As mentioned previously, the company has shut down for more than two weeks over Christmas. Aware as always of the demand of my home fans, I bowed to public pressure and undertook a whistle-stop tour of my parents' home in Melbourne.
It was gratifying to see how well my parents have been holding up in my absence: in fact the casual observer might think they were adapting well to my departure. I, however, know differently. After all, if I were forced to live without myself, I should find it quite impossible.
Therefore I was pleased to be able to give them the greatest gift of all: my love. This was in lieu of any decent physical gifts, which I couldn't be bothered providing. What I did provide was some cheap and tacky rubbish I picked up at the Nuremberg Christmas Market.
When at home we carried out the traditional Smith family Christmas. This involves a trip to my father's mother's house for Christmas Day celebrations, a subsequent trip to the day clinic for liposuction, a trip to see my mother's family on Boxing Day and then a trip to bed to sleep off the cumulative effects of too much food and alcohol.
It was great to be able to see the family again. This year, at least, I actually had some news to report, making for an abrupt change from previous Christmases in which the entire year's events could be described in the brief pause between two mouthfuls of turkey breast. On the other hand, most of the news was already listed in these pages, so I was probably going over old territory.
However without doubt the best thing about returning home was the cricket. It's hard to understate how tough it has been to survive in a country in which cricket is treated with all the respect of the slimy growth one finds on the underside of the fridge during defrosting. However a trip to the day two of the Boxing Day Test, and a lot of time in front of the TV has done much to repair the psychological strain.
However my time at home came to an all-too-soon end on the 29th, when I had to return to Germany in order to go to Slovenia. This trip took a ridiculous amount of time: taking into account timezone differences, I left at 17:30 from Melbourne on the 29th and arrived at the hotel in Ljubljana at 18:00 the following March.
As tough as this was, it did have its upsides. The weather was fine, but the ground was covered in snow, and the train trip through the Austrian Alps featured some breath-taking scenery. Unfortunately the train was moving the whole time, meaning that I couldn't take any photos. Also I was very tired and couldn't be bothered getting my camera out of my bag.
As yet I have not seen much of Ljubljana - I will be back to describe my time in this currently nondescript city.