Archive for the ‘Weather’ Category

As I sit at my desk, I see my screen wobbling. The house too, perched on stilts down the side of a hill, is swaying somewhat. It all feels a little as if I’m on a boat, when you first step from solid ground to something that has been cast adrift. It’s a feeling I’m familiar with, living in wild Wellington, where we don’t take solid ground completely for granted.

On normal days, I might suspect an earthquake. But actually, earthquakes are relatively rare compared to the gale force winds that are shaking me today. The wind is roaring through the trees, and the rain on the roof is coming and going. It’s like this all over the country, as even in Auckland the Harbour Bridge has been temporarily closed due to wind gusts. But here in windy Wellington, we’re familiar with the gales.

Even then, the last few days have been quite extreme. We’ve had rain and hail, and just up the coast there have been several mini-but-still-destructive tornados. We have occasional moments of regular breezes and relative quiet, interspersed with wild gusts and downpours. It’s the unpredictability I dislike. A good storm that lasts a day or so can be comforting, inviting you to hunker down with a good book or a binge-worthy series, brew lots of cups of tea or coffee, and eat comfort food and drink red wine before going to bed with the sound of rain on the roof. It’s one of the things I enjoy about winter. But not this week.

One of the things I like least about Wellington is trying to sleep in extreme wind. I like in my cosy bed, listening to the elements, which is all very nice. But the wind pounds the house. It feels as if the roof will lift, and when a loose part rattles I cross my fingers that I won’t hear a metallic screech as it rips off, flying off across the valley and exposing us to the elements. This is not entirely an irrational fear. It is reasonably common after a storm to hear reports of a house losing its roof or part of a roof. Trampolines regularly take off, keen for adventures in new backyards. In our first house which felt the full onslaught of the northerly wind, I could hear the wind building up speed down the valley before it would slam into our house, or more particularly, our bedroom window. Occasionally, I would give up and go sleep in a bedroom at the back of the house. These days, I rarely give up, but I still have moments of anxiety as the gusts hit the house over and over and over again, each time bringing the possibility of disaster.

Wellington is unfortunately situated at the base of the North Island, on Cook Strait, a narrow stretch of water between the two islands that funnels the wind through. Cold southerlies from the Antarctic and northerlies from the subtropics whip us regularly. The rest of the country likes to joke about our wind, and yes, it can be extreme. But it’s not a permanent thing. Our recent visitors expressed delight that they were here for a week, and the weather was fine and calm. A promotion for the city some years ago established our favourite weather catchphrase: “You can’t beat Wellington on a good day.” Which is true. On a good day, when the harbour is calm and the sky is blue and the birds are singing, Wellington sparkles. The air is clear and fresh – any impurities were blown away in the last storm. You can’t beat it! But unfortunately, that does not describe today.

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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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A windy found poem

It’s blustery outside today. I look at the date – mid-August – and I’m worried that the spring winds are arriving early, as they did last year, and that this will be a permanent change. So many unpleasant permanent changes in the world in the last few years. I guess if it is, it is a small price to pay compared to the raging fires and searing heat I see elsewhere in the world.

The sound of the wind in the trees reminded me of this sentence, which I wrote a long time ago, and had forgotten about until recently. When I posted it previously, someone commented that it was a “found poem.” As it is the only type of poetry I could possibly write (as my month of poetry/experimenting with form posts on x365 Take Two attests), I thought I’d share it with you.

Gale force winds
don’t stop a lot
in this windy city,
except for long
hair styles and wrap
-around skirts.

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