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Archive for the ‘Weather’ Category

Living in Wellington, we are accustomed to a particular clarity of light.  Sparkling, is probably the best way to describe it.  So when we woke this morning to find our valley swathed in mist, it was unusual.  We get mist from time to time – several days a year, and sometimes the airport is even closed.  But usually this is in winter, or around the season changes.  Quickly though, the mist cleared, but as I drove down the gorge to sea level, I found myself driving back into the mist again.

The cruise ship in port was almost hidden in the mist.  I pitied the passengers, and indeed saw some walking disconsolately back to the ship.  I hoped they’d turn around, as minute by minute I could see the sun breaking through.  Around Oriental Bay, the beach was in sunshine, but the mist was still heavy over the water.  I stopped to snap some shots. I wasn’t the only one.

Oriental bay emerging from the mist - can you see the yacht at the right?

Oriental bay emerging from the mist – can you see the yacht at the right?

Further around, in Evans Bay, the mist had risen even further, but I still couldn’t see the other side of the harbour.

Evans Bay on the way to the gym

Evans Bay on the way to the gym

And so I worked out at the gym, the French doors thrust open to the view.  Clear to the west and immediately in front of us, the mist was still clinging to the water in the distance, and it was eerie to see a small sailboat suddenly appear.  Later, a silver flash appeared, jet-skiers making the most of the glassy calm water and the summery temperatures.  The mists gradually receded, showing the Days Bay Ferry dwarfed by a huge container ship.

The airport is maybe only a kilometre away, and from our treadmills and weights machines we can usually see the planes coming in to land.  But today we could only hear them – although a few appeared at the last minute,  scary seconds before landing.

As I headed back, work-out over, the sun was winning the battle, and the mist was disappearing quickly, still obscuring Matiu/Somes Island though, and leading me to suspect my friend across the eastern side of the harbour would still be in the clouds.  On our side of the harbour though, all that remained was a low dense ribbon of white mist lining the motorway the snakes around the edge of the harbour in the distance.  The rest of the harbour and city … well … it sparkled.

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Hot and cold

I’ve been thinking a lot about temperature in the last year. I think it was being subject to the extremes of 47 degrees in Jordan, when suddenly 40 degrees – previously experienced only once in Australia, and possibly on that one day of school in 1973 when it was so hot we were sent home (and NZ’s hottest ever temperature of 42.2 degs C was recorded in our province) – seemed like a more reasonable temperature. At 47 degrees, simply standing in the shade was uncomfortable. The skin on my face felt as if it was burning. I couldn’t imagine having to spend any time in that heat. I worshipped the air-conditioning.

I’ve always been sensitive to temperature changes. To be honest, I don’t like too much heat, but I don’t like the cold either. I blame growing up in a temperate island climate.  It’s rarely unbearably hot, or unbearably cold.  I like seasons. And I like air-conditioning, and central heating. I’ve always listened closely to the radio in the morning before I get out of bed, to find out what the weather forecast for the day is, and what the temperature will be. I like to be able to plan, and dress accordingly. I know that the difference between 18 and 21 degrees (Celsius of course) is the difference between needing one or two layers of clothing. I love that my local Metservice weather app now suggests this.

I know though that I can acclimatise to different temperatures. But it takes time. After three years in Thailand, I found it was too cold to swim during their winters, when the temperature would occasionally (during the day) dip down below 30 degrees. And just before I left, I remember wearing an extra layer at the beach, to the shock of my colleagues recently arrived from New Zealand.  Likewise in Italy, after three months of summer, I found days of 23-24 degrees were a bit chilly. Whereas normally, to me, I would view 24 degs as pretty much the ideal summer day.

So I watch with amazement the temperatures in the US over this winter. Indigo Bunting wrote that she considers 20 degrees F – minus 6.66 Celsius (is that an omen?) – to be a “kind” winter temperature. Kind? We rarely reach freezing point here in Wellington even at night in the depths of winter. Though in the South Island, growing up in an old wooden farmhouse, I remember the pipes freezing overnight once or twice a winter. If the skies were cold and clear when we went to bed, my mother would fill buckets to ensure there was water to heat the next morning. But by 10 am they would have thawed, temperatures quickly rising above zero. So how can minus 6 C – during the day – be kind? (Yes, I know.  It’s all relative.)

I find it both fascinating then, and appalling, to imagine the temperatures that my friends in the far north – those in Vermont and Canada particularly – have endured this winter. My mind just can’t grasp what it feels like. After all, I know what zero (freezing) feels like. And I know what my lovely summer day at 24 C feels like. The difference is huge. And now I know what 47 C feels like. Again the difference is considerable, though over the years I have experienced most of the variations between 0 and 47. But not in the other direction.  I cannot imagine what 24 degrees C below zero feels like. The difference between zero and 24 degs C is already huge; from freezing to balmy, from unsurvivable (in my mind) to ideal, from miserable to happy. To imagine that difference in the other direction – well, I just can’t. All I can do is sympathise.

