Big Question Marks

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

5 Great Things About Xmas in Queensland

1. Sticking your feet in the sand... on Xmas!

Yeah, it's hard not to love spending Christmas at the beach. Ask anyone in Brisbane where they're spending their festive season and you'll always get the same answer: "On the coast." We were lucky to get invited to stay with our friend's family on the Sunshine Coast at their house, a five-minute walk from the beach. There was no ocean swimming to be done though -- the waves were huge and scary, thanks to the tail-end of a cyclone that passed off the Queensland coast that week. The cyclone must have whipped the waves up something terrible, as the beach was aflurry in this strange bubbly foam, that broke off from the waves in chunks and flew around in the air like soap bubbles. We loved chasing it as much as the dogs who were visiting the beach.

2. Mangoes

Christmas coincides with another important time of year in Australia: mango season! At Christmas, people buy Queensland mangoes by the box... and they are as delicious as they are fun to peel and eat.

3. Jean shorts = unofficial Qld Xmas uniform

There were no Christmas sweaters to be seen this year... Christmas is a pretty informal event here. And truly, why bother getting all snazzed up to hop from house to house and eat and drink with family, friends and neighbours? People get more dressed up for Saturday night at a pub (or Melbourne Cup Day) than they do on Xmas. It was kind of fun!

4. Swimming pools in 30 degree weather

Need I say more?

5. Neighbourhood cricket games


Boxing Day was our first introduction to the peculiar game of cricket. There was a friendly neighbourhood game organized by one guy whose  family was visiting from Sri Lanka, where cricket is also a big thing. We were enlisted to help up the numbers (no previous experience required) and it was soon our turns to bat. First off, batting for cricket is nothing like baseball, where you hold the bat above your shoulder and watch the bad pitches go by - well, at least this game wasn't like that. Lesson 1: You can swing for any pitch at all (I hit a ball from a pitch that came in behind my head) and even if the ball bounces while on its way to you, it's still fair game. Lesson 2: If you DO hit the ball, you don't have to run if you think your hit is kind of crap. But if you do choose to run, the strangest thing is, you're required to run WITH the giant paddle... which is easier said than done when your instincts have trained for your entire lifetime to toss the bat aside and RUN as soon as you hit the ball. That and you're running back and forth, back and forth between a couple of sticks, with, as Bill Bryson describes it*, "a mattress strapped to each leg". Fielding is even more of a hoot. Depending where you choose to stand (which is anywhere, unlike a game of old-fashioned baseball), which means the ball may NEVER come to you. Which means it's the perfect game to play with a beer in your hand. Which is probably the reason why this country likes cricket so much. We have no idea which team won, but we did manage to work on our tans a bit while waiting for the ball to arrive in our vicinities.

***

There are lots of other great things about spending Xmas here in Oz, and lots of little differences to what we're used to. We found it interesting that preparing a stuffed turkey isn't really a thing at all here -- and Christmas lunch seemed to be the thing to do, rather than Christmas dinner. Prawns (aka shrimp) and salads replaced the turkey and potatoes (though we missed the mashed potatoes!). It was a lovely hot day made up of eating, swimming, and random neighbours dropping by the house -- and we made our families just a tad jealous via Skype -- but perhaps just because it wasn't at all like what we're used to, it only vaguely felt like Christmas. And of course, we missed our families and friends, but maybe we'll be back in the snowy north for a white Christmas sooner than we think. You never know. Hope you all had a happy holidays! xoxo D&A

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Happy holidays! [image from stonehousecollection.com]

* Oh yeah. While we're on the topic, Bill Bryson's unique take on cricket always makes us laugh....

"After years of patient study (and with cricket there can be no other kind) I have decided that there is nothing wrong with the game that the introduction of golf carts wouldn't fix in a hurry. It is not true that the English invented cricket as a way of making all other human endeavours look interesting and lively; that was merely an unintended side effect. I don't wish to denigrate a sport that is enjoyed by millions, some of them awake and facing the right way, but it is an odd game. It is the only sport that incorporates meal breaks. It is the only sport that shares its name with an insect. It is the only sport in which spectators burn as many calories as players - more if they are moderately restless. It is the only competitive activity of any type, other than perhaps baking, in which you can dress in white from head to toe and be as clean at the end of the day as you were at the beginning.


Imagine a form of baseball in which the pitcher, after each delivery, collects the ball from the catcher and walks slowly with it to centre field; and that there, after a minute's pause to collect himself, he turns and runs full tilt toward the pitcher's mound before hurling the ball at the ankles of a man who stands before him wearing a riding hat, heavy gloves of the sort used to to handle radio-active isotopes, and a mattress strapped to each leg. Imagine moreover that if this batsman fails to hit the ball in a way that heartens him sufficiently to try to waddle forty feet with mattress's strapped to his legs, he is under no formal compunction to run; he may stand there all day, and, as a rule, does. If by some miracle he is coaxed into making a misstroke that leads to his being put out, all the fielders throw up their arms in triumph and have a hug. Then tea is called and every one retires happily to a distant pavilion to fortify for the next siege. Now imagine all this going on for so long that by the time the match concludes autumn has crept in and all your library books are overdue. There you have cricket.


The mystery of cricket is not that Australians play it well, but that they play it at all. It has always seemed to me a game much too restrained for the rough-and-tumble Australian temperament. Australians much prefer games in which brawny men in scanty clothing bloody each other's noses. I am quite certain that if the rest of the world vanished over night and the development of cricket was left in Australian hands, within a generation the players would be wearing shorts and using the bats to hit each other. 


And the thing is, it would be a much better game for it."

-- from In A Sunburnt Country, one of our very favourite books