Miner's Girl Sarah Long: Mixed emotions and my first mining Christmas

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Hi! I'm Sarah Long. I arrived in Australia from the UK in early 2010 and met my Mr Miner soon after. We're based in Sydney and he does drive-in, drive-out (or DIDO) to Orange in country NSW. I came out here as part of a six-month backpacking trip around the world, and never went home!

This Christmas is going to be very different to last year. Yet in the same way I am torn between an ever-increasing excitement that began the minute the decorations went up in Pitt Street Mall, and a small, niggling sadness.

Last year was my first ever Christmas away from my family; my first hot Christmas; my first Christmas with Mr Miner. I had been working on a farm in the outback for over a month and hadn't seen him in all that time. I was excited to start the seven-hour drive back to Orange; to put up our tree; wrap the presents and get started on the cooking. But I was also sad. Not only was I away from my family and the traditions I'd known for 26 years, but Christmas Day was also limited because Mr Miner had to work.

I'd been invited to Sydney, to big lunches with friends. Everyone seemed to feel sorry for me. But I didn't want to spend Christmas missing everyone I love, and I didn't want Mr Miner to be spending his Christmas (the few hours he had at home) all on his own.

So back in November, before I'd even left to go to the outback, I'd decided I was not going to feel sorry for myself at Christmas. Instead, I was going to celebrate having someone special to spend it with.

I raced around the shops before I left for the outback, trying to get organised and give myself a month to send presents home, but I wasn’t feeling my usual Christmas shopping glow. The songs with lyrics about snow and open fires were making me homesick for frosty mornings, and the decorations all seemed too gaudy in the bright sunshine. As much as I tried to drown it out by dashing around, the nagging sadness of being alone on Christmas Day went around and around in my head.

Then, while I was sat in a coffee shop, silently lamenting the fact that gingerbread lattes are really designed for -4C and not 35C, I saw a Christmas Appeal sign outside a department store. It was requesting donations of gifts for disadvantaged children, particularly teenagers, who would get no gifts this year.

I looked at the hundreds of shopping bags around my feet and decided it was time to pull myself together. I would not be moping around feeling sorry for myself when I really had no reason to. I was going to make the most of our first Christmas together.

So I had it all planned out. I’d bought the tree and decorations before I left for the outback, and hidden them under the bed. I’d bought Christmas films to watch while we were decorating. I’d decided what to cook for Christmas dinner and bought presents for my family at home so we could open them over Skype together.

While my family and friends around the world were spending Christmas Eve at the pub, at church or at home together, I put on Christmas movies and got elbow deep in chocolate, making Christmas brownies to take away with us on Boxing Day. I fell into bed at 11pm (which is probably the earliest I’ve been to bed on Christmas Eve since I was 10) but I was tired and content.

Mr Miner was allowed to finish work a few hours early on Christmas Day, so he was home and in bed before 4am and we got to wake up together to open our presents on Christmas morning. (Or rather, I woke him up like an excited little kid and made him open presents!) We watched Christmas TV and cooked roast dinner and I felt like maybe we were starting our own Christmas traditions. But I dreaded 6pm when he left for work and I would be left alone.

It was sad when he went to work. But by then my family in the UK were getting up and ready to Skype. It was lovely to see them all and be part of the present opening, but it was also sad to not be there, especially as their day was just beginning and mine was nearly over.

As much as I tried it didn't really feel like Christmas, even on Boxing Day when we drove to Mr Miner’s home town and we were playing board games with everyone at home. But it was a lovely holiday and so nice to be with his family.

This year, thousands of people will be working away in the mines and lots of families will be missing someone - whether it’s a partner, Dad, Mum, a son or a sibling.

I will be thousands of miles away in the UK, sad that I am missing my Mr Miner because he is working again. But I will also be counting my blessings, because I'm so grateful that I get to spend Christmas Day back with my brilliant family.

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