Tag Archives: Christmas

Season’s Greetings

So appropriate for a festival celebrating the return of the sun

It’s that time of year again – the frenetic holiday season where everybody runs around like a cut snake to celebrate… something. It’s no coincidence (as I’m sure you all know) that all the major religions have a festival that pretty well coincides with the Northern Hemisphere’s Winter Solstice. Christmas, Hanukkah, Yule, Saturnalia, Sinter Klaas, and many others. Basically, they celebrate the end of winter and the return of the sun and focus on light, food, and family and friends. So whatever your beliefs, enjoy the day however you celebrate.

Here in Australia, of course, we’re having the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year, and although we don’t usually celebrate the height of summer, this year I think Peter and I won’t be the only ones breathing a sigh of relief. The whole world knows our entire continent has been drought-stricken for most of the year. The fuel load has built up in forests which have evolved to need fire to reproduce, and late spring and summer arrived with a fiery blast. Bush fires (far too often deliberately lit) have devastated communities in every state.

My heart goes out to those people who have lost everything – homes, pets, stock, their livelihoods – on the eve of the Christmas holidays. I have nothing but admiration for the fire fighters, many of them volunteers, who risk their lives to fight the flames. There have been deaths – to my mind, amazingly few. Let’s all hope it stays that way. Vast swathes of territory have been burned and are still burning. Only Gaia can put them out.

And at least there’s hope she’s listening.

The positive Indian Ocean Dipole is all but finished and the negative Southern Angular Mode is coming closer to neutral so we finally have a chance of normal rainfall patterns coming soon. The model below is for 31st December. Bring it on.

Copied from John’ Weather Channel on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/JohnsWeatherChannelJwc/photos/pcb.3296783437062633/3296783327062644/?type=3&theater

A large storm moved through our area overnight, bringing much-needed rain to parched areas. We’re happy for the 4mm in our rain gauge – and also happy to miss out on damaging winds and hail. In Australia it’s so often about extremes.

On a personal front, Pete and I came back home from a three-week trip to Vietnam and Cambodia about a week ago. As so often has been the case with us, we came home sick with probably a form of Asian flu. We’ve been to the doctor and things are finally starting to look up on the health front so I’ll be writing my thoughts about the journey. It was fascinating. A mix of modern history associated with the Vietnam war and the Killing Fields, and much older history with places like Angkor Wat, Hue’s Citadel, and Hoi An old city. We visited the incredible Ha Long Bay and drove over the mountains at Da Nang. And we visited villages to see how ordinary people live. It was rather like visiting a country undergoing an industrial revolution, with all the challenges associated with such a paradigm shift. Especially when you’re a privileged Westerner with all your prejudices and sensitivities. Some of our experiences at a very ordinary level were quite confronting.

I hope you’ll come along with me as I relive our journey. For now, wassail, bottoms up, cheers and all that. Merry Christmas.



Celebrate your solstice

Yes, it’s that time of year again. The planet has reached the end of its eliptical course around the sun and down here in the temperate south the days will begin to shorten. It means we look forward to the eventual end of searing summer temperatures, cyclones, and humidity. But it’s not a time we dread. Neither is our winter solstice in June. Winters are not so severe here.

It’s a different matter for our forebears in Europe, though. Up there in the frozen north the temperatures dropped, snow fell, blizzards happened and the food you’d harvested in autumn would pretty much have to do you until spring and summer. That’s why the festivities associated with this season (Christmas is the best known) are really all about the winter solstice and the return of the sun. The evergreen fir tree covered with lights, the jolly man in the red suit, lots of food. Christians know their religion has become entangled with Pagan practices. And it hardly matters.

I hate the commercialism of Christmas, the endless buy buy buy ads, the sappy Christmas carols in the supermarkets, fake snow in the windows when it’s 35C outside. I’m also not interested in the traditional Christmas fare of ham, turkey, roast vegetables, mince pies, plum pudding and the like. It’s too hot for that sort of food here in midsummer. But I don’t begrudge anyone a time to share with family and friends. Pete and I will spend a quiet day at home and partake of various small servings of seafood. However you celebrate, I wish you well.

If any of you are interested in some holiday reading around the concept of Christmas and what it means, I recommend Terry Pratchett’s Hogfather (also available as a movie). Good stuff, and many HO HO HO’s. In a nutshell, somebody is trying to kill the Hogfather (Father Christmas), and in his absence, Death takes over the gig. Which puts a lot of undue pressure on his granddaughter (yes), Susan, who is on that cover. Did you know that white horse Death rides is called Binky? Yes, true. I wrote a review.

