Archive for the ‘Summer’ Category

Subtitle: When in doubt, talk about the weather!

Well, the vibrant pohutukawa that brought me so much joy in January have shed all their red flowers, so it is time for me to change my header once again. I need something summery, but in the meantime will stick with the ferns that are in my life year round.

We’ve had a lovely summer in all ways. Our government promised everyone that we’d have a safe and happy summer, and that’s exactly what we got, with minimal COVID cases, relaxed restrictions (only mask wearing and vaccination pass requirements), and good weather. Now everyone is back at work, the kids are back at school, and COVID is on its way, with omicron figures ramping up. Booster numbers are lifting too, only 3-4 months after most of us got our last shot of our original vaccination. They feel more important now though.

But we’ve had two consecutive miserable weekends, even with lovely warm weather in between. (There are advantages to not working in an office – or at all – which means that we notice good weather during the week! When I first became self-employed and began working from home, it astounded me how much good weather we actually got in this city – or perhaps, how much good weather I missed sitting in an air-conditioned office on the 16th floor.) This is not unusual in New Zealand, at any time of year. We don’t have a continental climate. Or a tropical one where the temperature rarely fluctuates more than a few degrees, and where there are only three seasons, (hot, very hot, and hot and rainy). We’re an island in the southern Pacific Ocean, and we get weather systems from Antarctica, as well as from the tropics. There will always be a cold snap that makes us think it is winter (yesterday), and a dumping of rain from the tail end of a tropical cyclone* reaching New Zealand that spoils things for campers, floods houses, and brings down slips (also last weekend). Climate change seems to make these events stronger too. Personally, we were lucky to be relatively unscathed, though our deck is littered with branches from our pine tree, laden with pine cones, that came down in the winds.

So all in all, it has felt entirely appropriate to be inside watching the Winter Olympics, seeing the snow fall, and hear the rain on our roof. I even made a special wintry dinner on Saturday night (roast lamb with gravy) that was perfectly timed comfort food!

Unfortunately, the downpours didn’t seem to hurt the small band of anti-mandate/vaccine protesters who have been camping in the grounds of Parliament for the last week either. Although sadly the expansive lawn in front of Parliament buildings – often the scene of protests, as well as family picnics and office workers eating lunch – will not survive their presence. They don’t have the support of Wellingtonians – 98% of people 12 and over in this region are vaccinated – but we are trying to ignore them. The most frustrating part of this is that Parliament is on the same street as my favourite supermarket, so I’ve been avoiding it since the protesters have closed streets and caused traffic disruptions. This can’t go on, surely? I want to buy some fresh boneless salmon, and favourite Turkish bread for dinner this week, and they don’t have any at our small local supermarket. Disaster Mali-style!

My smug brother-in-law who lives in California regularly bugs me about the weather here, as he keeps watch on events from his childhood home. I wouldn’t like to live where he does, with temperatures in the 40s in summer, forest fires filling the air with smoke, but I don’t think he quite believes me. So of course, I got a taunting message from him about events over the weekend. I told him summer was coming back, it just needed a bit of a rest. I hope I’m right. The sun has been shining today, we’ve had the windows open, and the cicadas are calling. I’m hopeful, but not confident. We can never be confident in Wellington. But at least it is never boring!

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One of the nicest things about coming home after our Christmas away was being greeted by our favourite trees. As soon as we came off the motorway, we saw pohutukawa in bloom, and as we turned into our street, it felt as if they were forming a guard of honour on both sides of the street, welcoming us home.

In the north of New Zealand, where we had spent Christmas, and where pohutukawa originally grew naturally, their blooms had fallen weeks ago, so I had missed their green and red Christmas cheer. There are very few in the South Island, where I grew up, as I was reminded when we had my niece and her family visit last week. “So that’s what all those red trees are!” she said.

They have been planted profusely and thrive here in Wellington, and late December/January is full pohutukawa season. Hence my blog header at this time of year. A transplant from the South, pohutukawa have featured in some major events in my life, and I have taken them to heart, as many of you who have read me for a few years or more will know. So a few days after arriving back home, when I went on a walk on my usual route, I snapped away at the trees I now love. I noticed the gold tips on the blooms – red, green, and gold, very seasonal indeed. There’s the bloody aftermath of their flowering too – the red footpaths and gutters of the fallen flowers, and the patterns they create on top of cars parked under the trees themselves.

Note: Indian readers might recognise the name of this street. I live in a suburb filled with names from India, and its surrounding countries. It was originally settled in the mid-late 1800s by people who had lived and worked in India.

Another in the Tree Love series – find all the other bloggers doing it here.

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Summer finally arrived in Wellington last week. This often happens – we don’t get a stretch of decent weather until after Christmas. We had a lot of warm/hot (for us) days when staying with my sister. The heat there was humid, and it was hot and sticky. My husband and I wilted a little in the heat, as does my sister. Swims were welcome. But needless to say, we were pleased to get home to a chilly night to sleep easily!

A few days after we arrived home, we drove over the hill on New Year’s Day for a gathering enjoying a hot (30+C/ 86+F) but very gorgeous afternoon of food and wine and croquet. Much more civilised than a party the night before! And a return trip is scheduled.

But the temperatures warmed up last week, and we had wonderful days, and thankfully, cooler nights. Everything felt summery. We’ve had three barbecues in one week, which is about two more than we had the whole of last summer! Given the stable temperatures and lack of wind, I even planned a barbecue and meal to be eaten outside on the deck knowing that my niece and her family were visiting Wellington on the same night as my sister and her family were staying the night. But we were told the wrong night. No problem, we said, and we shifted our plans by a day. But in Wellington, oh, what a difference a day makes!

The temperatures plummeted, and my sister and family – who had swum in Lake Taupo on their drive down – arrived and immediately started shivering, and went looking for jeans and sweatshirts. (The South Islanders were fine!) Then it started raining. I should have made a big curry, I thought, as we looked at cooking all the food in the oven rather than on the barbecue. Fortunately, a break in the weather gave the Husband time to go cook everything outside, with help from the Great-Nephew and step-Great-Nephew. The rest of us stayed inside in the warm!

Weather in New Zealand is nothing if not changeable. Weather in Wellington is changeable, but with smaller temperature variations. I read or heard somewhere recently that long-term Wellington residents develop a narrow temperature tolerance – about five degrees either side of 15C (60F). That’s not a total exaggeration, I have to say! Today, though, we’ve had a lovely 23C (74F) which is about the perfect summer temperature to me, the windows are all open, and the birds are chirping in the trees. I’d better finish this, because I think a drink on the deck might be calling to me. And who knows, it might be too cold tomorrow!

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