Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Ten Reasons To Hate Winter
Johannesburg's winters are most depressing, not least because of the contrast with summer. While summer is lush and green, moisture-filled and full of glorious sunshine and electric thunderstorms, winter is in stark contrast to its sister lazy, hazy, crazy days. This may be Africa but for three months the Highveld gets bitterly, bitterly cold. But the cold is not the worst of it, there's more ... In the throes of post-World Cup depression I need to vent like a true bipolar South African, so here are my personal ten worst things about this particular Highveld July.
1. The World Cup is over. It's a mindset thing. Winter was bearable when the tournament was on because, even in a freezing stadium in Polokwane when temperatures plummeted to minus 10 and the fans' teeth chattered in time to the vuvuzelas, there was so much excitement in the air it kept us warm. But with all our wonderful overseas visitors gone what incentive is there for us to want to go out in this weather? The buzz and vibe has gone on to another part of the world and suddenly everything we do seems so Mickey Mouse. Suddenly 'chilling out' doesn't seem so much fun anymore. We would rather sit in our blankies at home watching the rather lacklustre television. Sigh, no more Wimbledon, no more Tour de France.
Fly me a river ... When will Lanseria International Airport look like this again? A friend sent me pictures of all the private jets flying in for the final match.
Even the smog was a VIP ... Look how pretty the Highveld sunset looks behind all those private jets!
2. The cold is physically painful especially if you have been raised in warm sunshine and your blood is thinner. It's the same every year. Our winter is cold in a way that is incomprehensible to a European used to snow and ice. This is a bone-biting cold accompanied by a nasty little wind that slices like a super-mean meat cleaver right through armour-plated winter wear. Wrapped up like an armadillo? Think you're safe? The wind will finger its way around the cuffs of your coat, then thrust itself deep down your sleeves, raping your unwilling flesh. It finds its sneaky, insidious way through your vest, shirt, three jerseys, scarf and coat. It sneaks up to your ankles and permafrosts the one patch of flesh that isn't covered up with insulation. Your body hurts from top to toe from the effort of trying to stay warm and maintain its core temperature. Everything in your cupboard is cold, the loo seat hurts your bum when you sit on it. And you stick to the shower curtain!
Even the Antarctic is not this unpleasant.
3. There is no central heating besides natural solar power. So you pray for a fine sunny day just to warm you up. Foreigners come here and laugh off May, strutting around in shirt sleeves. By June they put on a jersey but when July kicks in their faces start to fall. "It's so cold!" they finally confess under torture, blaming their lack of resistance on South Africa's blissful unawareness of building insulated buildings. But central heating would be a joke for the other nine months of the year, so why would we install it?
4. Everyone gets sick in winter, due to the extreme fluctuations in temperature and general lurginess in offices. It's a germ fest. The office reverberates with the sounds of sniffing, hacking, sneezing and general phlegm-iness. People look like Rudolph the red nosed reindeer but insist on coming to work. Don't you dare touch my keyboard! I go down with a cold the second week of every July like clockwork, and the only reason it hasn't happened this year is because I have been fortifying myself with lemon juice and honey every morning, drinking Berocca, washing my hands insiduously, eating lots of chicken soup and staying inside like a hibernating bear. I might as well have been sick because that's my recovery plan every year anyway!
5. After two terrible weeks of black frost the garden is completely dead. The pelargoniums that were my pride and joy last February are shrivelled brown and dry. The garden seems full of dead leaves that I cant bear to sweep up as my bones ache when I go out. It's lifeless. Could spring be only five weeks off and will I have to completely restock my plants? It seems inconceivable that life will ever spring up again in their veins, never mind mine. And where has my energy gone to? Usually I cant wait to start planting nice things like heartsease, pansies and primulas.
6. A heavy blanket of dust lies on everything inside and outside like a shroud. The plants and trees are bowed down under its weight,losing any semblance of green. The dust lies thick on my shelves and as I move it off it moves off to lurk malignantly somewhere else. It's a bad office colleague who likes to make trouble for you and you just have to live with it. No point in relocating the negative energy. Just wait for the cleansing rains.
7. Speaking of dust my car is permanently dirty. You can see kitty paw prints on it where the neighbourhood cats have had a jol. Children who should be in school learning to write practise their writing skills on my car. WASH ME! they implore. What's the point? Five minutes later it is just as dirty again.
8. The car doors bite you when you touch them. The static built up over four months of zero moisture in the air means you get an electric shock from everything you touch. You nearly electrocute your loved ones every time you hug them, and vice versa. But it's worth it. People recommend rubbing hand cream on pantihose to stop your clothes from riding up your thighs (an interesting look). Your hair stands on end and needs expensive deep moisture treatments at the hairdresser.
9. Your skin becomes positively crocodilian. I woke up this morning and saw my face was puckered up all over like Tutankhamen's mummy! It took three applications of face cream to restore the elasticity. My hands permanently look like a dried-up river bed. It costs money to buy all this rich Clarins night cream that my skin will only reject in spring. My back permanently shivers from the dry skin between my shoulder blades. Applying moisturising lotions and potions also a painful process as the cold attacks your naked form. The dryness of a Highveld winter will quickly dehydrate you again.
10. Winter is depressing and the cold leads to an enormous appetite. Only in winter do you want to eat a large roast chicken with roast potatoes and gravy, followed by three slices of buttered bread and a large sticky pudding.
On the plus side? You get to eat nice things like oxtail and buttered parsnips, and wear tailored coats and gorgeous boots. You catch up on your reading, manage to do your taxes, plan a complete house revamp. I also love exercising when I am wrapped up warm. Soup is a wonderful thing and you actually have early nights ... but this winter is beginning to feel interminable, so I say roll on spring.