Summer in Melbourne


Jeez, there wouldn’t be a lot left over if we couldn’t talk about the weather. The weather has always been a big topic of conversation in Melbourne, probably because the weather has always been so notoriously changeable here. At the very least our weather is quirky, and it’s certainly distinct, and not a little famous.

Unfortunately there are more ominous reasons to discuss weather these days. Global warming, climate change, etc, make it a headline item all over the world. Count me as one of the majority that believe that climate change is a thing, and that man and his excesses are largely responsible for it.

It’s hard to argue with the science, regardless of the luddites, flat-earthers and far right nut-jobs who do anyway. Unfortunately, in Australia at least, some of those nut-jobs have been running the show, which meant that policies to combat climate change were reversed, and then barely existent. That’s as it is today, despite the head nut-job getting kicked out. There’s a liberal leader, constrained by nut job dinosaurs in the party, which equate to high sounding promises and little practical action. Pardon the pun, but a bunch of hot air.

Hot air is very much the thing. I reckon there are hundreds of thousands of Aussies like me. I don’t need science to tell me that the climate has changed, and that the environment we live in is a lot warmer and drier than it used to be.

I’m always startled when I realise this. You’re sort of conditioned by school and science to think in geological time frames, and so you inherently believe that if change is to come it will be gradual. To my way of thinking that means barely discernible over a lifetime. In real life it’s a lot swifter than that.

I’m prudent when I cast my mind back to the old days. The natural inclination is to believe that it’s a lot different now, but you have to factor in the focus of looking back. Your memory is selective when it looks into the past. You remember things, people, moments, but the rest is pretty much a blur. You wonder if you see things differently from this distance, if the soft focus strips the detail and leaves only generalities. The question is: do you remember truly?

I can’t answer that. Short of hopping into a time machine there’s no way I can. Certainly I remember hot days when I was a kid, and many hot nights in a time before air-conditioning (fancy!). It wasn’t a thing though, but maybe that was because I was a kid. These are things I can’t say, yet the anecdotal memory I have suggests that it is much warmer now than it was then. It’s the vibe, but it’s not a vibe that can be dismissed.

I’m sitting here before my Mac and it’s just ticked past 9am. I’m in a pair of shorts and nothing else. It was hot yesterday, it’s going to be hotter today, and it’s already warm. It’s December, the coolest month of our summer always, and already we’ve had 8-10 days over 30 degrees. The average daily maximum this month has surpassed the long term average by a full 2 degrees plus.

Today they reckon 39 degrees. It’s not the hottest NYE I remember – it was about a stinking 43 degrees ten years ago, and I remember it well. Today comes as part of a pattern. A few moderate days, a warmer day, and steadily increasing heat between 35-40 degrees, before a change comes, and the pattern resets. As it stands we’re getting about two days a week above 35 degrees, and the hottest months are still ahead of us.

Hot as it has been here, if you live in Adelaide then you’ve been truly baked. December has been a shocking month for South Australians. The highs have been higher, and they’ve had more of them.

There have been times in the middle of a hot patch recently when I’ve wondered what it would be like if it was like this every day. There’s something about hot weather when you’re in the middle of it and the sky is painted on and the sun blazing and it feels timeless and eternal.

It’s nice to have warm weather, and not unpleasant when it’s hot if you’re near a beach or pool, or have good air-con. Too much of it though begins to suck the juice out of you. You’re never quite rested properly, you never get away from the heat, and you feel a creeping apathy – too fucking hot to do anything. These days when the cool change comes is greeted with universal relief, which is as much psychological as it is physical.

Thing is, are we heading to a time when it will be (something) like this everyday? I can survive this, but in 50 years from now, even if we have managed to restrict the temperature increase to less than the vaunted 2 degrees, it’s going to be bloody uncomfortable. You don’t need to be a scientist to know that something has to be done. We owe it to our children.

Sidenote: of course as I complain about the heat there are record floods in the north of England. There’s always some weird weather shit happening somewhere, and pretty well always a record. That’s definitely different from when I was a kid. Weather events are more extreme, and more regular – and they take on all different forms.

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Salud!


If you were a tourist visiting Melbourne right now you’d be thinking wow, this weather is what Oz is all about. We’re in the middle of a warm streak where the temperature has ranged between 31C and 37C. It’s been 7-8 days now, and more to come. The skies have been blue throughout, and not just any blue, but that brilliant blue you see here more than anywhere else. The sunshine is clean, almost cleansing, something healthy and invigorating.

