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The Weather: A Pommie’s Favourite Topic

By Mike Hytner on May 21, 2013 in Other

Photo: Georgie Gavaghan

Photo: Georgie Gavaghan

It is with a certain sense of inevitability that the time has finally come for this column to focus attention on every Pommie’s supposed favourite topic: the weather. But this Englishman isn’t here to uphold the stereotype and whinge about it (even though this is being written in the middle of an epic three-day rainstorm that has soaked the Eastern Suburbs to its very core). On the contrary, even the wettest of soggy spells in Sydney can do little to dampen my spirits. The reason for this is two-fold: first, as a foreigner, I can’t help but feel a little bit like I’m on permanent holiday (and why let the small matter of rainfall spoil a holiday); and second, more pertinently, I know any inclement patches of weather are unlikely to last too long.

Unlike in the UK, where once winter sets in you have no choice but to hunker down and survive the next three or four months (sometimes even longer) through gritted teeth and with the help of a hot water bottle and an umbrella, here the next nice day is just around the corner. Things can be planned in advance without too much regard for the weather forecast; outdoor things, like barbeques, picnics, bike rides, children’s parties and garden weddings. It’s a liberating feeling not to be confined by something you have no control over. And surely it’s that feeling that helps breed a rosier outlook on life in Australia, where there always seems to be light at the end of the tunnel. In fact, the tunnel isn’t even that long. To be honest, I’m not even sure if it is a tunnel at all.

The reason why Aussies think everyone in the UK is obsessed by the weather probably comes down to the fact that it genuinely, and adversely, affects people. The sinking feeling that follows a morning peek out of the curtains to reveal yet another overcast, grey and wet day is not to be sniffed at. It makes you want to crawl back into bed and, if you do make it out, it can easily pervade for the rest of the day. If, on occasion, that is the sight that greets me in Sydney, it doesn’t get me down; thoughts of brighter days prevail and that sodden depression doesn’t have the chance to set in at all.

And to think that these are my thoughts after spending what has been, by all accounts, a pretty miserable (really, miserable?) couple of years under the influence of La Nina, the cold and wet weather cycle. Wet? You really call that wet? With El Nino making a return this year, we’ve been promised drier and warmer weather. The mind boggles what this winter holds. I got a taster the other week when I dunked into the ocean, half expecting my arms and legs to freeze over and snap off, only for a beautifully warm current to wash over me. And there were no young kids about, so it couldn’t have been ‘that’, before anyone suggests it.

People tell me I’m only just now beginning to get a taste of what real Australian weather is. The previous version was just great, but I think I like this new strain even more.