Another scorching day

When I was a kid, I used to love the hot weather. The hotter, the better. You’re pretty carefree as a kid, and I took the baking summer days as an excuse to hop in the pool and splash around. In a funny way, I was pretty patriotic about it, too. I loved it that we had it hotter than most places on earth, and believed it made us more rugged and hardy as a people. When you’re that age, you have a pretty immature grasp of the world, and it comes to you simply – which is much of the charm of being a kid. I guess they call that innocence.

When I cast my mind back, I can recall many a hot day, the sky a pure blue and the sun blazing down. Every year for ages we’d go down the peninsula for our summer holidays straight after Christmas. For the most part, we stayed in Blairgowrie, which remains a great spot today. Hot days then were an excuse to go to the beach, and mostly the surf beach at Gunnamatta. I was a good swimmer and would go out beyond the breakers and look back towards the beach as the swell would gently lift me before crashing down upon it. I’d swim in then, body-surfing the last bit of it, and it was a thrill.

Back home we’d play street cricket or go on long bike rides, or else hop in the pool. We had the only pool in the street, and the neighbour’s kids would often join us for hours of shenanigans. It was an above ground pool, four feet deep, and I can remember dad putting it up bare-chested in the summer heat. In my small way, I helped – wielding a shovel as dad excavated the ground before levelling out the surface, and then holding things in place as dad put the pool up.

My last memory of those hot days are the meals mum would prepare. Often it was salmon patties with salad. I hated salmon patties. More often, it was a straight, seventies style, salad. There’d be a hard-boiled egg, grated carrot and (Kraft) cheddar cheese, a slice or two of tinned beetroot, maybe some potato salad, a selection of cold cuts, and the tomato, white onion, cucumber combo steeped in vinegar. How many people remember that?

It’s many years on now, and my perspective on hot days has switched around completely. I dread them.

We’re looking at another 43-degree day today, which is a total waste of time. Unless you’ve got a pool or are at the beach, there’s nothing to do, and it’s probably even too hot for that. Instead, you’re confined indoors, the air-con going steadily and the blinds and curtains drawn shut to keep the heat out. It’s gloomy and artificial.

I’ve been out, and for the rest of the day, I expect to take it very easy. I reckon I’ll end up pretty bored, but I’ll probably do a bit of reading and, if I can rouse myself, maybe some writing.

Quite aside from being unpleasantly hot, in recent years the heat has brought with it angst and existential pangs. The simple days of my summer youth now seem very innocent. Times have changed.

On days like today, when it is windy as well as hot, I fear what else it may bring. The bushfires are ongoing in NSW, another has sprung up in WA, there’s the risk of the SA fires re-igniting, and here, in Victoria, an area the size of a small US state has received evacuation orders because of fire. I fear for and pity the fire services once more called out to deal with these catastrophes, and I hardly bear to think of all the wildlife that will perish.

There’s no such thing as just another hot Summer’s day, anymore. Each day is loaded with portent. Summer has become an existential test. Where this is all heading I don’t know, but I’m not optimistic, and often I find myself wondering “what have we done?”.

And with that comes blazing anger, pointless and impotent. The leaders we elected to act on our behalf have betrayed that trust. It’s not the first time that’s happened, but this has disastrous consequences: our very future rides on the decisions made by these people. But leadership is either absent, inept or inherently corrupt – or a combination of all three, as we experience it here in Oz. I can’t overstate my contempt for these people. One day, I hope, they are held to account for they’ve done – and didn’t do. That may be small satisfaction as chances are, come that day it’ll be too late to do anything about it.

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