I was out earlier in a suit, which is not ideal, but it was good to feel the warmth. This sort of temperature is almost perfect, unless you have to work in it. Not too hot, and pleasant if you’re dressed the right way and have either a cool drink close to hand, or a patch of water to dip into. Wandering around the city I spotted a lot of tourists, pale skinned Poles and dark haired Italians, some cute South Americans and Yanks in long shorts. I was surprised at the little tour groups I bumped into, the informal guiding around the lanes and arcades of Melbourne by bohemian locals (one I spotted who I knew), showing the rabbit warrens that make up this place.

I’m back in shorts now and at home have the air-con going strong. I’m thinking of popping down the beach. That’s one thing I notice – the backpackers visiting hopping on my train and geading out to the beaches a stones throw or more from where I reside. I may join them. One thing I’ll definitely be doing is making up a batch of Margaritas for happy hour here.

By the looks this weather is set to continue for another week at least, with perhaps the odd thunderstorm to break it up for variety. This is Melbourne, the storms will come and go, and the sun will return.

Australian Suburbs, Summer


I’ve been around a few summers now, and though a lot of things change, much remains the same. I’m older of course – that’s definitely different – but I find that in the summer I return to many things I enjoyed as a kid, and with much the same sense of joy. As an adult there is a different take on it all, both because I have more freedom now than then, and because I have experience I could only imagine at back when I was a 10 or 12 year old boy. Yet, I remember, being that 10 or 12 year old boy and looking at the world of adults with some interest. While I was running around with my friends in a pair of shorts, or splashing in the pool for hours at the time, I absorbed the activity of the adults about us – how they sat, talking easily, casually, dressed in their shorts too, a t-shirt beneath the blazing summer sky, a cool drink in their hand – a beer, or a G&T, or perhaps a brandy and dry back then. They laughed as they watched us, mellow in their own world, the worries and concerns of the office left behind, talking instead about the cricket or the latest headlines or what they had planned for the summer holidays as they sipped those drinks.

I’m a big boy now. While I’m not exactly the father figure I might have been, nor am I that kid anymore. I’m seasoned by many years of sun, of drinks of every description, of affairs and plans and hopes and difficulties. Still and all I have much more in common with my dad as he was then, than I do with the kid that I was – except that I take the same boyish pleasure in the simple things as I did then.

Yesterday was like that. It seemed a classic summers day in the Melbourne suburbs. It was 39 degrees out. After some shopping and a breakfast at a nearby cafe in the morning I came home to read the newspaper in air-conditioned comfort. In the afternoon I packed a towel, a pair of boardies, as well as a bottle of Havana Club in a bag, put a straw hat on my head and drove over to JV’s to splash around in his pool.

We made one Cuba Libre and finished it off quick, and then another. It reminded me of a debauched few days in Bali some years ago when we drank all day and swam and spent most of our break intoxicated to some greater or lesser degree. That’s different from when I was a kid, and for a moment it made me think of how alcohol has been so much an integral part of my adult life, how it is for all of us, the one constant. Good, or bad? I shrugged my shoulders and poured another.

It was quite a scene, like a Jeffrey Smart picture yet to be painted: Australian Suburbs, Summer. I could see it in my minds eye, straight lines, bright colours, something both banal and significant. We floated in the pool on lilo’s, our feet overhanging the edge as we drifted in eddies, chatting while we sipped at drinks before placing them back in the convenient slot built for them. The lilo’s were navy blue, the water a pale aqua. The pool was bordered by dark red tiles, and surrounded by the green of lawn and garden. The sky might have been brilliant blue, as so often it is, just to complete the picture – except this time it wasn’t. The clouds had gathered, painted white upon the sky between which the sun sneaked through.

This is the life, eh? one or the other of us muttered. It seemed superficial, a little decadent, but also somehow deserved. Shit happens, we know too well – so isn’t it nice to forget that for a bit and just enjoy?

