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Back in the 1990’s I was asked to “ help out “ at an educational facility in the " balmy " southern city of Invercargill in New Zealand. Just a few months, over winter, to be a relief teacher for someone who was “ sick. “ I obliged.

When I fronted up, I discovered that my predecessor was on sick leave because of a nervous breakdown from teaching the classes I was taking over. Strange how that wee fact was left out. As the cool April weather closed in, the days shortened and the southerlies blew in from Antarctica, I began one of the most memorable attacks of frostbite I have ever had. OK, chillblains, but you get my drift.

My classes were full of students who could see fresh meat in their new teacher. I rose to their challenge and, slowly but surely, won them over. In fact, I could safely walk through the Dee Street Mall at midnight if I had chosen to do so. I did not, however, test this theory. It was too bloody cold to venture out unless I had to. But I suspect that I could have. The Dee Street Mall at night is -or was back then - like a scene from Wellington Paranormal. It was where Zombies and Vampires lurked in the shadows and fired flames from their fetid mouths... or so I was reliably informed by my students.


I spent my weekend afternoons at the Winter garden in Queen's Park where I could read a book in relative warmth. After all, where else could one go in wintry southland where bougainvillea can grow and bananas can thrive?

One day, I was asked to join a group of students who were attending a Rugby match at the Rugby Park Stadium. I think it was between the locals and some imposters from Christchurch, but I could be wrong, for reasons which will soon become apparent.  Our meet up point was at the home of one of my fellow workers. I arrived, rugged up, carrying a thermos flask full of soup, a bottle of water and a blanket and pillow. I was greeted with looks of tolerant disdain.

“ Where’s your sleeping bag? “ I was asked. I explained that I didn’t have one with me.  “ What’s in your thermos?” they asked. I told them. As heads shook, I was suddenly given an “ Invercargill “ makeover and my thermos flask magically filled with boiling water, whisky and lemon juice; my bottle of water transformed in to a Speights and my blanket and pillow augmented with a sleeping bag. I was, apparently, ready.


I do not know who won the game, scored the tries, kicked the goals or drove me home. All I remember of that day was that I had a very good time. Or so I am told.

By July I was frozen. Solid. You could have put me in a microwave on slow defrost and I would have had to be set to 43 days, 6 hours and 2 minutes. My feet never really belonged to me back then – they were little ice cubes at the base of my legs whose sole purpose was to clunk around and keep me upright whilst I sought refuge at work and endured the misery of my cold home replete with its damp and forlorn backdrop of a hoar frost that lasted 9 days … and nights.

not the winter of the article but you get the picture

When I left after my predecessor had recovered I was filled with mixed emotions. On the one hand I was heading back across the ditch to Queensland and back to warmer temperatures. But, on the other, I was leaving a People who had welcomed me, embraced me and made my life warmer through their generosity of spirit – particularly of the Ballantine’s variety. However, I do confess to kissing the tarmac at Brisbane Airport when I landed and weeping tears of joy when I felt the warm Queensland sun on my skin.


My winter in the Capital of the Deep South taught me that, if Global Warming exists, it should first be launched in winter in Invercargill.  I can think of no better place. With a bottle of Speights, a " suitably " filled thermos flask and a good sleeping bag or two. Or maybe three.

God Bless you Invercargill. And, when this Wuflu craziness passes, my hope is that you poor buggers can fly across the ditch and thaw out. Only .... can you do me one favour, please? Don't open an airport anywhere near Jacinda Ardern. I fear that Queenslanders would buy her a one way ticket to Invercargill and wouldn't even chip in for a sleeping bag or some woollie socks..

And I suspect that Invercargill would give her a very frosty welcome, invite her to the Dee Street Mall at midnight and probably change the locks on the wintergarden.


The Ice Princess has done her dash. 

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