SAD. I used to discuss it with a wise and lovely woman who was once my boss, but is now my beautiful friend. We came to the conclusion that I had it – seasonal affective disorder – not badly, just a small dose. She advised me what to do about it. Winter weighed me down. Winter ate into my joints and my summertime sunny self struggled to get out. I became flat in the classroom. When the sun was shining in through the windows I’d bounce around, engaging with wackiness and unpredictability. It was so much harder in the cloudy chillsome months to get myself up, in both senses of the word, for a day fronting my cherubs.
But then I cruised on up the coast of Mangoland, retired and moved south with, as a result, the SAD in my life dissipating. Where once I dreaded the turning of the leaves, the cranking up of another footy season and moving from white to red in my wines, they became something to take to with some relish. Now the air off the Great Southern Ocean, if brisker, seemed lighter than when the westerlies blew in on northern environs – and don’t even mention those from the direction of the Tasman. It’s as if the Bass Strait salted brine was gathered up, on the air currents, to make the air thicker, coarser – seemingly confining my world and hunkering me down. Down here there’s a more nuanced tone to the winter atmosphere – it’s discernibly colder, but more alluring to the senses in spite of that.
I see now there is much to celebrate as autumn hands over to the darker days. Salads and spritzers are retired and replaced with roasts, hearty stews and darker ales. There’s a wood fire when I am on house sitting duties at Bridport and around this seaside ville there’s nothing quite as bracing as a beach walk to make one feel alive. Back home, one day we might have the Bridgewater jerry embracing the city in its whispy Siberian fingers, with the next seeing the atmosphere crystal clear, exposing a heavy layering of snow on kunanyi. If there’s icing as well atop Dromedary, out the back, then I know it’s going to be a four layer day rather than three – and that’s fine too. There are snugs in pubs where I can savour craft cider and beer, as well as my favourite cafés for a caffeine hit.
For a time, not so long ago, it seemed Hobart only came alive for the summer, remaining a backwater the remaining three seasons. Now, with the advent of Dark Mofo, a heady mix has been added to the numerous warmer weather festivals. I don’t think I’d ever freeze my goolies at the soltice nuddy swim or parade around an art gallery starkers, but there’s plenty for the less adventurous too. So all year round we, these days, find the CBD, the docks and Salamanca alive with activity. And I am out and about, too, at the time when the puffer jacket is king. With my favourite beanie pulled down low, my Mack boots – too stingy for Blunnies – replacing my treasured crocs and four layers adorning upper body, I may not be fashionable, but I’m ready for action – at a sedate pace, mind you. These wintry days, with single digit temps and exhaling frostified breath, I’m as happy as whoever Larry was.
And now that I can afford it, there’s an excursion, around the time the winter sun signals the solstice, to look forward to. It’s across the Strait to annually take in some Yarra City offerings. Usually I’m keen for the NGV Winter Masterpiece. Can’t wait for this year’s – Van Gogh. There’s footy at the ‘G or Etihad and there’s just wandering the streets, taking in the hipsters and the rest of the cosmopolitan mix, forever pointing my camera at something of interest. It’s no wonder that this city is considered by experts to be the world’s most liveable – and I cannot but agree with Clare Boyd-Macrae’s declaration that her city is at it’s most comely in the winter months.
But I have my own theory on liveability. Sorry Ms CBM – sure Melbourne’s great in winter, but thanks to Hobs, I’m not SAD anymore.