And, hope, maybe foolishly, that one day I might experience it. Just once would be fine. When I’m dressed appropriately. Just to know what it is like.  When there is a warm house and red wine and good company in close proximity.

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… and the living is easy …

Well, actually, not always. In fact, summers in Wellington are notoriously unreliable. We never know when it will be warm, or when a cold blast will come through, reminding us that there’s nothing between our city and the South Pole. We never know if we’ll need an umbrella or sunscreen, and it is not unlikely that we’ll need both on any particular day.

On Wednesday I took a photo from my living room, and posted it on Facebook. What is wrong with this picture? Of course, my sister knew what I meant. She, one of the gloating residents of the warmer north, recognised that it didn’t look much like summer. Other friends, based on the incessant beer and wine shots I tortured them with throughout a trip to the Middle East and Europe, picked that there was no photo of a wine glass in front. So the next night I took a sunny shot outside, with my glass of chardonnay and the bottle in front. My brother-in-law, he of the gloating residents of the warmer north (and currently on his yacht off Kawau Island in the Hauraki Gulf – not that I’m jealous),  suggested it had been photo-shopped.

Well, he should be here today. I went to the gym this morning. The entire front of the gym was open (glass doors), with a brilliant view out to Evans Bay. Not a bad way to take away some of the pain of torturing myself on the Arc Trainer. The water in the bay was glassy calm, with a few hopeful yachts out on the water. I hope they waited, as a breeze came up later, and it would have been spectacular out there. As I drove home around the bays, the sea brought back memories; a Mediterranean blue, and about as different as it could have been from the angry greenish-grey of earlier in the week.

The temperature has risen, and I’ve opened the large skylight above my desk.  I can smell flowers – enough to make me smile, not enough to make me sneeze.  I have a compilation – Jazz on a Summer’s Day – playing on my iPod.  And just now, as I was typing this, I was called outside by the Husband, who is working on the deck. There, just below our house, was a large kereru or wood pigeon.  We stood watching it, as it snacked enthusiastically on the leaves, and I attempted some shots.  I didn’t realise its back feathers were quite so colourful.  I was a little said it kept its white breast hidden, but it was still a real treat to see one up so close.  

The deck itself is still a work in progress, but we have our first metre of fence completed, and it’s looking really good.  Unfortunately the rest of the deck is a building site – so it’s not yet conducive to relaxing with a cocktail or glass of bubbles.  But still, in a while I’ll go open a bottle of sauvignon blanc, and we might barbecue some chicken kebabs for dinner, maybe push some timber aside to find a seat and simply enjoy being outside.

This summer’s day is turning out pretty good.  We have to make the most of it.  Who knows when the next one will come along?

The kereru who came to visit

The kereru who came to visit

 

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I popped down to the local shops this morning to post a birthday card to my Texan sister-in-law.

“It’s a beautiful day out there,” said the man in the Postshop.  “Again!” he added.

I agreed, “ but I’m not complaining.”

He nodded, then we stopped awkwardly.  You could see we both felt a bit guilty, thinking of the farmers of New Zealand who are facing possible the worst drought in 75 years, and having seen the large headline in our daily newspaper that morning. The Big Dry:  Just 20 days of water left the headline had roared at us over our breakfast. Yes, this ongoing good weather was hurting people, but as Wellingtonians starved over the last few years of a decent summer, how could we possibly complain?

Then I crossed the street in the bright sunshine, and entered Rosa, the café I often visit. I placed my order for a takeaway latte (ensuring I’ll get home and do some work write a blog post rather than linger in the café and read for half an hour).

“Beautiful day,” said the cheerful woman who took my order, inevitably adding “Again!” with that faint feeling of delighted but tentative surprise that has gripped all of us this summer.

I spoke to a business colleague on the phone the other day. He asked if I was sick of the fine weather yet.

“Of course not!” I replied, horrified at the thought.

“But I do have to admit, every time the temperature dips a bit – as it did yesterday – I fear that summer is in fact over. It panics me!”

He admitted to doing the same, hoping that we at least have a few more weeks of barbecues and gelato, of beach visits and eating in the open air.

Yes, it’s another beautiful day here in beautiful Wellington. I can’t say that or write it without being a little surprised.  And I know I’m not alone. Though rain is forecast for the weekend.

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On Saturday, we drove through the city and around the bays to the airport.  Last weekend was the annual Rugby Sevens, and this year it seemed crazier than ever.  If you were walking in the central city and dressed in normal, everyday clothes, then you were undoubtedly in the minority; this year we saw all The Avengers, zebras and crocodiles, Native Americans, Arabs, and numerous scantily clad Adams and Eves, snowglobes, a genie, school of sharks, leprechauns, several bananas, Twisters (the game), camouflaged commandos, and three fragile packages.  Even those of us who didn’t attend were caught up in the feelings of fun and excitement that spilled out onto the streets.

