Alternative Christmas 

Part of my glee about this trip had been because of the timing – which was perfect! I would miss the UK Christmas and NY…as well as the winter months that I loathe. 

I find Christmas a very difficult time, I’ll try and summarise… 

Firstly it makes me feel genuinely sad, lonely and alone. The enforced happiness of it all, makes me want to kill myself. You’re supposed to be so happy that’s the trouble. 

Secondly there’s the fact that I have to go home to my parents house. Which only highlights the futility of my single life. My home is London, but as most of us experience Christmas demands a certain combination of guilt and duty…which means I normally have to spend Chrsitmas at my parents home rather than at my home. I am a very nearly, forty year old woman…why can’t I spend Christmas at my house eating mini treats made by Waitrose (the ultimate in supermarkets in my opinion) and drinking Baileys? Why? I work hard, mostly – why can’t I enjoy an annual holiday doing what I would like?

I know this probably sounds incredibly selfish (and reading it back even wingey) and I agree it is! I’m not saying I’m right I’m just telling you why I was so pleased to be going to Bondi Beach for Christmas.

So this was the perfect escape, I could have an Alternative Christmas. My reasoning looked like this…in percentages I’d say;
20% to see the sights

90% to miss Christmas

90% to miss January and February

40% to see my best friend 

50% to see the man from Adelaide

The rest was incidental, let’s call it happy coincidence – that I’ve always wanted to go to Oz and that my Aunty also lives in Adelaide for example, now that was a definite bonus. 

The minute I booked my trip I had an excuse not to go to go ‘home’I rubbed my hands in glee when I realised that I had a wonderful, perfect, bullet proof plan! I would be in Australia for Christmas. And there was absolutely nothing that they (my parents) could do to stop me.

Nothing…or so I thought…I had not prepared for my Mothers persistence – some would say pure stubbornness. And it certainly had not prepared me for them booking their own bloody holiday to Australia and New Zealand! For fucks sake! 

Nothing says single like a Christmas at home alone…OR your parents following you across the world to try and ruin your perfect Alternative Christmas away from them! How selfish! Grr! I tried not to freak out. 

Fine. They could have their trip – what could I do? Australia is a big country…catch me if you can! More of that later.

We could have spent Chritsmas with a friend of ours but typically we made the wrong choice. I insisted that me and my best friend spent it together, catching up. We had run out of conversation by the time we got off the bus and we walked in silence from Coogee to Bondi. We watched hundreds of other people involved in their own picnics with friends and family. We had not brought a picnic and we’d left the Prosecco at the hotel…we were having a lovely Alternative Christmas after all! 

Drama ensues…

Every day is a pantomime with me…

Given my breadth of experience there are times when I just wish I could actually think before I act and make better decisions. I am plagued by bad decision making. Plagued I tell you! 

For example…this morning I got into the shower and realised I’d left my towel in my room – bugger I thought. I air dried a bit and then I used a cotton pad to try and wipe off some excess water…surprisingly this was not very effective. So I thought I’d brush my teeth whilst I was waiting. I popped on the toothpaste and started to brush…only it wasn’t toothpaste I realised fairly quickly. It was in fact the Aqueous cream I use to wash my stupidly sensitive skin with…agh! All this before 8 am. It’s exhausting being me!

So when I returned to the hotel that day in Sydney (the hotel shall remain nameless!) I made completely and utterly the wrong the decision. Instead of keeping my mouth shut about my diagnosis, I marched up to reception to give them the good news – that instead of the scabies I had self diagnosed the day before it was definitely a case of bed bugs…

Can you imagine the relief on their faces…no? Neither can I. The drama that ensued was just completely typical for my life. It involved several angry phone calls, tears, recriminations and meetings with the hotel manager. Who was firm but fair; the bug man would come in and ascertain the situation in our room…apparently they can tell if you brought them in with you. (Like I would deliberately carry the little bastards about like a mini bus mans holiday!) His main concern was obviously my welfare…but this would cost a minimum of $300! I was fucked!

We had to evacuate our room for the afternoon until the bug man had been. He turned up in his bug suit and carrying his exterminating kit. The hotel staff all glared at me accusingly. Once again – I was not carrying bed bugs around with me on purpose! In the mean time we went to wash ALL my clothes. Everything I owned even the stuff I hadn’t worn. I bought a bug spray and sprayed my suit case and my shoes. Anything I couldn’t wash. To add to my humiliation I was forced to wear a bikini bottom as a bra, because everything else was at the laundry, and buy a new pair of pants.

We tried to distract ourselves with tbe botanical gardens…my phone rang – it was the manager. 

NO bed bugs found!

Thank god for that. The hotel manager let me off the fee as a Christmas treat! The only downer was that my pyjamas – a present from India, so guaranteed bug free – disappeared with the sheets…I was devestated but given the circumstances, I decided to let it go! 

Bastard bed bugs

Sydney…

By the time I arrived in Sydney the rash was taking over my face and arm. I looked like I was suffering a serious bout of leprocsy, and I was starting to panic. It was raining a lot when I arrived. The whole of my first day (I felt like I was still in London, wtf?!) 

So I took myself to the Doctors, he prescribed me some steroids and some steroid cream. Which I applied immediately upon leaving the surgery. Phew! I tried to relax. I got my laundry and did that but with all that time on my hands and wifi…

Now, I’m not one to Google symptoms, usually – but for some reason being in an unfamiliar place makes me a touch more paranoid than usual…

By four pm I had decided it was scabies, had sat in a very hot sauna (after reading that the bugs can’t survive at over 40 degrees) for as long as I could bear, had done an intensive work out session (just to take my mind off it!) and was in the chemist buying two (because surely one wasn’t enough) tubes of scabies cream. 

I am not proud of myself, I am an idiot. By the next morning I resembled the elephant woman…I had to go to the airport to meet my best friend. The one who’d been in India. So I got up very early and lurked at the arrivals with my sunglasses on and my hair covering my face, in a comedy fashion. This was a moment I had been looking forward too for four long months and here I was totally and utterly preoccupied by my face! Never mind my arm!

I wish I could say that it was all forgotten when we saw each other again but she took one look and me and said “let’s get you to hospital!” The health system in this country really is amazing, I have thoroughly enjoyed my experiences of health care over here. Which have been numerous but I’ll get to that later.

The hospital confirmed a severe allergic reaction to bed bugs – that f***ing hostel in St Kilda, and told me to continue with the same treatment the Doc had prescribed. I cried. What?! No miracle cure? It was Christmas tomorrow! The Doctor kind of laughed. You’ll be ok, he said. 

And to be fair. I was! 

The drama that ensued following this diagnosis however…well that’s another story!