Most days are pretty relaxed. Etta and her flat mate wanted a few Couch Surfing free days before Christmas, so I left on the Monday and moved to Glebe much closer to the city, just a 25 minute walk away. I checked into what looked like a reasonable hostel, but having sorted myself out I looked in the Lonely Planet book and was alarmed to find it in there with the following description "If you are looking for a party hostel, this is the place to be", I wasn't so I left the following morning. I spotted a house that had rooms to let, so I tried there, it was ok, he wouldn't give me a discount but he agreed to 8 nights rather than 7 for the same price. It's a much better place to stay for me and considerably cheaper than staying in a hostel.
On Monday I joined the ringers at St Andews Cathederal for a practice, they were very good ringers, but very welcoming. With a local band they managed to ring Bristol Major, London Royal and Cambridge Maximus, all way above my head, but 12 year old James Perrins rang in all 3, as did 4 other members of his family. His older brother, now 16, was apparently much better than James when he was 12 and was even conducting peals on 10 bells. Probably the best family of ringers I have ever met and by far the best young ringer. At the pub afterwards I was talking to Nigel sat next to me only to find he was English too, had lived in Oxford for about 12 years and had rung at Woodstock a number of times, though that was probably though one of my "retirement" periods.
Tuesday I rang on the 8 bells at Randwick where I met Paul again who I had met on Sunday. Elaine invited me to Christmas dinner where there would be other ringers and cyclists. We once again ended in the pub over the road, much more sociable than there British counterparts.
Christmas Eve saw me back at St Andrews at 17:30 for ringing for the 6pm service, then hanging around in the tower, eating and drinking until we rang for the 8pm service. I didn't wait around for the 11pm service, instead sloping off to head for St Something in Broadway to join them for their service ringing, probably the only chance to ring at that tower. Walking around the city centre earlier it had felt for the first time like Christmas, the shops were packs, people were leaving with bags full of shopping and carols were being sung around Christmas trees.
Christmas Day saw me dashing out early morning to ring at Burwood. Once again I had forgotten to take the name of the church so when I pulled up I asked a lady "Will they be ringing the bells here for the service?", "No" she replied, almost at exactly the same time they started ringing. This is where sister Cathy rang regularly 20 years ago, they remembered her well. By mid day I was over in Bexly for Christmas dinner Aussie style, in the back garden. A number of people there had at some stage been ringers and/or cyclists, so it was all very enjoyable, Christmas Day worked out very well after all.
Ok, time for a little story that may well make you go "Urrrrg......YUK!", we haven't had one of those for such a long time have we? Anyway, I was walking back to Etta's flat from Bondi Beach on the night of her party, when I scratched the back of my neck, only to be alarmed to feel a huge zit there. Clearly I didn't want to be going to a party with a big zit so I squeezed the thing, but nothing happened, I squeezed harder, making sure there was nobody behind me to squirt at. But no matter how hard I squeezed nothing really happened, I gave up, but it did feel a little smaller and much more uncomfortable. When I went for a shower I couldn't really see it in the mirror, but it didn't look like a zit at all, it was brown, it looked like a large mole that I didn't even realise I had, so squeezing it as hard as possible wasn't a great idea. I just left it to cure itself, but as the days went by my neck just became worse and worse, the discomfort grew into pain and the area of pain increased, it was very uncomfortable to sleep on. On Christmas Day as I rubbed my neck I could feel a lump underneath the skin on the side of my neck, oh poo, things weren't looking too good at all. By Boxing Day my mouth had gone numb, it really was time to see a doctor though being a holiday they were all shut. By the 27th my fingers were numb, with my forearms heading in the same direction. I went in search of a doctor, but despite the fact they said they were open on Saturday, the door was firmly shut. Clearly an Aussie doctor isn't going to let a few dying people get in the way of him having a good time. At last I found one open and at $68 for consultation I can understand why? I rather suspected they would send me to hospital for a check up, so I decided not to pay somebody $68 to tell me that and just went there anyway. I was called in an examined, they could feel the lump on the side of my neck and when the checked the one on the back she said "I think it's an insect, I will just get another doctor to check, just in case I am going mad". This is Sydney, I was now being checked over by 2 doctors, one from England and one from Ireland, it was an insect, they could see legs moving "It's a tic I think, I will just get our tic expert". It had dug it's way in deep, I would have done too after a week, especially if somebody had tried to squash me. The extraction hurt, actually it was bloody painful, hardly surprising as by now it was painful just to touch gently. I sat on the bed and clamped on tightly with arms and legs as the Irish doctor kept saying "Sorry, sorry". I replied "Don't keep appologising, I am just a wimp when it comes to a bit of pain". Stramgely enough me left leg kept lifting up involuntarily, I would have been proud of that in my yoga lesson in Brisbane. At last it was out, still alive and the biggest tic the resident expert had ever seen on a human. I have met so many doom merchants in Australia "Watch out for the crocs, don't camp less than 1km from water", "The spiders are a problem, keep an eye out for the redbacks and the funnel spider", "The only thing I am afraid of when camping is the snakes", "Don't go in the sea, it's full of stinging jellyfish and sharks". All these wonderful exotic creatures would have made such a good story, but what do I get......a poxy tic, you can get those at home for goodness sake. Still, it's a bit revolting the thought of it living off me for the past week, but I guess it's better than walking around for a week with a shark hanging onto my neck. Aparently they can let of a venom that can cause an allergic reaction causing temporary paralysis, I guess I was having a lesser reaction. "We will just prescribe you some anti-biotics until things get a bit better" the doctor said, "Are you allergic to anything", "Er, yes...tics it would seem!" I replied. My neck was red and slightly swollen, but being as I couldn't check it, or even see what it was like at the moment, the drew a big black line around it so that somebody else good check it for me. Having taken a photo to have a look, it seemed fine to me. I have to say I left the hospital with a huge weight off my shoulders, ok, it was pretty disgusting, but I could see my trip coming to an end and having to return home as I had rather assumed it was something far worse, which just goes to show that most fear is all in the mind. As I write I still feel rather strange, my whole body feels as though it has had dental injections that are wearing off, me legs feel very heavy too, but at least the pain in my neck has dramatically improved.