Friday, December 11, 2009

Christmas in Australia

by Anna Campbell

It's THAT time of year again!

The parrots are shrieking in the flowering gum tree (you can see how beautiful both the tree and the birds are in the photos). The bearded dragons come out to bask in the mornings but hide away in the shade in the hottest part of the day. The pavement is too hot to walk on after early morning. You're gasping for the tiniest hint of breeze before 7am!

Yes, it's summer in Australia. And that means it's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas.

Even here, at this time of year, there's a lot of cards with snow and tinsel and robins and people curling up in front of fires. But that's not really what it's about down here. It's the hottest part of the year. It's when everybody who doesn't own a pool is flocking to the public pool or the beach or basking in air conditioning.

We don't celebrate Thanksgiving here in Australia - although I think it's a very nice idea and I'm about to start a campaign, LOL. Christmas is when we eat too much and get together as a family.

A lot of people still do the traditional English lunch at Christmas. You know, turkey and ham and roast vegetables and plum pudding and custard. A lot of (probably more sensible) people have a barbecue or seafood. I must say my family does the trad thing.

Does all that heavy food in the heat make us feel like dying? Absolutely! But that "I'll explode if I eat another roast potato - oh, all right, give me one" feeling is part of Christmas for us.

Christmas also coincides with our long summer holidays so the kids are out of school and enjoying those long, lazy days. I can remember as a teenager lying around for days on end just reading and reading and reading. And in my last summer holiday before I went to university, I got moving and wrote my first complete novel. A medieval called "Darkness Holds a Stranger", although as it was about French partisan fighters in the Hundred Years War, I fondly called it "Guerrillas in the Mist".

I still remember the absolute ecstasy of those words flooding out of me. Was it readable? I suspect not! (I haven't looked at it in years although I think it's in the garage somewhere.) Was it a special, wonderful, thrilling step on my way to becoming a writer. Definitely! I haven't written anything that left me so intoxicated with the sheer joy of putting words on paper since.

Mind you, these days, that could be because I know about point of view and emotional punch and how to construct a story!

A couple of other really hot, sweaty summers, I can remember lying in my grandmother's wooden colonial house on stilts and going through her boxes of old English Women's Weeklys. The EWW used to serialize Mills and Boons (Harlequins) so I read hundreds and hundreds of great romances by some of the classic names of the '60s and '70s.

My grandmother was a knitter (rather wasted in a place as warm as south-east Queensland, sadly) and she kept all the mags for the knitting patterns. So I had weeks and weeks of arrogant Spanish dukes and elegant English aristocrats and innocent young Englishwomen who reduced these powerful men to alpha mush. Bliss!

Summer is also storm season. Check out these two dramatic photos!

We're actually not just in the middle of a heatwave here on the Sunshine Coast right now. We're also in the middle of the longest dry spell I can remember here. When the rest of Queensland has been in drought over recent years, we've had plenty of rain. Not right now. My lawn is the color of dead straw!

But usually the sweltering heat is broken every afternoon by storms of various levels of violence. Sometimes, they can be terrifically destructive and sometimes they're just a wonderful show of thunder and lightning and heavy sheets of rain. And then it feels like the air has been washed, it's so cool and clean. Unfortunately, the whole suffocating heat saga starts up again the next day!

I spend a lot of summer in the pool just to escape the heat! And I think Santa changes into a bikini before he hits Aussie shores. All that red velvet and ermine makes him break out into a rash.

Most of these photos are courtesy of my friend Sharon Archer, who visited a couple of weeks ago with her new digital camera. Make sure you check out Sharon's Mills and Boon Medical Romances, they're fantastic! For Aussie readers, MARRIAGE REUNITED: BABY ON THE WAY is on the shelves right now. Run, don't walk to get it. It's a wonderful story!

Now, enough of my rambling - really just an excuse to share some of these photos with you! Over the next couple of weeks, there are a couple of things to look out for.

Firstly, for Australian and New Zealand readers, the beautiful trade paperback local edition of CAPTIVE OF SIN is out in the next week or so. It should be available at all good booksellers, including Target, Big W and KMart.

