In the run up to Christmas, the Madeleine Milburn Literary Agency will be posting an entry from one of our authors each day, offering anything from writing tips and their inspiration, to Christmas memories and their wishes for the year to come.
The Coldest Christmas
One of the coldest Christmases I have ever spent was ‘down-under’ in Fremantle, West Australia. On second thoughts – and in the interests of truth and accuracy – that should really read, ‘One of the coldest moments of my life occurred when I was sun-bathing on a deserted beach ‘down-under’ near Fremantle, W.A. on Christmas Day.
Back in 1985/6 I was over there, running media relations for the Canadian Challenger in that year’s America’s Cup. ‘Canada 2’, our beautiful 12 metre yacht was one of a dozen or so other boats challenging to wrest the Cup away from its Australian holders.
Christmas day dawned with a brilliant blue sky, hot sun and the promise of being another scorching day. I had a BBQ planned that evening for the Press, and a local butcher had agreed to come along and grill a leg of lamb. So, ‘No Worries’ there. As there thermometer climbed into the nineties (35 Centigrade), I decided I needed a swim.
Twenty minutes later, I was sitting down in warm sea water, humming ‘Hark the Herald Angels Sing’. Behind me, hundreds of small, black flies hovered in a frenzy, along the line of sand. They knew where I was but for some reason known only to themselves, they could not or would not cross the strip of water between us. I was out of reach and not having flies buzzing around one’s eyes and mouth, felt like very good news.
I reached over to the ‘Kool Box’ I had brought and pulled out a can of beer. Bliss! The Australian Dream come true. By now, the sun was burning through my T-shirt. Time for a swim. I got up, stripped off and started to wade out.
As I did so, a large, black fin rose out of the sea not thirty feet away. A couple of seconds later and I would have been swimming in waist deep water straight towards it. I froze. terrified. Unable to breathe, let alone move. Looking back all these years later, a string of cliches come rushing to mind: ‘Blood ran Cold’. ‘Transfixed with Horror’. And they are all true. I don’t know how long I stared at it. Probably not more than a couple of seconds. The fin dipped and slid back under the surface. There was nothing to show where it had been. I waited motionless and then at some stage, began to inch my way back to terra firma. And my new best friends, the flies!