Outback Australia: Making charcoal and the scrapes


When it comes to backpacker jobs call me Bertie Bassett because I’ve done all sorts.
Of all of the jobs that I’ve had however, nothing quite compares to what I do now.
For the past few months I have been making charcoal in the Australian outback. The days are long, the work is horrible, physical and dusty and the weather is crazy. Basically wood is cut up, we gather it onto trucks, tip it into pits, cook the wood in the pits for about a fortnight and then dig out the resulting charcoal, sort it into bags, sew the bags, stack them and then wrap them in plastic ready for delivery. It sounds simple but each element is hard, dangerous and has its own meticulously regimented method of being done. Everyone has constant injuries, there is no health and safety and yeah, it’s not particularly pleasant.



The location:
821 Kms west of Brisbane (a seven day non-stop hike according to google maps) is a settlement called Wyandra, look it up, it’s a tiny little place with only 116 residents (116 according to Wikipedia, my boss said in reality there are only about 40 people that live there permanently). Another 25km into the wilderness outside of Wyandra is where we live.
There is a small group of us that live out here (so far the minimum has been 5, the maximum was 9) the couple that run the business stay in the house and the rest of us that work here stay in “dongers” or campervans on the grounds.



To get clean water we need to go on ‘water runs’. A water run consists of driving for about 20 minutes in a rickety old truck to a hole in the ground with pumps and tubes sticking out of it. On the back of the truck is a massive tank that is filled directly with the water, hot enough to cook in, pumped straight from the boar. When you pull up to the pump, one of you will then climb up on top of the truck and then up onto the tank. The hose is guided up to you with ropes then you put the nozzle into the top of the tank, tie the hose to a strap, let rip and then you wait on top until the tank is full enough. The whole process of driving out, filling the tank, returning and then plumbing it all in takes (on a good day) about an hour; however often there are problems or if it is too dark then we won’t go.

It’s a ballache but better than the alternative. If there is no clean water in the tank we switch to using river water. This wouldn’t be too bad if the river wasn’t slow moving, shallow and didn’t have water with the look and feel of a poorly prepared cup-a-soup (one day we had neither option so I washed myself in my boss’s bathroom with water from a saucepan).


A ‘water run’ at sunset.

Food and supplies:
The nearest supermarket is a two hour drive away, actually if you need pretty much anything (clothes, a toothbrush… medical attention) it’s a two hour drive to Charleville, the nearest place that is big enough to call itself a town. If shit gets really serious there is an airstrip nearby that we can use but I’m yet to see it get any action.


Like every job there is inevitable politics and any grievances do become heightened because we are such a small group and you are all working long hard hours. Often the person you least want to see is the person that you spend your entire day with. For the most part though I’ve managed to keep out of the politics, but of course some days the job is nothing to do with charcoal, it’s about putting up with all the gossip and the ballache around you.

Chargrilled fingertips and a lost fingernail.

So, why put up with all of this bullshit?:

Aside from the finances (realistically I don’t have time to look for another job before my VISA expires) the main things that are keeping me here are the people (cliché but very true), the fact that I can feel myself getting healthier by the day and the general sense of adventure and camaraderie. It feels like what I always imagined Australia to be. I open my door in the morning and some days I see kangaroos hopping away, or emus, it’s amazing. Before I came into the outback I was firmly trying to enter the tedium of Melbourne city life (working for a smarmy solar panel sales company run by a guy with a popular haircut) and yeah, I didn’t realise how shit it was until I actually left.


Picture taken by Ben Chandler

Another good thing about working here is that it’s actually legit’. I’ve read and heard so many stories of backpackers being swindled by farmers, often for thousands of dollars. It’s not uncommon and it’s all over Australia. The farmers know that the backpackers need to work for a certain amount of days to earn their second year so they treat them like shit and often pay them nothing (or close enough to it) for their hard work. Scum. Luckily I was only scammed once (3 days of pay) out in WA but I’m really happy to be somewhere with long term consistent work (the pay cheques are sporadic but at least they are actually right when they do come).


Picture taken by Ben Chandler

Every day is a new challenge, a new adventure. If something could possibly go wrong it will but that just makes everything that much more interesting. The work is shit but yeah, that’s why they pay you to do it, right? I love a story as well and this job is certainly a rich source.

