Living in The Wok.
My car, at lunchtime today, parked down town, told me it was 41 degrees. As I got on the road it came down to 36 which is still a bit warm, but about typical for summer here in the part of the sub-tropical north affectionately known as The Wok. Lismore is in a shallow bowl of a river flat surrounded by a jump-up to the east and hills to the west. We are too far from the ocean to have sea breezes, but the hills divert the afternoon nor-easter that tempers this temperate climate.
That heat (and its floods) are part of the fabric of this town. It results in a local casual dress that is eschews shoes and sleeves. Homes are built on stilts and have sleep-outs and ceiling fans. My ceiling fans are on from December 1 until the last day of February. Not deliberately, but more often than not it’s to the day.
Last summer was extreme. In February, preparing for the Shadowing Tom exhibition I was fitting out paintings in 45 degree heat. I had to work at arms distance from the table, so I didn’t drip perspiration onto the paintings. That’s the hottest I’ve ever been in Lismore. Here, the daytime summer temperatures are in the thirties , but the humidity will kill you as soon as look at you. I can be in a shed in Blackall way up in Queensland when it’s 40 degrees and feel a bit warm. Get off the plane back here with the temperature only 28 but if a storm is in the offing, I’m ready to turn right back.
To air-con or not – that is the question.
This summer, someone offered me a portable air-conditioner. I’d had one in Gundy fitted into a studio window. I needed it there, I never felt it was warranted here. I just sort of just suffered through the warmer months: wearing less, perspiring more; taking longer lunches in the heat of the day; losing an occasional day when heat-ravaged sleep created brain fogged progress; putting blinds and umbrellas over windows; moving my bed nearer the window so the night air would seep in; noticing that as soon as Autumn happened that things became easier, productivity increased again.
I was adamant that I didn’t need air-conditioning. I was tough enough, I said, to live through summer when I’d lived and worked in hotter places. I had strategies in place. I could cope. But then I realised I was doing myself a disservice. The days of being too uncomfortable to work were days lost. Lazing around reading under the fan were all very well for those with the luxury to spend a day going slower. This is not effective business practice. Other businesses had come to that conclusion years ago. I wasn’t helping myself or anyone else by wining the red-faced-perspiration challenge. All I was doing was trying to fit one more job into my already congested life. The job of being hot. There weren’t enough hours in my day as it was. I accepted the offer of the air-con unit. And this summer I’ve used it about 3 days. It did make those days more effective rather than me melting quietly in the corner, when’ll my competitors calmly went about their business not even noticing the heat.
Not a bad thing.
It’s stood me in good stead spending all those years in extremely hot places. It’s given me a weather tolerance bench mark, a sort of climate fortitude, that allows me to work through instead of flailing as soon as it gets too uncomfortable. Come the apocalypse I’m sure this will stand me in good stead. And that’s not me saying there are days in Lismore, in summer, that are as hot as hell.