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July 21, 2011 / Siobhan Argent

Confessions of a Frosty Flake

Published July 2011 at Farrago’s Batmania blog

When will I feel my fingers again?! My toes? [Sniffing, followed by a high-pitched, pathetic whine.]

Anthropologists, take note. This is the distress call commonly emitted by a species known as the Siobhaniucus Argenticus. It is, however, a rare recording, since this sound is only made during Melbourne’s harshest winters. I have a habit of complaining; my Mum told me to get over it, because she was really sick and tired of having to put up with me her entire life. Fortunately, we’re almost halfway there—through winter, not my life (touch wood). Please folks, refrain from punching me in the jaw, because then I’d have to complain about how cold I am through writing or interpretive dance. I think I’m better practised in the oral format.

What’s not to love about Melbourne in winter? Um, plenty. There’s that icy Arctic wind that pretty much kicks my ass every time I step outside at the crack of post-dawn. It’s usually the time my Irish, English and Scottish friends are whipping out the sunscreen and planning a day at the beach, but my extremities are already protesting against severe energy shortages and damning circulation drops [insert newspaper joke here]. When Melbourne gives me the cold shoulder, I resist giving it the finger, but mainly because my fingers are too frozen to move. There’s no denying it; I’m a fair-weather Melbournian. My love for this city tends to skip a beat when it comes to the colder months, and it’s not because of a jolt of affection. This is where just about every other city in Australia (except for the igloo-builders in Tasmania) can lean back in their deck chairs and gloat, because we are one of the most frigid cities in the country.

However, the oddities of Melbourne winters may also explain several discrepancies about Melbournians that make us a target for ridicule in the wider Australian community. Our often-lamented tendency to wear black, for example; we can lay the blame for that squarely on the lovely folks at Tar-jay. Sure, you can buy a colourful coat if you’re willing to fork out for the suitably colourful price tag. But where are the affordable, fitted coats that don’t make us look like a teenager on mufti day?

Melbourne also has the unfortunate problem of having the type of winter that, in comparison to the winters of Europe and northern Australia, is about as sexy as Dame Edna. Melbourne’s colder months play the role of doddering aunt to a French winter’s seductive mistress; our city does not get blanketed in a silent downpour of snowflakes, and we don’t endure sub-zero temperatures that demand the use of much thicker, more luxurious material for clothing. There are few stylish wool pullovers here. We Melbournians make-do with our featherweight single-layer trench coats, made of material that is generally le crappe du jour, and our fashion sense pays for it. Alas we are not, as the French might say, sex-zee winter folk. We are more sleepy than Wake Up Jeff and more cheaply dressed than Brynne Edelsten on Logies night.

Mind you, Melbourne cafes try their best to infuse that homely, European come-out-of-the-storm cosiness that is romanticised in just about every Mills and Boon book I—erhm, excuse me, you—have ever read. For shame, you know those things are no good for you! While you fantasise about beautiful yet rugged men keeping you warm by the fire, you’re actually sitting next to a fake fireplace under the bonny warmth of a split-system air conditioner. A big fat white one. It’s not quite the same as stoking up the fire in a medieval chateau, within moaning distance of handsome, landed gentry. Melbourne just isn’t ready for that level of commitment right now.

Fortunately, it looks like there’s nothing to fear. The way Mr Tony “Climate change is crap” Abbott sees it, we will never face the kind of temperature shifts that would bring sexier winters to our shores. So I guess when you’re leaning back in your bluestone chateau in St. Kilda, rubbing up against the buxom chest of your dainty Australian lass while a snowstorm rages outside, you’ll feel a lovely flush of warmth in being able to say: I told you so.


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