Winter chills are also supposed to happen in winter, not autumn. Frigid aberrations like this current one can be relied on to set off the climate change commentators, both for and against.
New Zealanders love to talk about the weather. I suppose that’s because it’s generally always either doing or about to do something. I’m guessing that people who live in Alice Springs or Ouagadougou start conversations in other ways. I’m also guessing that residents of The Alice or Ouaga live in homes that better match their climates than many residences in New Zealand do for those of us who live here.
My earliest memories of winter involve frosts. Central Taranaki can lay on a good one. Eltham in particular, just down the road from where I grew up, can do a doozy. One good thing about a frosty morning in those parts is how it generally evolves into a marvellously sunny day.
Cow troughs used to freeze over with a crust of about 20mm or more. That took some breaking apart, requiring at least an axe. We wore gumboots everywhere, except inside the house, and our feet used to freeze in those and garner chilblains. However gumboots could be got nice and toasty by placing them over the tractor’s exhaust stack until steam blew forth. That warmth could last a few minutes at a stretch.
School sports were also challenged by frosts. Early grades rugby, in my youth, used to play barefoot. Seriously. On frosty winter mornings, playing rugby involved running around barefoot on frozen turf. “Running” was the key word there, as standing around was most unpleasant indeed. The only person interested in prolonged scrummaging was the hooker, who was able to stand on his props’ feet. Lucky bugger. Nobody ever thought of kicking the ball.
Footwear generally was not something that was worn as often as it is today when I was a primary schooler. As well as the rugby age restrictions, even secondary school athletics were the preserve of the barefoot. I suspect more out of deference to the unavailability or cost of sports shoes, rather than of respect to the ancient Greeks. Oh Onehunga weed, where is thy sting?
At my primary school, a significant proportion of kids used to routinely come to school barefoot. On some days, particularly those where Mum had made me spit polish my school shoes, I envied them. Frosty mornings? Different story for me, but the barefoot brigade didn’t seem to mind at all.
Rugby and netball are grossly unfair for small kids who have to play with the same sized equipment as adults. I’d love to see a version of rugby where Super 15 teams had to play with a ball of the same proportionality to body size as 10-year-olds do. Hah! Kick that one over from halfway, Dan Carter. Put that one under your hooker’s feet, Piri Weepu. For netball, not only would the ball be proportionally larger for the adult Silver Ferns, the hoop would be higher, and the court would be larger too. Granny Van Dyk would probably have retired by now, were that the case.