All youse non-Austrayan readers of this 'ere blog probably assume that our big bugger of an island is always hot, sunny and dry. To be fair, that assumption is mostly right, but we do have our four seasons like you guys do, just in the opposite order.
So while I'm reading your blogs about summer vacations, sunburn and strappy sandals, I've almost wrapped my legs around my tiny little oil heater as though I'm Julia Roberts doing the same to Richard Gere in the spa bath in 'Pretty Woman'. It's frickin' freezing here.
And don't just take my word for it. Even the foreigners from the northern hemisphere - hailing from much cooler climes than here - shiveringly agree with me.
Sarah, a Milwaukee native who learned from an early age never to go outside with wet hair or volunteer to shovel snowy sidewalks, was standing at the school gate the other day, clad in about three jackets, shivering in her shoes. London-born-and-bred Mick was next to her, waiting for his daughters to emerge; with Swedish Goddess Thorun shuffling rapidly from side-to-side and huffing warm air into her clenched fingers.
I ambled over and asked the most obvious, conversation-starter question that we say when we can't think of any other thing to start off with (and hate ourselves for our predictable lack of witty originality): "Pretty cold today, isn't it?" What an understatement: I had goosebumps on my flippin' head.
Thankfully Sarah is a kind person, and didn't roll her eyes. "Yeah."
Still mired in minus mental facilities, I stumbled on. "But hey, you guys are all from cold countries, so shouldn't you be used to this?"
They all politely swallowed their sighs and took the time out to explain it to me. Firstly, their countries have central heating as standard, throughout all of the rooms of their home.
Secondly they don't have vents installed near the ceilings that go directly to the air outside like we do.
- In summer time, yes. Or perhaps no. If heat rises then sure, we want to fling it outside, but if the vent brings in even hotter air from outside it's still being about as useful as a dry sponge in the desert isn't it, or am I not getting some vitally basic point?
Secondly, even their bathrooms have heating and warm towel rails. And by 'heating' they don't mean tepid old tastic lights beaming weakly down from the mould-speckled ceiling or a miserable bar heater up above the mirror (again with the heat rising issue - clearly not helping the poor nude sod standing on icy porcelain tiles several feet lower) either; they mean underfloor heating, a radiator, water proof carpets, cosy copper lined towel rails set to 'toasty'......
Here in Oz, most of us do a nudey-rudey Hop-Squeal-Scamper streak through our houses from the bathroom to the bedroom. For some reason, we all think that running through on our tippy toes will somehow make things easier and/or warmer for us and the added sound effects: "Oherr eek!" will help speed up our journey. With central heating, decent carpeting and a pre-warmed towel we'd be reduced to a languid stroll and a temptation to flash our partners and call out "Whoo Hoo, take a gander at these party pieces" before being told to leave the room and put something flattering on. I'm not sure that the overseas folk win this argument actually.
Mick pointed out that their toilets have windows that can actually close instead of permanently-open louvres. Yes, so do we - if you own a house that's younger than 1960, that is. The houses I grew up in, rented and bought all had 1950s style glass panels that were permanently fixed into the half-open mode. Not so great for privacy if someone wanted to use the hose outside nearest the window (extra echoing too, with all those floor tiles) and even worse for those 3am wee-wees spent gingerly lowering oneself onto the slab of ice that was once a plastic caroma loo seat whilst trying to keep the eyes closed and pretend that you were still asleep.
Torun mentioned their superior insulation. In Sweden they have insulation. Everywhere. Not just a few poxy old pink batts in the roof that are handy for rats and possums to eat and crap on, but in their walls. Plus double-glazed windows and lined floors.
We, on the other hand, either live in double-brick houses (moi) which do keep the heat out in summer for a few days, and the heat in during winter (for a few minutes after the heater's off). Brick venereal owners have an outer layer of brick and then some inner masonite that resembles a fully-plastered wall, but without the insulation, sound-proofing or expense. Add a lack of eaves, verandahs and a boxy second story and you have a home that needs 24/7 cooling and heating and has an energy star rating of minus three-and-a-half (or wait, was that for the movie 'Hey Hey It's Esther Blueberger'?)
Either way, if we're not blessed with energy-guzzling reverse cycle air conditioning, we have a gas or electric fire in the living room. This means that ever time anyone enters or leaves the room, the oldest person (usually the parent) automatically yells out, "Shut the bloody door! Were you raised in a tent?"
The room itself is usually furnished with at least two clothes horses crammed with damp socks, tracksuit pants (they shrink the dryer), school uniforms and jocks. Hopefully the jocks are placed on the wall side so that they're not the first thing that hits the visitors' eyes when they arrive. I've also been known to hang shirts over an exercise bike, door handles and the edges of bookshelves, and my mother has even spread out crockery in front of the 1975 Vulcan bar heater to warm up before serving dinner.Thus, it is well and truly ironic that such a hot, dry and dusty country has winters that are even less pleasant than countries closer to the artic circle. And no, I don't know where we'd find the money to add in all the comfy extras that those countries have to make things easier unless beer, smokes, flex days, scratch tickets and pokies were completely removed from our culture.
In the meantime, there's only this idea.
After a lot of immature sniggering at Ray's Outdoors Centre - and a bit of explaining to Sapphire as to why I was taking a photo of a 'Dutch Oven Carry bag.' Hell, it looks as though it's even shaped to fit my two overly generous arse cheeks in............. and I thought it was perhaps the cheapest way I could improve on home heating. Not sure that Love Chunks agrees with me.
Maybe we're all better off hiding under the doona and staying there until spring comes again.
Please shut the door on your way out, 'Kthnxbye