A bit of weather

DON’T you just love a bit of weather! Even the foreboding term ‘‘east coast low’’, the term that we came to know after the Pasha Bulker storm at this time five years ago, is a shiver I find enlivening. A storm cracking across a sky that could have been painted by an old master, wind rushing and gushing, rain pelting in waves remind us that there is a greater power, that for all our might and science we are animals who need to flee it.

I heard someone say wistfully when talking about the approaching June storm this week that it had been quite a while since we’d had a windy day, and I realised he was right, that it seems to have been many months since we’ve had wind strong enough to make the windows crackle, to shake the house, to howl in the power lines and to blow the weakening fronds off palm trees and deadwood from street trees. Even the blast of chilled southern air as we step outside enhances the cosiness of our home and shelters. A howling, buffeting June night refreshes our appreciation of home.

Many of my most graphic memories are of weather events.

Half a century has not dimmed my memories of north coast swirling squalls that seemed to be headed for just me – storms on the north coast of NSW seem often to be smaller, more intense and more quickly over than those of the Hunter. I remember days and days of monotonously heavy rain and, later, the river as a huge ribbon of brown pockmarked with little whirlpools. I remember as a six-year-old running as hard as I could to stay just a couple of metres in front of an advancing wall of rain.

I left Papua New Guinea with images of the unfailingly punctual monsoonal rain, heavier than any I’d seen, and the monsoon’s grey blanketed sky on the coast and the eddying clumps of cloud in the mountains. England was drizzle, and Europe often pocket storms, which my wife has been photographing and sending to me over her past month in Italy.

A decade or so ago in the Hunter my wife and I pulled our car over on Weakleys Drive approaching the New England Highway near Beresfield when we became aware that we were driving into something we should avoid, and a minute or so later we were enveloped in a roaring noise as we watched an opaque mass of cloud and water and small debris move east along the highway. The next day we read weather experts suggesting we and others had seen a tornado.

In comparison warm or even hot weather seems bland, characterless. Dress it up with a day at the beach, with sparkling spray coming off foaming waves and water that’s both green and blue, and we’ll remember the day, not the weather. A heat wave we’ll remember for the discomfort, and at the end of summer this year it struck me that it had been a summer without a single uncomfortably hot day.

Rather than the beach, for me the most graphic image of our hottest days is of the baking bush and air so still the leafy crown of gum trees seem to emit a vapour that hangs. A single spark, I fear at such times, would create an inferno.

It is, I think, weather as much as the seasons that provide the light and dark in our lives. There is welcome change in the clothes we wear, in the way we cook, in the food itself, in the way we spend our weekends and leisure, and the weather is still the arbiter.

On the coast of Papua New Guinea, for example, the only change in our habit in the course of a year was to keep an umbrella handy for half of it, and the sameness became tedious. I think that had an impact on other aspects of the life of Australian expatriates there.

Here we change our wardrobe twice a year, and that change varies. We don’t, for example, need overcoats these days.

And as keen as we are to keep up with the forecast in the media, to check the Bureau of Meteorology website (one of the most popular sites in Australia), we look out the window to see what’s happening with the weather. It is good that we need to.

Do you appreciate a bit of weather? What are your most graphic weather memories?

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