Here are a few of my stories and photo’s that I’ve gathered so far:

The explosion:

It was an afternoon just like any other, the plan was to load ten big bags of charcoal (each weighing about a tonne) onto a big flatbed truck ready to be taken to a different site for crushing. The only issue was that we didn’t have a forklift on site, instead we were using a huge digger with forklift bars attached to its front (it looked like one of the shitter Robot Wars contestants, just on a massive scale). After a sketchy start the digger seemed to be working fine, it’d turn on, go for a bit and then it’d mysteriously stop and the engine would grumble to silence. But each time, first try, it would turn on again with no issue.
Despite working for a few short bursts the engine of the digger dramatically sputtered, choked, and it was clearly dead for the final time; like the last moments of a villain in a film when they spring back to life wielding a gun before getting shot in the head and we know that this time they definitely won’t be coming back. The battery was going to need a jump.
We got all of the stuff ready and I stood there holding the jump leads in my right hand, poised and ready to pass them over when the time was right. My boss, Ian, was teaching me how to do a jump start. I lent over the battery and stared at the connections with vacant intent as if to say “I’m listening, you’re a great teacher”, I was giving loads of open mouthed feedback as well, “Oh yeah… ahh okay… gotcha…right on… yep… of course… yeah that makes sense”, I think it’s called “active listening” although I think it just distracted me from actually listening.

The lesson continued, “Okay, brown to the positive, this clip goes here…”
All at once it sounded like Velcro ripping, a pop of a champagne cork and the loud cracking thud of a large tree branch falling onto concrete. The sound pulsed into my head, recoiled around in my skull and then left all in a fraction of a second. My eyes stung as I opened them, my skin crawled with a scratchy heat, my ears were ringing and I had a weird gritty taste in my mouth. I kept getting that strange sensation that happens whilst swimming when you come up for air and the water leaves your ears, like somebody opening a pressurised submarine door in the centre of your head.
“Ian!? Ian! What the fuck!? Are you alright?” My language went a bit Hollywood in the confusion.
“Are you alright?” He calmly mumbled in reply.
“Are YOU alright Ian?”
We asked each other if we were alright another five times or so in rapid succession without replying.
He got up and we stumbled over to a tap, ears still ringing, on the floor was a dirty old jacket that we wet and used the muddy sleeves to wash the battery fallout from our skin. I looked down at my T-shirt and it looked like i’d been shot with blacky-green paint from a novelty shotgun.
“Now, what did we just learn?” Ian said in a calm voice.
“I don’t know Ian, what the fuck was that!?”
“Those leads must have touched together, the ones you were holding, they touched together and the battery’s exploded…”
“Oh fuck”
“… You’ve got to keep them apart”.
We returned to the scene. The top of the battery had blown clean off, revealing it’s sci-fi interior, lots of coiled metal marinating in a thick shiny black soup.
“I always wondered what the inside of one of those was like” Ian said with a smile as he patted me on the shoulder. “We’re lucky lucky boys”.
Then we just continued on; Ian pulled a battery out of one of the other machines, plumbed it in, jump started  the digger and we were back in business. All with the zen focus as if nothing had happened. It was amazing. Just another day at the office.


Baby-toothed Joe takes a tumble:


This is Baby-toothed Joe. He is a local cattle musterer whose adult teeth never came through; leaving him with a frightening gum:tooth ratio. He has three stock phrases:

“Ahzit gowan!?” (Hello, how are you?)

“Year” (Yes)

“Muzz’rin” (Mustering cattle)

Every time I see him he sidles up silently beside me whilst I’m working, settles himself so he is facing my direction and then he blankly stares into the abyss with quiet melancholic eyes.

A typical conversation will be as follows:

“Alright Joe, how’s your day treating you?”

“… Ahzit gowan!? …”

“All good thanks mate, are you having a nice day?”

“… Year …”

“Cool man, what have you been up to?”

“… Muzz’rin …”

“Ahh mustered cattle eh, I bet that will taste nice ha ha ha… … mustard…”

“… Year …”

“It’s really hot today, why are you wearing a big coat and Ugg boots?”

“ … “

“I suppose it feels cold for you ha ha, the climate where I am from is colder than here so this feels hot for me ha ha weather.”

“… Year …”


Anyway, as hard as I try and capture this moment I can never quite get across just how funny it actually was. Basically, Baby-toothed Joe fell over, that’s the story. I was busy putting some plastic wrap around a stacked pallet of charcoal bags when he settled in the area in front of me.

