Hugh Finlay* had always loved winter. But as he aged the love lessened. Aching joints and low light and a substantial disagreement with physical activity added to the strains of life.
Endless cups of tea, reverse-cycle air conditioners set to 21 degrees, and whisky, in that order, warmed the portion of his soul that lived on the surface. In Hugh's mind there was no need for regular exercise.
As a child, Hugh didn't often feel the cold.
When he did, crowding a Vulcan oil heater set on low unhurriedly repelled any feelings of cold. The oil heater was slow to light and even slower to warm.
The Vulcan's only redeeming feature was the oil tank that had to be periodically filled. A thick black hose snaked from a truck on the nature strip to the tank by the back door.
It was worth watching; an event for a youngster fascinated by workers and their jobs. The smell and taste of those moments regularly returned, triggered when filling up with diesel at the service station.
The oil heater was eventually replaced by a gas heater. The process was quicker and the heat more instant, but the low setting was retained. Afterall, frugalness required additional hand-me-down clothing, not unnecessary expenses.
The warmth radiated just enough to take the chill off the Deep Heat and Penetrene liniment mixture that was massaged on spindly legs prior to kicking off the frost and dew each Saturday morning at the local oval.
If Hugh told his mum that he felt the cold she quickly reassured and encouraged him to "put on a jumper". That was always the solution.
More than 30 years later Hugh often reflected upon those times. His children displayed proficiency with remote controls, so an additional layer of clothing was rarely required.
"The difference between winter and summer is a jumper," Hugh said to himself out loud. "What a cracking line. Better check it's an original," he queried.
Hugh remembered that Scottish comedian, actor and author, Billy Connolly had said: "There's no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothes."
He wondered what Mr Connolly made of the Alanis Morrissette hit, Ironic, and the lyric: "It's like rain on your wedding day".
"That's not ironic. Get yourself dungarees and a Mackintosh. Sure, they're lovely in white," Hugh could hear him muse.
Hugh still loved the beach in winter, beautiful in its unpredictability, as the weather washed up all manner of things. The rhythmic subtleness of little waves and the potential of big oceans.
Seaweed that made him think of ice cream. Wind attacking and blowing sand at his legs and face like sandpaper.
The noise of the retractable dog lead when the wind made it vibrate and the family terrier turned his face to avoid the blast.
Driftwood, weather beaten, and water hardened, that dried with a stiff breeze and burned with a flaming hunger.
Shells that told stories of the sea far more authentically than air pods and podcasts. He continually pondered whether the old pier would be rebuilt.
This wasn't exercise, it was necessary. A regular expedition where the fruits of his labour would eventually be burned or thrown out without discussion.
Hugh loved the drive to the beach - it was his reward. Even the occasional motion sickness of the children, which only an emergency stop for ginger beer would quell, filled him with fondness.
Music consumed the speakers.
Two members of the family always found time to sleep while one would keep company and watch for matters of interest to discuss with randomness whilst sipping a can.
Hugh remembered every stretch of road and every corner, they were familiar. Some corners triggered memories of coming upon accidents.
Some of witnessing near misses. He always slowed down as a result.
"How long 'til we get there?" rarely provoked annoyance because it could be answered with accuracy.
And each time the town's welcome sign approached the children would stir for fish and chips.
After a brief workshop Hugh often gave in - it was his favourite meal as a child and the smell of the deep-fryer stirred fond memories.
By Sunday afternoon it was time to pack up and leave before the wildlife ventured out to feast just after dusk. Hugh insisted on calling the wildlife macropods. It wasn't necessary, but it made him sound experienced and practical. His family didn't agree.
The rubbish bin was put out and returned by a trusty neighbour. In an untrustworthy world Hugh found "old school" behaviour comforting.
Hugh often informed people that he had "a house by the beach and a shack in the city". A local at the Bridport Golf Club, following a four-hour round that lasted another four in the bar, told him that line and he was sticking to it.
"Maintain your membership or there won't be a club when we retire," another said.
"I'll do that next weekend when we're down, a good winter task," Hugh Finlay reminded himself.
*Names changed for privacy reason.
- Brian Wightman is a former Tasmanian Attorney-General and school principal.
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