36. Forty-two Degrees

Today is a forty-two degree day.

In weather like this, you batten down the hatches. Curtains are drawn, aircon is cranked, doors are closed off. Laundry dries in ten minutes or less (beat that Domino’s) and you taste asphalt on your tongue if you step outside. Seat belts become branding irons, ferris wheels melt, and time slows to a crawl. You move as little as possible, trying not to sweat any more than you have to.

Cricket, a five day national pastime is turned on, advert free. You admire those men for standing. You negotiate for prime seats in front of fans, jostling for position in between the Christmas tree and holiday decorations. Brothers and sisters fight. Household currency is reduced to icy poles and popsicles. Water comes out of the tap boiling hot and suddenly you understand why people still buy chilled bottled water at the servos. At peak heat, the streets are like a ghost town complete with tumble weeds. The air is dry, like a sauna or crappy hotel hairdryer. There is no relief.

The only hope you have is the weatherman. When they predict the cool-down – a sharp temperature drop in a short amount of time – life begins again. Today, it’ll be a twenty degree drop around three pm. Flowers will burst open and sag like in a David Attenborough documentary. Cats and dogs will lift their heads for the first time. The sky might become cloudy, the air might change colour. You’ll shiver, pulling on a layer you would have thought ridiculous an hour before. You might head to the pub for a beer while mopping your brow, unsure of what to do with yourself. Rarely do you fall asleep easily or well. You wonder how the pioneers of this country did it, the Europeans without ice, and the Aborigines for far far longer.

The only plants that seem to do well in the heat, Cathy’s garden.

I’ve often made the comparison that Australia is what happens when you get a group of people together, mix in some beer and crank up the heat. Canada is what happens when you turn the heat way down. Similar countries, radically different outcomes. You marvel at how plants and animals specialized in such extremes, how our only instinct was to head indoors. Unlike in Canada, when you can bundle up and go for a skate, here you wouldn’t make it out the driveway. You smile to yourself, thinking about how the planet will be fine long after we’re gone, restoring what was depleted. It’s so hot, you become philosophical.

Today is forty-two degree day.

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