The Cold

A Facebook friend once cursed the misguided decision by Allan
Cunningham to discover the Darling Downs – not because it’s a bad place but
because it just gets so damn cold in winter.

I’m reminded of this observation every time I go home between
about May and August. It must have been summer when the European explorers
wandered through what would later become Toowoomba because there’s no way
they’d build a city there in July. There are frostier parts of the country,
hell even in Queensland there are places that snow, but there’s something about
Toowoomba that makes it just so bitterly cold. I think it’s the wind and the
rain. It’s a cold that shoots right into your bones. It’s impossible to shake
the chill once it sets in.

It doesn’t help either that a lot of the buildings here in
Queensland aren’t built for the cold. I’m sure down south they build their
homes accordingly but up here I suppose most of the emphasis is on the heat
during summer. It makes sense of course because it does get bloody hot in this
part of the world but it leaves places like Toowoomba out in the cold, as it
were, come winter. Anyway those British settlers were probably used to worse
weather. I do wonder how the indigenous people of the Darling Downs coped in
winter – maybe by taking off to the coast around a fire. That’s what I do.

I was very lucky that my childhood home has a fireplace. I
spent a fair amount of my winters growing up learning how best to start a fire,
keep it going and save it when it’s almost dead. It’s one of my favourite
things to do now when I go home. This last week I was cat sitting while my
parents were away and Kitty and I pretty much parked ourselves next to the fire
all week. Me writing or tackling my pile of DVDs, Kitty on my lap. Not a bad
way to live life.

My parents don’t use the fire much anymore. They chuck on the
reverse cycle air con or make a hot water bottle and go to bed. Kitty is like
an extra hot water bottle and sticks pretty close to Mum. Partly they steer
clear of the fireplace because it’s a bit of a hassle but I think it’s also
something more – you don’t notice just how cold Toowoomba is until you leave.

Sure I always knew it was a cold place growing up. But since
moving away, every time I come back it the cold seems that much more potent.
Last week I only went outside when absolutely necessary, which pretty much
meant running outside quickly to stock up on wood for the fire. I considered
cancelling plans with friends when they suggested we go out for dinner because
the night air is killer. I had to be seriously desperate before I moved away
from the fire, even for food or toilet breaks.

This wasn’t how I was brought up! I could get around without
socks and spent many windy days on sporting ovals taking photos. It never fazed
me. Sure it was cold, but that’s just the way it was. Even now in Brisbane I
can get around in shorts when my girlfriend has five layers on. She lived in
Toowoomba for a few years but she still can’t handle it when we go back.

Looking over this, it seems like I’m complaining about the
cold. Here’s the thing though – I’m not. I actually love it. I’d have winter
all year round if I could. I love all the winter stuff, making the fire, going
to bed early, not going outside. Maybe it’s because of where I grew up or maybe
it’s just me. And I suppose I have Allan Cunningham and friends to thank for

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