Summer is ending in Melbourne and the weather is cooling down. But in this city, that transition is not a gradual twist of the thermostat, it’s an overnight snap between heatstroke and frostbite.
“It’s like Antarctica and the Australian desert are continually fighting it out over the top of Melbourne,” my partner remarked. Never have I heard a more accurate description of what it’s like to live in this city.
I left the house wearing shorts one lovely sunny day this week and for the longest time, I couldn’t figure out why I was so uncomfortable. My arms were breaking out in bumps, I was shivering, and all I could think about was hot chocolate, electric blankets, and comfort foods.
What is wrong here? I wondered. Am I getting sick?
No. The weather was just fucking cold. A day that had started out warm had turned icy without warning, yet my brain—having woken to a blue sky and a warm breeze—hadn’t caught up to that fact.
It’s a common mistake. Summertime doesn’t end gracefully here, it snaps fast enough to turn sweat droplets into icicles. After that, the sky spits chilly rain for what feels like a hundred years, and then springtime arrives with an explosion of green leaves, chirping birds, and unbridled optimism. But it’s just a tease. After a quick reminder of what habitable weather feels like, any hope of summer disappears leaving us cold and miserable for another fifty years. Then you wake up one day and it’s forty degrees Celsius and a fresh batch of old ladies have died from heatstroke.
Who can blame ’em?
We have our coping mechanisms, though, such as complaining about it. Like, all the time. We pretend as though the psychotic weather is unexpected, and we act shocked and violated on a daily basis. This approach allows us to feel victimised, which is easier than acknowledging that we built our homes in an vile pocket between the cold fronts of the Southern Ocean and heat of the desert. We could be living elsewhere, but we stay. It’s easier to complain than to pack.
So every conversation that you’ll ever have in Melbourne will have a segment that goes like this:
“Oh. My. God. How cold is this weather?!”
“I know! Bloody hell! This is ridiculous!”
“It’s supposed to be summer!”
“Uh, I know! I just got a fake tan for nothing!”
“I just had my bikini waxed for nothing!”
“This is bullshit.”
“Let’s move to Queensland.”
“Um, no. Let’s not.”
“I was totally joking.”
However, the psychotic weather is what gives Melbourne it’s flavour. There is nothing practical about the climate. It’s harsh. It’s hardcore. But it keeps the wankers away.
To fight the winter blues, we turn to art for solace. Layers of graffiti transform chilly brick façades into a walls of hope. Delicious, lavish dishes and wines are served in restaurants, warming the bellies and minds of eaters for one glorious hour. Live music expresses the cold, harsh truths of humanity, and listeners sway in unison, connected through shared sorrows. Our suffering makes the joys richer. Our canvases are not dappled with Sydney harbour Cyan and Annoyingly Happy Yellow, but with Long-Suffering Beige and Kill Me Now Grey. We’re in this together.
Melbourne replaces sunshine with soul. Blue skies with blues. Heat with heart.
That’s what I tell myself anyway.
It warms me at night when I’m fighting off frostbite of the toes.
Torre DeRoche is the author of two travel memoirs, Love with a Chance of Drowning (2013) and The Worrier’s Guide to the End of the World (due out September 2017). She has written for The Atlantic, The Guardian Travel, The Sydney Morning Herald, Emirates, and two Lonely Planet anthologies.