Witters from Down Under

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Having moved from Scotland to Australia in 2005 to find out if she had fallen in love with the country as well as her husband a decade ago, she decided that the answer was 'yes' and intended to stay.

However life has always had a marvellous way of changing her best-laid plans. And it happened again. An unexpected work opportunity presented itself in mid-2008: one too good to miss.

As a result the Witter from Down Under is now coming from the land of the long white cloud - New Zealand.

Please join us and read Frenchbean's commentary on a new country, a new city, a new job and new friends.

A very merry Christmas to you all—and here's to a peaceful and healthy 2009

Handel's Messiah is a personal harbinger of the festive season and I was uplifted with a thousand other people at a performance by the Chchch Symph and the City Chorus last weekend.

The tunes are so familiar and so singable that it was an effort to keep quiet for me and most of the audience, as toes tapped, hums hummed and even singing emanated from the rows around me from time to time.

The Messiah is a wonderful shared experience, for those who believe the gospels and for atheists alike. Mind you, the woman next to me who gave me an uninvited and earnest lecture on the biblical origins of the work, was aghast when I politely cut her short and told her I like the story, but don't make any more of it than that. I feared she was going to stand up and publicly condemn me as a heathen! (I would have been proud and unbowed had she done so.)

That notwithstanding I had a wonderful evening. The bass singer was simply incredible. As soon as he opened his mouth and his first note resounded through the hall, I decided I could happily wrap him up, take him home and put him under the tree as a Christmas treat. His diction, his tone and his timing were all perfect. The other three soloists were good, but he completely overshadowed them.

We've all seen performers who catch our attention to the exclusion of all others. Tim Piggott-Smith onstage as Salieri in Amadeus; Timothy West as Willie Loman in Death of a Salesman; and Kevin Spacey and Judi Dench in the film of The Shipping News have all captured me. This was the first time a singer had done it to me. I was spellbound.

Despite not being able to have a scrumptious bass singer for Christmas, I am receiving a very special gift. My books, paintings, music, clothes, furniture and a lifetime of accumulated 'stuff' have arrived at my new home and the next couple of weeks will be spent in wonderful discovery of memories as I unpack and unwrap.

The move out of the Shoebox has been long-overdue, but impatience didn't altogether rid me of an inexplicable nervousness about the shift:

  • Are my belongings all in one piece?
  • Does everything fit into the new house?
  • Will it be as wonderful as I'm imagining it will be?
  • How long before all the boxes are emptied, pictures hung on the walls and the house feels like a home?

Most of these questions—and many more—will be answered next time.

As regular Witterati know, I am a terrible bah-humbug at Christmas. I hate the commercial hysteria that surrounds the occasion, as well as the almost impossible temptation of too much food and drink. For years I've steadfastly refused to decorate and my greatest concession has been to put cards on display.

However, something strange has happened this year. I have decided to have a tree.

It's not a real tree: it's a wickerwork one from the Trade Aid shop, which I shall decorate with greenery from the garden, some tinsel (can you buy ecologically sound tinsel?) and a star at the top. At just a couple of feet tall it will sit on a table amongst the presents, to be opened over breakfast on Christmas Day. I think it is my way of ceremonially welcoming myself to my new home.

Another way to welcome myself will be to sow and plant the veggie patch. Folk at work are being incredibly generous with spare seedlings and seeds. I have already received a bag of "Muriel Magic" beans (which look like Borlotti), as well as a promise of six small strawberry plants (for a harvest next year), two courgette plants, eight tomato plants and some herbs in pots. Perhaps one of the first boxes to be unpacked should be that containing the spade, fork, gardening gloves, gumboots and plant labels!

Have a good one, one and all.

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