Secondly, my New Year Resolution contest is closing at the end of December. Two people will win a signed copy of CAPTIVE OF SIN plus a couple of other signed books out of my prize cupboard. Well worth entering and a very easy question! Check out the details on my website:

Thirdly, after last year's fun and mayhem, the Romance Bandits, where I regularly blog, are running our infamous 12 Bandita Days of Christmas again. There are prizes galore culminating in a huge hamper for one lucky commenter. The party starts on the 13th December so good luck! And no, in spite of rumors to the contrary, we're NOT giving Sven away. We might however wrap up a gladiator as a prize if we can catch one. They're devilish fast, those Roman scoundrels!

Finally, thank you to everyone who's visited this blog this year. And thank you to Leena for running such a great ship! Happy Holidays to you all!


Annie West said...

Anna, lovely pics. I'm feeling full already, reading about your Christmas food. And you're right, there's something about Christmas with those long hot summers lazily spent doing as little as possible (ah, those were the days). Somewhere cool to rest, an iced drink, the sound of cricket being played in the backgound (love watching other people exert themselves!). Sigh. Sounds good.

Deb said...

Anna, as always, another lovely post. How fun to read about your Aussie summery Christmas, especially since we just had a blizzard here two days ago that left everything at a standstill with 15 inches of snow! Thank you for sharing your pictures and reflections with us.
But, dang, no Sven?
Merry Christmas!

Helen said...

What a great post Anna and yes it is hot down here in Sydney as well and we haven't had much rain either.

My family still does the traditional Christmas lunch as well and I love it I have ordered the pork and ham I have made the cakes (one more to go) and I have to make the pudding yet (I have 11 days of work after next Friday so I will make it then.) Jayden and Hayley are spending the day with me tomorrow and we are going to put the tree up while we listen to Chrissy CD's I am looking forward to it, I suspect the air con will be on LOL.

One day I am going to spend a white Christmas somewhere.

Have Fun

Christina Hollis said...

Anna, those pictures are really stunning. Thanks for a lovely blog, and I hope you have a great time at Christmas.
Christmas afternoon lazing on the beach would be my idea of heaven - as long as there's no real sand in the turkey sandwiches!

penney said...

Welcome Annie great blog today, the pictures are beautiful. I'm looking forward to reading your book it sounds good.
Merry Christmas! And a happy reading New Year!

Michele L. said...

Oh Anna,

I am so jealous! Where I live it is in the teen's, snowing, very windy, and icy outside. You have a pool? Oh my, would I love to have one! Your probably in it everyday!

What a lovely Christmas you have! Ours is the traditional food also. We love to go to church for the Christmas concert. We are going around tonight to look at Christmas lights.

Loved the pictures! Was that a bearded dragon in the top one hiding in the foliage? How cool!

Have a great Christmas!

Marilyn Shoemaker said...

Waving a big hello and happy holidays Anna. Love the pics, what I would give to be having summer at the moment in your lovely country! xx

Your cover is wonderful!

suehussein said...

Hi Anna, nice blog!! Oh to have summer back again!!! I think I like winter for the month of December to really make it feel like Christmas. But summer the rest of the year would be good. Luved your pics!!! Happy Holidays!!! Thanks, Sue

Sarah said...

Great post! I loved reading about the warm weather. I grew up in Florida, so I still associate the holidays with tropical weather. I find the NYC cold very challenging this time of year!

Happy Holidays!
Sarah Tormey

Anna Campbell said...

Annie, I don't think teenagers realize quite how good they've got it sometimes! I can remember day after day reading - usually, but not always romances. And yes, you're right about the cricket. That's one of the reasons I read so much. Dad took over the TV! Thanks for swinging by.

Anna Campbell said...

Deb, I'll see if I can talk Sven into doing a visit but he's very attached to some of us in the lair. What's that, Sven? Not that Campbell woman???!!! Sheesh! Everybody's a critic! I thought when I heard about all the cold weather in the States that it might be fun to talk about somewhere that is sweltering. And the animal photos are always fun to put up. We had a storm last night, lots of thunder and a sky as black as the ace of spades. But sadly, not much rain in it. We really need a good downpour. Hey, Merry Christmas to you too! And curl up somewhere with a good book until this cold weather goes away.

Anna Campbell said...

