penguin on beach in south africa
Johannesburg, Weather

Arctic Africa: A Johannesburg Winter

If you’re wondering whether a Johannesburg winter is cold, the word on the street is that we are living in Arctic Africa this week. A cold front has whipped up here on chilly Cape Town winds. Winter is here.

All in the Same Storm, Not all in the Same Boat

Just to be clear, before I in anyway mock the Johannesburg attitude to winter.  I am not referring to the masses living in flimsy accommodation with limited or no utilities. I am extremely appreciative to live in a house with heating and hot water. I am talking about my neighbours in a comfortable suburb and, my goodness, considering how tough and hardy many South Africans are in most respects, even the most privileged are having a jolly good grumble about the “Arctic” conditions that we are experiencing at the moment.

The Antipodeans have been equally pathetic switching their fires on as far back as April when it was merely fresh outside in the mornings climbing quickly to balmy and then tropical temperatures with the rising of the sun.  The Canadians and Bostonians laugh at all of this even more than we do.

The high today is a modest 9 Celsius which although not terribly warm is, let’s be honest, considered bikini weather in Scotland.  Unlike a cold day in the UK where the watery sun occasionally comes out of hibernation the bright African sun is almost omnipresent.  It’s statically dry here, so the damp doesn’t get into your bones either.

Dressing for Arctic Africa

Pickle is finally relenting and mostly agreeing to wear trousers and a coat – although I had to peel a pair of shorts of him again this morning.  This is more to avoid the visible distress it causes his teacher than because I’m actually worried that he’s not keeping warm enough.  I’ve also been advised, by complete strangers, that it’s about time I got a coat for The Cheesethief.

Fashion Dilemma

The knack to “surviving” the Johannesburg winter is to dress in layers. Lots in the early morning, peel them off one by one as the day warms up and then replace them as the sun drops. The only problem with this is, (that amongst many other fashion dilemmas), I’ve never quite mastered layering and end up wearing three tops all the same size and then looking like a trussed up turkey.

Construction Conundrum

Despite this wave of angst triggered by the cold weather, it doesn’t seem to have filtered down to the construction industry yet. Again, I am very much referring to privileged neighbourhoods here, rather than townships where many live in flimsy shacks. Loft insulation? Nope. Double Glazing? Never heard of it. Cavity walls? Why build with two lots of bricks, when it’s quicker and cheaper to use single brick construction?

It is often warmer OUTSIDE during the day than inside the un-winter-proofed houses.

Seasonal Confusion

As a strange side effect of the less than tropical temperatures I’ve found myself listening out for Christmas carols on the radio and expecting the shops to be bedecked with tinsel. Apparently I am far from the only one, although there is no known name for this ‘syndrome’. The whole topsy-turvy season thing is very confusing and many expats talk about where they are going to on their Summer-Winter holidays.

Frost on the ground in Arctic Africa.

Did you know there are penguins in South Africa? You can find them at Boulders Beach near Cape Town.

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