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I can’t remember how many years it is since I spent Christmas away from New Zealand. But Kate had kindly suggested that Julie and I spend Christmas with them, Julie before going on to England for New Year. Adam and Janice were going to join us from Singapore and some of our cousins were also going to be there.We arrived at a building site (fairly characteristic with Kate and Bret)!

Kate and I met a tired Adam and Jan from the airport while Bret, Julie and the girls went on the train and shopped for provisions for the hordes of people about to descend on Lindfield.

Trevor and Peter had been unbelievably generous in lending me their Bali villa and it was a great opportunity for the family to chill, so we all went out for the evening to a Hurricane Grill – not one I’d been to with Kate and the family before, but great nonetheless.

Not everyone indulged in the spare ribs but they really are mouth-watering and the bibs that are handed out to everyone are pretty essential. Trevor and Peter marvelled over the size of their portions.

Riley tucked in.

Adam and Trevor got involved in a great discussion.

Awin taught Kate how to make intricate serviette shapes.

And Tyla made sure that she enjoyed every single mouthful.

And so in the lead up to Christmas day, Julie made her own special Christmas cake (she'd trained as a chef early on in her amazingly varied career) while Bret and I went to Dulux to set up an account for the 14enormous amount of paint and materials that they would be needing in the months (and years?) ahead. In the afternoon we all went to a tennis centre nearby and had a hilarious time with borrowed rackets and differing standards all in the mix.

Clearly, they’re going to get enormous pleasure from the tennis court they’re laying in their garden.

And then it was Christmas Day!

I’d forgotten just how early young children get up on Christmas morning! At 5.30 we were all woken by two very excited young ladies who were opening their presents as fast as they could.

Meanwhile, the adults just had fun and relaxed!

Julie particularly in the heat before she left for the colder climes of London!

Trevor and I had conspired several weeks earlier when I enlisted his help to store the present I’d chosen for the whole family. They’d brought the parcels around the day before and we’d hidden them away until the right moment. Adam and Bret carried them in with a certain amount of curiosity and the unwrapping began.

It was a ball machine which I thought would go far to satisfy the very different demands on the tennis court. Everyone would be able to play at their own level without having to rely on other members of the family to throw up the balls. They were thrilled, not only with the machine itself but also with the accompanying present from Cheryl and Bruce of 240 balls, the basket and pick up tube, and the machine cover from Julie. A great ensemble.

All that remained now was to complete the court which did finally happen in February 2014. Clearly, all the foundation work we did paid dividends.

And so it was time for Christmas dinner and our cousins from England arrived to share in the festivities.

Kate and Bret decided that a walk from Cooggee Beach to Bondi along the cliff tops on Boxing Day would be a great way to shake down Christmas fare so we set off to  in two cars where the family stopped for coffee while Adam and Bret drove to Bondi and left one of the cars there and came back to join us.

This was the view looking back at Cooggee Beach as we set off and this was the view of Bondi in the distance. 

I'm not sure of the names of all the bays in between. They were all beautiful and the walk was well worth doing.

That evening, Trevor, Bret’s uncle, and Peter, the Bali villa owners, and Awin, their Indonesian student, welcomed us to their beautiful home for dinner on Boxing Day as they’d had other plans for Christmas Day and couldn’t spend it with us. Peter is a great cook and we had a wonderfully relaxing evening together.

Before Jan left, she was encouraged to give the family a Yoga lesson.

Clearly, she’s a very talented instructor and a joy to watch in the various positions she can get into.








She was also very patient as it was soon evident that not had quite the same of flexibility required to get into the positions she could!

Adam can stand on his head but I suspect he’s been practising that in Singapore! And both the girls got the general idea and managed with (a little) assistance.

Riley showed that she’s very flexible and could probably follow Janice’s lead through many of the movements. Tyla, too, came close, but Bret, Adam and Julie clearly need a bit more practice before they can persuade their bodies to get into some of the positions demonstrated!

It’s probably fair to say that the warm down at the end came at exactly the right moment for the group! And Kate and I were very grateful that we’d decided that watching was probably as much exercise as we were capable of. Kate would have been absolutely fine, but in my case, discretion was definitely the better part of valour.

With family and friends on their way home, there was still plenty of holidays left in which to do some of the work around the property. It was rather like painting the Great Wall of China!

Apart from painting the low wall around the perimeter of the full-size tennis court, a job Kate was in charge of with the girls all joining in, there was also a big job to do on the surrounds which were full of weeds and grasses and needed to be cleared and levelled ready for the topsoil and bark to come before being planted in the autumn. So Bret and I started to tackle that.

And it was very satisfying to complete the task before I left.

The next job to tackle was the destruction of the porch at the front of the property. Bret started by dismantling the supports and then took to it with a sledgehammer to break everything up into smaller pieces to put into the skip.

As much of the materials were asbestos, which is not allowed in the skip, my job was to pick it all up and put it into bags so that it could be transported in their car to be disposed of in the proper way.

And it was very hot every day so collapsing with a cool drink was always an option at the end of the day!

And then it was time to take a break from work and enjoy my birthday! Kate and I went and enjoyed a lovely pedicure and then we all went out to the movies.

With the surrounding earthworks complete, it was back to the painting and great to finish cutting in the third coat ready for Kate to complete all the walls with a roller.

The cousins had been out and about exploring the area generally and they now departed for England, leaving Mary with the family to have a base while she looked for a job and some adventure over the coming months.

Bret was travelling to Brisbane on business the next day so he kindly allowed me to share his taxi which came to the house before 6.00 so that I was able to grab a ride to the airport to save disturbing Kate and the girls. Unfortunately, the plane was delayed but the lounge was very comfortable and it was a great opportunity to blob and reflect on all the great moments I’d experienced on my Australian Christmas holiday.

Sydney, Australia - 26 December 2013 to 6 January 2014

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