I boarded the plane ... stuffed full of all the chocolate and cheese and cranberry sauce that Christmas could bestow upon my under-prepared stomach. The Boxing Day walk that I had braved the cold for had done little to ease the sense of goutiness I was experiencing. But by the time I touched down on Australian soil, left warm from the daytime sun, the previous festive celebrations felt like a distant memory.
My Christmas Eve was spent in the village "Pub With No Name" It's actually called the White Horse but the sign fell down years ago and I guess the owners felt no compulsion to replace it. Over time its new name became no name at all. There we sang along to a man with one ear who played the spoons and wailed sea shanties. As if that wasn't enough, he also passed around a bottle of dark brown liquid with the words "nettle moonshine" scrawled onto a recoiling label. It actually tasted rather nice, somewhere between Calpol and Sambuca. Thinking about it, that doesn't sound nice at all, so I guess I was drunk.
This all now seems like a dream compared to the waves, and the sand, and the unforgiving heat I am currently confronted by. Having just returned from a particularly ferocious game of bat and ball, it appears my sunburn comes in the form of a fetching red collar. I don't care, though, I'm so happy to have cheated winter. This morning as I was clearing away the bottles and bottles of beer and whisky in an effort to wake people up, two brightly coloured parrots perched themselves on the balcony overlooking the sea.
Rather than taking a moment to admire their beauty I quickly slid the glass doors shut in case they got caught in the apartment. This happened frequently when I was a child: birds always ended up flying into our house, but had trouble finding their way out. Disturbingly, they sometimes flew beak-first into our windows. I never want to see that happen again; a parrot bloodbath would really spoil my cheerful mood.
The plane journey here was surprisingly painless, I still got that sinking feeling when we stopped off at Singapore airport and I realised I had only endured the front end of a double-flight onslaught. The last time I flew to Australia I vowed I would never repeat the journey – with my knees up by my neck and nothing on offer but scores of dull rom-coms I'd already watched, the flight seemed endless. This time round though, I napped like a Grandma and indulged in a film called Man On Wire, about a Frenchman who walked a wire between the Twin Towers in the Seventies. I wept until I dislodged a contact lens and then consoled myself by eating aeroplane biscuits. It was altogether almost an enjoyable affair.
This bodes well, and sets me up for an almost enjoyable New Year's Eve, because my past experiences of those, too, have often been testing. I think it started when I tricked my way into a Bournemouth nightclub for the turn of the millennium. I was underage and in hindsight it was a poor choice, in fact at the time I think I knew it was a poor choice. I'd have been better staying in with friends supping on hooch rather than standing half-dressed and bewildered in the middle of a trance party when the clock struck 12.
Other New Year's celebrations in recent years have included a trip to New York where I and my best friend, four months pregnant at the time, spent the duration of a party urging smokers to ditch their fags for the baby's sake and defending her bump from the crushing crowds. Again, we should have just stayed in. Last year I left a house party I and my flatmates were throwing in order to catch a band playing round the corner. When I returned all the people in my flat were strangers and all the drink had run dry.
This year, though, I'll be watching the fireworks over Sydney harbour when 2009 is counted in, something I've previously only ever witnessed on TV. It always looked like so much fun, and hopefully it will be ... anything's better than trance and Bournemouth.