By way of a brief explanation, just previous to this a bushfire had come close to the houses in Lovett Bay where the author lives in a gorgeous old house once owned by one of Australia's most famous female poets.
The quote comes from pages 155-157
The floors of rooms all over the house are littered with clothing, mattresses and bedding for dogs and humans, strewn like the aftermath of gale-force winds. Lulu, my step-daughter from my first marriage, comes with her partner and her border collie, Bella. Bella's muzzle is greyer than ever, although she still never stops dropping sticks in your lap and begging you to throw them. The sticks are like toothpicks now, though. The floor space is chockers. Lulu will sleep in a tent on the lawn. She is kind enough to tell me she likes camping. Chip Chop is overwhelmed, but she cheers up at the sight of food.
Christmas dinner unfolds in chaos. the charcoal in the barbecue won't catch alight. The turkey, covered in the skin from the ham to keep it moist, is cooking too slowly. Dogs, stinky wet from a swim, hover politely at my feet in the kitchen, hoping a morsel will drop off the bench. When nothing does, they wander off, heads sagging with disappointment, pausing only to shake. The walls are sprayed with water. The salad, too. Chip Chop finds the ham skin after we take it off to brown the turkey. She eats it to the point of explosion. We call Ray the Vet who tells us she might die but there's not a damn thing we can do. We lock her away from even the smell of food.
My mother, resplendent in fire-engine red with strobing red reindeer earrings and a Santa Claus brooch that flashes like a lighthouse, tells me the Christmas decorations are a disgrace. "I'll do them next year," she huffs.
"I've gone minimalist," I snap back. Truth is, with bushfires and getting beds and tents sorted, I ran out of time and energy for more than a few baubles and a small old flashing Christmas tree I've had for years.
"Minimalist and Christmas don't work," she replies. And she has a point.
When we finally sit down to eat, I am sweating from a barrage of hot flushes. I whack down two glasses of champagne in rapid succession, then I look around. Smiling faces. Tanned arms reaching for a prawn, smoked trout, some mango salad.
"Ah bugger," I shout. "Put down your knives and forks. We haven't sung the carols yet."
Everyone groans. Lulu hands around the words to six carols we sing every year before we eat. She's been sitting on them, hoping I'll forget. Not a chance! Is there an exploding point for happiness? There can't be.
By midnight we're all in bed, even the youngies. Bob grabs me tightly. "Thank you," he says, with a sigh.
"Oh no, thank you!"
And we both fall into a deep sleep. Holding hands.
Needless to say, at the next Christmas the decorations are far from minimalist!