Learning how to bath with half your clothes on

2009-08-14 00:00

IF there is one thing I dislike, fiercely and consistently, it’s being cold. I just don’t do cold. There, I’ve said it.

It’s a strange thing to say, for someone who lives in the frost belt and spent many years in another centre of learning at the bottom of a cold donga between some hills, but there it is.

Grahamstown, or “The City of Saints” introduced me to all manner of life’s delights: cathedral bells, Camus and canoeing among them. I grew up in the hot interior, so it also taught me some essential life lessons for surviving the cold: wearing thermal underwear and bathing the bottom half of your body while you keep your clothes on the top half; then washing the top half with the bottom half dressed. I’d never have passed my degree without that skill.

We’d leave mugs of water out on our window sills to see if they’d freeze over during the night. They regularly did. I recall trudging miserably to early morning lectures leaving a trail of peppermint-toothpaste breath marking my progress down the hill. As I passed I’d commiserate with the plane trees, shivering in their winter nakedness, and curse the timetable that put journalism lectures in “dawn patrol” slots.

I dislike winter no less now that I’m older, a worker and parent, I just direct my early morning cursing at different things. I swear when my bare feet encounter cold floors, as I try to tell the difference between black and navy blue stockings or socks and at my absolute worst: cajoling sleepy children out from under their duvets when it’s bleak and dark outside.

Fortunately, there are some positive things about winter. I love some of the flowers that bloom in this season, like red-hot pokers, succulents and aloes, especially aloes. Every year I look forward to their pointed orangeness. My favourite displays are outside Cowan House school, along the N3 south near Camperdown and the outcrop on Cowan Road in Hilton.

The stripped-bare brownness of the winter countryside has a beauty of its own, and the sight of trees undressed against a petulant sky always moves me.

Perhaps the best thing about winter is knowing that it won’t last forever. The jasmine is out in our garden, its seductive perfume flirting with our senses and promising that warmer weather is ahead. The mulberry trees are also starting to show a stubble of pale green fuzz, which means that the silkworm spring is definitely on the way. Yippee!

I asked my colleagues to share their winter likes and dislikes. Here’s a selection of what they said.


• “Wood fires, stew, no mosquitoes and snakes.” — John Conyngham

• “The only redeeming thing about winter is the chance to re-engage with another, less familiar, aspect of your wardrobe.” — Sharon Dell

• “The couple of months in the year when you feel there is no global warming and the winter sun — it’s addictive.” – Kavith Harillal

• “The only good thing is that it’s an excuse to snuggle up with a special someone. And if you don’t have a special someone, then winter just sucks.” — Angelo C. Louw

• “Early-to-bed nights with the electric blanket on full and Wuthering Heights to keep me warm, cut-off finger gloves, hearty winter soups with dumplings, and eina-cold water to wash your face with in the morning.” — Stephanie Saville

• “Snuggling under a duvet and lots of red wine.” — Bridget Siebert

• “Carbon monoxide fumes mixed with the morning chill, the excuse to cuddle for warmth, dirty red sunsets, the glow of veld fires in the distance, beef stews, Gluhwein and electric blankets.” — Yves Vanderhaeghen

• “I love sitting in front of a crackling fireplace with a cup of hot chocolate just listening to the burning logs. And also looking out over the flickering city lights on a clear night — it’s gorgeous and you just don’t get that in summer.” — Monique Tyrer


• “Short days, fire hazards and chapped lips.” — John Conyngham

• “You struggle to get out of bed and don’t feel like doing much; and the dryness of the landscape.” — Kavith Harillal

• “I don’t like bulky winter clothes, the fact that you are always hungry, which puts you out of shape, and you can’t go out because it’s cold and miserable.” — Angelo C. Louw

• “I feel like my life stops during winter. It’s difficult to have outings as you have to snuggle indoors to keep warm. The world is so dull with dying plants and naked trees, and it’s expensive: heaters and geysers always on, and different, more expensive clothes, foods and skin lotions.” — Sonti Mahlatsi-Hlophe

• “Toe socks, going home in the dark and an icy cold toilet seat.” — Stephanie Saville

• “Snow white legs and trying to keep children warm.” — Bridget Siebert

• “Wearing layers of clothing, having to wear footwear around the house, rain and wind and cold together, short days, frozen fingers fiddling with metal, the silence of frogs at night and exercising in the cold.” — Yves Vanderhaeghen

• “I HATE getting out of bed on a cold morning.” — Monique Tyrer

Some photos from this winter...

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