World weather.

Sunday 25th December, Stanthorpe, Queensland, Australia

It's that time of year again!

This time two years ago, I was just about to be thrown out in the cold of southern England's bitter winter, homeless, penniless and devastated. Eight months later, I met Maria.

This time last year, Maria and I were just about to head off to frozen Russia. So to be out in the bush cutting down a Christmas tree in scorching summer temperatures was a bit of a change for both of us, especially for Maria who had never experienced a summer Christmas before.

Click on the small pics above -and below- to view full sized photographs

I'm not going to write a great deal about Christmas. It was a family time, a day of laughter and overeating, a day when anything you were worrying about the day before can wait till tomorrow. It was a small turnout this year, just my brother Phil and his friend Noo, myself and Maria and of course the matriarch. Maria had complimented Noo the night before on her lovely blue skirt. This morning, when Maria opened her present from Noo, what do you think was inside?

Phil and Noo went to a bit too much trouble wrapping Mum's present. Poor ol' Mum needed some help extracting the contents, a lightweight folding chair.

Above: Mum testing out her new chair in front of the Christmas tree.

Below: Phil testing out the chocolate filled figs that Maria and I brought from Maria's mother's hometown in Extremadura.

Happy Christmas everybody!

MARIA'S ADDENDUM... Woo hoo!!! I nearly got myself into my first fight in Stanthorpe, Steve's hometown. I went to the toilet while we were in one of the pubs but the lights were off. I tried to switch them on, but suddenly a girl stormed out of the toilet shouting at me if I had f**king turned the lights off, if I tought that was f**king funny, and a few other nice things. Her boyfriend, who was nearby, ran to us also inquiring loudly what the f**k was going on, what the f**k had I done to his girlfriend and the sort. I tried to make my way back to where Steve and some friends were, but on the way two guys who were a bit pissed fell off their chairs nearly on top of me.

It seems falling off the chairs is a tradition here. We have seen a few people practising this sport, but the funniest one was a girl who fell up the stairs as she was entering the pub. But instead of rushing to get up, she just smiled and said hello to everyone from the floor. Being a bit clumsy myself, I can only say good on her.

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I have experienced a new way of spending Christmas, in hot weather. The tradition in Spain is to celebrate Christmas Eve. Christmas Day is the day we recover from the excesses made the night before. That is, unless you have in-laws to visit, so you have not had time to recover yourself when another huge amount of food is awaiting you. On December 24th we treat ourselves to a big feast, surrounded by family and friends, singing carols and eating turrones and millions of other different varieties of Christmas sweets (my favourites). ...and of course, fighting, or it would not be Christmas at all if families don't at least argue. We heard on the radio that Christmas is the time of the year when there are more fights among families and we could actually prove it. Luckily it wasn't us but we got to talk to someone in one of the pubs and he told us how he started arguing with his cousin, then throwing a chair to his cousin's wife and on his way out, smashing two tv units they had. And he still reckoned the police were looking for him and he would spend Christmas day in the lockup.

Anyway, we had a beautiful Christmas day, opening presents, giving away all the presents we had brought from Spain, eating, drinking beer in Steve's cousin's back yard, etc. I had called my family in Spain and they said that morning they had woken up with a temperature of minus 5 degrees celsius. So I guess I can consider myself lucky to be here, can't I?