Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Birthdays and heat

Yesterday was my birthday - a hot day here, but bearable.  My mother used to remind me quite often that the day I was born the temperature was 116 degrees, and had been around that degree for days on end.  I doubt if the overnight temperature was ever very cool either.  The maternity wing of the local hospital was a timber building with an unlined verandah in front of it.  The roof was galvanised iron, there was no such thing as air conditioning of course, and there were only 2 small fans for the whole hospital.  To cap it off, there was a baby boom and every bed (not sure how many) was occupied!  The matron of the hospital was really wonderful and they didn't lose any babies at all during the heatwave.  My mother said they used to run hoses over the roof for a lot of the day, and hang wet blankets around to get some humidity into the air.  I was born in Goondiwindi, an inland town in Queensland, with a very dry heat in the summer.
We have all got soft these days with air conditioning and lots of fans, and we still complain bitterly about the heat!  Mind you I love my fans and air conditioning as much as the next person, but I think the older generation had to be much more resilient than we seem to be today.
Certainly I am glad that the dress standards have relaxed so much.  I remember a similar heatwave in the early 1960s when I was working in Hay, a town in the Riverina area of southern inland New South Wales.  The temperature was over 110 degrees and a friend was being married, very formal wedding - the men were in dinner suits (the bridal party in tails) and the female guests were in long evening gowns and long gloves!  Of course under the evening gown we were encased in horrible garments called corselettes - a sort of boned bra which came half way down the hips, with suspenders attached to keep your stockings up!  Ugh!  I can't believe we were all so stupid - imagine how the Edwardian or Victorian ladies survived in the heat with the amount of clothing they had to wear - and how hard it must have been to wash all the garments too.
The heatwave that year did just what it is doing this year - started down south and worked its way up to Queensland.  Unfortunately it was Christmas holidays, so I followed it to Queensland, then it returned to Hay with me three weeks later!  I was very unimpressed, especially when I heard they had been so cold they had been wearing cardigans while I was away.  At least that year we did not have the appalling bushfires there have been this year.  Back then, people were allowed to clear the undergrowth each year so there was not such a buildup of fuel to make  the fires so hot.
Thank goodness in most of the fire areas, the weather conditions have eased enough to allow the firefighters to start to gain the upper hand.
Anyway I had a lovely birthday with mudcrab and oysters and a couple of glasses of wine for dinner last night - diet starts today! 


  1. Happy Birthday for yesterday Robin. Sounds like a very yummy birthday dinner.
    I can remember the hot summers in Brisbane when we were young, and liked to pop the bubbles in the bitumen on very hot days. No air con in Queensland, just open windows to let the air and the mosquitoes in.

    I can also remember the corsellettes you described. I remember my father hitting the roof because I paid three pounds for a divine lace creation to wear under my debut dress. i had it for a long time though things lasted well in those days.

  2. Happy birthday for yesterday Robin-sorry that I forgot.

  3. Happy Birthday (although belated) from me too.

    Oh yes those hot days of summers past. I still love the heat and find it so energising.

    Thanks for sharing those stories of summers in Queensland.

  4. Belated Happy Birthday Robin. Crab and oysters - yum! We have never had to face such high temperatures, but like you I think we have grown soft. There were harsher winters when my mother was young, and no central heating. Even in my youth I can remember having to scrap ice off the inside of the bedroom window to see out of it.

  5. And a very belated greeting from me too Robin. The heat has been appalling, but yes, at least life is not as much a struggle as in bygone days. I can't imagine how all those girdles and skirts would be to live with!! I've know Goondiwindi heat too, and it's not nice!! Lovely chat the other day, thank you. Still trying sitting out the heatwave under an air conditioner duct, not in the office though, damn.

  6. A fascinating insight into days gone by. Central heating has definitely made me go soft. I am curious as to why people are not allowed to clear undergrowth any more. In view of recent events it would seem a very sensible step to take.

  7. Temperatures over 110 degrees? Isn’t that too much? Aside from having our own ACs, I do agree that we also have to wear the proper outfit to keep cool. During these “hot” days, we should wear light and comfy clothes. Also, don’t go outside if you don’t have to and just stay indoors and enjoy your AC.

    -Darryl Iorio

  8. “We have all got soft these days with air conditioning and lots of fans, and we still complain bitterly about the heat!’—Indeed! The truth is, we are lucky to have this invention. Before, people used to think of their own ways in order to reduce their heat stress during those enduring days. But today, the only thing we need to do is to turn on the air con and voila! We’re already satisfied. :)

    Harold Rhoads

  9. When its hot, its really hot! There's no way we can escape it but to stay in a place with a good air conditioning system. Aside from wearing summer outfit, it is important to keep yourself hydrated. Belated happy birthday, Robin!

    -Launce Newlove


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