“Alright Joe?”

“… Ahzit gowan!?”

He stared as I shuffled backwards around and around the pallet uncoiling the plastic and stretching it around the bags to hold them in place. When it was wrapped I nealt down to tie up the loose end.

“I’m a bit dizzy now ha ha, being a world class rapper isn’t as glamorous as they make it out to be in the music videos ha ha ha”

“… Year …”

Then he tried to turn to walk away but the heal of his Ugg boot caught one of the unstacked bags of charcoal at the side of the next pallet. His face locked into a look of strained panic as he scampered awkwardly backward. One step. Two steps. His feet slapped loudly against the floor to try and right himself but he was already angled well past his centre of gravity. Three steps. Four steps. Five. I don’t know how he had generated so much momentum from a stationary position but I swear he took about ten steps backward before his arms flailed up over his head and knocked his cowboy hat off as he clattered down hard on his backside.


He was now quite a distance away but I heard all of the air leave his body (whistling through his little teeth) as he thudded to the ground.

With an expert poker face I called out, trying really hard not to burst out laughing.

“Oh fuck!? Joe are you alright mate!?!”

There was a longer pause than usual as he reached for his hat.

“… Year …”.


‘The pit’:


This is the Call of Duty map that we come to everyday to make charcoal.

The crash:


This is the aftermath of what happened on my first day. My boss, Ian, was driving back after a hard day and hit a cow. The car was a write off and they had to return later that evening with a gun to “finish it (the cow) off”. Brutal.

‘Mr Blue’:


Picture taken by Sarah Smith

Innocent looking fellow isn’t he?  He has a constant smile although behind that face there is nothing but fire and rage. I like the guy, don’t get me wrong, he rides nicely in the cab with me when I drive the trucks, he sometimes has a little game with me when I’m putting my shoes on but yeah, I’m fully aware that if he had the opportunity he would relish in killing me without a moment’s hesitation.



If you sit or lie down anywhere outside ants will crawl all over you like disgruntled Lilliputians. This is a picture of a mug of tea that was left out between breaks.



In-your-endo! My bosses are Australians. Australians from a different generation. This, combined with the nature of the work we are doing, makes them a rich fountain of unintentional gold dust. My favourite so far is:

“Ahh it’s warm, I’d love to teabag in the sea right now… how about you Ian? Wanna teabag in the sea?”

25 seconds after it happened:


This picture was taken moments after a very important machine had been dropped from a forklift.


The end:


Thanks for sticking this out until the end; and to all you barbeque lovers out there (Australians), next time you are having a lovely outdoor cook up with all of your friends, spare a thought for the time and effort that has gone into making the charcoal under your grill (and that there is a chance that your meat was once mustered by Baby-toothed Joe himself).

Safe travels!

Jack Tidball

Bribery and paranoia: My first brush with airport security

After a phenomenal few weeks I was coming to the end of the garden route (South Africa) and had no plan. Being the plucky modern man that I am I decided to consult my favourite internet search engine for some ideas. “The Pyramids of Giza and the Sphynx”, too far away, “Table mountain”, I’d just been there, “Victoria falls”, perfect. Before I had checked any of the logistics my mind was already made up. Half an hour or so of messing about, moving money, checking prices and so on and it was done, flights to Livingstone were booked, one way.

At the time I preferred an early morning flight, favouring the “stay up all night and pass out on the plane” approach (I used to get anxious on planes so the faster that I could get to sleep the better). Early morning flights are often the cheaper as well so everyone’s a winner!

Cut to the morning of the journey, I’d misjudged it, I woke up panicked and disorientated in a chair after an unintentional two hour sleep in a spitefully comfortable hot windowless room. “Oh crap, have I missed my flight?”. I hadn’t but time was short. I quickly bundled together my things and shot out of the door. I had intended to have a nice shower before I left but now my plans were out of the non-existent window. Thankfully the taxi driver that I  had organised the previous evening had hung around for me and although sweaty, smelly and flustered things were back on track.

