We celebrated our first Christmas Eve together at a new place for us, The Butler in Potts Point with some new Australian friends, Millie and Alec. The Butler is a lovely new bar/ restaurantopened overlooking the city. Several glasses of wine and scrumptious sharing plates were devoured over travel stories, wedding plans and film trivia. To add to the the mix our waitress was from Coatbridge, Scotland.- Karen had a wee blether – a taste of home she was craving.
Next it was time to introduce John to a Hamilton tradition, midnight mass. There is only one place worth going in Sydney, the beautiful St. Mary’s Cathedral. We joined the queues to enter and were lucky to secure 2 seats. The carol service was beautiful and reminded Karen of going to mass with her mum on Christmas Eve. Even if the carols brought a tear to her eye she still enjoyed the service. A long and very busy mass followed. At 1.30am we finally exited the church, all that was left was to wish each other a Merry Christmas and head across the bridge home.
To keep up the Hamilton tradition we opened one present. We opted for the parcel which arrived first, selection boxes from Laura and Coco all the way from Edinburgh. These were a huge treat, Laura must have heard about the Aussie chocolate.
So ’twas the night before Christmas and all through the house, no creature was stirring except for one mouse – Karen secretly arranging the presents on the sofa for the next morning. We awoke that morning due to Karen being over-excited about opening up her presents and she was none too happy about John labouring this task by making her guess by using riddles!
With a glorious day outside we went to our local park for some sausage sandwiches and a glass of Lanson (well it was 10.30pm at home 🙂 ). There was a festive atmosphere in the park with people stopping by for family photos and one or two little dioramas being played out – one of which was a Chicago woman holding up a jar of Apple Sauce with the Bridge and Opera House providing the backdrop. The story behind this was that her brother-in-law – who was paralysed after being shot in the line of duty as a Chicago Police Officer – had turned his life around by starting an Apple Sauce Company and she had brought it with her on holidays to show him that he had ‘made it’ to Australia!.
While the sunshine was glorious we had to make it back to the apartment to put the finishing touches on our contribution to the Christmas Luncheon, that was to be held at our (new) friend Lisha’s new place up in Mosman. There would be 8 diners – all orphans on Christmas Day and made up of 3 Irish, 2 English, 2 Portuguese-Australians and the token Scottish Lassie (Karen).
As soon as we arrived the bubbles started flowing as we took in the amazing views of Mosman Bay and the North Head Lookout from Anthony and Lisha’s balcony. It was not long until the BBQ was started and Karen commandeered the oven to cook up the Chicken Breasts stuffed with Leek and Bacon and wrapped in bacon. (Recipe available on request). Herself and Rob prepared the vegetables while John enjoyed fizz and canapés on the balcony.
Dinner was served, a fantastic feast made by all the guests. The award went to Anthony’s cinnamon and honey roasted sweet potatoes. We all enjoyed the glorious feed and after the main course a special guest made a visit… Santa himself. He gave Lisha the surprise of the day, Santa came bearing gifts of chocolate. He also did the the honour of presenting the secret Santa presents. We all ripped open the paper to uncover our presents,we had much fun with Lisha’s selfie props.
To build up some appetite for dessert we played some festive games- a Rose Family tradition , first up was cranium. We divided into teams – Lisha & Tones, the two Toffeemen (Rob and John) and the girls making up the last team. The last time we played Cranium was with Danny and Erica in Seoul on a rainy night in 2011. Without teachers playing this was a more open game!
To ratchet up the atmosphere we soon switched to Jenga – or a rip-off copy called ‘Falling Blocks’. After nearly a year of travelling around Asia it was left until this moment to feel the most pressure in 12 months. The rules nazis were out in force and John had to take three moves in a row so as not to be labelled a cheat! When the blocks finally fell – carrot fingers Rob was the fall guy – we were all relieved!
As the last of the dessert was eaten we finished the night with a game of Heads – a sophisticated version of the Filippi Clan’s Hogmanay game. Various topics including animals made this hilarious and from this day forth Jeremiah was a ….. Penguin, not a bullfrog!
What felt like too soon a time had come and we bid farewell to everyone. However our taxi driver kept us laughing with his commentary on Karen’s accent…. “How can you understand her sir!”
Sat on our couch we face timed the Rose family to check in on their own Christmas Day. It was great seeing everyone especially Uncle Kevin.
As we were chatting away we had a visitor come down the chimney. After 4 months it was time to meet the ubiquitous Hunter Spider – and Karen nearly lost her life! It was up to John to tackle the beast! Below is an artist’s impression.
With beast vanquished and heart rates returning to normal – we said goodbye to the Roses – who were ‘conferenced in’ the whole time.
Next was a call to the Hamilton family, we were lucky enough to catch them while visiting Karen’s Gran. Santa on FaceTime woke Gran from a very deep sleep, after she got over the shock she enjoyed her call with Santa and his helper.
We had enjoyed our first sunny Christmas down under, our new friends had made it a truly fun day. However nothing beats being at home for Christmas with family. We missed them all but we will be back for Christmas 2015. This gives the Rose family a year’s notice to practice monopoly and the Filippi’s to think up a new game- the post it note game is a little old!