I do hold Christmas as something slightly sacred. The ominous descent of climate change may indeed have ruled out the days of two feet of snow piled up against the kitchen door, of being snowed in and unable to drive down to Waitrose on Christmas eve to pick up the turkey. Nonetheless, Christmas comes as a day for families. Although every year brings the ruthless defence of my bedroom when waves of family flood the household consistently losing and ending up twiddling my thumbs on the sofa at 3am over a rerun of Love Actually, I still support Christmas a time for family roasts and present confusion (cue my grandma opening a bunch of dog toys and feigning extreme gratitude).
This year I ended up a little further afield. In Sydney, to be precise, which comes out at about 10,725 miles. Living with my brother nonetheless so family was present, although after spending the morning opening presents under the cool breeze of the aircon, I journeyed out to a Sydney ‘Expat Christmas Picnic’. One of the things I love about Sydney is the inclusion of travellers. Several Facebook groups that I joined organise regular meetups for those visiting the city, ranging from BBQs to a recent floatie/lilo party. You can post openly on the groups if you find yourself lonely one afternoon, and have instant replies coming from nearby travellers or locals keen to meet and greet and provide amusement.
Expat or expatriate is a noun or adjective used to describe a person currently residing in a foreign land, whereas the more commonly used immigrant is a noun used for someone permanently residing in a foreign land. Immigrant holds more permanent connotations, for expats, their length of stay remains unclear. This is common for many travellers harbouring Sydney – a transient stop along the way to South East Asia, or a pitstop after Balinese temples. Hence the organisation of the Sydney Expat Christmas party, which was this year’s Christmas destination. Breathtaking views out from the Sydney Observatory hill over the Harbour bridge, bottles of white wine and the friendly blur of accents in the background served a certain change from the usual mince pies and drunk uncles.
I didn’t quite expect to spend my New Year on a catamaran mere hundreds of metres away from the Harbour bridge firework display either, but impromptu events seem to come hand in hand with the connections between expats and travellers across Sydney. We were told that the boat is normally chartered out at sizeable cost for private hire over New Year, but that this year the demand was absent so the owners had nevertheless decided to moor out near the bridge and welcome a posse of vaguely connected strangers aboard their boat. I therefore have the unprofitable generosity of these people to thank, as I’m certain my other plans (a mild exaggeration as my plans extended as far as admiring the fireworks from the soft nest of the sofa) wouldn’t have had me on a yacht in any sense.
There was a true sense of community in the mooring areas below the bridge (our neighbours to the left had come all the way from America in a fairly small vessel; the neighbours to the right had been moored there since the previous morning) as well as an equally amusing level of conflict and drama between boats. (This included a fair deal of fist shaking and threats to sue should a certain boat come any closer to ours). It was all quite exciting, not being a huge seafarer myself, I fancied our vessel as being a prominent Battleship target. I was even wholly up for wearing a captain’s hat and taking charge of the wheel (controls? Rudder? I’m not entirely sure of my boat linguistics) but was instead humbled to the task of clearing away empty flutes and strawberry ends.
Returning to land turned out to be more of an issue than expected due to the sudden rush of boats all desperate to leave after the midnight firework display, but we were set ashore in Pyrmont and I braved a frenzy of drunken youths tossing bottles and weary homebodies who don’t usually stay up past 10pm all traipsing the streets to get home.
The firework display in Sydney is like no other, especially from our prime vantage point at sea. The fireworks were set off from four points to provide an encapsulating display from all angles. Admittedly, fireworks do never look as impressive caught on camera, but I’ve done my best to capture a few of the striking moments of the night sky.