We Sydney-siders are in denial.
We’re proud of our outdoor way of life – all warm and sub-tropical. We like to think we live at the beach, in the pool, on the verandah, around the barbecue.
If a city wore clothes, Sydney would be in shorts and a T-shirt. Or a summer dress with sandals.
Melbourne? She’s all layers: overcoats, scarves, gloves and beanies.
But guess what? Mid-winter in Harbour City is absolutely freezing. The minimum temperature is a single figure; the westerly winds are fresh and biting and I can’t help but wonder about my fellow Sydney-siders.
Why are so many of them under-dressed?
Coming out of the supermarket the other day, bracing myself against the wind, a large shapeless figure in black walked towards me. It was an older woman in a knee-length coat with a knitted woolen scarf wrapped several times around her neck. Ours was a brief encounter – she was leaving, I was arriving – yet she saw in me a fellow traveler. Another sensible woman. An enlightened one.
I was also wearing a buttoned-up coat, long enough to cover my bottom, and a scarf wound several times around my neck. (A friend told me recently he attributes his immunity to winter colds and flu to his constant wearing of scarves.)
The woman addressed me briefly as we passed each other. “Australians!” she said in an Italian accent, “They no wear warm clothes. Is cold today. They no wear proper things.”
“I know!” I said, in complete agreement. “Exactly!” I loved her immediately.
It’s something I’ve been on about for a while. At the radio station recently, young women came to work in summery tops and ballet flats. Ballet flats! No socks, no distance between the sole of a barefoot and the icy cold, sometimes wet, concrete pavement. What are they thinking?
Have they not yet learned to appreciate the simple joy of warm feet and sensible shoes?
I love the carefree confidence a pair of comfortable, rubber-soled, water-resistant shoes can give. It’s sad but true that one of my greatest pleasures is walking in the rain while staying warm and dry.
Teenagers, of course, have a special exemption from the Dress Appropriately Rule. They have little or no understanding of the seasons, when the southerly’s due, or the way a warm day can turn into a chilly night. They only wear singlets as outerwear and taking a raincoat is being ridiculously fussy.
Yesterday up the road, I saw a man wearing shorts and a T-shirt. He wasn’t a youngster and he just looked plain cold. It was 10 degrees.
He’s one of the many wrong-dressers I’ve seen this winter.
A woman in a sleeveless dress and plunging neckline made me a sandwich in a take-away shop.
It must be warm work in any weather, but I wondered how on earth she makes it through the summer if this is what she wears to work in winter.
In offices and on the street, I’m seeing women in thin cotton drapey tops with thin knitted shawl-y cardigans over the top. No buttons. No way of keeping body heat in and the elements out.
Driving behind a bloke on a bicycle, I could see the cold airlifting the back of his T-shirt.
I shivered at the thought of his uncovered kidneys and had to restrain myself from leaping out at the next set of lights and tucking in his shirt.
And don’t get me started on cafes that keep the doors open and the heating off so everyone sits inside in their outdoor clothes, hunched over their steaming cups.
Seriously Sydney-siders, for god’s sake face your reality. It’s WINTER.
Put on something made from wool (preferably cashmere), a coat that covers your bum and does up at the front, a scarf and some warm shoes and socks or tights.
Give up the idea of long lazy summer days for a few months.
And come to terms with the fact that it’s cold outside. You might even start to enjoy it.