12 Days of Christmas – Janeen Brian

The delightful Janeen Brian joins us for today’s memory from a Christmas past, sharing with us a gorgeous Christmas reflection of a beachside bon-bon like Christmas. This is sparkly, glistening and very Australian.


Janeen Brian

My special Christmas time memories are like a bon-bon.

All the shadows and sparkles of about seven Christmas holidays are rolled into one. Tied at each end with years passing, they can still pop out and surprise, shedding streamers of joyful times at a summer beach about 200 kms from my childhood home. It was a beach unlike ours at home. That one was long and white- sanded, curving into a gentle, predictable bay.

My summer-one had mystery and history. It had cliffs, a passable, iron-mongery kind of a playground, and a jetty that stretched far into the sea. Its middle was tracked with relics of rails, used by horse-drawn trucks when the port was massive wheat port. Ketches once plied back and forth from silent, stately sailing ships, anchored in the deep, alongside an island, which contained treasure, I was sure.

It was a place of Spartan-style, besser-brick, one roomed shacks, with prison style bunk beds, a primus stove, an ice-chest and a wooden table setting around which we’d share a Christmas dinner, cooked on in a communal wood stove. Outside were dunnies and watertanks, mozzies, sandflies, and utter freedom. The one and only flywire door squeaked. It was the only time we were noticed by our parents.

For two weeks our life on the beach had only an occasional punctuation – perhaps a trip to the iceman who lived up the back, in the town. A whiskery, gruff man, he used a pair of sharp, lethal looking pincers to miraculously haul great blocks of ice onto his shoulder, which was protected by a hessian sack.

An old, local woman appeared in the mornings with a milk churn and a dipper. I loved the handle and slopping sound as she filled our billycan.

The jetty held days’ worth of fascination. Fishermen, sightings of dark, triangular rays, effortlessly skimming below in the shadowy water, the refuse of bait, like shrunken dried mucous glued to the warm, wooden planks, and the whole run of the jetty, end-to-end. Below the cliff-top shacks, were rocky stretches. Every tide brought fresh rockpools to peer in and imagine as a tiny underwater worlds; to flick at scuttling crabs, and collect reluctant, black periwinkles – to eat boiled later on, with a safety pin. Further along the shore, the seaweed rose to gigantic proportions. Our jumping and daring places. Home too, of tiny, flitting, annoying insects.

Christmas Eve was torment. Would Father Christmas find us, since we’d migrated for a fortnight? I had to stay awake to catch a glimpse of him. I stared above in the gloom for hours, growing increasingly dry-eyed. At last, I was overcome by sleep and Father Christmas could at last safely creep and leave my presents on the end of the top bunk.

Bon-bons can often feel like an anti-climax. All that glitter without any substance.

But my bon-bon is still filled to the brim with the running feet, the freckled face and the freedom of those summer Christmas holidays.


Janeen Brian reads and writes. She is an award-winning children’s author with over 80 books published in many genres as well as over 200 stories, poems, and articles published in children’s magazines. Her next book is called Our Village in the Sky, illustrated by Anne Spudvilas (Allen & Unwin). She lives in Glenelg, South Australia and you can find her at her website — www.janeenbrian.com

Her latest books are:

  • Eddie Pipper, (New Frontier)
  • Meet Ned Kelly (Random House)
  • I’m a Dirty Dinosaur (Penguin) and
  • That Boy, Jack (Walker Books)

jb books


2 Responses to 12 Days of Christmas – Janeen Brian

  1. Merry Christmas, Christopher and Bini….the best of the holiday season!

    teresafannin December 28, 2013 at 3:32 am Reply
    • thanks Teresa, it has been so full (of food) — oh and a few presents too!

      Chris Cheng December 28, 2013 at 6:16 am Reply

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