Everybody remembers the first winter they spent in Canberra. Whether they’re horrified or invigorated by the plunging temperatures, there’s an undeniable beauty to waking up to a world coated by frost and watching your breath spiral up into the cold, raw air. We asked some locals to give us the inside info on what they’re doing to keep warm this winter…
Warm up by the fire — by Katelyn Booth
When spending the semester break in Canberra working to pay the bills, ways of keeping warm are a high priority. My first one involves my share house’s fire heater: when it’s going, it keeps everyone snug. I spent plenty of mornings collecting sticks and twigs to start the fire on my walk back from work. Plentiful also were the stares from onlookers as I trudged around in my beanie, gloves and most importantly, my bright blue Kathmandu jacket. Take note – the gloves are a must, as is the daggy beanie.
After getting the fire started, the next best way to stay toasty is sitting on the lounge wrapped in my grandma’s hand crocheted woollen rug or the doona off the bed. Now, I cannot stress enough how important woollen socks are. They are seriously one of the best buys you will make this winter – your toes and feet will thank you. Pair them with a set of Ugg boots or slippers and you cannot go wrong, unless you wear this combo outside and get judged for your questionable taste in fashion. I’m sure people will understand if you’re just dashing to the shops for a bottle of milk, though!
The next step is layering. Stay warm by wearing thermals under your clothes and layering jumpers and coats. The great thing about this is that you can always take them off. If you don’t have them, though, you can be left chilly with chattering teeth, and above all annoyed that you didn’t listen to your mum’s voice in your head telling you to put that jacket on. Also scarves: be nice to your nanna and you’ll be sure to amass many.
Finally, read a book before bed to warm it up – you will have sweet dreams all winter.
Warm up with a bowl of soup — By Nick Wyche
Something changes in the Canberra wind when night falls. What was tolerable in the sunlit hours turns bone-chilling, penetrating even the sturdiest windbreaker and numbing hands shoved deep into pockets. Whenever I’m on my way home after dark, what keeps me going is the thought of sitting as close to the heater as I can without catching on fire and downing a piping hot bowl of soup.
I can get quite fanatical about soups – they’re my favourite food in the whole world. Each weekend I make a different one in a stockpot every weekend and freeze it to enjoy during the days to come. I have tried and true recipes for pumpkin, tomato, corn, potato, minestrone and many more, but my absolute favourite recipe is an old family one.
Passed down from my great-grandmother is a hearty, filling soup that is a staple for my entire extended family throughout wintertime. My Nan dictated it to my mum via a shaky international phone call in the 1980s, when she was studying abroad in Manchester and living in a draughty boarding house. All she had at hand to write it on was a train ticket from Reading, so I am copying it to you from there. Reader, I give you Reading Soup. It sounds terribly bland on paper, but that couldn’t be further from the truth: try it and have your life changed.
Take 500 grams of beef shank (which you can omit if you’re not a meat-eater) and brown it gently. Then chop coarsely one potato, one large onion, three carrots, four celery sticks, two parsnips, three large mushrooms and one turnip. Put all these things in a pot, then add one cup of washed pearl barley and two vegetable stock cubes. Cover the ingredients with water, and boil together until the liquid has taken on the flavours and the pearl barley is plump and tender.
Warm up with a bush walk — By James Atkinson
There is one thing they don’t tell you about moving into a share house. That is, for what you gain space, you lose in insulation. Indeed, after three years on res, I moved off campus last November. It was exhilarating, to say the least. For, every time I returned home, I knew it was to a friendly people, a clean kitchen, and a guarantee that I still had the same number of forks from when I left. I wondered why I hadn’t moved sooner.
Then came Winter. They say that your first Winter in Canberra is the toughest, but I argue that nothing compares to your first Winter off campus. Gone were the days when you could go to sleep in less than two layers of clothing, or when you could turn on your heater and not worry if you’ll be able to afford it later.
I distinctly remember waking one morning in mid-June at five. I had not woken because of an alarm. No, I woke because I was too cold. Unable to get back to sleep, I decided to go for a hike up Mount Ainslie. ‘May as well do something productive with my time’, I thought. So, I threw on a hoodie, tied my laces, and stepped outside. Then it hit me.
It was colder outside my house than it was in. How could this be? Immediately warmed by my intrigue, I embarked upon Mount Ainslie. I soon realised, dare I say it, that exercising helps you get warm. As I climbed upward, I watched our beloved Capital’s native fauna playfully frolic in the scrub trying to warm themselves up just as I, too, was doing the same. I eventually reached the peak, and I sat – watching the sun rise over Lake Burley Griffin. I quickly made a promise. Inspired by the warmth of my heart, the Kookaburras, and of Canberra, I told myself that I would make this a daily ritual. Today, though, I can unashamedly say that this promise found itself broke. Morning after morning, for the past month.
However, dear cold reader, do not take my fear of commitment as a deterrence. For, if you ever find yourself shivering, to take yourself for a hike and surround yourself in nature. I promise that you’ll warm more than just your heart.