SYDNEY, Dec. 26 – On Christmas Eve it was quiet in the streets of Woolloomooloo, an inner suburb here. A Catholic church nestled at the end of a line of terraces on a back street had a small notice pinned to its front sign: Christmas Mass, 9am.
People who had finished work were having dinner on the wharf, enjoying a cool breeze. While up in a dark, shady square out the front of the high gates to the local primary school, two men were discussing their Christmas drug supply.
"I've got the $2,000, and he's got the 20 bags, but I won't see him before Christmas, will I?" the first man said. The second looked at the ground and thought about his answer.
"No Christmas won't be the same without a stash, will it?"
Walking past monotonous terrace houses near the drug discussion, a young girl was being told by her uncle that Santa could still change his mind. "If you've been naughty," he told her, " even if you were naughty today, he can change his mind. He doesn't have to bring you anything if you don't deserve it."
"But how does he know?" she asked.
"Oh, he knows," said the uncle, his arms gesturing to the air and his head looking up. "He's amazing."
Woolloomooloo is located just south of the CBD here, and sits right on the water. A street of pubs, reminiscent of the working wharf days, is just across from the restored finger wharf - a product of urban gentrification that now features fine restaurants, apartments and a hotel.
Christmas was approaching slowly. The mad rush of last minute present buying was either over or taking place elsewhere. Here they were easing themselves into the big day.
On Christmas morning a family of Britons was in the lift. The matriarch said: "It's raining, on Christmas morning! I thought it was supposed to be sunny."
"It's just like home," her husband said dryly.
Across the country hams were carved and salads tossed. Presents were eyed off under the wilting Christmas trees of those who refuse to convert to plastic.
Wrapping paper was discarded to create excitement or disappointment, depending on what the wrapping paper no longer concealed.
The morning spent collecting bags of ice from the service station, preparing lunch, making sure there was a seat for everyone and having a few sneaky drinks turned into a long, wet afternoon.
And then the sky darkened. The man who was up in the backstreets the day before managed a Christmas without his stash. The ice people had collected in the morning would be slush in the bottoms of eskies no longer bristling with drinks. The excitement and anticipation of the presents under the three and those brought by Santa would have passed, to be replaced by drowsiness.
But perhaps a few Christmas crackers hadn't been cracked, ready to be recycled for next year.
(This article was originally filed to The Global Panorama but was spiked and never published. The reasoning? Who knows; perhaps it isn’t very good.)