Is summer or winter better? I’m not sure weather I like either…

A typical winter’s day in Melbourne (image: South, The Age)

Every six months I find myself having the same debate.

Which season is more unbearable: summer or winter?

My opinion unsurprisingly changes like the weather.

In the hotter months of the year I refuse to leave the house. Such is the ferocity of the sun – and that bloody hole in the ozone layer – that a quick stroll to pick up the morning paper can leave me with a killer headache. I often find myself trying to remember the sweet smell of rain.

Yet midway through the year, when the clouds begin to smother the sun, I can’t help but count down the days until December. While attempting to shrug off the symptoms of hypothermia, there’s nothing I desire more than a return to the 46-degree season.

Incidentally, public opinion on climate change wavers in much the same way. Challenge a sceptic about global warming on a hot day and they’ll be bumbling for excuses; ask the same person in the middle of July and they’ll taunt you with “where’s your climate change now?” jibes.

As a Melbournian, conversations about the thermometer are a daily occurrence. Few of us open up our internet browsers to the sight of Google or Facebook; the Bureau of Meteorology website is our unanimous choice of home page.

Some claim we get the best of both worlds down here. For every stinking hot day, we experience a romantic foggy haze; for every heavy deluge, we are treated to a sun-soaked afternoon of bliss.

But I believe the classic ‘four seasons in one day’ cliché is a far more apt description; the one-liner is not just a pretty piece of rhetoric. For much of the year, sunny mornings seldom remain true to themselves by midday and hailstorms rarely last more than a few minutes.

The only exceptions come at the polar ends of the weather cycle.

In the month of February, we can endure 24 hours of hellfire. If we’re lucky, the mercury is only brave enough to hit the mid-30s. Unfortunately, it often seems determined to rise to meet the ‘total fire ban’ prerequisites.

On days like these, we only have two options: stay inside under the air-conditioning and exhaust our electricity bills, or work our tans on the beach and contract skin cancer.

February, of course, doesn’t get on everybody’s nerves. There are no shortage of sun junkies in Melbourne, who believe summer is a perfect excuse for an ice-cream, a cold beer or a sleep in the bath. I personally believe those pursuits are just as enjoyable in the colder months, for the same reason that BBQs are no more pleasant in winter than they are summer.

If the peak of summer seems unrelenting, the winter months are even less flexible. On a daily basis someone from my household can be seen sweeping leaves off all the drains within a one-kilometre radius, just in case our home gets hit by yet another flash flood.

When May becomes June, my scarf becomes a permanent fixture around my neck. As June turns into July, my body is transfixed into a state of goosebumps. By the time July rolls into August, I have forgotten what my fingers feel like.

The only fans of winter tend to be AFL supporters. If you ask them whether they’d enjoy the footy just as much were it to take place in summer, they’re most likely to mention something about the cricket or tennis. It’s a reasonable argument, until you see those very same people shivering in their ponchos as they rush from the MCG to the train station.

Yes, I know our winters are weak compared to those in Siberia and that Eastern Europeans would give an arm and a leg to soak in the radiance of a 10-degree afternoon.

And yes, I realise our brief flirtation with 40-degree has nothing on the tropical humidity experienced by equatorial nations like Kuwait.

Regardless, 36 degrees Celsius – the difference between our coldest and hottest days last calendar year – feels like a significant differential. It’s this that makes the opposite ends of the year so unbearable to our sensitive Melbournian bodies.

As we approach another period of prolonged coldness, I’m tempted to put down my metaphorical pen and conclude that summer is the greater season. Yet if I were to do so, I know I’d be shaking my head come New Year’s Day, wondering what on earth I was thinking.

Perhaps then it’s best to not pick a favourite season at all. Instead, let’s celebrate the fact that we’re only 74 days away from the inoffensive neutralities of spring.

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