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Archive for the ‘Weather’ Category

In Western society, it seems that the sun is king; people who live in sunny climes gloat about their good weather, their beach lifestyle, their skimpy clothes for months (or all year round), and deem it fashionable and acceptable to laugh at those of us who live in temperature-challenged environs, even if those warm-climate folks live in air-conditioning (or wish they did) for much of the year.

It equally seems fashionable here to criticise our own weather, and yes, I know I did my fair share of that this year when summer taunted us with a fleeting drive-by, but I have to say that I am glad I don’t live somewhere where the temperature goes to extremes. I loved living in Bangkok, but that was despite its heat not necessarily because of it; Bangkok’s average high is about five or even ten degrees C too hot for me.

40C isn’t good weather in my world, it’s ridiculous, and so is 35C and humid; likewise, for those freezing temperatures some of you endure over winter! The sun too brings other dangers and in my view, lying on the beach or beside a pool in the full sun is the act of a crazy person; tans are evidence of damage, and promise wrinkled, leathery skin with the risk of skin cancer and possibly death in years to come.

I think I had to wait until I was in my 40s to meet someone (Helen, a favourite former blogger) who said that she preferred winter (and a Canadian winter at that) to summer, and I was shocked, as her view went so completely against the norm. But I realised instantly too that as much as I love the freedom that comes with warm weather, I know what she means, and this is one of the reasons why I’m relishing (I hope) wrapping up warm and experiencing some cold weather today in Iceland.

Do you chase the sun and heat, or hide from it?

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Nineteen days into February, when in previous (almost as disappointing) years autumn was preparing to knock on the door, summer has decided to turn up for a visit. After a bit of gloom yesterday morning, and some overnight rain, we’re now basking in the second consecutive day of sun and warmth. I’m wearing a sunfrock for only the second time this year, and this morning I had breakfast out on the deck, enjoying the fact that I was not locked into an air-conditioned office like the rest of my friends.

I’d already resigned myself to the fact that summer this year was a bust and so, after many weeks of disappointment and disbelief and shock, I decided to relax and see the funny side.

I’m doing that elsewhere in my life too, where I’ve experienced similar emotions (and I suspect I’m not the only one). Frustration and anger are exhausting and can be upsetting, and the resultant swearing – although research says that it can be therapeutic – might be briefly satisfying but isn’t sustainable long term. So right now, I find I feel better instead when I can laugh and say, “Good grief!” and so I’m saying it multiple times a day this summer.

But not today – today I’m going to enjoy the moment, the sound of the cicadas outside, the blue sky, and the balmy temperatures.

 

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When in doubt, blog about the weather.

Living in Windy Wellington, we are often the subject of jokes and comments, and last week, with wild winds all over the country, someone I know in the South Island couldn’t resist poking fun at me. Two days later, though, in his own hometown, my niece’s large trampoline was blown over her high fence into the neighbour’s garden.

More winds have arrived today, sweeping up the country. Often, we get big winds around the equinoxes or the change of seasons, but we’ve had a very long and very mild autumn, an autumn that still seems to have been clinging to the end of summer. I like the different seasons, and usually welcome autumn – the oak tree outside my window is the one tree around us that changes colours, and I always enjoy the feeling of snuggling up inside in the warm – but this year, the colours are there, but the chill hasn’t arrived, and I’m still in short sleeves.

This afternoon, though, with big wind gusts, and the threat of hail, it feels as if the seasons are trying to change. If you ask me, it’s about time.

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The day dawned cold, crisp and clear, a welcome change from the rain and wind and bitter cold of the last few days, in this particularly wet and windy (so far at least) winter; a winter that has given us day after day of low clouds and dampness and some of the wildest winds we can remember, leaving our poor house with yet more pronounced cracks in the wall, and even when the winds have abated, Wellington has lived up to its windy reputation and there’s been enough to deter me from stretching my legs and clearing my head around the hills of Ngaio, and although there was no such excuse today, I worked out at the gym enjoying the views of Evans Bay – the water with just enough movement in it to sparkle like a bed full of diamonds in the low morning sunlight –  and anticipating the coffee on my way home, before spending the rest of the day here, doing some writing and correspondence (though still not the hand-written card to someone special, as I cannot decide which photograph to use), some chores around the house, and even some job-searching, and whenever I leave this rather dark office, I marvel at how glorious this house is on a sunny winter’s day, the low sun reaching all the way to the back walls of our rooms, filling the house with light, a rich warm glow from this distant mid-winter sun, managing to heat the house naturally (though maybe only for an hour longer, though certainly not two), before the smoke will start rising from the chimneys in the valley below me, and the street lights will come on, and maybe some mists will rise as the sky darkens and the hearty red wine calls.

