Over recent years I have spent Christmas in the likes of Myanmar, Guatemala and Vietnam but none of them really felt like the festive season as was the case the first time I spent it away from home. That was in December 2001 when I was in Perth (Western Australia) coming towards the end of my 12 month working holiday down under.
It may have been my first Christmas away from my parents but amazingly it was my 24th consecutive one with my sister Lorna, who had arrived in the world’s most remote city a month earlier and thanks to the journal which I kept (now available online here) at the time it is now possible to recall the events of both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
After an absence of almost ten years I made my return to skateboarding when I went to the small half-pipe ramp in Subiaco with Kenji. Using his board I couldn’t perform any stunts but it felt good to just keep rolling back and forth. We stayed there longer than expected and then went to do our weekly food shopping in Woolworths before getting back for the Christmas Eve party in the bar at The Globe hostel which started at 7pm and included jugs of punch for $5 and a free BBQ which was strikingly similar to the usual Thursday night sausage sizzle but with added salad! As it was free though I couldn’t complain!
Then, after much indecision our group went to backpacker night at The Deen where we met up with many ex-Globers who had moved to Cottesloe for the festive season but were back in town for the night.
Even though it was Christmas Eve, the place closed almost as soon as the countdown to midnight had ended. A group of us including my sister, Jennie, Robbie, Amy, Richard and Vicky went onto a pub called The Bog until late.
On my return to the hostel just after 4am, I had a text from Ian (god, rest his soul) back in England and promptly, in my drunken state, rang him on his mobile which cost a fortune for the five minutes or so but it was good to speak to him as well as Jamie although my memory of the actual conversation is very limited!
After just a few hours sleep, I had breakfast and was then pleasantly surprised to have a few presents to open in the upstairs TV room. We had a sort of present opening ceremony in which Jennie gave me a toblerone and two cans of VB beer and Lorna gave me the Gorillaz album on tape and a party mix bag of sweets. Lorna had been sent a parcel from my parents which had some stuff for me inside including a christmas card, a game puzzle, chocolate coins and best of all, the latest issue of Leicester fanzine ‘The Fox‘.
The only dent in the proceedings came when some of the lads came in which was OK in itself but when old Shaun actually opened a couple of Lorna’s presents I was p*ssed off at his lack of respect although she took it well, probably too well.
Later at 1pm, Deryke, Robbie, James, Richard, Lorna, Jennie and I went to Cottesloe Beach where we were later joined by about a dozen others. Before they all arrived though we pulled some crackers, drank some beers, swam in the sea, played football and ate mince pies on top of my Christmas Day dinner of jam sandwiches!!
Dad rang later to wish us a merry Christmas but it was too windy on the beach (as it had rather annoyingly been all day) to really hear him and make any conversation. That was basically my Christmas Day in Australia on the beach which, despite Lorna’s sterling efforts, still did no feel like Christmas at all.
We left Cottesloe just before sunset and back at the hostel later I had a long chat with Lorna about her west-coast travels and then I accompanied Robbie to McDonalds as I didn’t think I’d ever get another chance to say I had been in one on Christmas Day! Just as we arrived there, we met Richard Richard and his girlfriend coming out (their 2nd trip there today!) who had failed to find us on the beach earlier in the day. Lorna and I later rang mum and dad at home before it was time to get some much needed sleep.