Christmas is so different these days. Always a time for self indulgence, it is now time for me to underindulge, if only for my health. I have managed to become a little more austere. I certainly did not stock up to the indulgent extent I did last year. On Christmas day and Boxing Day I had a pleasantly and only slightly self-indulgent couple of days with my sister, brother in law and nieces and their partners, and of course with my great nephew Korban and Kharly, my newborn great niece. Young children and babies make Christmas. And I just love babies.
I find that the old flavours and scents bring about a nostalgia that at this time of year is as often sad as cheerful, so it is quite fortunate that there was no scent of roasting turkey and sausage meat stuffing, or of pine needles this year. It was far too hot in Perth to cook the full Christmas rigmarole (the thermometer hit 40 C) so we had a delicious dinner of salads and cold meat; pressed turkey breast and ham. My niece Kathy, an excellent cook, made very nice Christmas puddings and Christmas cake. It was good to see Dad, who was over from New South Wales, but without doubt once again the greatest fun was derived from watching Korban, my wee great nephew being spoilt and having a great time of it. His Granddad finally achieved his dream of seeing his grandson on an electric quad bike. He had wanted to buy one last year! Even now the little tyke is probably too young. But he learned really quickly, as we knew he would. If it has wheels, he is into it. Definitely going to be a petrol-head. For me the best part was being puked on by Kharly. She settled into my arms most cheerfully, took as instant a liking to me as I to her. She is plainly already a great judge of character. She smiles a lot and each time she does, she melts my heart.
I came home on Boxing Day afternoon. I was a little down for a bit after that. Even lost my appetite for ham sandwiches for a while.
Of course at this time of year I miss my own children, and yes, even her. Or the way we were. So there would naturally be some down times. The weather did not help. The thermometer climbed to 39 degrees C, hung there for a day or two then ventured up again, with a couple of days at 40 or 41 until New Years Day was an exhausting 43. It was even too hot to ride or to go hollowlogging. I made a couple of trips to Ewlyamartup lake, where I swam and by carefully floating on my back and checking my plimsoll line, I was able to determine that Ewlyamartup is indeed saltier than the sea.
With the weather as it was, there was very little to do in the middle of the day except retire to the lounge under the aircon, and read a book or watch a DVD. That led to a wee bout of drinking. I raided my small stock of beers and spent some time trying to decide if Speight’s Old Dark (NZ) or Carlton Black (Aus) is the better brew. After half a dozen of each I have still not decided. So since it is local , easier to get, and cheaper, I shall probably stick to Carltons.
For Christmas I bought myself a cheap plastic garden pond. I stocked it with weed from my aquarium and from the garden centre, and with tadpoles that I saved from a drying pond in the creek bed. Last year I was watching their development and just as they were getting fat and growing legs, the pond dried up. On my next visit I found only mud and the footprints of birds. So this year I intervened. It is likely this lot would not have made it to froghood either. I went back to the creek today and I would guess that after only a couple more days of hot windy weather there will be no water left. I was wondering if I should try and squeeze a few more into the pond, but they would probably only cannibalise each other.
I also put into the new pond the couple of Gambusia that had survived the purges of my aquarium and which I had not had the heart to put down. I had kept them in an old plastic crisper bin beside the house, with some aquarium plants I was trying to grow (the yabbies keep eating them). I justified letting them live by telling myself they would prevent the weed nursery from becoming a haven for mosquito larvae. They did that, but. Mistake. In just a few days I had a pond full of tiny fish. They do not seem to have affected the tadpoles so I have not started a pogrom. They may yet end up as frog food with luck. Best of all, the frog I had released to the same little container, and that I thought had headed off for a better location, turned up on the very evening I installed the new pond. He clearly had been sticking around even though I never saw him. I see him every evening now. Sometimes even by day. I have arranged my pot plants and mint and herbs around the pond so he has plenty of shelter and places to hide. I am surprised at how much time frogs must spend away from the water. I thought they hung around in ponds all day. It seems not so. I think he goes hunting, or else just holes up somewhere out of sight.
Yesterday I drove to Albany to see The Hobbit, An Unexpected Journey. I have waited 55 years to see this film. When I was six, I thought it the best story ever, and I was delighted to rediscover it at high school, along with Tolkien’s other works. I liked Jacksons rendering of the Lord of The Rings, though I was disappointed at some of the liberties he took, and some of the omissions. Tom Bombadil and The Scouring of the Shire in particular. I was worried about what he might do to this seminal fantasy that I have loved since 1958. I could hardly have been happier with what I saw.
I thought that Martin Freeman was a perfect Bilbo.
Despite some tiny misgivings on some subtle changes to my favourite scenes that I have had so clearly in my mind for so many years (mainly the trolls), most of the adventure was just as I have pictured it all these years. The few small changes from the book were mostly understandable, and entirely forgiveable. The backstory inserts were credible, though I don’t really think it was that important to invent scenes that tie the story in to LOTR. Even Tolkien himself made only a slight effort at revision of the Hobbit after he wrote the latter work. I am not sure why we had Radagast and the bunny sleigh scenes. Even so, I felt very good about what I saw – even more than I did about LOTR. I am looking forward to the next part. In fact I have a feeling that if Jackson can keep it up, this series of The Hobbit will excel The Lord of The Rings.
The fact that I am nearly 61 and the best thing to happen to me lately is this fantasy movie must indicate something about me. Something is subtly wrong here….
The new visors for my helmets arrived at last today, and it appears by coincidence that the really hot spell may be over. Today we were just in the high twenties and low thirties. With a pleasant breeze. That means I am back on my bike for the rest of the holidays. I have hollow logs to explore, wildlife to photograph, and some swimming to do. By the way, I have a possum in my bottlebrush tree.