In this edition:
- Festive Glamour: When the festive season throws you an occasion, you need to glam it up.
- Andrew McUtchen looks for fun in cricket with former Australian cricketer Damien Fleming.
- Take a look at our Christmas Gift Guide.
Im just back from a trip to the country where, for about three hours, I thought my small toes had dropped off. It was absolutely freezing. Puffs of steam came out of our mouths when we spoke, even though we were inside.
Im just not interested in being cold any more. I spent my entire childhood in a cold and windy town, frozen to the core, running from cold room to cold room to get to the only one in the house that had the Vulcan and even then we werent allowed to turn it on in the morning.
My feet were always frozen and my nose bright red and my school tunic singed brown at the back from sitting on the old gas heaters at school in the endless and fruitless pursuit of trying to get warm.
I was in the country because a dear old friends mother had passed away. The funeral was in a small, brick church that had not a of drop of heating inside. Not even a little blow-heater for the priest, who was wearing a polo-neck jumper under his frock because he, as sure as anything, knew what he was in for. And we were the lucky ones we found a seat inside the church. Some people had to sit in a marquee outside.
All funerals are sad. The casket, the songs, the incense; theyre all reminders of people weve lost and the unfathomable beast that is mortality. We can map every tiny little bit of DNA in our bodies but we still dont know the answer to the biggest human puzzle, that is where we go when we go.
One of the loveliest funerals Ive been to was a morning tea at the Windsor. We had high tea, a few laughs, some tears, and we all left with a beautiful bunch of roses. There was no need for the casket, or a priest, or heavy mourning. This was a celebration of a life well lived.
And last week was the same. Here was a woman who defied her fathers wishes to become a nurse, and did a quite remarkable stint on an Aboriginal reserve in the 1950s. She went on to raise six kids on her own, after being widowed in her 40s. And there were beautiful photos of her hugging the indigenous kids on the reserve, at family weddings and Christmas, feeding her grandkids and learning to use a computer and fly a plane. In each of them she was smiling her head off.
We saw a picture of a strong woman who worked hard, gave tirelessly to her local community, loved a social occasion and a drop or two of wine and in her long life managed to survive three different kinds of cancer. She passed away just after her 80th birthday. Who wouldnt want to live that well, for that long?
After the funeral we all went to the local footy club and thawed out. Every woman and maybe a few men had provided a plate, and there were sausage rolls, soup, quiche and every kind of sponge cake and slice imaginable. The old chatted to the young, old friends who hadnt seen each other for 20 years hugged and arranged to catch up for lunch, and everyone stayed until dark.
Sometimes the saddest occasions are the most life affirming. My limbs and toes and even my hair was still cold, but I was warm inside.