I live on the shores of the Manukau Harbour in Auckland. Most days I drive over the bridge to work thinking of things I need to do, places to go, chores to complete. Because I sail, I often check the wind and the waves to get an idea of what the weather is doing, but usually I don’t see the harbour. This morning, though, it was magical. Early morning fog lightly dusted the harbour against a crystal clear sky. As the sun rose, the fog shimmered with delicate shades of pink, and gold. The air was completely still so the steam from industrial sites rose perfectly upright like columns of sparking silver. It was a living Monet painting, and something so familiar transformed into something stunningly beautiful.
Summer has given way to autumn, almost as if a switch was flicked on. The days are getting shorter and cooler, but there is something special about the feel of autumn days. They are…mellow is perhaps the best word. Ideal for sitting in the garden with a nice glass of pinot noir in hand, reading a thoughtful yet not too literary novel – Bill Bryson perhaps? Did I say pinot noir? Hmm that reminds me, back soon.
The great mugginess ended last night as the wind rushed up from the south. Thank goodness. The night before was one of the ickkiest in memory. Almost a 100 per cent humidity, I had cold shower in the middle of the night to try and cool down and confused the cats who figured it must be time for breakfast even though it was still dark, so they got up and sat outside the laundry. Foolish creatures. I figured it was probably a bit early for a really cold beer (see previous post) so I had a glass of water instead, then threw half of it over my head. Time moves in fits and spurts when you wake up in the middle if the night. If you are lying somwhere so uncomfortable that it may as well be your coffin, it goes by in triple slow time. If you are desperate to get back to sleep because you have a big meeting the next day, it goes by in a flash and suddenly the alarm goes off and you feel as if you have had only five minutes sleep the whole night. Especially when you are alone. If you have company, well that’s another story altogether! Except if you are married, then they are just a big old toaster oven in bed with you.
February in Auckland is always muggy. It is the type of weather very cold beer was invented for. Which raises the question – who did invent beer? A quick check of the source of all slightly dubious knowledge (Wikipedia rocks) reveals that it is one of humanity’s oldest forms of alcoholic beverages – back to Neolithic times even. So beer came before God then. Beer possibly wasn’t invented – it was more likely discovered after Mr Bachelor Caveman forgot to wash out the prorridge pot and went hunting for a few days. On his return, lo and behold, a bubbling fermenting pot of something interesting. And like all single guys he thought: “Hmm I wonder what that tastes like?” And so beer and hangovers came into the world.
It isn’t summer until the strawberries are here – and the strawberries are here! New Zealand strawberries are the best in the whole world, and they taste the nicest on the the same day they are picked. Sorry rest of world – you miss out. Whipped cream, a sprinkling of icing sugar – heaven! Work well with champagne and ice cream too. And we have universal health care too. Who would want to live anywhere else?
The brillant thing about living on a thin strip of land in a vast ocean is that the weather changes so quickly. None of this continental weather carry on where it stays the same for weeks on end. Instead, New Zealand gets lashings of wind, rain and sunshine on a regular basis, sometimes minute by minute. It is actually possible here to stand in the rain and get sunburnt at the same time. Yesterday, wet and miserable, today a beautiful blue sky Friday. Although, it does seems the universe is mocking everyone who had Guy Fawkes last night – see, it says, if you had only waited until tonight you would have had perfect weather. The universe is an ironic bastard a lot of the time.
In the great tradition of New Zealand Guy Fawkes, it is cold, grey and drizzling. Tonight, the nation will stand outside under umbrellas, or huddled under porches, watching pyromanical Kiwi males glory in setting off fireworks. It takes only a tiny scratch on the surface to find the caveman dancing around the fire beneath. Fireworks names always seem to have vaguely sexual undertones (golden shower anyone?), and in keeping with that theme, go on for a far shorter time than expected – “Is that it?”
The acrid smell of gunpowder gradually fills the night air and forever remains one of those scents that instantly transports us back to our childhood. The women will drift off to sit down and have a glass of wine after putting the younger kids to bed, while the older kids pick over the backyard like crows on a battlefield, seeking any fireworks that failed to go off. Short fuses, I fear thee not! The men will then scramble around in the box hoping by some magic a particularly good one lies at the bottom, as they lament the banning of thunderbolt crackers and skyrockets. Ah, those were the days, although it has reduced the mortality rate of letterboxes and rubbish bins considerably. Several days later the household pets reappear, unless they have taken refuge in the bed, then they are found quite quickly when their claws connect with your toes.