posted in: Life and things | 2
The beach in June

Contrary to popular belief, we do have winter here in Queensland. Granted, it doesn’t last long and it’s unlikely anyone will die of cold hereabouts but temperature is relative. When we go to the beach in winter we’ll be wearing jeans and jumpers and we’ll see lilywhite folks in bathers lying on beach towels soaking up the sun. They’ll be the tourists, up from Down South to get some vitamin D.

It got down to 4.2˚ (39.6F) last night, which is pretty damn cold in these parts. Those of you in Europe and North America can stop with the sniggering, thanks very much. Our houses are built for hot and steamy, with lots of open space and windows, blinds not curtains, no double glazing, and no central heating. Besides, we’re not used to cold. I have coats and sweaters in my cupboards which only see the light of day when we go overseas.

Winter days are lovely. Temperatures get to around 20˚, the air is calm with low humidity and clear, bright skies. But when the sun goes down the temperature does, too, even occasionally as far as zero. For most of the year all we need on the bed is a single cotton blanket, if that, but the other night we had three of those and we still had cold feet. I’ve dragged out the doona (duvet) for a couple of weeks.

Having cold feet brought back memories.

Over in Perth where I grew up there can be marvellous winter days just like here but minimum temps can regularly get below 5˚, nudging 0 or even less a little further from the sea. Half a century and more ago I used to be fit and active. I’d play hockey on a Saturday and then I’d come home, get changed, and catch the bus into town for an evening of dancing. Not at a nightclub, this was at a dance studio where we did foxtrot, quickstep, modern waltz, cha cha, jive, and so on. We did progressive dances like the barn dance or pride of Erin so you got to meet new people. There was no alcohol and if you didn’t know a dance somebody would teach you. When it finished at around 11pm if I hadn’t found a nice young man to drive me home I’d catch the bus (by myself) and walk the couple of blocks from the bus stop. It was a more innocent time.

By the time I got home, all that warmth from the physical activity had disappeared. It was cold. I was cold. I’d crawl into bed and wait to go to sleep. This was in the days before we had electric blankets. Eventually, I used to get out of bed (carefully so as not waken my mum) and go to the bathroom to warm my feet under hot water. Then I could get to sleep.

All this reminds me of another time before Pete and I moved to Queensland. We had a holiday at Woodgate, a small town right on the coast around 100km north of where we now live. The house we rented was a raised Queenslander, built of weatherboard and even more designed for the tropics than our brick veneer, with lots of gaps to let in the cooling breezes. We had a lovely day walking along the beach in the warm sunshine, had dinner at the pub, and retired for the night. We woke at about 2am, fucking freezing. The temperature was down to 2˚. Peter’s brother was supposed to come with us on that trip. We were glad he didn’t because we were able to grab all the blankets on his unused bed.

The electric blanket was a wonderful invention. The only downer was you had to remember to turn it off or down before you went to sleep. Otherwise you’d wake in a hot sweat. We used an electric blanket in Victoria and we had doonas and such, all far too hot for up here. Those items have long since gone to Vinnies where hopefully they would be of some value to those who live further inland where winters can be much colder than they are here.

Do you have any winter memories you’d care to share?

2 Responses

  1. Michael Hayward

    In my younger days winter brought ice on the inside of the bedroom windows, it was my job to get up and light the living room coal fire with the aid of a gas poker. I was very happy to be wearing my liberty bodice among many other layers. Jumpers were made of wool not cotton, they were heavy but kept you warm.

    • Greta

      Excuse me, ‘liberty bodice’??? The expression conjures up so very odd images.

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