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Offbeat -28June 2013

‘The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence’, but at least I have shorts to keep my knees cold, and my blanket to remind me how much I love winter.There’s a joke about a Free State farmer. One day he wakes up and realises that it is icy cold, so he puts on two pairs of shorts. I’m a bit like that. It’s early morning now, heading for mid winter, and I’m wearing shorts. I’m not entirely demented though. I have a blanket wrapped around my knees. I know it’s winter when my knees get cold.
By now, you are probably wondering why I don’t use a heater? The easy answer is that a blanket doesn’t need electricity. It’s an environmentally friendly way of getting warm, and electricity is very expensive. I use a heater only when the temperature sinks way down there, like when it snows in the Namib or the morning after rare inter rain, and even putting on a long pair of trousers, and wrapping a second blanket round my shoulders, doesn’t help.
There’s a difficult answer as well: I like being cold.
Aside from a blanket round my knees in the early morning, winter holds other pleasures: the crisp scent of a winter day when even the smell of green grass and trees is absent, a cup of hot coffee to warm my hands, and crawling into bed with a good book as the temperature falls in the evening.
Summers go hard on me. I don’t particularly like air-conditioning or cold baths. I have an air blower that is supposed to cool things down, but it doesn’t work particularly well. I’m more likely to use a fan during the day, and use the thing that blows cold air only when the heat is at its worst.
It’s not just the sweat and sleepiness of summer that discomforts me. Heat slows my head down. It’s difficult to think in a straight line, when every five minutes that thought intrudes: “I’m too hot and I want a bath to get rid of the sweat.”
It’s easier to get warm in winter, than it is to cool down in summer.
It bugs me, when I hear about heat-seekers, those types who just love hot weather and can’t stand the cold. I know the importance of accommodating diverse views in society, but it feels to me like a Euro-centric type of thing. They have long winters, so they probably don’t get enough warmth. It’s the opposite here, where I am.
Thinking about it, I begin to wonder of we aren’t programmed to want the opposite of what we have right now, that familiarity does indeed breed contempt. People who live in small towns always seem to want to live in big cities, and people who live in big cities want the simplicity of life in small towns or nature. People who have enough to eat want to diet and eat less, and people who can’t eat lots want more.
The ‘grass is always greener on the other side of the fence’ seems to be a part of the human condition. I can rationalise that idea to myself with the thought that striving seems to be the natural result of motivation, and without striving we would all come to a lazy halt, lie around and not bother with anything.
Logic should say that striving is selective, based on the ability to satisfy immediate needs, however it is not. In the case of summer and winter, the want is there regardless of our ability to influence it. Let me illustrate that. If you want a new television, you can work and save and buy to get one. The motivation and the purchase are connected. If you want the rain to arrive in spite of the fact that there isn’t a cloud in the sky, you don’t stand a chance, but the absence of a remedy does not create acceptance, nor does it alter the want.
That thought makes the idea of wanting winter during summer, and summer during winter, easier to understand.
The mystery to me lies in the tourists who arrive here in the middle of their summer holidays? How do they manage to absorb the contrasts of the cloudless blue skies that they spend so much to find, and the biting cold, which they complain about all year? I wish we had their winter, with lots of rain and clouds.
‘The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence’, but at least I have shorts to keep my knees cold, and my blanket to remind me how much I love winter.

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