Helen, what a lovely plan for Christmas. Actually my brother absolutely loved roast pork so we had that to go with our turkey and ham when we were younger. Honestly, the amount of food was overwhelming! I've never had a white Christmas either. I had Christmas in London when I lived there but it was just wet and cold and gray. Annie West had a white Christmas last year in Austria and it looked absolutely gorgeous. They even had a sleigh ride through the snow. Wow!

Anna Campbell said...

Christina, lovely to see you here! Glad you liked the pics - I thought they'd add a nice touch of exotic heat to all the people suffering in the cold on the other side of the world. The parrots really are beautiful but they're so NOISY!!!!! Congratulations on all your success!

Actually Sydney where I used to live is full of Brits at Christmas and a lot of them congregate on Coogee and Bondi beaches. So I bet they DO get sand on their turkey ;-)

Anna Campbell said...

Hi Penney! Thanks for checking out the pics. And isn't that Aussie cover spectacular? Wow! Hope you have a great Christmas!

Rebekah E. said...

Great pics. We're freezing our butts off were I live. The past three to four days my truck woudn't even start. I would love to spend sometime in a warmer climate right now.

Anna Campbell said...

Michele, it was indeed a bearded dragon. We've got a whole family of them through several generations from a gnarled old grandfather who's really been through the wars to gorgeous little baby ones about as big as a finger. I love them - it's been too hot even for them lately. I see them early in the morning and then they skulk off to find somewhere cool.

Have a great Christmas and stay snuggly warm!

Anna Campbell said...

Marily, hope you make it to Oz one day soon! I think it would be a blast. Thanks for checking out the blog and a Merry Christmas to you! May Santa bring you lots of great books!

Anna Campbell said...

Hi Sue! These days, you can get cards with Aussie scenes on them - I send lots overseas. But when I grew up, the British influence was a lot stronger so all the cards had snow and reindeer and robins and stuff on them. Completely out of season for an Aussie Christmas! Although having said that, I was in Hobart in Tasmania one year just before Christmas and it snowed up in the mountains. Glad you enjoyed the post!

Anna Campbell said...

Sarah, there's something really exciting about being in a big city at Christmas, though, isn't there? My London Christmas felt really glamorous in spite of the drak weather. The beautiful lights and the big Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square and the way the stores and streets were decorated. I went to the midnight service at St. Paul's Cathedral which was a really great thing to do. Mind you, it was so crowded, you couldn't see a darn thing! I bet New York buzzes at this time of year too. Thanks for swinging by and snuggle up somewhere cozy!

Anna Campbell said...

Rebekah! So cold the truck won't even start? I think I might stay where I am. Thanks for checking out the pics! Thought they might add a touch of Aussie color!

Pat Cochran said...

Happy Holidays, Anna! After viewing your lovely photographs, it seems
so strange to send you best wishes
for a Merry Christmas! Hot summer
days and holidays simply do not

Pat Cochran

Anna Campbell said...

Pat, I know it must seem odd! It's like you having your long holidays in July and August. That's our cold time of the year! Glad you liked the photos - inspired me to consider buying a digital camera of my own. I've only got a film one and it's a bit of a pain when it comes to putting stuff on computer. Merry Christmas to you too!

Virginia C said...

Hi, Anna! Happy Holidays!

Thanks for sharing the gorgeous pictures! It's nice to know that you share our tradition of stuffing ourselves with an incredible amount of incredibly rich foods during the holidays!

That is an intense, beautiful cover for "Captive of Sin".

gcwhiskas at aol dot com

Anna Campbell said...

Hi Virginia! That cover's positively operatic, isn't it? I love it in the flesh - it's even prettier. Laughed at the tradition of stuffing oneself silly at this time of year striking a chord with you! Yep, definitely think I subscribe to that holiday tradition. Hope you have a wonderful Christmas!

Nikki said...

What a wonderful blog, Anna. Left me feeling all warm and fuzzy :)

I never thought about how different Christmas must be for you. This is my 2nd year living in the desert and I must admit to poking fun at the people who hang up "wintery" decorations, like icicle lights and the like. But at least it keeps the spirit of the season alive, even if it doesn't quite feel like the, uh, "right" season.

