Thursday, 27 December 2012

Christmas in Australia

It's fair to say Christmas has been a little different for us in 2012. Almost everything familiar about this time of year was whipped away and a completely new canvas set up in its place. To compare Australian and British festivities would be easy, but lazy, and what purpose do such analyses serve? Put simply, Christmas in Australia was unique and unforgettable. Here's why...

We spent Christmas Day at the home of Rob and Jan Bell, who laid on a magnificent spread. Prawns, trout and smoked salmon paved the way for kangaroo, lamb and sausages in the midst of vegetables and sauces of the mouth-watering variety.

Despite unwrapping presents 10,000 miles from London, we could scarcely have felt more at home. Rob and Jan are our Aussie parents and it seemed fitting to end the year with them - as we had started it. Ed and Helen Poulton also shared the day with us, as did Bean Bell (above, top right). You can choose your friends, not your family, although on this occasion if felt as though we had hand-picked both.

Ed and Helen are living in Port Melbourne for six months, so we followed the north-east side of Port Phillip Bay to cast an eye over the area they will call home. Joggers and cyclists were in abundance along the seafront which - to quote Lonely Planet - more closely resembles Brighton than Bondi.

At the start of a year which felt like a voyage into the unknown, one thing I did know was that I wanted to watch the Boxing Day Test at the MCG. This dream was realised on December 27 when we took our seats for Day 2 of the second Test between Australia and Sri Lanka.

The Sri Lankan bowling attack was devoid of dynamism and further wind was removed from their sails when paceman Chanaka Welegedara walked off injured. Spinner Rangana Herath (above) has taken more Test wickets than anyone else in 2012 but he toiled all day without reward. He did, however, provide the day's champagne moment when his brilliant one-handed catch in the deep dismissed Mike Hussey.

Michael Clarke was an injury doubt over Christmas but he made 106 to break Ricky Ponting's record of Test runs scored by an Australian in a calendar year. The Aussie captain now has 1,595 to his name in 2012.

As the day wore on, eyes turned from the field to the stands, where the vast consumption of alcohol was illustrated by the size of the beer snakes (above) proudly held aloft until stewards brusquely intervened.

Noise levels rose in Bay 13 (above) after the tea interval. There was a sizeable police presence in this part of the ground, almost as if they were actively looking for trouble-makers. This was in stark contrast to our experience of the AFL, although it tallied with tales of the police being viewed in a fairly dim light by many Australians.

Our packed train pulled out of Richmond station and Christmas, for another year, was over. We'd eaten prawns, walked on the beach and spent a day at the cricket. In our eyes, these things had made it a truly Australian affair.

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