GENERAL ARTICLES

What a Climate!

If it isn’t the heat it’s the frigidity; if you’re not parched you’re drenched; the ideal climate simply doesn’t exist

WALLACE REYBURN August 1 1938
GENERAL ARTICLES

What a Climate!

If it isn’t the heat it’s the frigidity; if you’re not parched you’re drenched; the ideal climate simply doesn’t exist

WALLACE REYBURN August 1 1938

What a Climate!

If it isn’t the heat it’s the frigidity; if you’re not parched you’re drenched; the ideal climate simply doesn’t exist

WALLACE REYBURN

THE philos opher who said, "Wea ther is the discourse of fools," was passing a rather severe criticism on everybody all over the world. Who doesn't talk about the weather? From Glasgow to Buenos Aires, from New York to Bombay, the weather is con versation starter number one.

When you go up in the elevator in the morning with that nodding acquaintance who has an office on the

floor above you, what do you say to him? Certainly not, “I was browsing through Einstein’s theory of relativity last night—it’s good stuff.” No. You say, “Lovely day,” or “Cold enough for you?” or “It looks as though summer is definitely here.” When you drop into a drugstore for a package of cigarettes, the man behind the counter gives you your change and, “Foul day, isn’t it!”

We’ve been using these g;xxl old stand-bys all our lives: “It isn’t the heat, it’s the humidity.” “It looks like rain.” “My thermometer read ten below when I left home this morning.” “This is a real summer’s day.” "What a climate!” “Lovely weather for ducks.” We’ll go on saying these same old weatherbeaten platitudes until the day we pass in our check. Discourse on the weather has been proved over hundreds of years to be the safest and most satisfactory way of starting a conversation with a casual acquaintance. I guess the reason is that it is a subject upon which each and every one of us is an authority. We’re all graduates of the University of Weather; our diploma a coat of suntan and a pair of frozen ears.

Even New Zealanders Complain

THE REALLY interesting thing about the weather is that, no matter what part of the world you go to, you’ll find that the local inhabitants complain about their climate.

Even in those countries which are supjxised to possess wonderful climates, the locals find something to moan about - except perhaps California.

But there they never complain about anything. During the depression a Californian was asked how they had lx*en

hit, and he replied, "Well, there’s no depression out here, but it’s certainly the worst boom we’ve had in years.” That’s your Californian for you.

I come from the country which is popularly accepted as having the best all-the-year-round climate in the world. New' Zealand. You know; that little country which is always an afterthought to the atlas compilers and is put on the last page.

Well, they tell me over here that New Zealand’s is the best climate in the w'orld. Having sampled a Canadian w'inter, a Ceylon summer, and many and varied climates in different parts of the globe. I’m beginning to feel that there is more than a little truth in that statement. But you should hear them complain out there about their climate! It is only when one comes away from it that one realizes just how much better it is than the climates of the majority of the other parts of the world.

New Zealand being made up of three islands, its climate

is very temperate. There are no extremes such as those of Canada; it never gets unpleasantly hot, never bitterly cold. In the north there is never any snow. Except for a faraway peek at a snow-capped mountain (which doesn’t count), I had never seen snow until I went to England, didn’t know what real snow was until I came to Canada. Poor Canada, you’re God’s frozen people!

New Zealanders play tennis and golf all the year round, are out in their gardens in summer, winter, any time. Schoolboys go off to school clad only in an open shirt and shorts, no shoes or socks. In my native Auckland the winters are sissy stuff. I remember the thrill I used to get as a boy, placing a saucer of water outside the back door on one of the rare frosty nights, and in the morning finding a thin crust of ice on top of it. That’s the nearest Auckland ever gets to a rigid winter.

Well, what on earth do New Zealanders find to complain about, you ask. At the risk of injuring New Zealand’s tourist trade, I’ll say that we have our fair share of rain and wind out there. That’s what the New Zealanders do their complaining about. Auckland is noted for its torrential downpours. The main street of the city used to be a stream, and more than once I’ve seen it revert to its former state. One day the drains in one of the side streets in the centre of the city couldn’t cope with the quantity of rainwater, and messenger boys had great fun swimming in the street. Of course you don’t believe that. Likewise you won’t believe that a train was blown clean off the rails just outside of Wellington. You’re a disbelieving sort of a person, so I won’t argue with you. New Zealand’s capital, Wellington, isn’t called "Windy Wellington” only because Parliament is situated there. It gets that nickname from the fact that it blows so hard there you have to glue your paint to your house. There’s a notice at one particular part of the highway just outside Wellington which reads, “Beware of the Wind.” Numerous cars have been blown off the road there. To which you reply, “That’s nothing; last night at my house the wind blew down the chimney.” Very funny.

One of the first things a Canadian would notice in a New Zealand city are the permanent porticoes on all the buildings. Here and there in Canada the cxJd picture theatre or store offers a canopy over its entrance, but in New Zealand all city sidewalks and even the suburban shopping centres have their permanent canopies. You can window-shop up and down any New Zealand street on the rainiest day and keep as dry as a speech at a mothers’ meeting.

Sunburned Santa Claus

HTIIE unwinterish winters of most parts of New Zealand are all very well, but they have their drawbacks. For instance, in Auckland spring doesn’t mean anything. There is no snow to be melted away by the early spring sun, all the trees are evergreen, and the countryside looks the same all the year round. When I was a lad in New Zealand, it took me quite a time to get the hang of the four seasons; in junior school, I couldn’t tell my teacher which time of the year was spring, which part was autumn. I had no budding shoots or falling leaves to guide me.

