In the middle of a hot Perth summer, I started to take note of how people choose to keep cool. This interest was sparked by something I saw in the week.
I had ducked into my local supermarket after dropping my son at school and before heading out to see a client. I had just enough time to throw my shopping onto the kitchen bench, scavenge through the bags to ensure any items that needed to be refrigerated were saved from a day sitting out in the summer heat waiting for my return home from work. This was a well-executed manoeuvre that had no room for error.
As I rushed out of the shops, making a beeline for my sun-baked car, I noticed an elegant elderly lady sitting eating an ice cream at 8.30 in the morning.
While initially I was a little surprised, this lady stayed on my mind on the trip home. I was thinking about how relaxed she looked as she relished every lick of her ice cream. She looked refreshingly cool.
I am sure that perhaps when her children were younger she looked more like myself, rushing, focused on the task of getting my shopping items home as quickly as possible to save them from the heat as well as meet my time constraints for the day. Not relaxed, not looking refreshingly cool. I realised my feelings toward this unknown woman eating an ice cream so early in the morning was one of envy. What a joy to be enjoying a summer's day by pacing your way through an icy delight.
I am lucky enough to live in an air-conditioned house. I spent much of my younger childhood without air conditioning, despite having an English father who did not cope that well with the heat.
Fortunately, my mum grew up in the Murchison region of Western Australia. Well known for its unrelenting heat, and she knew well how to find the coolest part of the house and keep my brother and I out of the heat of the day.
While we could hear all the children of the street out playing on weekends and school holidays, my brother and I were called inside and made to lay on the lounge room floor with the curtains drawn and the fan whirring lazily as it oscillated on its stand. We could read or sleep but that was all. Mum lay between us to keep law and order, a ruler being her weapon in case we wouldn't lay still or tried to escape. I don't remember her having to use it, but its presence let us know that there was no getting out of this midday ritual on stifling hot days.
At some point the family splashed out and installed an air-conditioner in the lounge room, so our ritual continued but it was much easier to be encouraged to rest in this now cool room. I did, however, miss the wafting of the fan's air that used to brush over me - it lulled me into a lazy sleep more often than not.
I still enjoy an afternoon lay down on a hot day.
There is nothing better than a trip to the beach in the early morning, the stillness of a hot day to come and the coolness of the Indian Ocean giving you relief from the surrounding heat. Breakfast to follow; home chores to be finalised before the heat sets in. Then a glorious rest to ride out the impossibility of getting anything done until the ‘Fremantle Doctor’ (the famous cool breeze that tends to hit Perth on most summer evenings) decides to waft in, while we bob around in the backyard pool contemplating what cut of meat will barbecued up for dinner, plated with refreshing salads and of course washed down with a chilled white wine.
The topic of the heat is never far from the lips of people I meet. You soon learn who likes the heat and who doesn't.
I love it and look forward to not being cold. Feeling cold is my kryptonite. I don't want to go out or socialise, I just want to stay indoors and keep warm, as best I can.
I sympathise for those who don't tolerate the heat, even though I love it. As we move into March, I know the weather will turn cooler in the coming weeks and that winter will be here again.
Some time down the track, if you see me at 8.30 on a summer's morning enjoying an ice cream, please join me – and know that I am enjoying a lovely moment in my favourite season.
I look forward to the day when I spend my time in such a lovely way.