Saturday, 12 December 2015
A SEMI TROPICAL CLIMATE
I was recently exchanging a few words with a Facebook Friend as to how Auckland weather compares with that of London. I regaled her with the fact that when I arrived in New Zealand forty years ago I was considerably surprised by the novelty of winters where no heavy coat was needed and I could happily navigate my way from kindergarten drop-off to shopping trip with only a chunky Aran sweater to protect me from the elements – unless it rained of course. Then, unaccustomed to the kind of deluge Auckland could produce I not so happily became soaked from top to toe because it was a little while before I worked out that I needed to purchase an umbrella at the very least. I distinctly recall asking several people if it really was winter and them saying that July was usually the coldest month of the year. There again, this was Auckland and I had not yet experienced the rather different climate of the South Island. `It is so, so much colder in winter in London,’ I pronounced to anyone who seemed willing to listen and mostly they looked indifferent, which is unsurprising. It is safe to say that unless it was raining I was as warm as toast bustling around the streets doing house-wifely things. It was a different matter inside the apartment where the rather new husband and I were living. Number fifteen Karori Crescent was quite smart for its time; open plan living with wide windows dramatically overlooking the entrance to the harbour. I spent a great deal of time contemplating the view, observing the variety of vessels coming and going, and as the novelty of the new climate began to diminish, wishing I was on one of them – but that’s another story. It was inside that quite smart apartment that I first realized how fundamentally chilly New Zealand homes could be and how odd it was that the locals appeared to be immune to the fact and continued to explain that they did not own heaters because after all, Auckland had a semi tropical climate. As time went on I realized that our own draughty home was far from unusual and that the city’s splendid Art Nouveaux houses with their impressively high ceilings, ornate verandahs and lavish belvederes had been designed by an army of hopeful architects confidently expecting that this far flung outpost of the empire was yet another tropical paradise. A little bit of India in the Pacific perhaps. They rapidly came to the conclusion that they were mistaken and began to gaze enviously towards the rather more cozy and comfortable dwellings constructed by the local Maori who had no intention of putting up with chilly Julys. As time has progressed Aucklanders have become accustomed to the idea that perhaps a mistake was made all those years ago by the first settlers; possibly central heating is not a completely unreasonable idea. This sensible conclusion was much aided twenty years ago by the sudden influx into the country of groups of Russian musicians and trapeze artistes who immediately and significantly lifted both quality and performance of Orchestras and Circuses from Whangarei to Invercargill. Having an orchestral player in the family, from time to time we met these new immigrants, at parties organized to welcome them. Invariably they sat hunched and miserable and plainly shivering. One cellist romantically called Anastasia told me almost with tears in her eyes that she had never been as cold in her native Siberia and added, `There we have heaters of course.’ I met her again a week or so later at another welcome to Auckland event and this time I could not help but notice that she had taken the precaution of wearing a fur jacket. `That’s a lovely jacket,’ I told her shivering resentfully in my silk blouse. She simply looked smug.