So it seems I’m going to Antarctica. Again. My uncle is heading down on a photography mission and suggested a couple of weeks ago that I might be interested in tagging along. I suggested that I might indeed. We leave from the south of Argentina in about three weeks. I’m looking forward to the serious indie-inner-suburban-wanker-cred this will give me with people I don’t know at Melbourne house parties. I was generally the only person in the room who had been to Antarctica once, but I’m very confident I’ll be the only one who’s been twice. I plan to get a pair of tweed pants and a fedora, and increase my ratio of beard-stroking to words spoken. (Actually, I already own a pair of tweed-ish pants, though they’re really polyester, and they’re actually pants for a really fat lady, but I bought them in an op-shop because they were two dollars and a girl told me to, and they have a slippery salmon-coloured satinate lining, which is hideous and means they slip down all the time over my non-lady hips. And I actually quite like hats, though they never really fit over my large head and stupid hair. And I never wanted a fucking beard, I really didn’t, it’s such a cliché! But then shaving kept giving me a wicked rash, and I’m too lazy to do anything on a weekly basis, so it kept growing in bits and pieces, and then a girl said she liked it and that was game over, man, game over.)
Christmas is on the mind – family and all the people who I’m not going to see. All the stupid parties and stupid charming happiness. Though dodging the advertising and shopping hype is a true blessing. Everyone here seems remarkably chilled out about the whole deal. When I think of Christmas the image in my head it’s probably an amalgam of various years. It’s always a hot summer Christmas, though it rarely actually is in December. Christmas Eve, being up late at night when I was young enough to find this very fact wondrous. Wandering round the house alone, coming down the stairs in short pyjamas to find most of the lights dimmed, and the windows open, and the tree lit up all gently pulsing colour and gold. There might have been singing earlier, and the residual happiness from that. Latent food aromas in the background, behind the smell of fresh pine needles coming in all prickly and full off the hot night air. For the rest of my life this smell will show me this image. A sense of quiet and calm, and all being right with the world. Insects chirping and clicking in the garden outside, and the lights up the other side of the Eltham valley shining. Like everything and everyone was just sitting back, at ease, the way my Dad and I would sometimes sit together really late when it was too hot to sleep, out the front or in the sitting room with the lights right down, sitting in each other’s company for an hour or more and barely saying a word. The insects would talk for us and the leaves would be still and the night air would give warmth and sustenance like amniotic fluid. That and the quiet and the lights dimmed right down to burnt orange would make it feel like we were floating in amber.
Christmas for me this year is in Rosario, a city four hours inland from BA, with the family of a girl who Mr Fox, The Doctor and I met in the immigration queue out of Bolivia. (The best place to be in that particular nation-state.) Old Vivien and the kindness of strangers – it was a good game plan. Leti and I exchanged a couple of emails, then she invited me to Christmas dinner, essentially on the back of one conversation. These are the things I like about travel: the warmth and trust that people sometimes show you, and the completely random adventures. And this is why I never like to plan anything. When a kindly uncle says “Fancy a trip to the Antarctic?” at a month’s notice, you want to be in a position to say yes.