Later, inside, I spoke to JV’s dad, visiting from Sydney. I know him reasonable well, and think he’s a ripper bloke. He’s Portuguese, a solid and very cheerful 5’7″ – I often wonder how his 6’1″ son came from him, but perhaps that’s as much environment as breeding. Each year they return to Portugal to visit family, to stop in a flat they own in Tavira, which is where I first met them. We’re talking about how things are over there, very bad he says. We agree once more how good we have it here, and how so few are oblivious of it. He is a happy and proud Aussie now, glad to have taken the punt and grateful for how it has paid off. I feel the sun in my skin, already a little pink – a new sprinkling of freckles have appeared on my shoulders. The air-con is cranked up, music plays, adios I bid them, wandering out to my Audi to drive home.

It’s a small thing, a few classic moments on another Australian summer’s day, the radio cranked up in my car as I drive the short distance home, the sunroof open. Those times before have gone, as sometimes we laugh about, but there is an ongoing link from those days till now, and the days still to come. For now I know it, appreciate it. I wonder what will come, fleetingly, know one day it will end, for me, while it still goes on for others. That’s not my concern now. Now, is now. Now is fine. Live with that, and move on to the next.

Summer comin’


This morning I dropped Rigby off for his monthly wash, then headed off down the road. It was a lovely morning, with the first real hint of summer in the air. I’ve been in warm parts lately, but this seemed different. Real summer is more than just a temperature, it’s blue sky and sunshine, and ultimately it’s an attitude. Coming out of winter it’s an attitude that uplifts, has you turning your face towards the sunshine like a daisy. Summer becomes an occasion, something to look forward to with anticipation, and back at wistfully. Walking – or promenading down the street – I was already imagining the long summer nights ahead, the cool drinks and laughing faces and casual dress. That’s the attitude, but it can’t exist without the right conditions.

For a change I thought I’d have a spot of brekkie out. Maybe it was the weather that urged me along. Or perhaps it was just the fact of being out and about at an unusual time in a different place. No matter. I turned my car down some side streets and came out in Mont Albert Road, right near where mum used to live in Canterbury, and parked near a cafe – the Red Brick Cafe – I’ve driven past many times thinking, that looks groovy, but never stopped at.

It’s a beautiful road Mont Albert, the trees over-arching it with leaves that in autumn turn flame coloured, and pretty houses full of civilised people who read the Age and the latest bestseller, whose children go to private schools and who consider themselves socially liberal even if they might vote for Tony Abbott anyway (the blokes in any case). I walked down the street towards the cafe enjoying the sunshine dappling through the leaves. I’d just heard Baker Street on the car radio and was once more musing on the lyric –

But you know he’ll always keep movin’
You know he’s never gonna stop movin’
Cause he’s rollin’, he’s a rollin’ stone

I walked into a cafe half full. There were a few elderly couples having breakfast, or middle-aged women catching up for a latte and some gossip. The rest seemed to be girls here on their school break. I sat down looking about me. I felt the odd demographic, one of the few men there, and different in any case from the rest. I ordered my own latte and cast my eyes around once more before opening my notebook. The girls seemed all of a type, long-limbed and brown already from some northern sun, pretty in that well to do way, and more developed than any I remember when I was their age. They lingered over cappuccinos and shared decadent looking brownies served with ice-cream. I caught snatches of conversation, found out the Richmond Club is “sooo good”, and smiled wryly when one said “you wouldn’t remember, you were sooooo drunk.” Times have definitely changed.

I sipped my coffee and ordered some breakfast. I opened my notebook and started to make notes. It was high time I prepare an agenda for my workshop. I wrote fluently, but at the back of my mind the Baker Street lyrics hovered, as if to say, why bother, you’re never going to settle down. I made headings – Work, Money, Life/Style, Home, and Women. I jotted notes beneath them. Some things were never going to happen – can you imagine me a franchisee? And though I’d love to make my living writing that aint going to happen either. But maybe the B&B in Bali might be a chance – who the fuck knows? As for money, I thought about putting some into a bar, or maybe hooking it up to some great business venture, or maybe both. Home was pretty well blank. Life/Style was all about me, what do I need to change? As for Women? Well, let’s just say there were a lot of question marks there.

I sat back. My breakfast was done, outside the sun beamed down as before, a table full of retirement age women sitting there laughing. I felt a quick pinch of sentiment. I knew the road, the area, so well from years coming this way to visit mum, so many happy occasions. Funny how things are there and then one day are a part of a past never to come again, like faded polaroids. It made my lists more real in a way, and the fact of a future in a way more scary. You might live day by day, but they add up into something a lot more. Fucks sake, I thought, as if it was a bus I couldn’t afford to miss.

I got up, paid my bill, and went to pick the dog up.