We were hunched over two bowls of ice cream, rapidly melting in the heat, when Sir Paul McCartney first announced that Christmas was upon us. Now in my book, Christmas songs are generally not played when I’m eating ice cream whilst sitting in a hammock in my pants, so when the familiar annual declaration came through the radio, it’s safe to say I was thrown into an extreme state of bewilderment. Everything is screaming summer time at me; my peeling nose, a lack of clothes, and that increased tetchiness in the heat that only an Englishman can perfect, so consequently, my first thoughts are ‘No McCartney you insufferable old git, it’s clearly not Christmas, is it?’
Except it is. As much as it’s common practice for an awful lot of people the world over, a hot festive period is a new one for me and as yet, it’s been an increasingly surreal experience. It just doesn’t feel right. Christmas shopping to me is the Salvation Army brass band amidst hectic, red faced crowds on dark December streets; not bearded, bare chested bohemian sorts trying to sell me jewellery off a dusty pavement. They still have snow and reindeer on their Christmas cards and the somewhat appalling decorations, yet it’s 25C outside. The office Christmas party – that stuffy, anger tinged piss up I’ve come to grow and fear – was replaced this time by a keg of beer and a BBQ on the beach. I know which one I’d prefer, but it’s still all exceedingly odd.
What’s it’s done more than anything is brought on the mightiest bout of homesickness I’ve ever had. It’s not something that plagues me too much, but I’m struggling with the realisation that there’ll be no whiskey soaked revelry with The Pogues this year, no annual darts competition at the boys Christmas Eve drink up and a distinct lack of The Muppet’s Christmas Carol and Trivial Pursuit based squabbles by the fire. For the first time in my 28 years I won’t be experiencing the wonderful and traditional family Christmas I’ve always known; but instead, there’ll be something new and novel, yet still comfortably familiar. We’ve still got a tree, except this one is two foot tall to fit in our campervan and is somehow being decorated with popcorn (don’t ask). Christmas morning will start with camp stove cooked sausages and a church service where amazingly, your breath doesn’t freeze in front of your face, and most touchingly of all, we’ve had invitations to spend the day with families who were strangers a mere six weeks ago. The warmth and generosity of the Golden Bay community is something that continues to astound us.
In the grand scheme of things I realise my difficulty to comprehend both sunshine and Santa Claus, daft paper hats on the beach and exactly how to barbecue a turkey lacks any importance, but nonetheless, it’s a bewildering time for me. So until the festivities are over and normal service can resume, I think I’ll retire to my hammock with another mince pie, lay back, and think of England.
Merry Christmas one and all.