I am just about to head interstate and might even manage to find myself spending some time in the small town of Clare, which is where Lola's Secret by Monica McInerney is set. Here are the opening paragraphs of that book:
Even after more than sixty years of living in Australia, eighty-four-year-old Lola Quinlan couldn't get used to a hot Christmas. Back home in Ireland, December has mean short days, darkness by four p.m., open fires and frosty walks. Snow if they were lucky. Her mother had loved following Christmas traditions, many of them passed down by her own mother. The tree decorated a week before Christmas Day and not a day earlier. Carols in the chilly church before Midnight Mass. Lola's favourite tradition of all had been the placing of a lit candle in each window of the house on Christmas Eve. It was a symbolic welcome to Mary and Joseph, but also a message to any passing stranger that they would be made welcome too. As a child, she'd begged to be the one to light the candles, carefully tying back the curtains to avoid the chance of fire. Afterwards, she'd stood outside with her parents, their breath three frosty clouds, gazing up at their two-storey house transformed into something almost magical.
She was a long way from Ireland and dark frosty Decembers now. Sixteen thousand kilometres and about thirty-five degrees Celsius to be exact. The temperature in the Clare Vally of South Australia was already heading towards forty degrees and it wasn't even ten a.m. yet. The hills that were visible through the window were burnt golden by the sun, not a blade of green grass to be seen. There was no sound of carols or tinkling sleigh bells. The loudest noise was coming from the airconditioner behind her. If she did take a notion to start lighting candles and placing them in all the windows, there was every chance the fire brigade would come roaring up the hill, sirens blaring and water hoses at the ready. At last count, the Valley View Motel that Lola called home had more than sixty windows. Imagine that, Lola mused. Sixty candles ablaze at once. It would be quite a sight. Almost worth the trouble it would cause ...
I am hoping that it won't be 40 degrees celsius this year on Christmas!