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“Look at my beautiful life!” is often the subtext to blogposts and is certainly a major part of social media. I’m guilty of it myself, posting photos of my travels, or more recently – since we have been grounded – summer beaches.

But I recently saw a news item on the big freeze in the northeast of the US and Canada. It was mind-boggling. So today, even though I might be overly warm, and have the garage door cracked open to the south, to bring in some cooler air, there are occasional rain showers, and I feel obliged to point out that summer in Wellington isn’t all blue skies and sunshine and warm temperatures.

This was what I saw out my bedroom window yesterday, and it’s not much better today:

A rainy summer Sunday

A rainy summer Sunday

Though I will admit that, a year on, I still get a thrill seeing the finished deck and new fence.

 

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There’s no cruise ship in port today. There was on Saturday, when the clouds were low and it rained most of the day, and we were all feeling miserable. Murphy’s Law.

The view today from the tugboat cafe where I had a quick lunch with a friend shows that Wellingtonians are well and truly ready for summer to arrive. (I’m sure that water is freezing.) But that’s the question. Is it really here, or will it go away again? We’ve had an unusually cold spring.

Personally I hope it will at least stay for a few days as we have overseas friends arriving tomorrow. As the saying goes,

“you can’t beat Wellington on a good day.”

An Oriental Bay Monday

An Oriental Bay Monday

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A TV commercial that used to run here shows God handing out national assets. South Africa gets diamonds. Australia gets gold, and car manufacturing. New Zealand slept in arrives late and gets Pineapple Lumps. You can watch it here.

This is typical kiwi self-deprecation, yet still celebrating what is good about our country. We don’t have great oil or mineral wealth, we are not strategically located for trade (in fact, just the opposite). But we are lucky in another sense.

We have water. We look in horror to our nearest neighbour Australia – self-named The Lucky Country.  We look at their droughts, their forest fires and ridiculous summer temperatures, their huge country’s habitable zones around the edges, the fact that so much of their agricultural industry is ultimately unsustainable, and their campaigns for short showers with buckets collecting dirty water for reuse.  I for one don’t envy them, and wonder what will happen with the growing impact of climate change on their fragile environment.

Travelling to the Middle East last year reminded me that even Australia is lucky compared to many parts of the world.  The stark, barren landscapes of Qatar, Jordan and Israel were shocking to me.  The relentless sandy and rocky landscapes that continue for thousands of miles could not have been a starker contrast to New Zealand’s green pastures and forests.  There was a harsh beauty to these moonscapes, but I will admit a feeling of relief when we left and, coming in to land in Rome, saw the Italy’s green fields and vines.  It felt a little like coming home.

In New Zealand we have water. It rains here, falls from the skies, fills our lakes, waters our farms, powers our electricity stations. And as climate change becomes more and more of a reality, water is an increasingly valuable commodity. In the past we’ve taken it for granted, but increasingly we are recognising that our water is liquid gold, and should be valued accordingly.  We need to do much more.  But we’re moving in the right direction, I hope.

So next time it rains, I’m not going to moan and groan about the gloomy days or inconvenience.  I’m going to appreciate the fact that I don’t have to wash my windows, I simply have to wait for the next northwesterly storm.  I’m going to remember that I rarely water the pot plants on our deck, yet they’ve managed to survive and thrive for a couple of years now, and that our lemon and lime trees are largely neglected but produce fruit for us, thanks to the combination of sun and rain we get here.  And I’m going to reflect on the fact that we are truly a lucky country.

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