And a very merry Christmas to you, too.



SFR Brigade holiday showcase

sfrbholidayshowcaseUPDATE: The prize has been won and claimed. Thanks to everyone who entered.

Hi there folks. Welcome to my world. Yes, there’s a giveaway.

Christmas is coming. I’m mentioning that in case you hadn’t noticed. 🙂 Here in Australia it is, of course, high summer. No snow, no egg nog in front of a roaring fire. Unless it’s a beach barbecue, and then it’s cold beer or fizzy wine, not egg nog. But even so we share the time with friends and family, whatever our religious or cultural belief might be.

In our hot climate many of us have weaned ourselves off the traditional turkey, ham, roast veg, plum pudding etc food orgy we inherited from our English forebears.  Although there is a new tradition of Christmas in July where those who like that sort of food can indulge themselves in mid-Winter. My husband and I will be having a peaceful day, eating a selection of delicious seafood. To finish, I might even whip up this rather tasty dessert – but in smaller proportions, and without the toffee.

For your reading pleasure I’ve selected a piece of the current work in progress, The Stuff of Legend. It should be published in late February – early March.

Here’s the blurb

When history professor Olivia Jhutta receives a distress call from her parents, in trouble somewhere in space, she returns to her home planet to find out what happened to them. Together with her grandmother and injured Confederacy Admiral Jak Prentiss, she sets out to find them. But she’s not the only one interested in the Jhutta’s whereabouts. The Helicronians believe Olivia’s parents have found an ancient weapon which they can use to wage war on the Confederacy, and their agents secretly follow Olivia’s every move. If they lay their hands on the weapon it will mean certain death for Olivia – and interplanetary war.

And here’s an excerpt

The shower was a blessing. Olivia washed the grime and dust out of her hair, and turned through the dry cycle. She still felt guilty about Jak. He’d been hurt because of her, and his wounds were painful. She’d seen him bounce up and down the stairs like a mountain goat. Now, he had to take the elevator, and he limped. She’d been such a fool, letting him dictate her mood like that.

She stepped out of the shower stall. Even when she’d tried to apologize she’d fluffed her lines. She’d been surprised to see him wearing the black fleet uniform with the stars on the shoulder boards. Maybe that was it. He’d said once before that the uniform made ordinary people nervous. She could see why. The dress uniform, all sparkling white with gold insignia and a high collar, was probably designed to intimidate, but even in everyday black Jak oozed authority.

What to wear to dinner? Grandma had hung some dresses in the closet for her and after spending the last couple of days in dust and grime, Olivia felt like looking pretty. The red one with the cleavage should suit. If nothing else, it would give His Admiralness something to look at. She twirled in front of the mirror. Grandma had bought the dress on New Haven and it had nanotech so it would fit whoever wore it. You couldn’t buy anything like that on Belledura. Olivia had modified the style slightly to show a little more skin. She looked good and more important, she felt good.

She opened the door to her bedroom and nearly walked into Jak. He stopped and stared at her, his lips curving into a hungry smile. “Delightful. Absolutely delightful.”

Her face heated. He didn’t look so bad himself. He’d changed out of the uniform and into black evening dress with a white shirt and bow tie, old fashioned but elegant. He’d left his walking stick behind.

“No stick?”

“I’m trying to wean myself off it.” He gestured. “Shall we go?”


To be in the draw for one ebook copy of any of my books, please tell me what you’ll be doing for Christmas.  I’ll contact the winner, using the email address you are asked to enter when you leave a comment (unless otherwise advised) on 20th December.

Have a very wonderful solstice celebration, whichever version works for you. And please, don’t forget to visit all the other blogs for more chances to win stuff.


1. Lea Kirk 16. Kyndra Hatch
2. Greta van der Rol 17. Melisse Aires
3. Pippa Jay 18. Shari Elder
4. Carol Van Natta 19. Ed Hoornaert
5. Liza O’Connor 20. C.E. Kilgore
6. Jolie Mason 21. Diane Burton
7. Aurora Springer 22. Athena Grayson
8. S. A. Hoag 23. Misa Buckley
9. Veronica Scott 24. Kaye Manro
10. Jess Anastasi 25. E.M Reders
11. AR DeClerck 26. Pauline Baird Jones
12. Carmen Webster Buxton 27. Dena Garson
13. Christina Westcott 28. Imogene Nix
14. Michelle Howard 29. Tess Rider
15. Siren Allen 30. Michelle Diener

