September 20. September in Adelaide is the last month of the year in which we hope to receive a reasonable amount of rain. Our mean rainfall for the first month of spring is 2 inches or 50 ml. Bear in mind that our annual rainfall is 525ml. (21 inches). Some say South Australia is the driest state in the driest continent in the world. It sure feels like that at the moment.
This year, our winter rainfall was only 60 % of the average. You can see this in the hardness of the soil when you dig. Summer lies ahead with those challenging weeks of furiously high temperatures and no rain.
I returned from our recent trip up north acutely aware of the devastation that the drought has had on the countryside. So I started watching the 28-day forecast of possible rain that is produced by Elders Weather – hoping for rain for the stations we had returned from. They get their rain from monsoonal troughs arriving from the north. And in the last few days, one arrived.
Witchelina, Farina and the Marree area received close to 100ml of rain (4 inches). The Flinders Ranges recieved a little less. Flood warnings were broadcast with images of swollen creeks. A godsend. Our ABC news was full of the wonder of this record downpour, as farmers rejoiced.
So we waited in Adelaide, hoping for the meagre 20 mm (1 inch) that was forecast for last Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The clouds were dark but no rain fell … a few showers passed south over Kangaroo Island. I started watering the garden again.
Today, Sunday, the skies were full of sound and fury and once more in anticipation I examined the local radar – a narrow band of orange, red and black approached us from the west. We got some rain! Only 5ml over half an hour, but so very welcome.
Later, I walked out in the dark to set our two feral cat traps (yes, we are trapping feral cats with help from our council) and the bush seemed to be singing.
Post no 14. August 17. We are well behaved in this rural part of the country; masks are universal and even in the little village shop when the postmaster hands me my morning paper, I don a face shield. So far there is no sign of the virus erupting again, as it has in West Yorkshire, not so far away. The local hospital has not had a death since June 18th.
Some of the restrictions are proving frustrating. I saved Rishi Sunak £100 by taking all my grandchildren and parents to a wonderful tapas restaurant last week on a Thursday, just missing the £10 a head gift. The food was excellent as always (far better say the Spaniards whom I have taken there, compared to what they get at home) but the complex ordering system made me cross.
The menu was on the internet, so I printed off copies for everyone to save time. However we could not simply tell the shielded waitress what we wanted, but had to download the menu and an ordering system from a mobile app. As we were spread over two tables there had to be two orders and drinks were also online. The whole ordering process took 45 minutes but the waitress finally relented and accepted a drinks order before we had entered it on the mobile. Payment had to be made before the order could be sent to the kitchen; later the whole process was restarted for the ice creams etc that the children wanted.
Like many people I am still a little uncertain about the regulations; I may well have been breaking them when my wife and I went to the beach at Sandsend, a little village north of Whitby. On a lovely sunny day we joined our grandchildren for a light lunch on the terrace of their holiday house and then in deckchairs on the beach. But what a wonderful orgy of nostalgia it was, as I used to go to that same beach 75 years ago just after the war. However the young now have 21st century equipment such as wet suits and surf boards and are far more active than I ever was.
The weather has been far cooler than in the south of England and as a result our harvest has barely started. However those farmers that have combined, report low yields of poor quality barley – fit only for cattle feed rather than milling for food (or beer). Straw is very short and stubby so the income from this will be negligible. Wheat has still to be harvested and the potatoes are being drenched by huge irrigation pipes.
As ever, our local church has been slow to restore normal operations. It provides one Zoom service on Sundays for all four parishes in its benefice and a live one in the biggest church; it then lets the local churchwardens open up their churches for private prayer an hour once a week. No plans are given for full live services in the three smaller churches.
Aug 1. Spring has not arrived. Of course. We are still in deep winter – whatever ‘winter’ is in South Australia, but there are tentative indications that it’s not far away. One of the natural events we watch for is the first flowering of the golden wattle, Acacia pycnantha . The golden wattle is Australia’s national floral emblem and is common around Adelaide. When the small tree flowers, it is covered in a profusion of bright golden bubbles. The valley next to us turns into a sea of gold.
Yesterday, I noticed the first wattle tree flowering.
We have not had any rain for a month which is not good news. This is the time of the year that we count every mil. There is a theory that the pattern of rainfall has moved south 200 kms in South Australia which means, over time, we will get less rain. Our next rain is predicted for 5th August. We are planning a trip north to the Flinders Ranges (500kms north of Adelaide) in three weeks’ time and the news is that the Flinders Ranges are experiencing a serious drought. It has barely rained for four years.
