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Winter chill has a purpose

  • 03 June 2015
Winter then in its early and clear stages, was a purifying engine that ran unhindered over city and country, alerting the stars to sparkle violently and shower their silver light into the arms of bare upreaching trees. It was a mad and beautiful thing that scoured raw the souls of animals and man, driving them before it until they loved to run. - Mark Helprin, Winter's Tale.

Sometimes it's just too cold to go for a walk by yourself.

Sometimes facing the dried-up Autumn’s end leaves and icy grass is a task requiring the best of mates. To share a joke with, to egg on, to keep apace with – another breathing human alongside you to bear witness to the barbaric temperatures and resist being stared down by them.

In summer I happily surrender to a broad blue sky, breathe in endless supplies of warm air, and soak up the sun that falls on my bared shoulders.

I feel free to dawdle to enjoy a pretty scene, stop to watch something of the slightest interest, casually sip a cold drink or bite an ‘icy pole’ (also known as an ‘ice block’ in my home state of NSW).

These pleasures are for summer. That sticky, effortlessly sexy season that is my favourite – more so since I moved to Melbourne, where a hot summer day has become a special treat bordering, in my mind, on a near-sacred experience.

But there are pleasures in winter too, and much as I hate the cold I can't hate the season entirely. It comes pre-packaged with its own treats. Huddling together with friends knowing you're close to freezing your proverbials off but still being out there anyway. Eating hot meat pies at the football while wearing two pairs of socks, your team's scarf and maybe a goofy woollen beanie.

That's when you are reminded most of the warmth of friends – of a good joke, a good conversation, a shared memory that sparks something warm inside you. That’s when getting in the spirit of whatever you're doing becomes a matter of survival – a group warmed by mutual enthusiasm to ignore how damned freezing it is. You decide you must love what you're doing or you wouldn't be there, sacrificing your comfort to the elements.

The hot drinks, the comforting winter fare of steaming casseroles, rich pasta dishes, hearty soups, spicy curries. Winter makes you crave warmth with every fibre of your being.