Christmas in the Darling Downs

5V3A4074We usually stay home for Christmas. Prawns on the barbie, a nibble of smoked salmon, dips ‘n chips and a glass of wine or three over a game of Scrabble suit me just fine. But this year we decided to go away so somebody else could do the food preparation and the washing up. We threaten to do that most years, but we always leave it too late. Christmas lunch preparations have to start early. As it happens, we found a motel with a restaurant in Warwick at rather short notice (December). That sounded suspicious, and a phone call ascertained that the restaurant wouldn’t be open. Not to worry. It seemed the locals all went to the local Chinese on Christmas day. It was the only show in town, so the owners weren’t exactly silly. I made a booking for 12:30, we jumped in the new SUV and headed off.

Warwick is one of the larger towns in an area known as the Darling Downs. This means, obviously, that it’s much higher than the Queensland coastal fringe. (English is such an idiotic language) Because of the elevation, it’s much cooler than the coast, too – which was part of the attraction. Stanthorpe, another of the larger towns, is almost always the coldest place in Queensland. We’d been in Warwick once, many years ago, and the memory of the very cold night and the ice on the car windows lingers.

Because of the milder climate the Darling Downs is famous for its wineries, cheese and fruit. Up there they can grow apples, pears, stone fruits, berries and cherries. Everybody has cellar door sales, and restaurants or cafes. Don’t go up there for those things at Christmas time, though. On Christmas day we could have shot a cannon down Warwick’s main street and not hit anything. Boxing Day wasn’t much better.

The other thing the Darling Downs does very well is storms. Rising air from the coast mixes with the cooler air and if you add a deep depression threatening to become a cyclone hovering around up in the tropics it was a perfect cocktail for another one of those regular storms. On the way to Warwick we listened to the weather bureau warnings about a large storm around Stanthorpe. It delivered tennis ball sized hail and gale force winds. One farmer’s entire strawberry crop was completely wiped out, and trees were stripped of branches and leaves, or torn out of the ground altogether. We were told that in other spots the hail wasn’t as large, but it coated the ground like a thick blanket of snow. The farmers factor storm losses into their budgets here. The picture below was of another storm.


5V3A4054There’s a tornado in there, on the horizon. I’ve done a close up for you. This happened every day. Even when the weather started off fine, by late afternoon the clouds had gathered around the hills, piling up into ominous moving mountains.

Lunch at the Chinese was fun from a people-watching point of view. They’d prepared a buffet offering fresh prawns and oysters, and a range of Chinese food like Mongolian lamb, braised seafood and (because this is Australia) sweet and sour pork. The sweets table boasted a large pavlova, fruit salad, a huge bowl of local cherries, and a large store-bought tub of vanilla ice cream.  The place was packed with families. Mum and dad and the kids, older couples with their parents – probably collected from their aged care centre – all enjoying lunch together. Although the place is licensed few people ordered much more than a mid strength beer.

On the day before Christmas we took a drive up into the hills surrounding the downs. That’s where most of the rain falls onto ancient, eroding hills. From Killarney you drive up Falls Road past a number of waterfalls within short walks of the road. The clouds hung around the tops of the hills, stretching ephemeral fingers down the slopes.


Queen Mary Falls – at the top


Queen Mary Falls all the way down

From the top of the pass the view across the valley is spectacular. It’s sobering to think that the forest we drove through to get to this lookout would have covered that whole valley one hundred and fifty years ago. From there, we drove down to the plain and then back up again via Cunningham Gap. This part of the trip was my favourite. I love water. Maybe that’s because I’m a Scorpio?


The view from Carr’s lookout

There a number of national parks within an hour’s drive of Warwick and Stanthorpe. The one with Falls Road is Main Range.


Rain forest


Rainforest tree ferns

5V3A4086 5V3A4113 5V3A4107Then there’s Girraween and Sundown, which illustrate why this part of the world is known as the “granite belt”. The forest is much the same as you’d find anywhere in Australia – dry sclerophyll forest. But many of the peaks are bare rock and if you look between the trees you’ll see rounded boulders everywhere, some balanced on top of each other. Others appear to be held back from the track only by a slim eucalypt. We walked along a made track to a waterhole which you can bet would have been popular with the aboriginal people back in the day.






The road down to the plain

The road down to the plain

We meandered our way home to Hervey Bay via Toowoomba. Just in case you thought I was kidding about the height of this area, this is the main road to Brisbane from the Downs.

From there we skirted around the glass house mountains back home. We’ll do another visit to that area some time next year, after the school holidays.