Friends of ours have just returned from a camel trek in the Northern Flinders. For two weeks they walked through remote country, sleeping in the open in ‘swags’ (a sort of cross between a small tent and a sleeping bag). All the food, water etc was carried by the camels. My friends said that you had to learn to be careful of not being kicked. Camels can kick forwards and backward! They said there was barely any sign of animal (or bird) life. Bones of kangaroos lay everywhere. Very depressing.
I noted that the 14-day weather forecast predicts a day or so of rain (60% chance of 15ml) in the Flinders Ranges. This would make all the difference.
Another hint of spring crossed our driveway in front of my car: an eastern beared dragon (Pogona barbata). The dragon is a kind of large lizard with an intimidating beard which it puffs out when threatened. This lizard was obviously taking advantage of the abnormally warm weather to have a quick feed. Not a good sign as sometimes the brown snakes will come out in mid-winter.
It is strange how much time we spend looking at the weather now: more so than before Covid-19. Perhaps, this is because we are spending time outside walking and enjoying the environment whatever the weather, with or without beared dragons.
I feel time is playing tricks, behaving like an elastic band. Time seems to have stretched out: it feels like forever since we were enjoying ourselves in Paris. Now each week dissolves, leaving hardly a trace. I have finished my nightly meetings with Alec Guinness in his “positively final appearance”, but a bit from the December chapter stuck in my mind. “The days, they say, are drawing out. All that strikes me is that in spite of the slowing up of time, the weeks gallop apace; Sunday comes sharp on the heels of Sunday.”
At first, it seemed that enforced isolation would have one positive aspect. Time without without socializing, shopping, travelling or hosting travelling friends would free up time to address some of those things one can always find a reason to leave for another day, month or year. There is the basement, never sorted out after moving, and the perfect thing to do during the winter months of which Canada has so many. Then there is the idea of learning and doing something new – writing a children’s book based upon a doll that belonged to my daughter. When rescued from the garbage and cleaned up, he looked just fine as the main character for a story – perfect for spring creativity and increased energy. Spring would also be a good time to address some landscaping at the front of the house, of which there is really none. And then there are all those bookcases full of books, in fact, a whole library of unread books, good at any time of the year. However, there is another side of COVID confinement – no cleaning help. Now too much time is filled with cleaning a rather large house, and Monday comes sharp on the heels of Monday as the dust rolls down the halls and the cleaning cycle starts up again. No new tasks get taken up.
Right at the moment, time seems to be collaborating with its colleague, the weather. Early summer arrived with 30 degree days several weeks ago, but down jackets have been donned again, and tonight the temperature will descend to 6 degrees. As Ontario has begun to open up further, although cases are still not falling consistently, the weather seems to be intimating that it is April or perhaps early May in COVID time, and too soon to be tossing aside so many precautionary measures. I read a comment today that COVID is very young as a virus, mere months old, and we have hardly gotten to know it. Nonetheless, the more than three months of self-isolating feel much longer: time is still playing its tricks.
28 May. So far we have been told to take our exercise close to home (really, Dominic) and I have obeyed that instruction. The brakes seem to be coming off somewhat so I ventured down to the Hove seafront today. It is officially half term for the schools and normally we would see thousands of tourists on the beach-front but the town councillors warnings to people to stay away from Brighton and Hove seem to have had effect – even in the glorious weather we are enjoying.
There were quite a few people on the beach and in the sea – but distances more than respected – and the same went for the promenade (and not a mask in sight). It was more than a very relaxed and pleasant experience; it was so normal; it was a joy! .
People had also returned to their beach huts and there was an unusual amount of DIY going on. Quite a few are scruffy and one wonders why some people don’t sell their huts if they clearly haven’t used them for years. They sell for something between £16,000 and £25,000. High price to pay! Anyway, hot owners out in force, with their deck chairs and picnic tables hauled out and the kettles on – and much sun worshipping in evidence.
Much to my surprise, Hove lagoon café was open for take-away after being closed since lock-down. Hurry on over! Chips on the beach – new special treat. Another joy! Really. Nothing like a pleasure denied and then allowed.
Table tennis being played but lagoon and children’s playgrounds and paddling pool not in use. I miss the sound of small children playing.
Cyclists much in evidence as usual and it is worth noting that the line-up of bicycles provided by the Council had been added to – and there were lots of newly painted cycle lanes on the way to the beach.
What I had sorely missed was just looking at the sea. We have lived near the sea for more than half our lives and I never tire of contemplating the waves and the sun playing on the water. Such bliss to be able to indulge such a simple pleasure again.