Memories of cold

I’m an intolerant little frog. The past day and a half in Brisbane has been overcast and/or raining, cold, wet and miserable. Top temperature yesterday of 14° and we’ve only just made it to 14° again so far today.

This is the kind of weather I remember from my days at school in Melbourne’s winter, where for days on end the sun was obscured by a thick blanket of grey cloud, and everything smelled damp, even if there was no rain. Never one for much in the way of natural insulation, I wrapped my lanky frame in layers of clothes, but still my long fingers tended to whiten and develop that slightly blue, pinched look of unremitting cold. I remember racing to get the seats in my classes closest to the heater, and the spot at the barre at ballet class every day, directly under one of the huge gas radiators that pumped warmth throughout the draughty hall.

Of course it wouldn’t take long at ballet to work up a comfortable sweat, even in the coldest months of the year, but still I always reverted to the heat sources, convinced that my muscles would tighten and be at risk of injury if I allowed any part of my body to cool. During the early 1980s there was even a fashion in dance of wearing “plastic pants” – made from thin, acrylic, stretch material that we wore with a waist elastic so the top was folded down over the hips. The idea was that the “plastic” would keep our leg muscles warm and loose – crucial for the long, controlled and remarkably difficult tests of flexibility in the adagio, and the “big jumps” of the allegro sections of class. I doubt if the reasoning was sound, but I happily bound my body in these plastic pants, and all matter of other binding techniques, in the hopes that the warmth and sweat would have the dual effect of protecting muscles, and keeping my weight down.

All this, and many other memories of cold from my childhood seem to be communicating one thing: I really enjoy warmth, and really hate the cold. Enveloped as I am today in a high-necked skivvy, with the fan heater on full blast, and the oil heater radiating warmth, I’m still wrapping my long, white fingers around hot cups of tea in order to keep my slim frame from shivering.

I think I have had enough of winter. Come on Brisbane, bring on summer.

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