Weeell, this is really a bit of cheating – a re-run, if you like. You see, there was once a girl who wrote stories each Christmas about Santa’s adventures and last-minute dilemmas, about sharing the Christmas cheer. Perhaps you’d like to read some of them again – about the mail monster, and the night the reindeer caught a cold, and a more unusual way to decorate a Christmas tree. These are the stories you didn’t know about Christmas. Happy holidays!
I had a Harry Potter moment. Or was it a Dr. Who encounter? I stepped into a phone booth and went down a flight of stairs into a jazz club. The tables in The Jazz Cellar are really sewing machine table tops – Singer does not mean sewing here. Food and drinks – BYO (Bring Your Own), glasses provided, very Australian. The musicians were probably not a day under sixty, but there was nothing wrong with their lungs. There was much enthusiastic dancing – not for me though (you know by now that I’m a dance hazard). The music was probably wasted on me because I only recognized “When the Saints Go Marching In” – the last melody in their repertoire, to the tune of which the band marched out. Still, a night out with friends and music is something to be appreciated.
My first taste of Perth’s music scene was an open-air concert at Curtin University’s amphitheatre. My friends were in lectures, so I was on my own this time. The Promise, a choir visiting from Newcastle donned London bobby hats and sang songs from the Pirates of Penzance. And then they sang Happy Together, taking me back to a time when my parents owned a record player. I went home and played it on the guitar for my flatmates and taught the Namibian geologist how to sing it. So happy together.
I’m still listening for the sounds of Perth’s music. It’s everywhere this Christmas – red-hatted carol singers and scruffy guitarists are getting soulful at the corners of the business district. Justin Bieber is blasting through the overhead speakers in the malls. Snatches of rock and rap and hip-hop drift from the bars and clubs in Subiaco. Tonight I’ll be singing Christmas carols in St. Martin-in-the-Fields. This might be just your thing. I’m after something quieter. The soft strains of jazz that drift from a club as I stand under the Christmas lights at Burswood. The gentle notes from a distant piano in the lobby of the Intercontinental.
Still, my favourite of Perth’s music is more and less than these. It’s the quiet swish of the Swan River against the south shore at midnight. Leaves whispering stories of the breeze. Quiet laughter in the company of a close friend. Is this what the shepherds heard before all those angels started singing? Do you hear what I hear? This too is worth remembering, this music of the night. Have yourself a merry music-filled Christmas.
The Christmas season takes a while to really get going in Mumbai – unless perhaps you live in Bandra. In South Mumbai, the Marine Plaza hotel put up the annual Christmas display over its portico just last week. This year it’s a Santa in a broken-down Maruti, being drawn by reindeer. Rather appropriate in a time of recession, and very environment-friendly, I should think. Think of all the savings in carbon emissions! Although, a car over a portico instead of under it…I don’t know. Last night, children were selling Santa hats with blinking lights at the crossroads near Churchgate station – the final sign that Christmas is just around the corner.
Perth, on the other hand, has been spreading the Christmas cheer for the last two months. Coles has had mince pies and marzipan-topped cakes on its shelf for months now. I never realized there were so many ways to bake a Christmas cake. Tree ornaments were on sale in David Jones way back in October. I should have done my shopping then, because there wasn’t anything left by the time I made up my mind that my Mumbai tree could do with a decoration or two from Australia. The one side-effect of all this early festive spirit is that I’m heartily sick of Kenny G’s carols…much to my brother’s disappointment. There can be too much of a good thing.
I rank Perth somewhere between Mumbai and Singapore in terms of Christmas dressing up. The city’s Hay St. and Murray St. malls were decked with Nativity scenes, and a couple of giant angels hung over the crossroads – the place where angels are most needed, if it had been Mumbai. Perth traffic, even in the Christmas season, is very law-abiding. The most traditional decorations were at London Court, which had wreaths bearing “Seasons Greetings” messages. One entertainer was singing loud karaoke carols. She sounded terrible enough to scare the Christmas spirit out of a shopper, but still there was more Christmas in the air than there is air in Mumbai.
I was on a mission to find the perfect Aussie Christmas tree ornament. I have now made a New Year resolution not to embark on such futile quests. I did discover ornaments from Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic and China. I decided to present my family with lamingtons and Midsomer Murders instead.
So what does Mumbai offer in comparision? Well, there’s nothing much to compare really. I wake up to the music of a road being drilled. No angels watch over Nariman Point. Worst of all, there isn’t even the suggestion of a nip in the air. Still, there is something on offer. The best decorations in town are probably at the Palladium in Phoenix Mills. The “Christmas tree” there is festooned with golden masks – not sure why, but it looks good. And of course, there’s always a healthy dose of Christmas cheer to be found at Gaylord’s bakery. As I watch my brother photograph the blue-hatted marzipan snowman topping a rather expensive plum cake, I finally feel it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.