What’s your best Christmas memory? I have a few. I remember my first African Christmas. It was SO hot and my mom insisted on cooking the turkey with all the trimmings – we just lived in a little two bedroom apartment with no air conditioning and bear in mind that Christmas in Southern Africa happens in the middle of their summer. It was very strange to us. We had this huge meal and then after my mom collapsed on the bed with the fan on to have a rest my sister, brother and I went down to the pool for a swim. As we got used to living in Africa we realised that if you were going to do the turkey dinner thing it was best done outside on the veranda (if you had one) and that Pavlova and ice cream was a much better dessert choice than Christmas pudding and hot custard.
(As per wiki) – Pavlova is a meringue-based dessert named after the Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova. It has a crisp crust and soft, light inside, usually topped with fruit and whipped cream.[
The dessert is believed to have been created in honour of the dancer either during or after one of her tours to Australia and New Zealand in the 1920s. The nationality of its creator has been a source of argument between the two nations for many years.
‘The pav’ is a popular dish and an important part of the national cuisine of both Australia and New Zealand, and with its simple recipe, is frequently served during celebratory and holiday meals. It is a dessert most identified with the summertime, and popularly eaten during that period, including at Christmas time; however, it is also eaten all year round in many Australian and New Zealand homes.
After years of living south of the equator, we had to get used to living in the Northern Hemisphere again when we came to Canada. Our first Christmas was a beautiful white Christmas with lots of snow. We felt so happy and privileged to be living in Canada but also lots of heartache for being so far away from family and what had become our home. Life is a constant readjustment.
As a child in England the most memorable part of Christmas was going out to Midnight Mass. We would come home around 1.30 am and enjoy hot mince pies while the turkey was popped into the oven for a slow roast overnight. We lived in an old converted stone cottage which still had the Rayburn stove oven – does anyone remember those? Very similar to the Aga ones. Kept the whole house warm and with no central heating we needed that. Also wonderful for drying out the clothes on a wet day. You just had to be careful not to knock a pair of socks into the pan of soup on the stovetop. In fact this type of cooker has been so popular in England because it has so many uses –
Our first cruise ever as a family included the Christmas period so we had our Christmas celebration on board a small cruise ship (only 10.000 tonnes) which sailed from Durban all the way to the Seychelles Islands and back. Wow. Quite the trip for our first cruise. It really was an old crock but we didn’t know and had nothing to compare it to. During the journey the choice of drinks – especially beer – slowly dwindled until they only had one brand. It was hard to get supplies in such an area. The noise in our cabin was so loud – I think it was from one of the engines or the air conditioning machine. As our youngest was still in a crib it worked out ok. It was like white noise to him. He actually learnt to walk on that cruise. We were on board for 3 weeks. When we finally got off back in Durban he just sat down on the dock with a puzzled look on his face. Couldn’t understand why the ground wasn’t moving.
What a great Christmas that was. Father Christmas was on board and the kids played Christmas games while us parents lolled on the deck getting a tan. The crew were so gracious and kind to us and the kids and I often wondered how they must be missing their own families so far away that Christmas time. We visited uninhabited islands, saw giant tortoises and saluted the numerous shipwreck victims at Bassas da India. We all stood on the deck in silence with the Captain and he got the waiters to pour everyone a tot of Ouzo and then we all raised our glasses.
From three hours before high tide until three hours afterwards, Bassas da India disappears beneath the surface of the sea. It is this trait that made it a scourge for the sailors of the past, and which has turned it into the ship graveyard that it is today. Although the exact number can’t be known due to the plunging depths around the atoll, it’s estimated that over 100 vessels met their fate on the razor-sharp shoals of Bassas da India. In fact, the atoll earned its name in the early 16th century, when a Portuguese ship called the Judia ran aground upon its hidden reefs. Orginally named Baixo da Judia (which translates as shoal of Judia) the atoll later became known as Bassas da India thanks to the transcription errors of early cartographers.
Of all the wrecks that populate Bassas da India, perhaps the most famous is the Santiago; tales of this ship and its misplaced treasure certainly captured my attention. After the discovery of the trade route between Portugal and India via the Cape of Good Hope at the end of the 15th century, armadas of Portuguese merchant ships frequently made the journey between Lisbon and Goa via Mozambique. One such ship was the carrack Santiago, which departed from Lisbon on April 1, 1585. Captained by Fernão de Mendonça, the Santiago carried a valuable cargo, including 400,000 silver pieces of eight.
Wow – maybe for that many pieces of silver I wouldn’t mind braving the sharks of Bassas da India. Then again … maybe not!