I had one final day in Tokyo before I got my late night flight to Brisbane. I'm not awfully good at these travelling days, i just want to get going, but my flight wasn't until 9pm so I had to fill my hours with something. So guss what, I went to a park. But this was a proper park with activties such as a zoo. Now I know that in theory I disapprove of zoo's but I also disapprove of eating meat and I'm the biggest carnivore out (meat just tastes so good!). So I paid my 600 yen and prepared myself for seeing a giant panda.
Now, to be honest if you had asked me a week ago would I like to see a giant panda, I probably would have said yes, but enthusiasim wouldn't have been overwhelming. I eman they are just black and white fluffy things tat refuse to breed. However, thinking I was about to see such a creature, I became quite excited.
Unfortunately, unbeknown to me (but very clearly sign posted in English around the zoo, but I don't look at anything properly) poor old Ling Ling passed on in April of this year. Imagine my disappointment, rushing (well walking with purpose) toward the panda enclosure to find a little photo of the bear next to a sign describing her demise from heart failure several months previously. But fear not, there was a substitute- two huge stuffed giant pandas you could sit on and pose for a photo. How lovely. Oh and jut to point out, they weren't real stuffed bears, more large soft toys.
Anyway so after that crushing disappointment, I made my way to the airport. I found myself terribly excited to get to Australia and see Maggie that the flight could not go quick enough. This wasn't helped by the fact the in flight entertainment was exactly the same as my previous insomniac journey and id finished my book. Grr.
Anyway I finally arrived, rushed to passport control, sweating with all my documents ready for an interrorgation after the visa fiasco- would i be let in? What questions will I get asked? Will I get searched? And I was waved through with barely a grunt from the passport control officer. I was almost offended- I mean I could have been coming to steal babies for all they enquired.
So I waited for about 45 minutes for my bag which typically was last off (I was getting to the oh god oh god it's been lost stage when it finally poked it's little head out of the luggage window) then joined a massive queue for customs in which they take away your chocolate and make children cry.
So finally made it through and for the first time in months I had someone waiting for me at an airport. I felt loved. But there were so many people, I didn't know where to look so when Maggie presented herself in front of me, it took me a few seconds to realise she was there!
Duncan, Maggie's partner, was also there to greet me and they took me back to their lovely house in a place called New farm they share with an equally lovely chap called Ryan (who i have met when he lived in Edinburgh, but like Duncan is an authentic Aussie).
The next few days were very lovely and domesticated. Walks around the local area to orientate me, book shopping, cooking, baking for Christmas and just general catching up. And then Christmas. Duncan's mother and aunt live about 2 hours away in New South Wales in a little town called Pottsville and that is where the family clan were to congregate for the festive period. Duncan has 3 siblings 92 brothers and one siser) and all bar one had their partners coming. Add in Zack another UK waife and stray, a family friend and the aunt's partner and son, it was a busy affair!
Christmas eve is the focus at the Taylor household and it was so Australian it is going to sound cliched, but its the truth! We arrived and instantly the beers started flowing, barbeque was started and there was even a sing song ariund the piano. We went across the creek and swam in the sea before dinner then managed to squeeze about 14 people, a one eyed dog and a grumpy cat around Duncan's mother's dining room table to have barbequed fish, prawns and other fabulous trimmings. Then presents were opened, the beers kept flowing and by the time I went to bed it was 3 and I was no where near the last to drop!
Christmas day was sightly more low key as several people had to go to other family meals, but still a good few people left for an early morning swim (a great way to get rid of a hangover) before the barbie was stoked up again and more food consumed. After a bit of confusion I also got a lovely phonecall from my family who at the end of my Christmas day were just starting theirs.
So boxing day followed the same pattern and then in the evening Maggie (who had to work the next day), Zack and myself drove back to Brisbane. Although we had a sightly scary moment when the 'I'm too hot light' went on and strange smell started wafting through the vechicle. We stopped, let the man in our party lift the bonnet and scratch his head then phone Duncan who's advice was 'to keep drving whilst i join th RAC'. However, on returning to the car to follow this advice we found that if the air conditioning was switched off then the 'hot' light remained off and the car drove well. So apart from some slight sweatyness on our part, the car managed to get us all safely home.
What a heart warming Christmas ending.