We arrived at the airport with just about enough time to spare. At this stage I was smelly, tired but ultimately relieved. The check in and security went well and soon enough I was sat on the plane for the first leg of the journey. I sat in my seat by the window and got settled, the middle seat to my right was empty as well so I was really nice and spread. “Ahh, time for a nice bit of sleep”. No such luck. Behind me there was a bit of commotion, “probably just a domestic” I thought. Soon after the ruckus a generous portion of a man grumbled his way into the aisle, brandishing the stub of his boarding pass, and started scanning back and forth open mouthed with confusion as he made his way down the plane. Of course he was coming my way, I could sense it, of all of the empty seats I knew that this guy was destined to be my own personal nuisancemonger. Sure enough, down he parked into the seat next to me. After a moment of stress trying to find comfort he became passive, oozing his clammy arms over the rests that pressed into his flanks on either side. The noise of him grazing throughout the flight wasn’t my issue,  I remember this man so well because of the series of biological attacks that he released sporadically throughout the journey. Hot soupy farts so vivid and offensive to the pallet that I could see people flinching on impact at least six rows ahead of us and looking around accusingly at one another. It was barbaric, unforgettable and unforgivable.

I didn’t sleep on the first flight. I was tired, hungry and now in addition to my body odour I could also boast a smell of “eau de anus” infused into the fibres of my clothes thanks to my flatulent travel companion. Like a zombie (in look, smell and temperament) I waited in Johannesburg for the next leg of the journey.

The next flight was fine, everything was perfect barring one moment where a bit of turbulence made me drop a saucy bit of food right down my front and into my lap. I went to the bathroom and caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. What a state. I did my best to have a little clean up in the sink but my efforts were futile, all I managed to achieve was a large unsightly water stain and additional moisture in my fringe (which was already starting to adhere itself to my forehead).

We landed, I was an absolute mess. I remembered that in my carry on luggage I had a bit of after sun lotion. “Maybe that will mask the scent, it smells a bit like plants surely that’s an upgrade from the effluvia that I’ve drawn together”. Whilst the plane taxied I rubbed the after sun into my face, neck, arms and legs. I know that for a fact someone else has me as the antagonist in the story of their journey, “and then he started rubbing himself with herby lotion, what was wrong with that guy?!” – whoever you are, I’m sorry.

Finally the journey was over, I stayed in my seat for a little bit so that everyone else could get off first (why rush at this point, two more minutes won’t kill you) I gathered my stuff together and stepped out of the plane. The sun was bright, hot and upsetting. “I can’t wait to get to my hostel, have a nice shower and then a well earned sleep” I thought as I made my way down the stairs and across the tarmac into the terminal. A long line formed at the doorway. We queued for a while, I remember the relief when I saw my bag on the luggage trolley heading to the terminal from the plane. fifteen minutes or so later the line reached a point where I was stood in the shade, “not long now”. I had built up a fresh sheen of sweat from the blazing sun and I remember feeling really unwieldy in my own body. I was swaying a bit and had a bit of an irregularity to my walk.

Soon it was just me left in the line, ahead of me the customs official was talking to a guy that looked a bit like a hybrid of a policeman and a military general. I took my passport out of my bag and approached. Things didn’t feel right. I looked the dude in the eye and tried to replicate the blank serial killer stare that I have on my documentation. “What is your name?” he said in a low voice. “Jack Tidball … ” there was a long pause. He didn’t look happy with my answer. “Jack Elliott Tidball … ” again he didn’t look convinced. A large gent’ loomed up to me, it was at this point that I knew I was in for some drama.

Moments later I was sat in a little brightly lit room. All that was inside was a wooden table, a couple of chairs and I could see that my bag had been bought into the corner of the room. On the wall opposite was an ominous looking cabinet, I didn’t even want to consider what was inside. It reminded me a bit of the interrogation room in The Matrix when Keanu Reeves gets the metal squid thing put into his bellybutton. I was suddenly hugely aware of my appearance, stumbling about, squinting from the light, dirty, greasy and I not only smelt like a refuse site but I had also helpfully covered myself in a lotion that smelt like a nondescript selection of potentially incriminating herbs, not an ideal situation.

All that was running through my mind at this point was “I’m going to get the rubber glove, I’m going to get the rubber glove … if I did get the rubber glove, would they even use a rubber glove? … that guy’s hands were massive … what’s inside the cabinet? … probably rubber gloves”. Just to clarify, when I say “get the rubber glove” I mean a full exploratory cavity procedure, every cavity, use your imagination*.