Personally I decorated a very large cactus last year and it stayed decorated this year since I refuse to brave the spikes to remove the lights & ornaments! :)

Thank you, Anna, for letting us into your world; it's always such as interesting place!

Anna Campbell said...

Hi Nikki! Actually all the European stuff gets an outing here too. Fake snow and icicles and stuff. Laughed at you not braving the cactus. I don't blame you! Glad you enjoyed the post - it was fun to do! And I love sharing the photos!

Linda Henderson said...

I think it would be fun to celebrate a Christmas that had no snow, or ice like we usually get here. I enjoyed the pictures very much. I always enjoy hearing how Christmas is celebrated in places I've never been. Well except in books of course. Happy holidays.

Anna Campbell said...

Linda, I remember as a kid I had one of those big picture books of Christmas across the nations (can't remember the title). I found it absolutely fascinating - especially Christmas in cold places like Lapland or Russia. Glad to know my contribution to Christmas across the nations has given you all a smile.

Mary said...

I love those pics, they are beautiful. We are having ham and mashed potatoes this year for christmas. I didn't make turkey for thanksgiving and don't plan on making it for christmas. I joked around with my family about making hot dogs and hamburgers but they wouldn't go for it. lol

Sharon Archer said...

Oooo, Anna! I remember the English Woman's Weekly with the serials as well! And they did have a some fabulous knitting patterns... I think if I dug deeply enough into the dim recesses of my filing cabinet, I'd be able to find one or two of them even though I haven't knitted anything larger than a scarf for years!

I had a fabulous time when I visited you in your corner of Australia. And practicing my photography on you was such fun! I'm a thorough convert to digital now... hard to believe I was very resistant to start with! But fortunately my technical, gadget-loving dh insisted and now I'm a convert.

Hey, thank you for your kind words about Marriage Reunited. It's a thrill to have that book on the shop shelf. Speaking of what's on the shop shelf, your Captive of Sin is there for Christmas! Your readers are in for a real treat with this story, Anna! I love Gideon!

Merry Christmas!

Kandy Shepherd said...

Gorgeous pictures Anna - and I love the dramatic cover for the Australian version of CAPTIVE OF SIN. A beautiful companion for your other Aussie covers.

Anna Campbell said...

Mary, ham and roast potatoes actually sounds pretty tasty! Hope you have a wonderful Christmas and thanks for swinging by.

Anna Campbell said...

Hey, Sharon, thank you so much for sharing your marvellous photos with me so that I can share them with everyone else ;-) Almost (ALMOST!) feeling like I should give you a donation towards the camera! You really took some lovely shots when you were up here - I'm flattered I got to be your guinea pig. Didn't the storm ones come out spectacularly? MARRIAGE REUNITED: BABY ON THE WAY is brilliant! I think it's even better than your debut which is saying something. Yay, you! Happy Christmas to you too!

Anna Campbell said...

Kandy, that cover is amazingly dramatic, isn't it? Very gothic and as you said, a wonderful companion to my other Aussie covers. Thanks for swinging by and happy Christmas to you!

gigi said...

I loved the pictures you posted.
Australia sounds like living in the deep south of the good ole USA.
It gets so hot down here. I was just in shorts last week then it got friggin cold. The past two days we have had highs only to about 42 degrees and I live on the Georgia Florida line.
WE usually have a BIG Christmas Eve get together at my mothers house. Sort of a tradition for us.

I can't tell you how much I enjoy your stories. They just transport me to another time. So much better than watching a movie in my opinion.
You have a Merry Christmas and enjoy the BIG family meal. You might even go for a swim afterward.

Anna Campbell said...

Gigi, thank you for saying those lovely things about the books. I'm so glad you love them! Actually I think where I live has a lot in common with the South - although having said that, I've been to both Dallas and Atlanta in midsummer and they're even worse in terms of humidity than Queensland. Which is saying something! Hope you have a great family Christmas - and yes, I think you can lay money on me swimming on the 25th! Even if I sink with all that plum pudding inside me!

cheryl c said...

Wishing you a WONDERFUL Christmas, Anna! :-)


Anna Campbell said...

Thank you, Cheryl! The same to you! Hard to believe it's the end of NEXT WEEK!

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