Summer Heat Stifle
Heat—it stifles the mind. Mine melts. Though this year, I’m getting used to it—the heat, and also the brain-frying effects of heat.
Not that this summer in Adelaide has been all that intolerable. We’ve avoided the worst that the eastern states had to endure. A couple of days over 40 degrees Celsius—meh! The media usually ramps up the heat by their constant bleating and dire predictions. Too hot. Cancel events. Australia Day weekend beware, hotter than that place down below…Yeah, go ahead ruin all those events, cancel them to protect the tender-bodied against the infernal heat. Oh, except if it’s the tennis. Oh, and, put those cooling devices on, don’t go out, you might expire in the heat. Just stay home, keep cool and watch…the tennis, or cricket. Ah, I think I’m understanding the subtle agenda here.
[Beach prophets © L.M. Kling 2012]
So how do we manage this stifling heat? These days it’s about cranking up the refrigerated air conditioners, getting on with our busy lives of work or leisure in air-conditioned comfort while being concerned for our poor relations who have no relief from the heat.
This year, thanks to an aging evaporative cooling system languishing on the roof of our home, we have become the “poor” relations with no relief from the heat. Evaporative coolers are ineffective in humidity that has subtly stifled Adelaide in the past few years.
I am convinced Adelaide’s summers are different from how they used to be in my youth. Those were the days when we had three or more weeks of 35-plus degrees Celsius. When a whole summer would pass without a cloud in sight; blue skies, searing dry, I stress, heat, and no rain from November till April.
‘Those were the days,’ I say these days. And we’d nod our heads, and wipe the perspiration dripping into our eyes, and sigh.
My Adelaide friends reply, ‘We could handle the heat back then, it was dry heat, not like this humidity from the north.’
‘Global warming,’ Mr K pipes up, ‘will make the Earth more humid.’
He’s certainly right there, as far as Adelaide’s concerned.
Those were the days of my childhood, when whole summers were spent frolicking in the sand and shallows of our local beach. Ten minutes by bike, twenty minutes by foot or by an old pram on occasion, my friends and I wiled away the stifling dry heat in the calm glassy salt-waters of our beach. On those hot days, we’d set off early morning when the tide was out, and the sand stretched for what seemed miles, making that final dash into the gentle surf so refreshing.
[Brighton Beach © L.M. Kling 2017]
We’d spend the day there, basting ourselves with coconut oil for the all-important tan, dipping into the sea to cool, paddling in warm shallow pools, chasing fish caught in those pools, collecting shells, and sunbaking on our towels until hot enough to start the cycle of swim, paddle, collect and sunbake all over again. If we were adventurous, we’d paddle with our boogie boards out to the blue line, ever vigilant to the presence of sharks that lurked in the depths.
[Sellicks Beach © L.M. Kling 2006]
In teenage years, my friends and I ventured further down the coast; surfing at Moana or boogie boarding at Sellicks Beach.
[Waves Crashing Rocks, Granite Island © L.M. Kling 2015]
A family trip to Victor Harbor and the obligatory lap around Granite Island was a regular highlight of summer and escaping the heat. We relished the waves from the Southern Ocean crashing on the rocks of this island, the brisk wind on our cheeks. At times we surfed at Middleton and enjoyed camping at Waitpinga snapping photos of the lads in their budgie-smugglers battling the turbulent surf, or fishermen at sunset.
[Waitpinga © L.M. Kling 1982]
Closer to home, when the sea was like glass, we skied on a surfboard, pulled by a friend’s speedboat. We chilled out there on the waters while the city boiled on those hot 40-degree days that seemed to go on forever.
Those were the days…
I grew up without air conditioning. The beach, the backyard sprinkler or plastic pool from Clarkes rubber, that was how Adelaide cooled in the 1960’s and 70’s. On hot nights when the temperature didn’t dip below 30 degrees Celsius, we slept outside, in the backyard, under the stars. With a suggestion of a cool breeze and a hint of mozzies humming in our ears, we fell asleep.
[Backyard sleeping © C.D. Trudinger 1975]
On one of those hot summer nights, I woke to see a girl and boy in nineteenth century period clothing standing under the Hills Hoist washing line. The boy checked a medallion that he held. The girl looked at me.
I turned and nudged my brother. ‘Look! There’s a…’ I glanced back. The girl and boy were gone.
My brother reckoned I dreamt the whole thing.
Those were the days…
When did those days begin to change?
It happened over the years, subtly.
When I was nine or ten, my parents bought a hulking great evaporative cooler that filled up the living room. Instead of whole days at the beach, I played monopoly all day in the lounge under the cool air of the evaporative air conditioner. In the 1980’s a neat little refrigerated unit tucked in the window bumped the old evaporative air con out to the shed. Sun, an ever-increasing ozone hole and skin cancer became a danger. Being sun-smart came in and spending days at the beach went out, and the tradition of tea by the beach increased.
My brother had his own moment as he slept out under the stars in the backyard. A man dashed up the driveway, over the lawn and then jumped the fence. Freaked out, MB packed up his bedding and slept the rest of the night in the cool of the refrigerated lounge room. I don’t think he ever slept outside again.
Then after decades of spending power with abandon to maximise comfort, our collective environmental conscience has crept in. We need to take responsibility for how we use our resources and what happens to the waste.
So today, perhaps a part of me wants to be environmentally responsible, and part of me wants to be financially responsible; refrigerated air conditioning costs electricity and lots of money.
A friend of ours gave us their portable refrigerated air conditioner. It needed a replacement exhaust hose which my friend said we could buy at the local air con warehouse for $70. The old one was split, and I foolishly told her we didn’t need it.
Beginning of summer and in anticipation for the hot days to come, I took an excursion to this warehouse.
‘Oh, sorry,’ the salesman informed me, ‘we don’t do those spare parts anymore.’
My friend pointed out. ‘You did so last year.’
‘Oh, but, we don’t anymore. It’s all one package from China, now. Anyway, we’re phasing out these units, they use up too much power,’ the salesman said.
So, one big portable refrigerated air conditioner sits redundant in our laundry until I can get the exhaust hose from a depot in the USA. In the meantime, I dug up the 27-year old water-cooler from the shed, cleaned it up, flushed out the cockroaches, filled it with water and switched it on. It works a treat. Well, when it’s not so stifling and humid.
On those hot days, as the mercury climbs to 30 degrees Celsius by 9am, I shut all the windows and pull the blinds. The house stays cool, passively. We have learnt to adapt, living without all those modern comforts of cooling. I’m surprised at how effective a fan can be, or tea by the beach, sitting on the sand, enjoying the sea breeze and the simple beauty of a sunset.
[Somerton Sunset © L.M. Kling 2017]
And as we survive another summer of sometimes stifling heat, I remember the verse from the Bible:
“Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, ‘children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.’ Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky…” Philippians 2:14-15
© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2018
Feature Painting: Second Valley, Better than Cricket © Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2016