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And now we are home again and seriously glad to be here because it means we
actually have a home - unfortunately many have now lost theirs as the fires
continue to rampage through anything in their paths.

We had to divert from the route we were going to take to get to
sister-in-law's because of road closures, but it gave us the rare
opportunity of watching the helicopters fly down with the big buckets
swinging underneath, dip down so they filled in the lake and then carry them
off to dump on the fire.  We actually stopped the car and got out to watch
and I had this amazing urge to clap and cheer - just something to show the
pilots who were working in the most treacherous conditions that their work
was seriously appreciated.  So many gave up their time with their families
to help in this emergency but I guess a day away is little in comparison to
those who have lost everything.

I guess in the US particularly, the events of September 11 will be a cause
for reflection and remembrance at this time, but these fires are really
giving us all a wake-up call here because they are right on the doorstep.
Perhaps there were many today who counted their blessings as they

Took us an hour to get to where we were going - twice as long as usual - but
that was because there was only one road to the southside open and everyone
was on it!  We had to go through the smoke of four major blazes but once we
were there it was as though nothing was amiss!  The wind was blowing
furiously but the smoke was being funnelled down the valley behind the hills
that separate that part of town.

The day at Judy's was very traditional - hot turkey, ham, pork and beef and
veges followed by Christmas plum pudding and ice cream.  Lots of presents
and paper but that is to be expected when there are two pre-schoolers who
are just getting the gist of this Santa business.  I think there were more
toys there than at Toys R Us - and the variety!  Master 4 even got a

I must have been on Santa's good list this year because I got some beautiful
gifts as well as some vouchers to splurge at my favourite shops. (I have a
Masters degree in shopping - I do it very well!)  But the funniest gift was
for hubby who is well known for ironing his own work shirts because he likes
them just so (I am too clever to learn how to do them properly) so he was
given two water spray bottles to help make his task easier!  He didn't have
a clue what these mysteriously shaped parcels were!

Much joy and laughter and a few tears for father-in-law who died in November
but all-in-all a real family do.  I think Christmas here has the family
orientation that Thanksgiving does in the US.

Cold leftovers for tea and then the drive home - still diverted but not so
much traffic, and even if you couldn't see the destruction because it was
dark, you could smell it. The wind has scarcely died down and there is a
large branch come down from one of the gum trees in our yard so it will be
clean-up duty tomorrow.

Tomorrow is another public holiday here - it is Boxing Day which comes from
the English tradition of the servants having a day to themselves after being
hard at it on Christmas Day for the Family.    I think the master or the
mistress of the house also gave each one a box with a gift, hence the name.
When our convict ancestors (and their masters) came from England in 1788+
they brought with them all those traditions and customs they were used to as
a way of settling in.  We still even have Christmas cards with snow scenes
on them!

Boxing Day is Round 2 of Christmas Day for many; others who have had
Christmas at home set off on their annual summer holidays to camp at the
beach while others relax in front of the tele to watch the first balls
bowled in the cricket test in Melbourne and then with a deft flick of the
remote, switch channels to watch the start of the Sydney-Hobart Yacht Race.
The men put off for another day all their good intentions that sent them
scurrying into the hardware stores on CE and the women look in their recipe
books for 100 ways to disguise Christmas leftovers!  The kids abandon all
their new gifts to go back to the old favourites, some look hopefully to see
if Santa came again and some clown tells us there are just 364 days to next
Christmas!!! PLEASE!

So there you have it - Christmas DownUnder.  Hope this has made your day a
little brighter if you have been on your own - usually things are not so
sombre but then usually the conditions are a little friendlier too.

And as the sun has now gone down here, it must be rising where you are so
have a great day ....
Merry Christmas


Barbara Braxton
Teacher Librarian
Palmerston District Primary School

T. 02 6205 7241
F. 02 6205 7242
E. barbara@austarmetro.com.au
W. http://www.palmdps.act.edu.au

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