Sunday, December 24, 2006

Jingle Bells - Oz style

The carol singers had gathered. The guitarist strummed the opening notes of the familiar 'Jingle Bells'. I opened my mouth to sing along and suddenly found myself alone in the crowd. The tune hadn't changed, but the words jingled in another direction. Here's the Aussie-styled carol, with translations of the slang at the bottom.

Dashing through the bush
In a rusty Holden Ute
Kicking up the dust
Esky in the boot
Kelpie by my side
Singing Christmas songs
It's summer time and I am in
My singlet, shorts & thongs


Engine's getting hot
Dodge the kangaroos
Swaggy climbs aboard
He is welcome too
All the family's there
Sitting by the pool
Christmas day, the Aussie way
By the barbecue!


Come the afternoon
Grandpa has a doze
The kids and uncle Bruce
Are swimming in their clothes
The time comes round to go
We take a family snap
Then pack the car and all shoot through
Before the washing up


In the words of one of the new Australian mates: MERRY CHRISSY to all of you.

Slang translated:
Ute : utility vehicle, pickup truck
Esky : large insulated food/drink container for picnics, barbecues etc.
Kelpie : Australian sheepdog originally bred from Scottish collie
Thongs : (NOT the G-strings you're thinking of!) cheap rubber backless sandals
Swaggie : swagman, tramp, hobo

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Yeeya, Down Under

The first impression about Australian currency is that it resembles craft paper – thin, smooth and colourful, with a tiny plastic window in one corner. So that when you hold it up to the light, you not only see the fearsome, handlebar-moustached gentleman on it, but can also the thin-faced, flare-nostrilled man at the money exchange counter, through it. The former gazes into eternity, the latter looks on a bit impatiently, as you pore over the notes, looking for other quaint features.

Currency apart, there’s much to marvel about Australia, as I’ve discovered in the last 2 days that I’ve been here. I’m on a 3-week vacation on the East Coast, ostensibly soaking up the summer sun. I say ‘ostensibly’ because the the summer I was told about, warned about, seems to be as much of a myth as, well, Santa Claus. As we touched down in Sydney, the pilot announced, “The temperature outside is 16 degrees, with light showers.” Having shivered through most of the 7-hour flight from Dubai to Hong Kong and the 9-hour flight from Hong Kong to Sydney, the only thought that kept me going was the toasty warmth of Sydney. I was looking forward to a ‘sunny Christmas’, and the only ‘warm’ clothing I’d packed was a denim jacket, and not a very thick one at that.

The weather may not have lived up to expectations, but the Australians certainly did. Bleary-eyed entrants to the Sydney airport were welcomed by the Salvation Army brass band playing Christmas carols. At 6:30 in the morning!

Ro, a dear old friend from pre-college days, already had her hands full with 3-year old twins. But she greeted me enthusiastically and the twins looked at me curiously. “Kirk and Jadyn, this is Leela,” she announced.

Shy smiles appeared. “Yeeya,” said Jadyn. “Yaya,” rasped Kirk, faint sounds issuing from the tube in his throat which covered his tracheostomy. His vocal chords hadn’t normalized yet, and he still needed to be fed through a tube in his stomach. But nothing stopped him from being the more boisterous of the two. Still, I couldn’t help marveling at his restraint when both were handed chocolate chip cookie, and Kirk was told gently, “Only to hold, you can’t eat it.” He wasn’t curious about eating anyway; he only wanted whatever Jadyn was being given.

Jet lag kicked in by the time we headed out to the Darling Harbour. But swiveling my head back and forth to take in the sights ensured that I didn’t nod off. Parking the car, we took the tram through stations with names out of an Enid Blyton book – Rozelle Bay, Lilyfield, Paddy’s Market...

Sitting at the Sydney Aquarium cafĂ© overlooking the harbour, we noticed a well-dressed group of people – the men in black suits, the women in little black and pink numbers. The women shivered and sported gooseflesh as elegantly as possible. Some even turned a bit blue as they looked out for ‘Michelle & Vito’ – the couple who was to be married on one of the cruise boats that go around the harbour.

At another end of Darling Harbour, the Chatwoods High school orchestra performed Christmas carols and jazz medleys to a crowd of delighted children and their parents. Strollers, shoppers and tourists ambling along, spread themselves on the grass in front of the stage to watch the action. The 25-foot tall Christmas tree, aglow and animated, joined the festivities.

Day 1 in Sydney. Not a bad way to start.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Turns out...

... the 'Writer by Night' is usually fast sleep. New post coming up soon. Thank you all for your vigil.