‘Twas the night before Christmas in the share house
WITH Christmas not far away and the kids have pushed to have the Christmas tree perfect, the ultimate food, a million presents and more Christmas lights than a road train it makes me think of the Christmases I used to have in the shared house I lived in for five years.
It was a wild joint right on the river at a little place called Ulmarra about the size of Killarney, mainly dairy farms and cane fields with one pub, a servo and a shop.
Mondays as a work day were often optional and paid holidays usually came as part of John Howard's fishing team bonuses.
The Christmas tree was a pyramid of Toohey's New cans with a star cut out of a carton.
The water dragons would invade the house at every opportunity and we had these rat-looking things that used to hop around like a kangaroo.
It was a wild crew of blokes too - Gaz, a window tinter with dreadlocks 80 feet long, Big Pete - a 140kg six foot eight pub bouncer, myself - at that stage driving trucks, Old Lenny - a retired cattle farmer who sold his farm and bought a yacht who came to visit one day and never left, Dan - a rural produce worker who didn't really live there, by that I mean paid no rent but stayed more nights than not and usually a girl or two that had the misfortune of becoming involved with one of the rabble.
We all had cars but we were usually on the sauce so our only mode of transport to the pub and back was an old row boat that leaked like a sieve.
It was a 20 minute row to the back of the pub and if the tide, rum and the wind were against you it took two hours home with water up to your knees.
The Christmas tree was a pyramid of Toohey's New cans with a star cut out of a carton and the cobwebs were tinsel and the live wires touching the support beams in the roof provided the Christmas lights.
We would all go home for Christmas lunch with our parents and take as many leftovers home to eat for the next two weeks.
The next door neighbour, who was a Scientologist back before it went all Tom Cruise, used to give us chickens which was funny as he didn't believe in Christmas.
I think it was his way of keeping us quiet about his religious belief that if any of his cows died he wouldn't move them and let them rot into the ground.
Our landlord would even drop around and say hello but was always reluctant to come inside, preferring to drop a carton off and run.
He was also the local publican so he saw us enough anyway I guess and if he saw what was wrong with the house he might have to fix it.
Our parents seemed to think that buying us pot pans and fry pans was a good idea for presents, forgetting we had no food most of the time and lived on a diet of school sharks, toasted sangas, gar fish and anything we could grow.
They were great days even though we would live pay cheque to pay cheque and there was more grog in the fridge than food but these were some of the best Christmases ever.