Monday, January 29, 2007

The West Australian, Saturday, Weekend: Christmass

Now that there’s a good distance between me and Christmas I am able to reflect on its past glories. The thing is, it is nothing like it used to be.

In the old days, Christmas for my family was always a fight: a bun fight, sometimes a pudding fight and often a watermelon fight.

In the later years, it has become more a fight for the most comfortable chair in front of the big screen playing the DVD that Uncle Paul brought in from his electrical shop.

The Christmas I miss most of all was the water-fight. It lasted a long time, probably five fun and dangerous years.

Here’s what would happen.

Everyone arrived at my brother’s Bridgetown farm, greeted their cousins, siblings, visiting friends, parents and in-laws, then sat peacefully while the four Doust brothers and their father barbecued a seafood lunch.

This was not the time for fighting, this required a team approach. We didn’t argue, we cooked, each one taking his turn at the hot plate and working up his own, personal recipe.

My favourite was a lavish mix of garlic, chilli, ginger, prawn and home-made tomato sauce.

The wives and mothers, meanwhile, sat back under the old willow tree beside Hester Brook and basked in the glory of their men working together.

You never knew when it would happen, there was no plan, but at some point, without warning, someone would bring out their brand new super-soaker and blast the nearest, but not dearest.

This, inevitably, led to a complete soaking of the immediate area until everyone present was dripping wet and wishing they had stuck to their original plan: Christmas lunch with another family totally unrelated to the Dousts.

None of us can forget Christmas 2000, it was huge, water burst from a vast range of receptacles and was finally topped by the farmer-brother arriving with his fire truck.

He didn’t hold back with the nozzle, aiming indiscriminately, knocking parents from chairs, grandparents from wheelchairs and hurtling one unsuspecting visitor into the Brook, from which he emerged with three marron attached to his thigh.

e He He wasHHHHHe was promptly arrested for out-of –season fishing and, as far as we know, is still serving time in the Pemberton Trout Hatchery on a community service order.

This year also saw the first water-slide, a long sloping stretch of black plastic, bounded by hay bales and ending on the edge of the brook. We lost three visitors that year.

We’re still not sure but we think they picked up too much speed, plummeted into a hay bale, couldn’t find their way out and accidentally became Boxing Day fodder for the cattle on the hill.

We knew it couldn’t last and the final year resulted in serious injury to yours truly and peels of laughter from anyone not feeling the pain.

Here’s how the day started.

I woke into the traditional early morning Bridgetown cold and got stuck into the preparations, putting out chairs, erecting umbrellas, and putting down animals required for human consumption.

All of a sudden, all hell broke loose: teenagers were running amuck with water bombs, adults were toting high powered hoses, the farmer ran for his fire-truck and Stan, our father, was seen filling a balloon with helium and water at the same time.

Responding quickly, I grabbed a bucket and washed an unused youth down a drain.

This seemed to excite my son, the ungrateful lump and he decided he wanted to show his father he was fitter and could run faster and further.

He chased me for seventeen kilometres with a helium filled water bomb and just when I thought I had him beat he started closing in.

It’s probably useful to make it clear to those of you wondering about the combination of water and helium that water is heavier than the gas and the only discernable objective in combining the two seemed to be the fun of accidentally filling your lungs and screaming: “I’m in love with a pineapple.”

When my fruit loving son was within one metre I dropped to my knees.

And that’s when it happened. Instead of falling over me and tumbling head first into the nearest hay bale, as was my plan, he bent both knees and slid, right into my rib cage.

It was all over in seconds because, as any one who has ever parented a teenage man will know, when they stick the knees in, they hurt and at our age, they break, not the knees, but whatever it is they have stuck them in.

On the way home a couple of days later, I stopped off in Donnybrook to visit the local pharmacy.

Loaded up with painkillers and anti-inflammatories, I drove with a steely resolve that next year would be my year and that no-one the southern side of Donnybrook would be ready for the water from the fire-fighting helicopter I had hired.

It didn’t happen. The next Christmas we played volley-ball.

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