52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy and History: Week 28: Summer Down Under

The topic for Week 28 in Amy Coffin’s and Geneablogger’s 52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy and History series is: Summer. What was summer like where and when you grew up? Describe not only the climate, but how the season influenced your activities, food choices, etc.

Heading for New Zealand again? Boogie boarding in summer.

How ironic that this blog topic arrived just as we left Charleville in western Queensland on a bitterly cold morning, but then that’s the hazards of living in the Land Down Under.

I suspect somehow that summer has quite different connotations for Australians than for those overseas. I remember reading a column, years ago, by former Brisbane mayor, Sallyanne Atkinson, then a journalist for The Courier Mail. She was bemoaning the multiple responsibilities and deadlines at the end of the year, especially for the mothers in a household. Not for us two separate event schedules: summer holidays in August with leisurely times and sunshine, after completing the school year; then Christmas arriving in the cool/cold weather
and an event entirely on its own (except perhaps for Thanksgiving).

You see summer in Australia runs from December to March and so coincides with the end of the school year, school graduations and concerts, Christmas shopping in the hottest time of the year and then the long (six weeks) school holidays, New Year, Australia Day, the commencement of the next school year….all in a period of about eight weeks! Great for kids, less great for parents, making a family holiday at the beach a well-earned rest.

Christmas Holiday camping at Hastings Point in northern NSW

Of course lots of people went camping at the beach in summer but our family didn’t go away at this time of the year, and preferred off-season holidays, a habit we follow even today. Nevertheless the iconic photo image of an Aussie summer is kids at the beach in their swimsuits (aka togs, swimmers, bathers, cozzies) hopefully with zinc cream on the noses. Unfortunately many of us of a certain age, also spent too much of our time at the beach lathered with coconut oil, slow roasting our skin with resultant skin cancers as adults. I remember as a teenager getting my first bikini and going to the beach with a friend blessed with non-Celtic skin. She got a lovely tan but I ended up with major sunburn which needed treating with a mix of metho and Friar’s Balsam dabbed all over the burnt area, lots of water to drink, and a good rest…. a lesson well learned!

So did summer affect what we ate? Well not at Christmas certainly, as we dutifully followed northern hemisphere traditions of roast chicken/turkey/pork and roast vegetables in the midday heat, followed by a traditional Christmas pudding….delicious, but hardly consistent with the weather. These days many people have adapted their Christmas celebrations to
take into account the 30C+ temperatures, and more often involve seafood and salads.

At home during summer I would retreat to a cool spot under the house and eat mashed-up homemade coconut milk ice blocks from a glass. Yummy! While the traditional Queensland architecture was meant to be ideal for the hot sub-tropical summers with wide verandahs and lattice, and squatters chairs for relaxing in with a cold drink, people seemed to be too busy with chores to be just chilling out and doing nothing much. As kids in those pre-swimming-pool days we’d turn the sprinkler on in the backyard and run shrieking and squealing through its cooling jets!

A rather more tranquil Hastings Point and creek, off season

On a grander scale, summer is also cricket season with the Boxing Day test match being a “must watch” event as is the Sydney to Hobart yacht race through the treacherous waters of Bass Strait. Hence another iconic image of an Aussie summer: people glued to the TV enjoying these events.

PS Images scanned with my new Flip Pal –couldn’t be simpler!

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