribilli in North Sydney with David.
Now. David was Asian. David also referred to himself as Mr Chao, of the Hangover films (those who haven’t seen it may wish to look them up). This led to the very odd situation of a family group being sat in his taxi while he shouted ‘WASSUP BITCHES’. This led to half laughter, half me explaining this joke to the members of my family who hadn’t seen the film. I think we will all agree, David is exactly the type of taxi driver you want on NYE.
Anyway fair play to Mr Chao, he got us to North Sydney on time. Our New Years Eve party kicked off, with drinks in our hand as soon as we entered the door, stunning views of the bridge, wine glasses being constantly refilled by very cheerful staff and (please indulge my cringeworthiness for just one moment) all surrounded by a rather brilliant group of people who I am lucky enough to call my family and friends.
I’d also quickly like to mention my cousins who aren’t actually my cousins (we all have them, let’s be honest) Ben and Molly who weren’t able to come due to their not being born in time, but who are still great and were missed muchly.
Right. Sorry about that but I promise it’s over. Back to the booze and stuff. Basically, we drank and ate a lot and generally had a flamin’ good time.
And then, it was time for the reason we were there in the first place. I honestly cannot do this moment justice, for a few reasons;
1. It was impossibly brilliant
2. I was very emotional
3. I had attempted to drink $280 worth of alcohol between 7pm and midnight (and, in my estimation, come perilously close to succeeding)
Instead, I’m going to absoloutely cop out of describing it and just go visual. Happy New Year!
Alex Odlin hopes everyone was as happy with their Christmas presents as he was with his Spam.