"Christmas is coming!" I announced to my tech support.
"We know," they replied, "it happens around this time most years."
"What do you do for Christmas over in Belarus?"
"We celebrate according to Orthodox tradition."
"What does that entail."
"Suicidally heavy drinking, violent arguments with family members, death threats from in-laws, and the children eating until they vomit."
I had to admit it sounded like a pretty orthodox Christmas to me.
"Oh yes, and the International Christmas Singing Competition in Minsk."
"What the hell is that."
"It's part of the reason for the suicidally heavy drinking."
With visions of sugar plums and vodka sodden Christmas songs dancing (or at least staggering) in my head I decided to check in with my Tasmanian correspondent to wish her the compliments of the season.
"Happy Christmas," I said.
"Eat dirt," she replied.
I have to admit that seemed a little extreme.
"Is everything all right down there?"
My correspondent's face suddenly appeared on the monitor my tech support had installed in my lounge room wall. Her face was flushed, her eyes bulged and there were a disturbing amount of feathers scattered everywhere. She had a large knife in one hand and there were flecks of spittle at the corners of her mouth.
"If you're on a date I can call back later," I offered.
"I'm not on a date you idiot, I'm preparing a Christmas turkey."
It would appear that by unanimous decision of every family member except herself my correspondent had been selected to cook the Christmas turkey for the family dinner this year. Her turkey cooking experience was limited to one occasion when she had accidentally crashed a car into a turkey farm and had torched the result to conceal the evidence. It was fair to say that she wasn't dealing with the situation well. Her dogs were digging holes under the fence in an attempt to escape and her children were last seen fleeing down the street in a cloud of turkey feathers.
Should my correspondent win the grim death battle with what appeared to be the mother of all turkeys in her kitchen she would then have to deliver the bird, appropriately cooked and stuffed to a Christmas family get together her description of which bore a striking similarity to that provided by my tech support. Truly Christmas is a time of unifying cultures. You know, as long as the cultures celebrate Christmas.
Once I’d persuaded her to put the knife down and take a deep breath I managed to tease her holiday plans from her. She was going bushwalking but not just any bushwalking. No she was going to pit her body against nature in a gruelling survival trek. I’ve often noticed that the human race’s desire to pit oneself against nature is in inverse proportion to the amount of nature pitting they have to do in their normal lives. Those for whom a struggle against nature is a fact of their daily existence are generally happy never to see nature again.
My correspondent plans to walk the Overland Track which apparently involves six days of walking on unpaved surfaces with a fair amount of up and down and the occasional bush smacking you in the face. Add in inclement weather, surly animals, ankle breaking potholes and the occasional cliff to fall off and you have what my correspondent considers a good time.
People have got lost attempting this journey, people have died attempting this journey. My correspondent seems to be quite looking forward to it. She just needs to find something to do with her children in the meantime. Her plans at present seem to involve chaining them within reaching distance of the refrigerator. Child rearing isn't my area of expertise but this seemed thoroughly appropriate to me. And if one of the children should happen to falter then there would certainly be enough food for the other until my correspondent's triumphant return.
We would have discussed this further but the turkey was making a valiant bid at a come back and the last I saw of my correspondent was a hysterically swearing figure rolling around on the floor trying to keep a disturbingly large beak from her throat with one hand while she fumbled for the knife with the other. Then the connection went blank. I got back in touch with my tech support.
"I think she might need some help," I suggested.
"Why us?" they demanded. "We already provided her with a turkey."
"Well that explains the eight drumsticks and the fangs."