I started writing this a couple months ago and abandoned it. But, here we are, in early August, and we're still feeling the chill... indoors at least.
I think back to when I was sorting and packing my clothes to be sent to Australia. I wondered how often I would actually be wearing pants, sweaters and long sleeved shirts. I kept hearing the voice of my future employer (who is originally from Melbourne) say that since moving to Port Stephens, "I haven't worn trousers in a year!". So, I left most of my work pants and sweaters at home. It was so warm when we got settled that I remember unpacking said clothes and thinking "why did I bring so many pairs of socks?!"
Well, I'll tell you why. While our average highs stay in the mid to high teens for winter, the overnight lows dip into the single digits - which sounds great, until you live in a house without central heat and no insulation. That's right- homes in Australia are poorly insulated if they're insulated at all, and generally have no permanent heat sources (unless you live in the far south or in the highlands). We managed to find two electric heaters at garage sales, and use them when we're desperate. We use them fairly sparingly because they are very inefficient, and with a new carbon tax coming into effect, we didn't want any surprises. So, generally, we just layer up (I have been known to wear a toque, 2 long sleeve shirts and 2 jumpas), sit under blankets, and consume a lot of hot drinks.
About 4-5 months ago, at the end of our summer, when we were still getting by most nights with just a sheet, or occasionally a light blanket, there was a sale on doonas (comforters/ duvets). The response I received was "I'm boiling at night- why would we need a doona!" Again, famous last words... we now have flannel sheets and 3 blankets on the bed, and are keeping our eyes open for end of season sales.
Possibly even more frustrating is that the water tanks are also kept outside, and it can take a few minutes for the water to warm up. So, it's either a quick wash in frigid waters, or running the water excessively to wash up comfortably. It all seems a bit backwards, especially in a country that is so warm for so many months. Thermal heating doesn't seem to be all that popular here, which again, seems a bit wasteful. But if they'd just insulate...
Our winters are warm enough to dry laundry outside (except when there's a long rainy spell). It's not uncommon (or psychotic) to be wearing shorts on any day of the winter. I am sitting outside in shorts and a singlette (tank top). We still see barefoot shoppers. Golf courses and lawnbowls are still operational. We played touch footy (rugby league). We've gone mountain biking, surfing, kayaking, scuba diving... which led me to finally understand the logic behind Ugg boots - the ocean is preeeettydamm cold and after being in it, my feet come out white- enter Uggies.
While we joke about winter being non-existant here, and that people whinge about weather that really isn't that bad, it is all what you get used to. This is the coldest winter in 12 years in NSW. The locals say its the coldest in recent memory; my favourite 90 year old says its the coldest year since he moved to Port Stephens over 30 years ago. This has been the warmest winter (by at least 40C) either of us have experienced, yet we too have been known to use the words "freezing" and "bloody cold" this "winter" as we jump around to build body heat... inside our house.