Tuesday, June 17, 2008

'Tis the season...

Midwinter is upon us, which always makes me feel a little 'off,' because I spent the first dozen or so years of my life in the northern hemisphere, and of course the winter solstice down under is in the middle of northern summer. A large part of the human brain can acclimate to the reversal; another large part ain't never likely to get used to the idea of winter in June.

Flaming June is all about Royal Ascot, and garden parties, and strawberries and cream, and camping out, and twilight till midnight, right? It's about being suffocated by the rush of tourists, baking in the sun in a couryard- or sidewalk cafe and watching the folk go by through polarized glasses.

To be fair, we do the same things down here. Australians just do them with tinsel and holly wreaths and a lot of 'ho-ho-ho-ing' going on at the same time. You sit in the shade of a big umbrella, in a sidewalk cafe, watching the sun-bronzed hunks heading down to the beach, while the tinsel bobs and sways in a scorching wind, and some idiot is singing Christmas carols on the radio.

I like having Christmas in the middle of winter. Christmas is all about short days and long nights, lighting a fire that crackles up the chimney, drinking brandy with your mince pies, wrapping parcels, and watching the pile of gaudy boxes stack up under the tree and come spilling out, and seeing colored lights sparkle through the gloom of a cold, mauve twilight.

And yes, we do the same things downunder (with the exception of lighting the fire; I think you'd be taken away by some nice men in white coats, if you tried that), but we do them while sweating. You sweat buckets while wrapping gifts; while putting up the Christmas tree (whose stpuid idea was it to do this in 100 degrees??), while dragging three tons of groceries home for the holidays, and while drinking your brandy (because you damned well earned it, and you're going to drink it, even if it's so damned hot, a pure soda water and six ice cubes would be a better idea). The colored lights don't tend to sparkle, because it's daylight till ten in this part of Australia, at the summer solstice, and the pavement radiates heat till midnight ...

Which brings me back to where I began. Midwinter is upon us, it's dark early, it's cold, the deciduous trees are bare (just ignore the eucalyps and gums which never shed their leaves. Actually, they shed their bark. Yes, it makes a mess). It's cold and gray and wintery, and it makes you feel like Christmas.

The solstice comes up on Saturday/Sunday, a few days from now, and I'll give you three guesses what's on the menu. CHRITSMAS DINNER.

I have the overpowering urge to make eggnog.

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