South Wind Doth Blow

Little Miss Muffet and Incy Wincy Spider may appear to be uneasy bedfellows, but in Methven a closer look will reveal they’re both made of the same stuffing. A nursery rhyme convention has taken over the town in recent weeks, and any birds that were considering nesting in the region will now have reconsidered, thanks to the 33 themed scarecrows that have popped up as part of the school holiday trail.

We joined in by doing the trail, but we could easily have joined the party with a themed yard ourselves. All we needed was a mulberry bush, and the cold and frosty morning would have taken care of itself, transforming our yard into a scene straight out of a playground chant.

It happens every year – first the frost, then the snow, augmented by a southerly wind and an ever declining ration of sunlight. Commonly known as winter, this state seems to take people by surprise every time, with the long summer months inducing mercury amnesia. Then suddenly you can see your breath, and the weatherboard house with single glass windows and cotton curtains starts to resemble the chiller section at the supermarket, minus the frozen peas. Add in a couple of extra jumpers, house slippers and a hot water bottle clutched to your abdomen and you’re on your way to having the quintessential New Zealand experience, complete with chillblains and the odd dose of bronchitis.

Despite the fact that winter is a fairly regular occurrence, many of our houses have failed to adapt to the fact. Insulation is optional and double glass and underfloor heating are virtually unheard of. It’s a case of man vs nature, and judging from the layer of ice on the inside of our windows the other morning, I’d say that nature is used to delivering a knockout blow pretty early on.

I know people who’ve come to New Zealand from northern Europe, where winter means no sunlight at all and a permanent cover of snow. When looking at the forecast charts they scoffed at our furrowed brows, oblivious to the fact that the predicted temperature was not for their borough but for their bedroom. They later resorted to pitching a tent on the living room floor to try to conserve heat.

While many ceilings such as theirs remain woefully bare of any insulation, in the absence of any batts the personified thatching material around town is starting to look like an attractive option… The South Wind Doth Blow, alright, and the Methven scarecrows had better watch their stuffing!

Originally published in The Ashburton Guardian

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