The Best Day of the Year. Some Random Thoughts.

Phew, I’m glad that’s all over for another year. Without a doubt, the best day of the year is Boxing Day. It’s a significant turning point in the Australian calendar, marking the start of summer holidays in earnest, a time to indulge in guilt free relaxation, simple foods, barbecues, books and trips to the beach. As much as I tried to avoid the Christmas mayhem this year, the gift giving merry-go-round, and the over indulgence in rich food, I admit I did succumb. I guess I’m too well-trained: Christmas, with all its trappings, is ingrained in my DNA. It’s a romanticised and mythologised Christmas that bears no resemblance to the modern-day version. Next year, I might run away.

Peach time, always ready on Boxing Day.

In my retrospective analysis of that over- rated day, one bonus was that I avoided visiting large department stores. Most gifts were purchased online ( from some of those large stores) which were delivered to my front door. The extra shipping cost was far less than the return drive to the nearest bastion of commerce, not to mention the enormous saving to my sanity. No Christmas carols, no maddening queues, no parking angst. I also found a few gifts in a nearby village, two novels for my bookworm granddaughter, purchased in a newly established, tiny children’s bookshop. This shop needs supporting.  I also found a hand made shoulder and neck heatbead pack from the local osteopath. The same village has a Japanese gift shop with an array of tempting goods, jewellery and clothing, a little gold mine of inspiring gifts for the hard to please at any time of the year.  And my gift from Mr T were two young black Silky chickens from a livestock poultry cart at the local farmers’ market. I plan to support more small local stores in the new year. 

Although Boxing Day is a secular holiday, it most likely has roots in St Stephen’s day. It’s derivation is worth noting in this modern day of  online delivery service. In 19th century Britain, Christmas boxes ( gifts or money donations)  were left out for post- men, errand boys and servants on the 26th December.

“In Britain, it was a custom for tradesmen to collect “Christmas boxes” of money or presents on the first weekday after Christmas as thanks for good service throughout the year. This custom is linked to an older British tradition: since they would have to wait on  their masters on Christmas Day, the servants of the wealthy were allowed the next day to visit their families. The employers would give each servant a box to take home containing gifts, bonuses, and sometimes leftover food.”

During the Middle Ages, alms boxes were left at the door of churches to distribute to the poor. This, in turn, may have evolved from the late Roman/early Christian era, when metal boxes were placed outside churches and used to collect special offerings for the Feast of Saint Stephen, which falls December 26, or  Boxing day. 

Life’s peachy

I’m now wondering whether we should leave tips for those van drivers who bring our shopping to the front door. I remember a time when we would leave a gift of beer for our garbos, ( rubbish collectors). Recently a wine delivery courier arrived in a rental van, a charming and very chatty Sikh. His father came to assist in the weekend deliveries but didn’t speak English. The younger turbaned chap explained that his father had been visiting for a year, but the cost of an extension to his temporary visa amounted to well over $100,000. Our new  postal carriers work harder than ever in this day of online shopping.

And like those masters of yore, I too have a surfeit of food when it comes to Christmas leftovers. Yet in this age of plenty, my palate yearns for simpler delights- a freshly plucked peach from our laden tree, a simple zucchini and basil soup, or a spoonful of leftover creme caramel flan, a simple thing made from our fresh hens’ eggs, a little sugar and milk.

Some cheeky visitors retain their Christmas colours all year round. Very rude when they take a fancy to the mixed nuts on the table.

I’ve been thinking about Western over indulgence lately, all that plastic, the indulgent gift giving, the accumulation of junk, the groaning table of food. We need to return to simpler practices. Will a shift in the economic tide bring with it an appreciation of basic things- a hand-made gift or a longed for book? Has the internet era killed the joy of Christmas in the young? What happened to toys? In the age of electronic device, do children still run and play? Do I need my sleep measured by an app?

I hope your Christmas went well, dear friends and readers. Was it merry or quiet? Are you glad it’s over? Do you love Boxing day too?

 

Repurposed Garden Art

Saturday WordPress photo challenges usually see me trawling through my travel files in search of a colourful response. This week’s challenge, Repurpose, drove me to the garden.

