Winter in Queensland

It’s Ekka Day – which means that all of Brisbane has a holiday so they can go see the Fair.   It would be equivalent to all the counties in Wisconsin declaring that one day (a different day for each county) of the summer was designated a holiday so everyone could go to the county fair and ogle cows. Australia is funny like that.  

It’s also funny that the Ekka is in the middle of the winter. But Winter in Queensland is a different animal – a temperamental animal who you love and hate many times over in the course of a day.  

For me, a typical day would start with me waking up at approximately 4 am because it’s freezing cold (as in, the room is less that 40 degrees). Which is to say, I wake up because I have to use the bathroom.  My body is shedding any and all excess matter to conserve heat.  I usually lay in bed debating whether it’s really necessary for a minute or two before I conclude that I will never get back to sleep unless I go do my business.  So, I steel myself against the cold, dart out of bed and across the horrifically cold floors of the main room onto the even colder tiled floors of the bathroom.  I do my business, all the while scolding myself for drinking so much water before bed, and then scamper back into the bedroom, where I leap under the covers and affix myself to Rick for warmth.  I briefly consider why Australians built Queenslanders with cracks in the floors, no insulation, and no heat, but the thought passes quickly. This whole traumatizing ordeal usually happens in 6-9 minutes.  Then, it’s back to bed.

An hour later, a series of alarms begin to go off starting around 5:30.  My alarms, Rick’s alarms, the neighbors phone which I can often hear from across the street, and of course the cacophony of cars, truck, and annoyingly loud motorcycles that use our road as a shortcut, gunning their engines in front of our house to get up the hill.

Despite the noise I remain unmoved from my bed because, as I said, it’s freezing.  Sadly, this fact does little to prevent Rick from getting up to make coffee and smoothies, leaving the bed without a heat source.  So, usually by the time he returns to put a smoothie next to my bed and a mug of coffee I am up, perusing emails on my phone, still fighting the need to remove myself from the waning warmth of the down comforter and 3-5 other blankets on the bed (depending on the temperature).

Rick, at this point, takes one of two approaches to getting me out of bed.  The aggressive tackle-and-move approach has proven limited in its success rate, as the appeal of ongoing bed comfort gives me a superhuman strength to fight back. The second approach of scratching my back and snuggling also has limitations, as it usually results in me attempting to get him in bed again. Nonetheless, eventually these strategies do get me out of bed, and in the time I killed by procrastinating the temperature has often risen to a balmy 50.  This is sufficient to get me to the shower with relatively little resistance as long as I have the help of a pair of Uggs which Rick bought me specifically to guard against the cold. (I feel the need to state this. My Uggs are purely functional, people.)  

After showering, which is a painful experience when your house is in the 50s, I bundle myself in all the towels and robes I have and head to my wardrobe, where I am faced with the day’s next major predicament:  what to wear.  In my previous life, this was a less demanding morning activity.  Here, I have to factor in the temperature now, the approximate temperature by noon, and the approximate temperature by 6 pm, as well as my mode of transport (bike or walk), as well as my after work obligations  (yoga, zumba, cleaning the yoga studio, drinks with friends?) as it is impractical to come home when you travel by foot or bike.

So, once I have gone through the calculus of determining an outfit that will satisfy all the parameters specified, I can get on my bike and head to work.  This is where I begin to fall in love with Winter.

My ride to work takes about 15 minutes.  I leave my neighborhood, crest a small hill and cross over to Suncorp Stadium, which often has runners and bikers and fitness groups doing workouts nearby.  I cruise by them, over a pedestrian/bike bridge and down a path to an underpass that spits me out on the Brisbane River.  I turn right and begin to make my way to work, passing many other commuters doing the same thing by bike or on foot.  As I look across the river in the morning light, I often see 3-6 boats with rowers finishing up their morning workouts.  The City Cat ferries cruise by creating a wake that laps at the rocky edges of the bike trail and adds a subtle percussion to the morning song of bikes, birds, and sunshine burning off the remnants of the morning chill.

My first few hours of work fly by, and by lunch I am heading out for a walk or a workout.  By now it’s much warmer, possibly even hot.  My morning’s calculations are often slightly incorrect.  I should have gone with a light sweater, not a  blazer.  By the way, Brisbane has taught me a new appreciation for sweaters.  All sorts of sweaters.  While I rarely need a full jacket, I could almost always be wearing a sweater.  This is mind blowing stuff, my friends.

I spend the next 40 minutes or so, working out in a tank top or t-shirt quite comfortably, possibly breaking a sweat. It’s sunny and warm, but not humid and certainly not too hot.  It’s actually as perfect as I can imagine weather to be.

Then I head back to the office, and by the time I leave the sun is setting, casting an orange glow on the skyscrapers of the City as I ride toward them.  A chill begins to creep into the air and I wonder whether a jacket would have been wise.  The wind rolls up from the river, giving me a small shiver, but before long I am home again.  I leave the door open to the front porch, savoring the fresh air until the coolness proves too pervasive and my will to bear the cold weakens.  Before long I have sweats on and wool socks, soon I’ll be under a blanket.  If it’s really cold my hat is always nearby.

And so begins the cycle once more.

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