Winter in the deep south
I’m writing this on an icy, blustery day in Invercargill – the southernmost city in New Zealand. The bus is being buffeted and I hear an occasional hiss as a stray raindrop makes its way down the chimney. The fire has been blazing all morning, so the bus is toasty, but I have to keep throwing the wood in to maintain a comfortable temperature. An expedition to the pool yesterday means our swimming things and a couple of sprigs of rosemary hang above it. Thomas is working on perfecting stovetop bread-baking, and the warm, yeasty smell helps make the bus a sanctuary on a wintery day.
We’ve been travelling now for 4 weeks – enough time to get a bit of a feel for what it means to have no fixed abode, what small-space living really feels like in the heart of winter, and to have the sense of a daily rhythm.
Our morning usually starts early with Elliott awake first. Both boys then snuggle in with us as we put off the moment when one or other of us has to get up and light the fire. It would be pitch black, were we not in a campground, and the sense of being cheated of legitimate sleeping hours gets me every morning. There are only two days until the winter solstice, and I’m hanging out for longer days again.
Our days usually involve some sort of outing, whether it be exploring the nearest beach, heading to a museum or gallery, or just pottering around outside the bus. Today we went to Queen’s Park – huge playground, free animal park, aviary, plus the Tuatara breeding programme at the Southland Museum and Art Gallery. We try to have a balance of an activity in the morning and a quiet afternoon, or vice versa. Being in a different place so often means the children are less settled than they may otherwise be, and being careful not to overdo things seems to counter this well.
Perhaps because it’s a way of keeping things predictable, or maybe just because it’s winter, life centres a lot around food at the moment – preparation, eating, baking, scheming. We’ll be celebrating Matariki next week, and are planning a feast to remind us of a wintery German Christmas day. Candied almonds and mulled wine are already on the menu and Otis has requested trout (?!) – any other suggestions for not-to-be-missed mid-winter Christmas food? Oh, and feel free to pop by – who knows, if the weather keeps up like this it may even be a white Christmas!