Nicola Edwards remembers the wrongness of an Aussie Christmas on the beach.
My perfect Christmas Day scenario involves pyjamas, preferably of the insulated variety, a new book to thumb through, my pick of high quality television and a reservoir of mulled wine to be drunk slowly and regularly throughout the day. Throw a basted turkey and sprouts into the mix and I’m happy. If you can visualise this image of me as a Christmas cracker of contentment, reclining on a sofa of discarded wrapping paper, then you will understand my trauma when, in 2003, I exchanged turkey for kangaroo and my trusty, two-sizes too big pyjamas, for a barely-there bikini.
The setting of this Christmas Day abomination was Bondi Beach in Australia. Being a pale-faced Welsh girl from the hills, I was faced with many challenges on my post-university, pre-teaching round the world interlude. One of the most arduous was the inescapable Sydney heat and the subsequent smell of Ambre Solaire that permanently emanated from me. On this particular Christmas Day, it was 48C in the shade, the hottest day of that long, parched Australian summer and it was with some trepidation that I melted into that dreadful half-naked congregation of Santa hats and England flags. Bondi Beach, normally a fairly civilized hub for surfers, was a conflagration of red-shouldered Brits and disposable barbecues.
There wasn’t a sprout or a cup of mulled wine in sight. Australians were also in short supply, apart from the boyish lifeguards who, after hours of watching ‘the-bloody-Poms-getting-hammered’ on warm VB, understandably decided to take matters into their own hands. I will never forget that shark siren; that call to the survival instincts of even the extensively inebriated. The screams, the panic, the trampling of small children, the scum of abandoned Santa hats on the surface of the sea…
The year after I was back in my pyjamas eating cold turkey and watching National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. Praise be the Lord.
Original illustration by Dean Lewis
Nicola Edwards is a writer and contributor to Wales Arts Review.