It was around March last year when I first came up to the Ridge to check out the school. I stopped at the Crocodile Caravan Park (which did, apparently, once have a little croc in its pool) and rented a caravan with a weedy aircon jammed into the window. It was the end of summer and climbing on the mattress in that caravan was like lying on a soft, hot brick.
The winter that followed was long, cold and wet, but here and now – on the first of February – that seems like a distant memory.
As I type this (at 3.26pm, with the swampy churning away in the background) there is a maintenance guy working on the roof above me, fixing the neighbour’s aircon. Respect.
I took the bike for a run down the Colly road, past the few hardy souls dipping themselves in the bore baths (obviously they’re not hot enough and need a boost). The wide, flat fields on the southern side of the road have been sown following last year’s big harvests. Surface dust spins across the chocolate-brown soil. Road kill desiccates by the bitumen.
I dawdled back into town and stopped at Morillas for a coffee. Some blokes prepping us for the NBN were there, whinging (in a good natured way) about the heat. One thing that the heat does is to give us something to talk about as a community, something other than Donald Trump or Beyonce’s twins. Everyone joined in with either “Oh my God, I know, this is hell!” but, mostly, “Pfft. This is nothing.”
I’m with the latter group. It’s easy to think that this is as hot as it’ll get, but the northern hemisphere label “summer” fails to understand the Australian inland. It can, and probably will, still be in the 40s at the end of March. The bitumen clings to the soles of my thongs when I walk down the road and my car’s tyres make a peculiar singing sound from the heat. The water that comes out of the cold tap is almost too hot to bathe in and so people turn the water heater off and get the cold water from the hot tap.
I was thinking about the early opal miners in Ion Idriess’s book. Christ, it must have been murderous back in the day. But it’s February, “summer”. It’ll be here for a while more yet.