Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Mango Madness versus Apple Apathy

It's Summer in Australia ... or is it ?

Everybody in Australia, from Darwin to Hobart (6 hours flying time or abut 67 hours of driving), has expectations of the summer ahead. For the sport fanatics, it's the start of the cricket season and today the first Test between Australia and India started in Adelaide. Although it was a perfect day in Adelaide, in other parts of the country the summer is yet to live up to expectations. Those in the far northwest corner of the country are hanging out for some consistent thunderstorm activity to break the brutal summer humidity, while we in Hobart just want some sunshine  to break the depressing day after day of drizzle that has persisted since summer began.

They've had only one decent storm up in the Territory since the beginning of December, with every day in the mid 30's and humidity in the 60's and 70's ...

Where is the Wet?

Down here in Hobart, we've had day after day of overcast, easterly drizzle with temperatures well below average ...

Where is the Sunshine?
For those who don't know, the Northern Territory grows a lot of mangoes, those wonderful fleshy fruits that exude sexiness. Actually, as an aside there's a terrific poem about mangoes by Richard Tipping that I'd like to share with you ...

mangoes are not cigarettes
mangoes are fleshy skinful passionate fruits
mangoes are hungry to be sucked
mangoes are glad to be stuck in the teeth
mangoes like slush and kissing

mangoes are not cigarettes
mangoes are idiosyncratic seasonal seducers
mangoes are worse than adams apple
mangoes are what parents and parliaments warn against
mangoes like making rude noises

mangoes are not cigarettes
mangoes are greedy delicious tongue teasers
mangoes are violently soft
mangoes are fibrous intestinal love bites
mangoes like beginning once again

mangoes are not cigarettes mangoes are tangible sensual intelligence
mangoes are debauched anti socialites
mangoes are a positive good in the world
mangoes like poetry

To me, mangoes are the epitome of tropical fruit. But hey, it's this time of year that I'm particularly pleased I don't live in the tropics. The heat is fine; it's the humidity that's the killer. Did you know that there is an identifiable condition called Tropical Seasonal Affective Disorder, aka "Mango Madness"? For decades we've known about Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which is a big bugbear in the far north latitudes in winter. Now scientists have identified TSAD in Darwin. The following graph shows how levels of assault increase in Darwin during the hotter months ...

Don't you love the mango highlight in this graph?
Australians are familiar with the term "going troppo"; for those who aren't it is basically a metaphor for going crazy from the heat. It seems even Shakespeare knew something about what the heat does to folks. Back in my teaching days I used to love taking students through Romeo and Juliet. Of course, the opening scene is only a foreshadowing of the tragedy that is to unfold in Act III, which kicks off with Benvolio trying to persuade Mercutio to get in out of the heat ...

I pray thee, good Mercutio, let's retire:
The day is hot, the Capulets abroad,
And, if we meet, we shall not scape a brawl;

For now, these hot days, is the mad blood stirring.

 And thanks to Noel Coward (and, later, Joe Cocker) those of us who are of a certain age also know about Mad Dogs and Englishmen ...

If mangoes are Australia's seductive tropical fruit, then it's worthwhile remembering that apples like cool climates best. And there is of course the whole business about sinful Eve tempting  poor Adam with an apple - which he simply couldn't resist - leading to the banishment of all of us from the Garden of Eden, innocence and all that. So I guess it's worth putting up with a bit of nondescript weather to live in a place that is close to perfect. While Tasmania is no longer known simply as the Apple Isle it is still one of the best places in the world to cultivate that forbidden fruit.

Back to Hobart.  Notwithstanding a brief interruption due to rain, there was a reasonable amount cricket played at Bellerive Oval. It didn't quite make it to 17 degrees and there was a lot of cloud about pretty much all day. We haven't seen Mt Wellington for about a week and this dreary photo from the Rose Bay webcam that I just took a screenshot of is pretty representative of the cloud cover that we've had for the first 9 days of December ( albeit without the rain that has fallen every day but one) ...