The door opened and the army general police guy entered. Without a word he went to the corner and purposefully unzipped a pocket of my bag. He reached in with a confidence as if it was his own and pulled out a red pouch. It was my first aid kit. Before traveling around Africa I had been advised to take a first aid kit that was a bit more comprehensive than a bit of antibacterial cream, plasters and some diarrhea pills. Part of the kit was a sterile set of needles “just in case you go to a hospital in the middle of nowhere and you don’t trust that the equipment is clean”.

“What is this?” he asked with calm authority, still standing.

“It’s my first aid kit, just in case I get ill, I bought most of it in Boots” I replied like a schoolboy bitch.

“Boots? What do you mean Boots?”  his expression told me that he wasn’t as familiar with the UK high street pharmacy as I had hoped that he’d be.

“It’s a shop… and it sells first aid kits and stuff” (Don’t get the rubber glove, don’t get the rubber glove, don’t get the rubber glove).

He was quiet for what seemed like an eternity while he thought. Usually at this stage in the story I will try and be cool and blasé about what went down. I’ll say something like “and then I pulled some money out of my pocket and bribed the guy to let me go on my way”, imagine that! If I just pulled out money and tried to bribe him he’d just laugh, take the money, rubber glove me for fun, and then set about putting me in a Zambian jail. Instead it went a little something like this.

He finally sat in the chair that was across the table from me and spoke clearly and quietly. “If you give me some money then you can go, English money”.

“I’ve got US dollars” (People like US dollars, it makes them feel like they are in “the movies”).

He didn’t say anything at this point but I could see in his face that US dollars were right up his street. The question now was how much to go for, too little and he’d “laugh, rob, glove and jail” me, too much and I’m throwing money down the drain. Lucky for me all of the US notes look really similar and I had a mix of denominations and the bigger ones were really well hidden. Again my mind was racing “How much did the bottle of water that I bought in the queue cost? Is that what a local would pay for a bottle of water? Surely not. I’m going to give fifty bottles worth. Maybe I could make some kind of commotion and get the police involved to help me. Nah, this clearly happens all of the time because he seems very well rehearsed. $50 isn’t enough, go for $60 ish. You’ve got two twenties, two tens and some ones they’ll look like loads all fanned out on the table… I’m definitely getting gloved”.

He broke the silence. “Give me $50”


That was it. I’m sorry for the anti climax but that was it. I never found out what was in the cupboard (I think I was one of the lucky ones), after our chat he returned the first aid kit to my bag and helped me put it on my back as I slid a fifty dollar note neatly into his hand. I walked out, he had a quick word with the customs guy, stamped my passport and then I was on my smelly way; (I just want to add a disclaimer at this point. I’m sure this doesn’t happen all of the time but after my journey I think I was just hyper-susceptible to any scams. Maybe the whole thing was a legit procedure and I just had my thumb up my arse to it all – gloved of course) ready for the rest of my African adventure and what became one of the most beautiful experiences of my life, Victoria Falls.

Instead of giving you a step by step account, here are some pictures that I took at the falls. I can’t stress the beauty of this place enough, please go and experience it for yourself, no picture will ever do it justice.

Happy travels!


Sunrise (Tilt your screen and it’ll look better).


“My name is Grave, like the ditch!”


Always time for a photo’ opportunity.



Right: Zambia. Left: Zimbabwe. The sound and power of the falls at this point is phenomenal.

Footnote: *The bumhole.

My first Christmas away from home and how it was ruined.

And so, as I lay there, it was safe to say that Christmas was ruined. But let’s start at the beginning.

It was mid December and I found myself in a hot little village just outside of Alexandria, Egypt. It dawned on me that Christmas was fast approaching and I was yet to see anything remotely festive. Now, although I’m not Christian, I thought letting it pass by without some kind of involvement would be a real shame.

After an hour or so of research into the nearest place that would give a crap about Christmas, and the cheapest way to get there out of Northern Egypt, I managed to find decent direct flights into Athens. Greece for Christmas it was then!

I landed into Athens and head straight to Monastiraki where I’d organised a pretty decent hostel as a gift to myself. Around the city the vibe was just what I was craving, a chill in the air, markets, Christmas pop songs spilling out of every shop front and more tacky souvenirs than you could shake a novelty candy cane at. I filled up on mulled wine and fruit cake and called it a day.

