My Christmas Dinners

The Story of My Christmas

Christmas to me is whole family around table with Christmas dinner, gift for everyone under the tree, sing carols after beside the tree sparkling with lights and tinsel, and everybody happy to be together. My last Christmas like this was in the 70’s in Doncaster. Then I started a florist shop in the 80’s and for 12 years Christmas was working in the shop with the biggest takings for the year on that day. Then there were no more Christmases for me..except the last one when I was told to ‘go away, because Dad wants to come now….” and I never even saw the gifts I had bought everyone. So every year I go somewhere so I won’t feel lonely… This year I will be at The Mantra in Brisbane …For me, Christmas is ‘In my Dreams”….

During the past years, people have at times invited me to join them for Christmas, and sadly, every single invitation I accepted turned out to be an expensive for me, disaster. Every time I regretted accepting and now know, that the Christmas I remember and yearn for, is only in my mind, a dream.

The last Christmas Dinner I went to, I provided a turkey, a pudding, bon bons, some ham, nuts, a fancy sausage for my friend who invited me to join their table, and a gift for everyone who was at that dinner, even those I did not know. It was a family dinner, and everyone fought and bickered at the table. The vegetarians did not like my meat, some did not want gravy, the kids wanted pizza and they bickered and bickered. I quietly sat there eating a cold dinner plonked on my plate, and then gifts were given out and I was touched to find there was one for me.  When I opened it thrilled to get a gift, it was an old gardening apron, and the green edging on it had rotted and it fell apart in my hands dusting my clothes in green dust. I was appalled.

When the fighting got serious and loud, I quietly left claiming a head ache and not feeling well. I never went back there for Christmas again.

A few years earlier, I was living in a Caravan Park and one of the inmates there who I had started talking to invited me to join their festivities. Wearing the red dress again, I wear the same dress every year since the 90’s when I bought it at Brighton with Harry in happier times, and with my arms loaded with my contribution which was a cake, nuts, and bonbons and a beautifully wrapped gift for everyone. I bought all the men a handy tool and the ladies’ various toiletries. I only knew the couple who were having the Christmas Barbecue and I was the only one sober from the time I arrived. The lunch was whatever everyone brought cooked on a barbecue and my gifts were accepted hesitatingly as it was unexpected and laughed at. I would have been better off bringing everyone a beer, but I was not to know. I was the only one dressed up and I just did not fit in and wondered why I had been invited at all. I sat there feeling lost, then with the headache story, quietly returned to my caravan and swore I would never go to anybody’s Christmas ever again.

Burrum Heads

One of the best Christmases I have had as a single was at Vanuatu where the Resort set up a table for Singles and my companions were a gay couple, two aging lesbians, and an assortment of young happy people, and the Band Musicians. I immediately linked with the Piano player who then let me play the piano with the band while he played other instruments or dueted with me on the piano. I had an amazing time as a result and everyone danced with me and the whole table was one happy family and I stayed friends with the band for the rest of my vacation and was very happy.

Another truly memorable Christmas was two years ago. I had booked in at The Mercure Hotel in Brisbane, and because I could not find a Christmas Dinner anywhere, I booked a Christmas dinner Cruise on the River Boat at Eagle Pier, after asking the company if they had a table for singles, which they assured me they did. Wearing the red dress, I went along quite happily. I was early so tried to talk with those queued up, but the feeling was not too friendly, so I waited quietly to get on board.

 When I was taken to my table to my horror, I saw that it was placed in the centre of the dance floor, a sad table for one. I said to the girl that I did not want to sit there and asked if it could be moved to the edge with the other tables or by a window. She said, “No”. I asked if I could sit with others at a table, and she said, “No” I looked at her and said I would go home and forget the dinner. She came after me saying there was no refund…I was not asking a refund, I was just going home, so I continued going out.

Then I got to the gangway where they were meeting people, and the Captain asked where I was going. I told him I could not sit alone in the middle of the Dancefloor and was going home.  He asked me to wait a moment, came back to ask if I would like to join him the at the Wheel of the Riverboat. I was thrilled to accept and had the best Christmas sitting there at the wheel chatting with him while the Riverboat cruised the Brisbane River. He walked me in to get the dinner, and dessert and after the evening, drove me back to The Mercure which was on his way back to the freeway.

Last year I nearly got to Christmas dinner. I stayed at Rydges in Southbank, and because I could not find a Christmas dinner anywhere, discovered there was a Christmas Dinner for the Homeless at the Uniting Church. I called the Minister asking if I could help and attend too, and she very kindly said I was welcome to come and join the homeless for Christmas dinner. On Christmas Day, I started walking across Victoria Bridge to go to the dinner, but it started raining and half way down I was soaking wet, so sadly, I turned around and went back to the Hotel and had lunch there.

Who knows what this year will bring…Yes, its Christmas again and I have plans to join the Homeless at the Botanical gardens this year…if there is nothing happening at The Mantra.

Marguerite Carstairs


The Sunflower

Sunflower and the Bee

I found the sunflower I had dried last year hanging from the inside clothesline half eaten by cockatoos and the rest eaten by some sort of rodent, maybe a rat. Excitedly, and rashly, I decided to plant the few seeds that were clinging on looking mournfully at me.

A few sunflower grew along the fence

A fence line of sunflowers was what I envisaged, but what eventuated was a few on one corner, a couple in the middle and a straggly three further up. So much for my seeds.

One sunflower grew very beautiful and tall and strong

I was happy with my sunflowers and started looking at them daily and marveling at how they followed the sun. I started blogging with their progress and drove everyone crazy dragging them down to see my sunflowers.

The sunflower grew and grew

Then the miracle happened. A sunflower in the next bundle decided to star and it started to grow and grow until it was the size of a small plate. Now I was totally smitten.

Bees loved the sunflower too

I do not know exactly how many photos I took of this sunflower from all angles,but I assure you it was many. I started posting the progress of my beauty on every site I could and then when a glut was reached, I started photographing the bees that visited the flower. There were bees inside the sunflower, bees hovering, bees carrying bags of pollen in their knee bags and even multiple bees seeking the best part of the flower. I was now besotted with bees as well as the sunflower that

Bee in the sunflower

continued to bloom with the seeds forming and starting to ripen.

Alas, now comes the sad part, I discovered I had a rival for my affection, not one but many. The cockatoos also fell in love with my sunflower, but they had a sinister motive, they wanted to eat it.

The watcher Cockatoo checking if the coast is clear

Rather than give them the flower to destroy, I cut it off and placed it in a blue crystal vase on top of my fridge where it sat dropping pollen for the next few weeks.

Sunflower drying inside

You would think this is the end but its not. There were buds below the main flower, and they now started to bloom, and the cockatoos came to chip down the buds and leave them lying on the ground .

Cockatoo eating a bud from the sunflower
Cockatoos prefer to eat seeds, tuberscorms, fruit, flowers and insects. They often feed in large flocks, particularly when ground-feeding.

Today, I cut down all the budding sunflowers, pulled them out by the roots and put them in the bin for collection tomorrow morning. The cockatoos were taking over the garden and I decided that next year I will plant sunflowers down the bottom of the garden and let the birds eat them.

Sunflowers in my garden

Marguerite Carstairs