Sunday 7 December 2014

Nothing says 'Christmas' like a Tae Kwan Do panda in a Santa hat

Oh, the bliss of sleeping for 12 hours solid and waking up at a normal hour! Magic. Returning from Dubai was not as good as going there, simply because of the timing: day vs night. The lie-flat bed was as comfortable as ever, especially with the under-duvet-type mattress that Emirates supplies, and the food was as good and the drinks as free-flowing ("You can have anything you like!" I was assured, eagerly); but there's no getting around the fact that if it's bright daylight outside, your body won't be fooled. So thank goodness for an entire season of Breaking Bad to pass the time, that's all I can say. In regard to which, yay for television and its multi-episode series available on aircraft entertainment systems - so much more absorbing than a piffling 90-minute movie. And they say that our attention spans are diminishing! Pft.

I could have slept for longer, in fact, but it was the unusual sound of bagpipes that brought me around. That distinctive skirl is unavoidable on the streets of Edinburgh or Glasgow but it's not common in my leafy Auckland suburb. It means only one thing: the Christmas parade. So there were children and dogs and parents and old people, costumes and tinsel and Santa hats, leisure groups and school and kindergarten, Guides and Pippins and Sea Scouts and Pony Club. The latter was on foot, sadly, and presumably for some officious health-and-safety pseudo-reason; instead there were vintage cars. Again, pft.

While I was on the Uniworld Christmas Markets cruise, many of the Americans I spoke to marvelled at how odd it must be to have a warm Christmas, and while I in turn marvelled at the double-think of the Californians, I did have to admit that cold is better. After growing up with and enjoying 24 summer Christmases, it took only one cold Christmas to turn me. It is better in winter. All the customs and trimmings of the festival were developed for cold weather and that's when they work best, from the lights to the turkey. And the single-focus makes it more special too, undiluted by end-of-school-year functions and looming summer holidays.

Having said all which, though, there's no getting past that a cold Christmas is exactly that: cold. And maybe it's worth foregoing some of the distinctly chilly northern delights I was enjoying earlier this week, to be able instead to stand in the sun with bare arms and legs, and watch a cutter full of kids in Santa hats pulled by a vintage John Deere tractor pass by on its way to the park for a sausage sizzle.

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