April is the cruellest month, TS Eliot wrote in ‘The Waste Land’. He was wrong, both about this and about how much Classical Greek it’s appropriate to include in poems. The cruellest month is definitely June, in Australia at any rate, because it’s the first month of winter. Its arrival invariably reminds me just how bad winter is in this country, and also not bad, thereby making it all the more bad.
That phrase makes no sense, I realise. That can probably be attributed to the fact that I’ve just been reading TS Eliot. My meaning will become clear as I rant on about why I despise winter even more than those maudlin characters in Game of Thrones who keep saying “winter is coming” as though it were some profound insight into the nature of fate itself rather than a fairly self-evident weather forecast. Speaking of which, Westeros’ Bureau of Meteorology really doesn’t seem to be up to much.And if you’re tempted to write me some snarky comment about how in the universe of Game of Thrones, summers and winters can last several years, and that’s just another awesome facet of the awesome awesomeness of George R. R. Martin’s imagination, let me pre-emptively suggest that you tell somebody who cares, like these guys. They care way, way hard.
Anyway. back to winter. Which, as I was saying, has come.
1) It’s cold.
A slight chill can sometimes be bracing, but cold weather is downright unpleasant. I know that some of our ancestors wrapped themselves in animal skins and huddled around fires, and so those with Anglo-Saxon heritage like myself really should be used to single-digit temperatures, but to them I say “fie”. (I’m hoping that’s an Anglo-Saxon expression of contempt, but I really can’t back that up with any actual knowledge.)
I simply cannot stand being cold. The first minute of lowering myself gingerly into a chilly swimming pool is torture. The dash from the blissful, enveloping warmth of the shower to the icy misery of the bedroom is agonising. I shiver. I was not meant to shiver. It’s demeaning.
I know others have it worse than we do in Australia. I know that in Toronto it gets so cold that they’ve built a huge underground network of passageways and shops to stay warm. To which I’d simply say – move.
But if the entire nation of Canada takes my advice and moves somewhere warmer, they’ll discover that in Australia…
2) It isn’t cold enough.
We have much of the unpleasantness of cold weather in Australia, but almost none of the splendour. There’s something lovely and romantic about a real winter, when the temperatures fall below zero and you have to wrap yourself up in layers and don scarves and gloves and beanies and thermal underwear. It allows you to warm yourself beside a roaring fire, and that, I can admit, is a fine thing.
I last experienced a proper winter in New York a few years ago, and was even lucky enough to enjoy the great compensation of northern hemisphere cold: snow. Walking out the door to discover that the entire world has been hidden beneath a layer of glorious whiteness is one of the most exhilarating feelings you can ever experience. It can turns even the most miserable of cynics, like, say, myself, into a child again, filling an ordinary day with the most delightful wonder and whimsy.
That lasts a day, and then the snow turns into slush and gets grimy and gritty and refreezes and makes the city into a giant slippery obstacle course where you’ll twist your ankle five times walking a few blocks to the subway and step into a puddle that’s deeper than it looks so that your entire foot will be sopping wet and freezing cold and then you’ll slip up and land hard on your frosty arse and it will ache for the rest of your holiday. Or perhaps that was just me.
Anyhow, my point is that it doesn’t get properly cold in most of Australia. This also means that…
3) We don’t have snow.
Disregard that last statement if you live in the Snowy Mountains, obviously, but Sydney and Melbourne are about as likely to wake up in a winter wonderland of thick, delightful snow as they are to have a decent public transport system.
4) Heating is oppressive
I know that in cold climates, they have excellent heating everywhere, and they only ever dash briefly through the freezing streets from one warm place to another. But here’s the thing: everywhere, everywhere is overheated in places like New York and London and Tokyo. It’s like going from a sauna into a plunge pool and then into another sauna. When you go indoors, you immediately have to take off every layer bar one, and even then it’ll still be too hot.
Furthermore, heating dries you out. If you go to sleep in a heated room, you’ll wake up parched. The one good thing about heating is that it makes you glad when you have to leave it to step into the cold. For about ten minutes, after which you’ll bitterly regret leaving the heat.
5) Nobody goes out
Sydney has valiantly tried to reverse this trend with events such as Vivid, and Melbourne’s Comedy Festival has long been an incentive to head out into the winter – well, autumn, but it’s Melbourne, so it’s still wintry – chill. But Australians plan all their social events for the warmer months. Weddings, parties, picnics, barbeques – we just don’t bother with them in winter. Or if we do, I certainly don’t get invited to them.
6) The Premier League stops.
One of the delights of my life is watching English football, except when Arsenal lose, when it becomes a source of exceeding torment. But because we’re in the opposite hemisphere, the time when I most want to watch it, when it’s cold outside, is the exact three months in which it stops. Worse still, our A-League season now mirrors the European one to facilitate transfers and so on, with the perverse result that during the most suitable three months for soccer in Australia, there are no games here either. And speaking of England…
7) Winter is why I have stupid white stupid skin.
Certain people with my racial heritage are ignorant enough to view themselves as superior to people from other races, which is surely a self-disproving belief. But I’d go further than that. Every summer, I’m reminded that I am demonstrably inferior to people without my northern ancestry. I burn within about 15 minutes of going into the sun. So I am forced to cover up my lily-white surface area with chemicals before I can expose them to the sun at all, and if you’ve got skin like mine you will know that it’s impossible to cover every single inch of your body with sunscreen, and there’s always some bit that gets miserably burnt anyway and then gets flaky and painful and peels and yuk and seriously, yuk.
It’s become even worse since I started losing my hair. There are few more humbling acts than massaging suncream into your prematurely bald pate, which is why I now own as many baseball caps even though I know nothing about the game. So even though I love hot weather, even though I’d much rather bedripping with sweat than icy cold, my body really isn’t designed for it.
8) Seasonal affective disorder. It’s a thing.
And it’s so sad its initials are even SAD. I’ve noticed that my moods are much better in summer than in winter. You may also have noticed this, given the tone of this article. Some might say that the solution is for me to get therapy. I’d say that the solution is for God and/or Julia Gillard to adjust Australia’s thermostat. Or we could just keep on with this whole global warming thing, and then those of us who haven’t drowned will at least be free of seasonal affective disorder.
9) Thermal underwear.
Yuk. I struggle to muster much in the way of raw animal sex appeal even clad in silk boxers, frankly. Forced to wear long johns, I might as well give up and embrace celibacy.
10) ‘Frosty The Snowman’
Surely this is the most annoying song ever recorded. Okay, the second most annoying behind ‘Whistle’ by Flo Rida. I mean, the lyrics are ridiculous. Oh, you might think it’s charming the first time through, but get it stuck in your head, and I guarantee you’ll seriously consider decapitation.
11) We get sick.
I was going to stop at ten things, but then I was reminded of this one by the giant sneeze I did midway through writing this article. Remember how I said earlier that I was genetically designed for cold weather, because I get burnt in the sun? Then riddle me this:, why am I no more able to resist annoying sniffles and influenza than anyone else? Winter’s awful enough without feeling sick all the way through it. And yet we do. Winter illnesses are the icing on miserable winter’s miserable cake of misery.
I hope I’ve convinced you all that winter is evil. There’s only one thing for it – we should all move to Queensland. Sure, it’d ruin State of Origin, but given the results in recent years, we New South Welshmen should probably wave the white flag anyway. Or maroon flag. Up there, it’s beautiful one day, perfect the next, and I don’t even care if it doesn’t live up to that slogan. Queensland doesn’t really experience winter, and at this point, I will emphatically sniffle that that’s good enough for me.