July is the coldest month in Wollongong, and we work in a poorly insulated building with no central heating or cooling (unless you are a computer lab). Even on the beautifully sunny days we’ve had lately it can get down to 10 degrees in the office.
That flushes out all kinds of interesting ways to stay warm. Catherine knits ferociously, Nick runs up Mt Keira, Michael wears polar fleece, Chris has a big woollen jacket, Leah keeps cycling. Jen does fieldwork in warm places and when she gets back has a very elegant black coat she can wear all day. My favourite adaptive strategies are the gorgeous assortments of scarves, shawls and beanies that emerge.
Having lived in Sweden, I know that our conditions are nowhere near really cold. But, as Chris Gibson mentioned in his recent post, that’s part of the problem. The greater Sydney region pretends winter is not really happening, and its buildings are not well designed for the cold we do get. In Wollongong we lose the sun behind our beautiful escarpment between early and mid-afternoon. And the westerly winds blowing from the desert are not warm.
So it would be good if they sealed the windows. It would be good if we could get rid of the inefficient and power-guzzling electric blow heaters. It would be good if our northern hemisphere visitors felt a little less chilly (even when we prepare them, they are always surprised at how cold it is). But we spend enough of the year sitting round in T-shirts. As we say goodbye to July, let’s enjoy the scarves, shawls and beanies while we can.