Archive for the ‘Summer’ Category

Right now, New Zealand is being hit by Cyclone Gabrielle. It’s the fifth tropical cyclone to affect our weather this summer. (FYI, in case you weren’t aware, these weather patterns are called cyclones in the Pacific Ocean, and hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean). The last and worst one was just two-three weeks ago, the ground is still sodden, roads are still out, slips are down. And this one is expected to be even worse.

Here in Wellington, so far, it is just like any other storm. We are far enough south that we are getting the edges, and they don’t have the intensity that is striking the north. And because the cyclone turns clockwise, the winds we are getting are south-easterly, and later southerly, which means that here at our house, we are relatively protected from the hills behind.

I will admit that I am a bit worried about some German friends who visited us last week, and who are now further in the north. They were wise and have hunkered down, but a campervan isn’t a place to enjoy a major storm. And once the storm clears, I hope they will still have the opportunity to visit some of the places they hoped to see in the north, which right now are swamped, with road damage because of slips, subsidence, etc. Part of what makes our country beautiful – the hills, native bush, winding roads, and isolation – also makes it vulnerable.

The most populous, northern, part of our country has had rain from these cyclones constantly this summer. They talk about “New Zealand’s terrible summer,” but what they actually mean is “northern New Zealand’s terrible summer.” (I talk about the global tyranny of the north, but it is real here in NZ too!) The South Island has had an excellent summer, and even in windy, mostly inclement Wellington, we have had day after day of fine Goldilocks (not too hot, not too cold) weather. Well, until today. Still, I’m hoping our good weather will return, and that the north will dry out before winter.

So, what else to do on a tropical cyclone day but a) blog, b) plan some travel, and c) make my easy cheese scones for lunch. The scones were delicious! And although it is Valentine’s Day, we celebrated our wedding anniversary just 10 days ago, so we pretty much ignore the day. Given the weather, I might snuggle up later with a book, and wait for summer to return.


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I’ve often wondered how northerners deal with the end of the year, when the year doesn’t really end in December, and the New Year is just a continuation of the winter slog. Does it feel that way? I guess that’s why I love our seasons. We get a proper break and long holiday, everything including school starts again in January (well, except our tax year! lol), even summer doesn’t really start until late December (well, especially in the city where I live), and so it really feels like the start of a new year.

Each week in January it changes. I used to go back to work in the first week of January, because we rarely if ever travelled in January (too cold in the northern hemisphere, too busy in Asia, too hot in Australia, and too crowded in NZ. In January, people trickle back to work. For those of us who are not controlled by school schedules or work requirements, even though we’ve now had weeks of warm weather, now is when summer really begins. And begin it has. We’ve had day after day of fine weather and warm temperatures and, remarkably for Wellington, no winds. (Though I never complain if winds pick up overnight, and can cool our non-airconditioned suntrap-of-a-house down). Even yesterday, which was cooler with a southerly wind, our deck was sheltered and awash with the sun, and our house got very warm. One of these years we might actually get a heat pump/airconditioner unit! Still, our temperatures are moderate – they make summer pleasant, rather than unbearably hot.

The fine and warm weather is forecast to continue for another ten days. For those of you who live in more settled continental climates, this might seem unremarkable. But in New Zealand, an island in the Pacific Ocean, buffeted by winds coming up from Antarctica, wet tropical cyclones coming down from the South Pacific, weather is rarely settled. Parts of the country have had constant rain this summer. But here in Wellington, renowned for terrible weather, we’re having a lovely summer. So far. It could end at any time. It is unpredictable! Perhaps that’s why I like to talk about it more than most. Summer often feels fleeting, but it is beautiful. And I’m very grateful for it at the moment.

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An occasional series

Reading: I finished 2022 with a total of 45 books, my third highest total since I started doing the Goodreads Challenge back in 2011. I noted some of my favourite books of the year in my 2022: A Tally post here. My reading in the last few months has tailed off, but this morning I enjoyed a coffee and a few pages of a new book by one of last year’s favourite authors, Amor Towles. (The book I’m reading is The Lincoln Highway.) I’m hoping to find more time to read both fiction and non-fiction this year, as I know I’m reading too much rubbish online, and the lack of detailed, and unbiased analysis in so many articles frustrates me enormously. Not to mention what it has done to my attention span! Blogs excepted, of course!