On Sunday, my husband and I drove around Oriental Bay, past the cafes, their outdoor tables chock-full of punters, past the Parade lined with cars, the beach filled with people sunbathing, building sandcastles, playing with balls, eating gelato (of course) and even swimming in the less than tropical sea.  There were crowds filling even the small coves around the point in Evans Bay, places where I’m sure I’ve never seen people swimming before.  Wellington seemed positively Mediterranean.  The festive atmosphere the day before lingered, perhaps celebrating the last day of freedom before the year began in earnest the next day.

On Monday morning, I drove the same route around Evans Bay to my gym.  The colour and warmth of the day before had gone.  The world was grey, all schools were back, the roads were full again, and offices had no excuse for not being fully staffed.  Clouds covered the sky, the vibrant blue sea of Sunday was now a silvery shimmery grey as the rain fell in torrents.  The street gutters filled with water, and I saw at least one car in danger of being flooded.  The hapless cruise ship passengers – who should have been here the day before – walked the streets huddled under umbrellas.  Oriental Bay was empty, the rain came down, and the trees waved in the wind.  It reminded me of Nice and Cannes when we drove through one wet June.  Yes, Wellington is indeed positively Mediterranean.

Epilogue:

The sun returned on Wednesday, as did the yachts, joggers, walkers, swimmers, dog walkers.  Roll on summer.

 

*  (or two)

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We frequently joke, sometimes bitterly, that no-one lives in Wellington for the weather.   Only a week or so ago we were remarking on some of the strongest wind gusts we had ever experienced here.  Yet on a day like today, with blue sky and bright sunshine, warm temperatures yet a cooler wind keeping the mercury at a temperate level, Wellington can be glorious.

Here in Wellington, and indeed much of New Zealand, we tend to romanticise more extreme climates. We are not blessed with the endless hot summer days or romance of snowy landscapes you find in continental climates.  And we occasionally wish we were.  Our summers are fickle, the glorious weather of today can be followed by cold southerly storms.   We think we’re expiring in the heat when they reach 27 degs C.  (I still maintain that 27 C in Wellington is hotter than 27 C anywhere else in the world!)  And last year, summer never even showed up.   Our winters are variable.  This year, winter was mild.  No snow on our doorstep, unlike the year before, and I didn’t even need to wear a hat or gloves.   There is the wind – you can rely on it to turn up eventually, but calm days can and do exist quite frequently.  And it can and does rain at any time of the year.  I remember trying to explain this concept to a group of Thais about to come to New Zealand to study.  They were  accustomed to rainy seasons, and dry seasons, and were appalled at the thought of year round rain.   Weather forecasts mean something here – they tell us what activities we can and can’t do.  There’s no guarantee that a summer barbecue will not be rained (or blown) out, or that a summer wedding won’t end up with everyone shivering in coats.  The weather here is always temperamental, always unpredictable.

But today, when one of my Vermont Facebook friends complained that it is snowing again, and I hear on the radio that much of Australia burns (literally) in the face of temperatures exceeding 40 degs C, I am grateful for our temperate and temperamental climate after all.

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Today we emerged from hibernation.  Hibernation imposed by illness – winter colds – and days of gloomy, rainy weather, when the memory of something called the sun was fast disappearing.  Today was one of those days when Wellington is just perfect.  I felt better, and so left the house for the first time since Thursday.  With my headband covering my ears, my walking shoes, and iPod, I was ready to go.  It was surprising to have to find my sunglasses, and don them as well.  There was no wind.  Unless you’ve lived in Wellington, you probably don’t understand this.  I like to walk, but I don’t like to walk where I live.  If the hills don’t put me off, the wind does.  My ears get cold (hence the headband) and my eyes stream.  I look a sight, feel worse, and so regrettably don’t go out to walk as much as I would like to.  But today, ahhhh,  today it was still.

I wasn’t the only one with this idea.  We smiled and nodded at each other as we passed, all recognising the spectacular day.  I took it easy this first day after illness.  But I walked down the street towards the park, then detoured off to the right, up another hill, and suddenly the harbour stretched out beneath me.  I know it’s a cliché, but the harbour really was like glass, the only disruption to its smooth surface a decorative swish behind the little red tug.  The view made me smile.

I walked back, past a hoarding advertising a section for sale.  It would have a brilliant harbour view, is in a prime location, and have I mentioned that one of my dreams is to one day build my own house?  However the RV (rateable value) of the empty section is about the same as the RV of our house here.  So there go our retirement savings.  Or my dream.  For today, at least.

And so I walked home.  As spectacular as the view from the section is, it faces south, and by 3 pm had not seen the sun for several hours.  I returned home, where I’d left the heating turned off, and the windows wide open.  The house was bathed in sunlight, and the temperature inside was a surprising and delicious 21 degs C.  Maybe this place ain’t so bad after all.

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