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I couldn’t part with my old enamel teapots. They turn up in all sorts of places in the garden.

I am rather partial to junk: I’ve managed to successfully refurbish my home with other people’s discards. It’s in the garden that repurposing is most at home. I use old dog beds, stripped of their comfy covers then recovered with shade cloth, as protection for delicate new seedlings. Old worn out pool lounge chairs get the same treatment, their metal frames so handy in the vegetable garden. Black poly piping is bent into hoops, supported by found metal reo from building sites, creating frames for shade cloth or bird netting. Shabby looking clothes airers, long past their prime, become supports for cucumbers.

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More jugs as garden art.

In one corner of my ornamental garden, found objects create a structure and backdrop for birds, succulents and herbs. Most of these objects, old teapots, vintage metal grape harvest bins, broken cups, beautiful colonial enamel ware jugs and a rusty metal chair, are survivors of the Black Saturday Bushfire.  My enamel jugs and teapots added a colonial air to my former home. Rusted and tarnished from fire and rain, they now live in peace in my garden.

My favourite colonial water pitcher.
My favourite colonial water pitcher.
Buddha lost the pointy top of his head. Now he is a rock collector and pool guard.
Buddha lost the pointy top of his head. Now he is a rock collector and pool guard.

The Winter of Our Content

As June creeps toward winter solstice and the day’s light compresses at both ends, I consider the good fortune we have had to date. No ‘wrathful nipping cold’ or visits from ‘the secret ministry of frost’ so far. No howling winds straight from Antarctica, winds that rattle the rafters and provoke dark insanity. The Black Dog month of August is still a distant thought. No long, damp windless weeks where the fog refuses to lift and the cold wet air rising from the Diamond Creek invades old bones. No, we have been lucky so far.

Oak Trees along the driveway slowly shed their leaves.
Oak Trees along the driveway slowly shed their leaves.

I do really like many aspects of winter, the guiltless indulgence of reading in a sunny window or collecting kindling for slow combustion fires.  Or looking forward to watching a repeat of a Danish Drama Series in front of the fire, cosy hand knitted blankets strewn about for extra warmth. Big bowls of soup, puddings and cream, parsnips and swedes, slow cooked Indian black lentils, smokey chowder and good bread. Baking. There is a lot to like.

Only in winter, the little red robin visits.
Only in winter, the little Scarlet Robin visits.

Only in winter does the tiny Red- capped Robin flit about the garden, its shocking red breast startling those behind glass windows. The Petroicidae are not closely related to either the European or American robins although they do go by the familiar name of red robin.

King Parrots
King Parrots

The King Parrots have remembered us, encouraged by a handful of sunflower seeds on a ledge. Sociable and noisy, they don’t mind you getting close.

Mother Kangaroo and Joey
Mother Kangaroo and Joey

Unlike the King parrots, the kangas keep a respectable distance, even though this young grey kangaroo appears to be posing with her joey for the shot. The birds and kangaroos draw us outside. On clement winter days, when the sun lights up the back paddocks, the kangas behave just like humans and enjoy sunbaking. My winter pastie dreaming finally came to fruition, thanks to Beck who, with this link, inspired a Cornish method of making pastry. Only in winter do these deep cultural yearnings for pasties resurface, like a Cornish miner returning from the tin mines.

Vegetarian Cornish Pasties.
Vegetarian Cornish Pasties.

Cornish pasties are not supposed to contain carrots, must be D-shaped and be filled within Cornwall, according to an EU document! I’m thinking about Mr Tranquillo’s great great-grandfather who died down one of those Cornish tin mines. He probably took a pastie to work. So, bad luck Cornish cousins, mine have carrots, no meat, are filled in Australia but are crimped and taste pretty good. Winter is a time to make Crostata. There is always plenty of jam to use up. A little sweet hit goes down well after wood gathering or fencing. Crostata with Mirabella Plum Jam and Almonds Salads of young winter leaves and herbs make a refreshing contrast to heavy winter dishes.

Winter Herbs and Leaves,
Winter Herbs and Salad Leaves.

A winter’s hearth is a great spot for warming rolled out pizza dough, then eating the lovely thing by the fire.

Pizza on the Hearth
Pizza on the Hearth