I spent the next few days exploring as much of Athens as I possibly could. I love the balance of old and new. They have managed to build a modern metropolitan city on the foundation of beautiful ancient ruins without compromising either aspect. A few of the highlights for me were the Acropolis, the Temple of Zeus, the National Gallery and the Panathenaic Stadium (where if you play your cards right you can hold an Olympic torch!). I loved it all.

Christmas day arrived, I had been out in Gazi square for a massive Christmas eve party so getting up was a real struggle. I looked around my hostel room, the whole place was empty and everyone’s bags had gone. Nice and quiet, result! I forced down a bit of food (which pretty much consisted of the remains of a bag of oranges that I’d bought for a Euro  the day before) and immediately felt better.

For dinner I had arranged to visit a family at their home out nearer the coast. This isn’t an odd thing to do, loads of hostels put adverts up around Christmas time so that lone travellers don’t end up missing out.  The whole day was great, we had traditional food, played games, it was exactly what you want from a Christmas day. I left in the early evening feeling extremely happy and was already thinking about the New Year and future plans.

Still a little fragile from the night before and with an extremely full stomach I made my way up to my room to end the perfect day. The plan had come together, this is exactly what I’d wanted. The hostel room was still empty, but for two suitcases propped against the bunk bed across the room, so I made a call home and then contently drifted off to sleep.

About midnight. I hear the familiar scraping of metal and the gentle thuds of a drunk person trying to manoeuvre a key in a lock. “Here we go” I thought. After about 30 seconds I decided to get up and open the door from the inside.

“Alright mate? How’s it going?” I said, before the door was fully open. The words fell flat, met with absolutely nothing. Stood in the doorway was the most cliched German couple that I have ever seen, probably mid forties, overweight, the whole shabang. I knew immediately that it wasn’t because of rudeness that they were blankly staring, I just hadn’t been understood. They weren’t drunk but had clearly been trying to use their tiny locker key to open the door. The silence still lingered for about ten seconds as I turned and walked back towards by bed in the corner.

“I am here?!” The guy (let’s call him Fred) said, I looked over my shoulder and he was pointing at an empty bottom bunk. “Wherever man, these are all free”. He made a nod like gesture and slopped down onto the bunk. He then pointed at the bed above him and spoke in brief efficient German to his wife.

She (let’s call her Wendy) strained with her shoes and finally her mighty cankles burst out like water from a split paddling pool. She kicked the shoes aside and arched her head up to assess the peak that she was about to attempt to summit. CREEEEAAAKKK!!! The ladder took the force of her weight as she lurched up to the top bunk with surprising competence. Then, as if she had been shot with a tranquiliser, she slammed down onto the mattress and writhed around in her pillows and blankets for a moment. A few more straining metal sounds and the battle was over, she was down for the night.

Quiet again. Perfect. I got up and flicked off the light but it didn’t make too much difference to the room because there was still a glare coming through the curtains from a streetlamp just outside the window. I settled back into my nest, put my headphones in and started to watch “It’s a Wonderful Life” on my computer.

SCREEEECH!!! From the semi darkness, over the sound of my film, I heard the stress of the bed across the room. Wendy was on the move. She heaved herself to the end of the bed, down the ladder and to the floor with all the grace of a dazed hippo trapped inside a duvet cover. The bed sounded like it was about to break as she rolled into the bunk below. For about a minute there was a lot of commotion, she had woken Fred from his slumber and he didn’t sound best pleased.

The creaks and grumbles became slower and more rhythmic, “Oh no” I thought to myself, “are they!?”… they were. I closed the lid of my computer, grabbed my wash bag and towel and shimmied out of the room. “I’ll have a shower, give them half hour, it’s Christmas”. Half hour went by. “Maybe give them another ten minutes, I don’t want to walk in on them”.

After what was close to an hour I slowly walked back in and was greeted by an image that I still can’t fully erase from my brain. They were both naked in the middle of the room, Fred was behind Wendy doing his thing whilst she was bent over heavily clutching onto the lower frame of the empty bunk bed in front of them, together forming what looked like an “h”. Wendy looked up and somehow I was locked in a stare with both of them at the same time. I panicked, they didn’t stop what they were doing, my entry (to the room) had just appeared to spur them on. In my shock however I didn’t leave. Instead I just scooched around them and back into my bed, justifying the decision to myself by thinking “if I turn around and leave now it’ll look weird”.

The session continued until what must have been three in the morning or beyond (I was too scared to check the time). And so, as I lay there, it was safe to say that Christmas was ruined.