Why Summer is a Bummer

I love winter. I have always loved the process of wearing thick clothes and drinking hot chocolate. One of my greatest pleasures is to stay snug and warm in bed on a cold winter's night.

But now, Summer's coming. Today in Newcastle it reached 32.9º C (91.2º F) at 1.40pm. It wan't too bad considering the fact that it had dropped to 8.1º C (46.6º F) at 4.22 this morning - so the house had a while to warm up.

Springtime in Eastern Australia can, if conditions are right, be stinking hot. A few years ago we had a September heatwave within a few weeks of winter ending. It was almost a direct move from Winter to Summer.

Australia is in the Southern Hemisphere. That means that Christmas is in the summertime while July is the depths of winter. Here in Newcastle, our January temperatures range from 18º - 27.8º C (64.4º - 82.0º F), while our July temperatures range from 6.4º - 16.9º C (43.5º - 62.4º F).

"Huh! You call that winter? You should come over to England / Minnesota / Siberia / Sedna!" I hear you scoff. Fair enough, my like of the cold can hardly be defined as "cold" in those terms.

Neverthless, I am one who appreciates temperatures that never rise over 20º C (68º F).

According to the statistics on Newcastle's weather, there are, on average, 37 days per year where the temperature exceeds 30º C (86º F). That's 37 too many for me.

Increasingly, though, Summer is also a time of greater suffering for me for a number of reasons.

Pollen levels
I have an allergic reaction to high amounts of airborne pollen. I have what is called a "post nasal drip" - instead of sneezing or wheezing, my nose decides to produce mucus which runs down the back of my throat. This lasts from September to March. I take Rhinocort to keep it down, but I can often go through one $A28 spray every two weeks, which is expensive. Sometimes I just use a saline nasal irrigator, which is effective in removing any muck, but not preventing the condition. A specialist I saw about this condition about 6 years ago detected no nasal polyps that could cause the drip, so the only cause seems to be an allergy to pollen (likely since I never get the drip during winter because of the low pollen levels).

Heat Rashes
In the last 3 years or so I have been getting heat rashes on my wrists and hands - probably because the heat reacts with the Venlafaxine I regularly take. They are itchy and incredibly annoying. The hotter the day, the more annoying the rash.

Since my late teens I have always gone out in the sun wearing sunscreen. The problem is that it feels really yucky and oily on my skin - as though I am suddenly dirty and in need of a shower. The smell is annoying too.

Newcastle is located on the Hunter River, which passes along a big swamp at a place called Hexham. Summer is the "wet season" along Eastern Australia, so summer can be hot, humid and full of mozzies. If you don't want to get attacked too much in the back yard, you need to wear a combination sunscreen/insect repellant. Mozzies are everywhere in Newcastle during the Summer, and are far worse than anything I ever experienced living in Sydney (160km/100 miles South).

When Aiden was about 18 months old, he was bitten by a particular species of mosquito on his upper left cheek. Within a day, the side of his face was so swollen that his left eye had completely closed and it looked as though we had beaten the poor kid. He wears his repellent every summer.

Can't stand the heat, so...
I love winter food. I love cooking big plates of Spaghetti Bolognese and Thai Curry. The complex carbohydrates from the Pasta or Rice is used by the body to increase its metabolic rate and make you feel warm.

But eat the same foods in Summer and what happens? You begin to sweat - especially if you're overweight. If there's one thing I hate doing whilst eating food, it is sweating.

I also like having a fresh expresso coffee at breakfast. It's my only caffiene jolt of the day and it is an enjoyable part of my morning routine. But if it's a stinking hot morning, do you think I enjoy having my heart-rate and blood pressure increased? More sweat.

And I also hate summer food. Salads, if you are going to honest about it, are an invention of the Devil to torture mankind. Sandwiches are boring. Fruit? Apart from the banana, eating fruit is against my religion.

Basically I'm a hot food kind of guy. Summer in Eastern Australia is not kind to people like me.

The Bed
I love being under a warm doona in the wintertime. But on one of those hot summer nights where the outside temperature rarely drops below 25º C (77º F), the bedroom turns into an oven. I hate sweating in bed too! I sleep bad when it is hot.

We do have a fan. But when the nights are super-hot, the fan is like a hair-dryer.

Our House
The house we live in is made of double brick and is about 80-90 years old. It was damaged somewhat during the 1989 Earthquake, and had its roof tiles replaced with metal sheets with sand glued on the outside and shaped like a tiled roof. So our roof looks tiled, but is actually metal.

Worse than that, there is no insulation in the roof at all. There are no reflective foil beneath the metal roof proper, and there are no fiberglass batts beyond our ceiling. The double-brick construction means that the house itself takes time to warm up and cool down, but once that point is reached, it can be murder. We live about 5km from the sea, so on a hot summer's day we can get a nice afternoon breeze that relieves us a bit. When night comes, the outside temperature may be down to 22º C (71.6º F). But because of the heated double bricks, the inside of the house is nearer 30º C (86º F). Some nights you can stand at the back door, outside the house, and can feel the heat radiating from the bricks. You can also feel a hot breeze coming out of the door. As you walk in, you realise that the inside of the house is 5-10º C hotter than the outside.

And, of course, we don't own an air conditioner.

So where do you want to live then?
If I had a million dollars or two, and had the selfish desire to move somewhere cooler, where would I go? Canada? Alaska? Sedna?

Tasmania is my fantasy - especially a place like Devonport on the North-West coast. According to the stats, in summer, it passes the 30º C (86º F) barrier once every ten years on average, and has never gone beyond 35º C (95º F) in recorded history. In January, it averages between 12.2º and 20.9º C (54º and 69.6º F). In July it averages between 4.5º and 12.7º C (40.1º and 54.9º F). Not too hot, not too cold. It rains a bit - 797.4mm (31.39 inches), which is actually less than what we get here in Newcastle.

So what's stopping you?
One word - The Trouble and Strife. She likes swimming and doesn't like the cold. And that's all I can say about that!

From the Blogososphere Department

© 2005 Neil McKenzie Cameron, http://one-salient-oversight.blogspot.com/

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