My parents came from a big family.
My dad’s parents were in Queensland, the rest in New South Wales. So each year, as Christmas came around, we would load up the old Holden, wind the windows down (as there was no air con) and travel around to everyone we needed to see.
Every year, we had more than enough family around. And once I made my own family, we always made sure we fitted everyone in.
So I am lucky enough to have never been lonely.
But that doesn’t mean I don’t think about the people who are on their own at this time of year. And it’s why Langley’s works to spread as much Christmas cheer as we can.
There’s always a friend, just around the corner
For whatever reason, whether it be that they live away from family, or their loved ones have passed away, there are people who are alone over Christmas.
At a time when everyone around you is celebrating, it would be very difficult to be away from the people you love.
It’s why we have started to try and have a Christmas Tour available - so we can gather people together, take them somewhere fantastic and ensure they have a great time with friends.
The Christmas on Norfolk Island Tour is one of my favourites - our family has done it ourselves.
It is a perfect tropical holiday, while including all the Christmas essentials. We organise a bus to take people to church and the hotel treats everyone to a delicious Christmas lunch.
We also organise Christmas Lights Tours at this time of year. Once we went to Trangie to one of their nursing homes, picked up a group and took them around the town to look at all the decorated homes.
Then everyone was treated to Dippin' Dots ice cream - a first time for a lot of the passengers, they’d never experienced anything like it! You never know when you’ll do something for the first time, even at the age of 93.
That night was particularly special, because SANTA (our driver Tracy) drove the bus!
We did this on the house, because it’s not about the money. We just want to ensure everyone gets to be festive, whatever their situation.
Our own routine
While of course Christmas changes each year, as new grandkids arrive and we travel to see different people, our traditions remain the same.
We all open presents together. Once the kids arrived I realised the ‘real’ way to unwrap gifts. Rip Rip Woodchip! The excitement gets the better of them, and it’s my job to pick up the wrapping paper, which is scattered all over the room.
We all sit down to lunch, together. Depending on how much energy we have left at the end of the year, it’s either a roast lunch or cold meats and salad. The roast lunch tradition has been handed from both mine and Fiona’s parents, so we like to keep it up - no matter what the temperature is.
Speaking of heat - there is always swimming. I am safety supervisor, watching the kids splish, splash and dive around the pool. I always seem to land the fun jobs.
And of course, Molly plays an important role. I didn’t know it was possible to find so many dress up outfits for dogs - but Sarah manages to find a new one each year.
It’s generally just a very lazy, lovely day.
The magic of children
It was so special, once the grandkids arrived, to talk about Santa coming again.
We go all out with this and it’s something I really love.
I use two pieces of steel to create the illusion that Santa’s sleigh has come through the yard. We leave skid marks on the front lawn, scratch marks on the fence to show where he misjudged the height, and a broken branch to show where he clipped the tree.
I also leave muddy fingerprints on the windows. Unfortunately, this did backfire on me one fateful year, when we went away after Christmas - and the neighbours were robbed.
The police, doing their job, came over to have a look at our house, to suss out whether we’d also fallen victim to crime. Well, didn’t the muddy fingerprints cause some confusion!
We got a phone call, saying prints had been found, - but don’t worry, they had dusted them and would send them off for testing.
‘Well, it’s a good thing you called - I’ve already solved the crime...’ is what I said to the officer.
A time to take stock
The end of the year is always a reflective time, when I think about what we are grateful for.
Of course, our health and our family are two things we never take for granted.
But one thing that remains a constant source of joy, year after year, is our customers.
Your loyalty, your stories and your spirit. There just isn’t a better bunch of people.
You keep coming back, and coming back - without you, we wouldn’t be going anywhere.
And I feel proud. Because the feedback we get from you, each year, is that we have given you a special experience, and value for your money.
When you get on a coach to do a long tour it’s like hopping on with family, we all make jokes about reunions.
My family and I are truly grateful for your friendship.
A time to look forward
We are still growing, which is very exciting.
But in 2019, we want to focus on stabilising and catching up. Sometimes, you just need to take a breath every now and then to make sure the wheels are all turning properly.
While we are always looking to make positive changes, and give you new experiences, I am also a firm believer in - if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.
Everyone’s been doing it a bit average this year with the drought. The farmers are always in our thoughts and we do what we can to chip in. But as we all know, the lack of rain affects all the businesses out here. Rain equates to a strong economy.
FIngers crossed, we’ll get a bit over christmas. And then a bit more next year.
But in the meantime, Langley’s will push on and focus on what’s important - putting smiles on the faces of our valued customers.
Merry Christmas everyone. We hope you have a great time.
And here’s to another great year of travel in 2019!