I guess that’s why New Zealand has never produced any great poets. “Autumn leaves” and "spring is here” are the very lifeblood of the poet.

And another thing which the New Zealand child can’t get straight in his mind is this Santa Claus business. Despite the fact that Christmas is in midsummer in New Zealand, they still adhere to the “Father Christmas in his sleigh over the snows” idea of Christmas.

Christmas cards all bear the traditional holly, snow-covered cottages, and so on.

You can imagine how bewildering it is to a youthful New Zealander to receive a snow-covered Christmas card, and look out of his window at the boiling sun melting the asphalt on the sidewalks.

Being a New Zealand department-

store Santa Claus is probably the most unenviable occupation in existence. Poor Santa stands there on the street corner, with the hot sun beating down on his heavy red cloak, the perspiration pouring down his face, and his beard a gory mess of cotton wool and melted glue.

This past Christmas in Canada was the first real Christmas I had ever experienced in my life. It had been a long wait before the true significance of Yuletide was brought home to me.

Shivering in England

"D EFORE I came to Canada I was warned what I was in for, as far as the climate is concerned. “If you don’t perish from the cold in winter,” I was told, “you’ll surely succumb to the heat in summer.” It was brought very definitely to my understanding that in Canada you are no sooner over the rigors of winter than you are confronted by the sweltering heat of summer. And there’s no doubt about that.

Canadians are human icebox cookies; they’re frozen, then they’re baked.

However, it must be admitted that Canadians know what they are up against with their climate, and prepare for the worst.

Britain has had her climatic worries for hundreds of years, and still they’re not doing very much about it over there. Canadians centrally heat their homes and buildings in .... r ... . ..

homes and buildings in winter, air - condition

them in summer. In Britain, convention or

tradition, or whatever it may be, decrees that nothing very much be done about counteracting the weather’s shortcomings. In the English home in winter they build a nice big open fire in their noninsulated dwelling, and think they have got the upper hand of the cold. In England it never gets anywhere near as cold as it does in this country, yet when Canadians visit the Old Country, they feel the cold much more than they do over here. My theory is that the centrally heated homes and stores and offices in Canada thaw a person out, while in England nobody ever manages to get really warm.

Of course Britain’s climate is as notorious as New Zealand’s is famous. The English weather is a standard joke, and I doubt whether such papers as Punch would exist today if there weren’t rainy summers and fog to fall back on for material. I think it was Punch that originated that famous cartoon showing a dejected Cockney and his wife and youngsters huddled under a tree. They are bedecked in all their summer holiday finery, but the rain is coming down in sheets. The Cockney turns to his wife and moans, “What a Government !”

The many English humorous columns would be at a sad loss without the weather as their stooge. Regularly each New Year one of the joke columns runs this gag: “Weather forecast for 1939—Rain.” Around springtime one of them is sure to have this old favorite: “Summer this year will be on August 27.”

What really gets the Canadian down in England is the lack of sunshine. Australians, New Zealanders, South Africans, they all pray for blue cloudless skies and bright sunshine when they go to England ; and they find that in winter one must practically say good-by to the sun for four or five months, and in the summer must be content with the sun shining none too brightly through what seems to be an ever-present haze. Even when the sun does shine in England, one can never be really sure of it. which has made Continued on page 35

Continued from page 16 -

the Englishman an all-year-round raincoat-wearing, umbrella-bearing individual.

You Can’t Have Everything

I OFTEN hear a Canadian say: “I’d

love to live in Florida or some such place where they don’t have winters.” It certainly sounds fine, but my experience is that in those countries which are winterless the summer is unbearable. I spent a winter in the south of Spain. Very, very nice. I swam in January and sunbathed in February. But when April came along, it was getting to be just a trifle too warm for comfort. By May the heat had become too much of a good thing, and I left for a milder clime.

As my train found its way out of Malaga -twenty-five minutes behind schedule—I got a fine view of gardeners, farmers, alland-sundry literally lying down on the job. Spain’s hot sun doesn’t actually make the locals complain; it just makes them so tired and listless that all they have the energy to do is to answer the boss’s query as to when they’re going to do some work, with the famous Spanish comeback, “Manana—tomorrow. ’ ’

So when Canadians are prone to criticize their climate, they should bear in mind that, though the so-called perfect climates of other lands sound wonderful at a

distance, the broiling sun of the south of Spain makes one feel about as energetic as a canned sardine; the New Zealander knows not the thrill of seeing formerly bare trees thick with delicately green spring leaves; only those Australians who can afford to visit the mountains have experienced the sheer beauty of bright sunlight on pure white snow, one of Canada’s real winter glories; those who live in Ceylon are strangers to autumn’s reds, yellows and browns.

If you think you are getting more than your fair share of rain, just remember that in Hokitika, in the South Island of New Zealand, it rains so much that I’m sure the sparrows there are born with web feet. And when the people of the Canadian prairie provinces feel that their droughts are beyond endurance, remember that in Aden, near the entrance lo the Red Sea, grandfathers take their grandchildren on their knee and tell them what rain looks like.

No climate is as bad or as good as it is cracked up to be. You can’t have everything. So in midwinter, when you pray that you’ll win a sweepstake and be able to live in Bermuda, give a thought to the fact that at the same moment a Bermudian is probably having dreams of some day being able to play in Canada’s marvellous snows !