Watching: So much! It is also frustrating that we can become completely involved in a series, watching an episode or two every evening, and in a week it is over, and in two or three weeks I’ve almost forgotten something that had me completely in its grip there for a while. So I both love binge-watching, and find it very disappointing. I watch a lot of mystery and crime, so every so often need something different. I fell in love with the Extraordinary Attorney Woo last year. It was such a feelgood programme, even though there were hard moments and cruelties, that I cannot wait for the next season. There are so many good (if all too brief) British series that I enjoy. We just started the Kim Philby story, A Spy Among Friends, with one of my favourite actors (Guy Pearce) as well as Damian Lewis and the fabulous Anna Maxwell Martin. I love the combination of drama, intrigue, a bit of mystery, great writing, and great acting.

Listening: I just finished an audiobook that was, unusually for me, fiction. I’ve tended to keep to non-fiction on audiobooks, as it gives me a different focus, and I can often hear it in the actia; author’s voice too. But Celeste Ng’s Everything I Never Told You kept me listening. So I might have to venture out into more fiction audiobooks. I’m listening to a Spotify classical playlist right now – Grieg is one of my favourites, and a piece of his is playing as I write this. Radio NZ changes its line-up over the summer break, and my favourite wacky afternoon show, that always makes me laugh, only ran for two weeks this year, as they were – I think – trying to attract a younger audience with a replacement programme. The presenters lacked the humour and sheer professionalism of the more established programme, although the music was interesting. I didn’t listen as much this year because, well, Celeste Ng, and streaming. Sigh.

Following: Trying to avoid following too much, but it’s hard to miss the coverage of Prince Harry’s book, Spare. I haven’t read it, but I think I will have to, as the coverage is extraordinary. People/commenters/journalists etc either take one side or another, happily take things out of context, get outraged at things that are out of context, and of course, become completely polarised one way or another. It’s a classic example of the hostility and volatility of public debate these days. Not to mention the lack of journalistic integrity or analytical thinking.

Drinking: We haven’t been drinking a lot this year. Less tea than usual, because the summer weather is finally here. More champagne than usual because … well … Christmas, New Year, and summer. I noticed at the supermarket this morning that I haven’t been drinking rose, a classic summer wine, so far this year. And I did not pick up a bottle either.  

Cooking and Eating: More than usual, because … well … see above! Christmas and New Year, and a traditional degustation seven-course menu with friends, as well as a few days away before Christmas. With a visitor from overseas in November/December, we dug into a lot of traditional New Zealand dishes – cheese scones, roast lamb, and pavlova (the latter was good practice for our Christmas Day meal). We have a blogging visitor coming in a few weeks, so I’m hoping to produce a decent pavlova for them too. Mince pies, Christmas baclava, the inevitable chocolate from our neighbour, and gingerbread men from my friend, didn’t help the weight loss! In the meantime, I’m keen on trying out some new salads, and some more barbecue-friendly (grill-friendly?) recipes too. Lamb sliders (mini lamb burgers with romesco sauce and a harissa mayonnaise) with bubbles was a great success on degustation night last week.

Wearing: Finally, summer clothes! I’ve had several occasions to wear a summery floaty dress, which is not always possible in Wellington. Sunfrocks at home, T-shirts and capris, and a nice new flowery frilly (but not too frilly) top have all made their appearances when out and about.

Trying: To get enthusiastic about exercise and weight loss again. I was doing great a few months ago, but visitors and travel got in the way, and I’m trying to get back into it. UV rays and the fear of sunburn puts me off working out in the middle of the day, but I thoroughly enjoyed a walk yesterday (with a good sunscreen) along the coast, so I’m going to try and do more of that.

Hoping: That our travel plans this year will all work out, and that covid variants won’t run rampant and mess up all our very expensive plans. Though we do now have travel insurance, so that helps! Hoping I won’t have lost my travel mojo when I get to do it again. This has been the longest gap in international trips for me since I started travelling the world with my husband back in the … wait for it … 1980s.

Planning: To actually spend more time with my friends this year. I’ve started the year well, but I need to keep it up. It’s so easy to hunker down and focus on myself and the Husband, but that isn’t healthy for either of us. Getting involved with new groups is an option to expand my social network, but it will be harder this year, as I can’t make a commitment if the travel we’ve been contemplating is actually going to happen.

Anticipating: The year to come, and I’m looking forward to it! It actually seems that we might be able to travel, the plans are now largely (though not entirely) in place, and further plans for travel later in the year are under discussion. And I get to meet another Friend-Not-Yet-Met soon.

Loving: Summer. It’s come at the right time. It isn’t killing me with the heat. I’m loving the summer foods, the freedom that warmth brings, the joy in everyone’s faces. And the prospect of everyone being back at work (mostly this week and next) and school (in a couple of weeks) and we will get all our favourite spaces back!

Still unashamedly copying Loribeth’s regular series every few months here on A Separate Life.

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