Getting Scorched

Sunny Southern Hemisphere climates offers such freedom of lifestyle. Only for a relatively short period of time does one have to rug up with cumbersome, warm and weather proof winter clothes (and even then we get over it pretty quickly and dream of the warm sunshine to come). There’s something relaxed about an outdoor lifestyle, to have picnics in the sunshine and enjoy beautiful clean beaches, to walk out the door, get in the car and go places never having to shovel any snow, to be able to exercise and play sport outdoors basically all year round and to fiddle in the garden almost year round. I love the sunny climate, blue skies, being outside in the fresh air, balmy summer nights and to feel the warm sunshine.

Growing up in Cape Town with its moderate climate we had beautiful summers but nothing extreme in terms of heat. When I spent a couple of summer holidays in the Kalahari on my sister and brother-in-law’s farm in my university days it was a different story though. With temperatures rising to above 35°C most days it was tough working outside but the work doesn’t wait for the heat to subside so onwards and upwards we went. One particular stinking hot day a herd of cattle had to be mustered and moved from one paddock to another, some kilometres away. We were on horseback following behind and on the side, swallowing the dust the cattle kept kicking up but they were a difficult bunch and every few minutes when we thought we had them moving along nicely, one would break away to the side and one of us would have to canter off in pursuit and bring it back quick smart before any of the others noticed and decided to follow suit (which they inevitably did if you weren’t quick). One breakaway playing truant was manageable, definitely not half a herd. Others would keep in line but sneak a look to see if they could escape and if you weren’t onto them straight away either showing them that the only way is forwards, they’d make a dash for it. And every now and again one would just inexplicably stop right in front of you and if you weren’t paying attention you’d have passed it before you knew, and then it’s turn around and go back around it at full speed before it gathered pace. All of this through relatively thick bush and trees so it was a challenge to keep them in sight and not lose one or two amongst the bushes. We’d counted them before we took off and had to count them again afterwards to make sure none got left behind somewhere. Passing through gates from paddock to paddock was interesting – if the gate was open it would be relatively simple as long as we could gather them together again quickly on the other side before they dispersed and spread out into the veld, but if the gate was closed someone had to ride up ahead without scaring the herd and causing them to scatter in every direction, hop off and open it and get out the way before they got there. It was hot, dry and dusty, it hadn’t rained for a while and we were in the thick of it for about 5 hours doing some good old hard yakka but it was so much fun. It was so good to do some hard physical work. I’d done it many times before but this particular day was so hot and we were in the saddle for so long that by the time we’d delivered them to their destination, counted them through (and thank goodness they were all there as it wasn’t a small herd either) and got back to the farm house all I could do was change into my bathers, jump into the dam and float in the cool water for about half an hour. The ice cold beer after that was the best medicine and although the heat of that day has been burnt into my memory forever I’ll always remember it very fondly.

Beloved Kalahari

Beloved Kalahari

When we moved to Dubai we anticipated struggling with the heat but we were spoilt with houses, shops and offices all being properly air conditioned and our villa’s windows had double glazing which meant that the temperatures only ever affected you as you moved between air conditioned areas such as unpacking the groceries from the car and doing about five trips carrying it up the stairs of the house to the front door (carrying as many bags as possible each time to minimise the number of trips) or when I left the shops and went out to the car park in the summer heat and humidity my glasses always fogged up instantly! For the larger part of the year the temperatures weren’t unbearable and when it was hot it was a dry heat but peak summer brought with it daytime temperatures of somewhere over 40°C with very high humidity, and night-time temps that didn’t really drop much below 30°C still with incredible humidity.  After visiting our family and friends in South Africa during July/August 2004 we arrived back at the beautifully air conditioned Dubai airport in a false sense of security only to exit the airport building into a 30°C and 90% humidity wall of sauna heat at midnight. We swam so much that year but in the middle of summer the swimming pool water felt like bath water and we turned off our hot water system and used that water for cold water and the cold water tap for hot water because the water pipes were so shallow under the ground that the water used to get burning hot! The architecture and building style of the old Arabian buildings used to fascinate me with their clever design and latticed windows promoting the airflow so that hot air rose to flow out and cool air came in to keep the houses cool and spoilt as we are with air conditioners today I still find it astounding that people used to live without these luxuries in the sort of desert temperatures that I would suffer in, soft as I am.

Now Perth summers are hot, dry affairs with its share of heat waves with temperatures going up to over 40°C sometimes for a few days in a row with no sea breeze to cool things down and every now and then we get a good summer storm and I love these summer storms because they remind me of the Kalahari thunderstorms with mother nature showing off her power with loud thunderous cracks and electric lightning which usually resulted in a good downpour and much needed rain soaking into the dry earth and big fat drops noisily falling onto tin roofs. Downpours that could leave you soaked but still warm. So unlike winter storms.

A summer storm rolling in over our house a few years ago

A summer storm rolling in over our house a few years ago

When we went to support the Perth Scorchers in the Big Bash semi-final in January we sat sweltering in the sun with no shelter on a 40°C day waiting for the sea breeze to come in but it kept promising to come and just as we got our hopes up and I’d move forward in my seat as if to meet it it would disappear again, such a tease, and the WACA lived up to its nickname, The Furnace. It reminded me of the cricket test I went to watch with Ironman and his brother at Kingsmead cricket stadium in Durban back in ‘96/’97. Our seats were also in the full sun but we were allowed to take an umbrella and since I was pregnant at the time it saved the day for me but as the day wore on we were being joined by more and more supporters of the opposing team who’d decided that there was plenty of room for everyone in our little spot of shade. The more the merrier, until we were so tightly packed underneath that umbrella that no-one could breathe and we gave up and went home. That day at the WACA I would have loved to have had that umbrella though, or any little bit of shade for that matter, because there was just no escaping the oppressive heat and the fun element of the exciting cricket match was being scorched right out of it and I had to admit that much as I love our summers, I don’t enjoy getting scorched!

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