It’s zero degrees outside right now, and autumn. Translated for the US, that’s 32 degrees and Fall. This is one of the times of year that confuses our friends in the northern hemisphere. I know this because the number of times a day every single May that I’m told that the weather is warming up is ridiculously high.
Once upon a time only my US and Canadian friends forgot the southern hemisphere had different seasons, but these days it’s parts of Europe as well. December is the worst for this, because we’re told that Christmas is for everyone and requires cold weather to celebrate. A storybook Christmas has cold and snow and a big hot meal. Here, it’s more likely to include a picnic by the lake with black swans demanding their share of the food and with unlimited cold drinks.
Being told to rug up during the summer holidays has a special absurdity, but when it’s negative temperatures overnight (-3.2 last night – I’m typing this at breakfast time feeling that sudden rush of warmth as things become less bitter) every “Isn’t it nice that summer is coming” kinda rankles.
Of all those who forget that the southern hemisphere is not the northern, the most annoying are those who insist that I’m wrong and that winter is not coming. Our autumn is fully settled in late April everywhere, and one in three years is cold by mid-May. This is one of those years. Winter may not be already here, but it’s sent very clear messages that it’s close.
I live in the mountains (inland), so it gets particularly chill here. Canberra is too dry, mostly, for snow (though we had snow in northern Canberra over the weekend) but one of the southern hemisphere’s best ski fields is merely a bit over an hour away. Not that I ski. I did, however once unintentionally provoke the Deputy Prime Minister to fall thirty metres in the snow. That was, however, in summer. The snow was remnant snow and it was the day he gave his particular speech at the top of our tallest mountain and… I put the rest of it into one of my novels, because it’s one of those incidents that sounds fictional and therefore was crying to be used in fiction.
Anyhow, the ski season has begun (just) and I now work late at nights.
Why late? It doesn’t get properly cold until 4 am here, and I would rather go back to bed until my toes don’t curl to protect themselves. This is not typically Australian, and, in fact, didn’t used to be typically Gillian. When I was a child I’d wake up before dawn to walk in the melting frost. As I age, more and more I like going back to bed on days like this.
My work day, in fact, will be shaped around how cold it is over the next three months. And what work does this day entail? Mostly research into how writers develop the worlds for their novels and how these worlds, in turn, can feel more or less real to readers. It doesn’t matter (I am discovering) whether or not the world has magic or if all the plant life is purple with turquoise spots. The world can still feel real when things are not like the worlds we know. It can still feel entirely fake when thing are depicted precisely as we know them. It all comes down to the world building and how the writer pulls that world into the story itself.
My fiction for the next little while depends on my mood. This month’s new writing is all about a light novel where I test some of my discoveries about how writers build and depict worlds. The episode I’m typing when I need a breath of warmth has an almost-human couple discovering that kittens, too, can become vampires. Also that braggarts and fools exist just as much in the world of the supernatural as in the world we know.
This week has a few extras and will be busy. I’m late with my tax, so that’s urgent, and I’m editing, and I’m working on my Patreon papers.
This month’s Patreon essay discusses the very curious relationship between Medieval French epic legends and MCU movies, and I’ll be delivering that paper live at a conference later this week (from my home computer). This month’s fiction for patrons includes the how the kitten’s household semi-domesticates that very cute vampire kitten, and this month’s advice to writers will explain how popular knowledge of famous figures can work in fiction.
And that’s my world this week. It’s busy, but not so busy I can’t sleep for an hour more. Since I started writing this, the temperature outside has gone up by a full degree. Soon the sun will beam loudly into my east-facing work area and everything will be almost-comfortable. I shall take that as a victory, because this year’s winter is going to be cold, if autumn already contains frost and black ice.
When I was younger, I dreamed of a good income. I also dreamed of living somewhere warmer (northern NSW or southern Queensland) in winter and in my more-comfortable mountains in summer. Now that I can’t pretend to be young, I complain about the weather. The reason for the complaint today is not, in fact, because it’s cold outside, but because someone left the security door open over the weekend and all the warmth leeched out of my flat and so the warmest I can get it is fifteen degrees (fifty nine degrees for US readers). Crunchy cold grass underfoot ceases to be exotic when the warmest corner of indoors is under sixteen. And I’m sure there’s a joke in there… but my brain is frozen. Even the postie (who just delivered a parcel) tells me that it’s brisk outside. If you’re reading this from the part of the planet that careens towards summer, this morning I envy you, so very much. How much is so very much? Probably about ten degrees.
3 thoughts on “Ice and Snow”
I always add (or subtract) six months to the date in Australia so I can figure out what time of year it is. It’s not even as hard as time zones, though of course it has to be modified for the part of Australia and I have to also remember that the northern parts are closer to the equator (and therefore likely warmer in winter). But then I’ve lived in enough different parts of the U.S. and spent some time in Central America, so I have some grasp of the way that weather patterns differ.
We keep getting last gasps of winter here in the California Bay Area, meaning we got some rain today and the temperatures are just cool enough that wool socks and a light jacket make a difference in comfort. After over 8 years, I still make an effort to dress for the weather, though I have realized that we almost never have the kind of extremes of either cold or hot that can cause harm to the inappropriately dressed. If you don’t dress right, you’ll be uncomfortable, but you won’t get frostbite or heat stroke, as a rule. We had a lot of winter this year, with a great deal of rain and not an insignificant number of cold windy days. But it never got down close to freezing here.
And I don’t dread summer here, a big change from both Texas and Washington, DC. People freak out here when the temperatures hit the 80s (F), but they have not spent enough time in places where triple digits show up or where the those 80s are accompanied by 80-90 percent relative humidity. (That’s upper 20s in Celsius. I had to look that up. I am not nearly as good at converting temperatures as I am seasons and time of day.)
Australians my age easily cross from C to F. When things get warm, I like F because it’s such nice shock value to say that it was over 100 by 10 am.
And I hate humidity. It’s why I can’t live in Queensland. Humidity makes heat much harder to tolerate. So many of the magic tricks I use for staying comfortable fail in humidity and, when the temperature is in the 30s and it’s wildly humid, all I can do is feel sick and try to stay hydrated.
I used to be good in brisk cold, but aging has its side effects. I still don’t feel the cold until everyone else is shivering, but that causes problems. That’s not an issue today. There’s going to be a 20 degree difference between night and heat of day, which makes things reasonable. (Canberra was made the capital because of these extremes. The Victorians decided Australia needed ‘bracing’ weather.)
I grew up outside of Houston about forty miles inland from the Gulf of Mexico, and then lived for many years in Washington, DC, which was notoriously built on a swamp. Due to all those years, I hate humidity much more than I hate heat. Now that I’ve lived in the Mediterranean climate of the east side of San Francisco Bay, I do not think I will ever again be able to live in a humid climate or one that gets serious winter or summer. I have become spoiled.