Another dreary day in Hobart
This pattern of greyness has led me to coin a new phrase (a counterpoint if you like to the Top End's Mango Madness) that might represent the mood I'm in at the moment due to this ongoing period of blahness: Apple Apathy. Don't get me wrong: Tasmania - and Hobart in particular - is a wonderful place to live. We can have absolutely sublime weather as good as or better than anywhere else I've been, thanks to a generally moderate maritime climate. Actually, I like it here so much that I found this little YouTube video to share with you that gives a bit of a glimpse of some of the delights of our little island paradise on the edge of the Southern Ocean ...

Despite it being such a good place to be alive, what with this weather I've been  having trouble getting motivated to do much outdoors - partly because Di is confined to indoors at the moment. Apathy has set in.  With rain falling on seven of the nine December days so far it's been hard to get enthusiastic about cycling, and climbing outdoors hasn't been very appealing either. (Although no rain was actually recorded today there was light drizzle around noon and the humidity ranged between 50 and 80 percent the whole day.) However, with the cool damp conditions I summoned enough motivation yesterday to embark on the construction of two mini greenhouses for the eggplant and capsicums I planted at the start of the month. I'm now waiting for one of our local nurseries to get some greenhouse quality plastic back in to stretch over the frames I've put together. When they are in place I'll put together a new post with some photos of them in the garden.

When it comes to the weather altering one's mood, I'll take Mango Madness or Apple Apathy any day over Cabin Fever, a hazard of remote living in far northern climes where there just isn't enough daylight during some times of the year. Imagine being stuck in a tiny, remote dwelling, surrounded by trackless snow, forty plus degrees of frost and almost no daylight for a couple of months. No thanks!

According to the Mirriam-Webster dictionary the phrase Cabin Fever was first coined 100 years ago. When Di and I took a year off to Canada for a year to travel, work (just a bit of that) and play we were introduced to Stan Rogers, a legend of the Canadian folk music scene. He wrote many fine songs before his tragic and untimely death when he was only thirty-three years old. His song Canol Road is an extremely evocative rendition of a man driven to madness and paranoia by cabin fever ...

Let's hope that it doesn't get us this time, eh!

While we're on the Canadiana kick, in particular the far north, one of Robert Service's poems has a very strong cabin fever flavour to it. If you're not familiar with The Shooting of Dan McGrew, it's a very early 20th century classic set in the Yukon goldfields. You can read it here, or watch and listen to it being read on YouTube ...

With a little luck, the weather will pick up significantly before the Cygnet Folk Festival rolls around in the middle of January. We have tickets and plan to take our Ultimate down for the weekend. We'll have some bike rides (even if it does rain!), listen to some music and enjoy the ambience. In the meantime, hopefully my new little mini greenhouses will make the eggplants and capsicums grow! And if the sun would only appear unveiled and share some of its power for even a few hours we will have cherries in the garden ready harvesting. Life is good.


I really like hearing back from folks after I've made a post, especially when they discover something new that they like (but also when people let me know of little glitches - spelling mistakes, bad grammar, etc that need fixing, as I am often blogging late at night and not always at my sharpest). My reasons for blogging is that it's all about sharing and having a bit of fun, so I appreciated Austra's comments about Stan Rogers and Noel Coward. Also really appreciated Graham's comments on some recent weather the people in New South Wales have been experiences. He was happy for me to use his words verbatim, so here they are:  "Last Monday my brother and I set up camp in the Snowy Mountains near Kiandra. Later that afternoon we got a monster thunderstorm, hail and lots of lightning and thunder. The same thing happened the following afternoon. Then on Wednesday we moved to Long Flat Plain. One minute it was fine and 30c, within 10 minutes the storm hit and the temp had dropped to 11c. It was still raining an hour later. So feeling somewhat shell shocked, we drove 5 hours home to assured shelter.
Each afternoon since, Sydney has experienced the most spectacular electric storms. Last Friday night I watched out our kitchen window towards the city as a lightning bolt hovered, literally for some 3 seconds, as it decided where to touch down.

"She'll Be Apples" - again
Older Australians will remember Tasmania as the "Apple Isle". That phrase hearkens back to the days when massive amounts of apples were shipped to "the auld sod", aka "THE UNITED KINGDOM". When I first arrive in Tasmania, car licence plates were still emblazoned with I've just been reading our local rag online. It seems that, thanks to China and cider making, Tasmania is becoming the Apple Isle once again.