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In the cold, cold night

Aotearoa has been a bit frigid these days. We're currently under a spell of 'southerlies' ever since the big storm that nearly blew our roof off. Speaking of the roof, the insurance appraiser came by two days after the storm and said that they would cover the cost of replacing our roof!!! If that is in fact the case, which I'm still a bit dubious about, then what a blessing in disguise that would be.

Back to our current climate phenomenon. Southerlies are freezing cold winds that come roaring directly from Antarctica. Antarctica being our neighbor to the south which is known as the coldest, windiest, driest, most inhospitable place on Earth. A southerly reminds me of that biting cold that I remember from growing up on the east coast. It's still nowhere near the bitter, bitter cold of a February or March day in Philadelphia. Nevertheless, it's been highly unpleasant to be outside for any extended period of time.

Another fun factoid: southerlies can and do happen at anytime of year, including summertime.

How can we stand it, you say? Thanks to our blessed new house we have central heating. Central heating, by god! To most, that will sound as if I'm ecstatic that we have running water. Or that we have electricity. Sadly here in New Zealand central heating is an utterly foreign concept. To wit, a kiwi friend, who shall remain anonymous, once said to me "My parents have central heat. They have a heater in their lounge which is right in the center of their house" ...okay...hmmm...yeah...see...how do I explain this?

There was a newspaper article [download an OCR version of the article] not too long ago that covered this dirty kiwi secret. Here are some of the more damning quotes:

One flat averaged just two degrees celsius [35F] in winter, which means its occupants would have been warmer sleeping in their fridge.
In most Western countries, the average inside temperature is kept at about 20 degrees celsius. Here, the average bedroom temperature in winter is about 14C - two degrees below the World Health Organisation (WHO) minimum temperature of 16C.
"When the southerly goes through here it feels as cold as it did in the middle of winter in Canada."
"Heating really is a luxury in New Zealand, which seems wrong to me. Buying three bottles of wine is a luxury; having a warm house shouldn't be."

That last quote is the line that I've always gotten from kiwis about why there is no heating in New Zealand homes: It's a luxury. A Range Rover is a luxury, people. A plasma screen TV is a luxury. A fur sink is a luxury. Heat is a basic necessity of life.

However, I'm now beginning to understand. Our gas bill from last month was $500. Now that is a luxury! But it is WORTH it!!!! I absolutely cannot tolerate being freezing cold in my own home. We have friends here who are fully bundled up in their houses: hats, scarves, gloves, winter jackets, and long johns. Sitting in their living room and they're still shivering. Why do that to yourself? That is the definition of misery. If heating was common here then it wouldn't be so expensive.

No matter how little money we have I will not sacrifice being warm. It's such a happy feeling walking in the door, coming in from the cold to an embracing warmth. Before we moved in to this house, we would come in from the cold and it would feel like we'd left all the windows and doors open.

The good news is that the days are getting longer. The sun is hovering over our house for longer stretches, covering more of our garden. It's going to be so, so nice to have the sun back, to have sunny warm days and nights.

September 6, 2004 in family, Life, New Zealand | Permalink


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I took my American wife to New Zealand about a month ago(I'm a Kiwi). First time she had ever left the usa, she was shocked at how cold our houses are-and i mean SHOCKED!

If more homes in New Zealand had central heating-it'll be no problem getting her to move there.

Alias....by the time she wants to move to NZ-Car insurance would be compulsary...lol

Posted by: Shane Wright at Oct 8, 2004 5:15:17 PM

nice share,
many thanks
I will notes this one

"do your job donely and done it sincerly"

Posted by: arya solo at Apr 15, 2010 10:58:08 PM

Just what you need on a cold night: a roof blown off! Good thing you had it repaired before it caused more serious damage to the house. You should try to put some reinforcement on the roof so this won't happen again.

Posted by: Masako Magnini at Oct 11, 2011 9:58:54 AM