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Christmas morning in England. I’m sitting by a warm heater inside my friend’s lovely flat in Ealing Broadway, just outside of London. The day is grey and rainy outside but I’m not bothered by the weather at all. In fact, I embrace it. It’s one of the things I love about this side of the world.

I think I was always meant to be in this kind of environment. My brother and I used to muse when we were younger that we quite enjoyed the cloudy, gloomy days Toowoomba (Queensland) usually offered during its freezing winter months. We felt the atmosphere seemed very ‘English’, although at that point, in this lifetime we’d not visited the UK to actually know for sure.

Over the past few days I’ve taken opportunities to pause and watch the world around me: lush green grass in the parks, squirrels racing along fences, the odd ray of sunshine poking through a cloudy northern sky, stark bare trees – their leaves fallen in the Autumn months and soaked back into the earth. The air is cool, and winter here has a familiar, crisp smell. In the city, sounds of the Tube, train and traffic blend with scents of coffee and pastries at each central commuter precinct. Accents and languages from all over Europe, Africa, UK and even ‘Down Under’ filter within any given crowd, as hoards of people – all shapes and sizes – make their way around the city with Christmas gift purchases, mini Christmas trees and decorations. Often pet dogs are along for the ride on the Tube or into a coffee shop; those who are well-looked-after sport a winter jacket and booties.

Highly decorated trees adorn the stores. Ice-skating rinks and ‘winter wonderland’ festivals attract children – and those who are children at heart. Markets are definitely the best source of creative fodder for the senses, as brilliant multicultural sights and smells waft out of each stall, blending with a neighbour’s offerings.

As I explore in my beloved winter attire (including boots, long-sleeved layers, scarf, hat and jacket), I am happy to absorb the city’s energy, light and colour, and I am appreciative for all this place has given to me. I’m also grateful for my family, friends and a warm place to be; certainly, there are reminders in any big city that life can be very tough for some, and I don’t take lightly that I am very fortunate. Wherever you are this Christmas and New Year, here’s wishing you much peace, love, and inspiration. Why not take two minutes to explore London’s 2012 Christmas with us in the video below? :-) SB.

PS big love to our mate, Nicole, who cooked up a delicious Christmas feast for our little group of Aussie ex-pat orphans this year. Amazing X