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05-19 Sarah Raplee – Riff on 7 yrs. Of SPAM & a Giveaway

Thursday, December 25, 2014


In Australia at Christmas time it is always hot. Not surprising really when we are well into summer. Up until the last few years, Christmas lunch or dinner was the same as it was in England. Roast chicken, ham, turkey and vegetables. My favourite part of the meal was dessert, hot plum pudding with brandy custard. No matter how hot it got this is what most families had. I know my family always did. We also enjoyed Christmas cake and mince pies not to mention mull wine.
Over the last few years, things have changed somewhat, although many people do stick to the traditional fare, particularly the older people.  Barbeques are popular, sea-food and salads. Dessert might be pavlova or fresh fruit salad with ice cream. Champagne or beer are the drinks of choice.
In my novel, Fiery Possession, parts of the story are set in a high class bordello. I thought I would post an excerpt depicting their Christmas Eve festivities.
Christmas Eve proved to be extremely busy. Jo, helping George behind the bar, paused only long enough to attend to Mark’s needs. A surprising number of young men wished her Merry Christmas. Many of the men came, not for the women, but for the company, because they were lonely.
Katie, in a pale pink tulle gown, with a silver braid along the sleeves and hemline, only needed a wand to look like a fairy princess.
“Sing us a song, Katie,” a ruddy-complexioned young man called out.
“Yes, Christmas carols,” said a voice with a thick Scottish brogue.
Glory played the piano and Katie started singing. They were quickly joined by a crowd of men who wanted to sing songs in praise of the infant Jesus. Jo would not have believed such a thing possible - Christmas carols in a brothel.
Bar trade slackened off somewhat and she joined in the singing.
“Wait a minute, boys.” Glory stood up and they all groaned their disappointment. “I’m coming back.”  She laughed loudly making her double chins wobble. A bright yellow gown, trimmed with black feathers and with a plunging neckline did nothing for her figure. “Jo can play for you.”
“Well, all right,” Jo laughingly agreed. While not as expert as Glory, she nevertheless could play the simple tunes, and the singing started up in earnest again.
Men discreetly left then returned after a time. Jo noticed Mr. Griffith sitting with Francy at a table and he certainly hadn’t come for the singing. Poor Mr. Kilvain arrived, but scurried off like a scared rabbit when Jo spoke to him.
Two of the girls from the kitchen came out bearing loaded trays of miniature pies and Cornish pasties, and plates loaded up with cold chicken, pork and salad. An impromptu Christmas Eve party, how generous of Glory. A cheer went up from the men on seeing this gesture.
They soon demolished the fruit cake, macaroons, miniature pies and pastries. Jo laughed as she was pressed into service as a waitress.
“Drinks on the house,” George announced. “By order of management.”
Everyone cheered. Later the lamps were snuffed out and small candles distributed to various individuals, before the singing commenced again. The customers were not poor men, most of them just lonely in a vast, empty continent with few unattached women. With a dozen or more flickering lights in the otherwise darkness, Jo had never witnessed such poignancy.  Because of the summer heat, the windows remained open. A gentle breeze wafted in, laden with the perfume of summer roses and the scent of the gum trees.
The singing continued, not all carols now, but requests for songs from the distant shores of England, Scotland and Ireland, and Katie obliged with them all. If she didn’t know the words, someone else did.
At eleven-thirty, Jo decided to retire. It had been an enjoyable evening. She waved to Glory before making her way to bed.
In colonial Australia, a feisty American beauty challenges a rugged frontier man.


1 comment:

Judith Ashley said...

Lovely story, Margaret. I know Jo has her challenges but that particular Christmas Eve was a gift to everyone in so many ways.