Tomorrow – the first day of June – is the official start of winter in Tasmania. I like the way the seasons are marked so precisely into three month chunks here.
Autumn has been glorious. The sunsets over the last few weeks have taken our breath away, and the daylight hours have had a real crispness to them. Most of the rain has come at night. On the few overcast days we’ve had, the river has looked all the lovelier, infused with a glittering silver light. The mist here, when it swirls like magic down the Derwent, is called Bridgewater Jerry. It creeps through the pillars of the Tasman Bridge, stealing it from sight for an hour or two, but it’s nothing like Edinburgh where the haar descends for days and chills you right down to the marrow.
We have been rather sad saying goodbye to the bounty of summer foods in the shops. The raspberry and strawberry seasons have come to an end. There are just a few lonely boxes left on the shelves now, and DorkySon – the world’s biggest fruit bat – has said not to bother with them; they don’t taste good. Filling his lunch box with colour and flavour will be more of a challenge over the coming months. But the apples are perfect, and today for the first time I spotted some sweet, bright little clementines.
On the coldest of nights we light our wood stove. Laying a fire is not something I’d done for a good number of years, but it only took a couple of slow burners before I remembered how to build one up properly. Now I can make it roar with just one match. I love the dusky, smoky smell on my fingers, the generous heat that burrows down deep.
We’ve been tightening the house up too, trying to keep that heat inside. There’s a new front door, Tassie oak, with tight weather seals now instead of an inch-high gap underneath. Double glazing, which meant scaffolding and workers for a couple of weeks, but they were polite and tidy, and we are thrilled with the results. They were craftsmen, actually, took such pride in their work. The next job is some shelving, for those poor books of ours that are still jammed together in boxes.
Apparently, not so many years ago, the island used to close down for winter. Everyone retreated to their house and tucked in for three months. Businesses struggled without the extravagant shopping opportunity that Christmas provides in the depths of the British winter. But now – because of some enlightened soul – the dark months here are filled with the warmth and noise of festivals. There are joyous public celebrations of food, wine, music, and art everywhere you look.
DorkyDad and I went to the Savour Long Table dinner last weekend. It was a treat to get out for an evening, but the whole thing was a bit too starched white tablecloth and sparkly pants for us. Next month, on the night of the winter solstice, we are headed to the Dark Mofo Winter Feast, described as a Bacchanalian banquet of feasting and fire, drinking and celebration, music and performance. That sounds much more like our kind of party. There will be stalls selling whisky, and Willie Smith’s Cider. There will be seafood from the Get Shucked Oyster Farm. There will be chocolate and cheese, pies and dumplings, spicy soups and tasty tacos, all eaten in in a wintry forest setting. They put candles in the trees here.
When you live in a place that celebrates the shortest day of the year with a specially commissioned Ferris Wheel of Death, and the thought of that makes you laugh so hard you snort wine out your nose, you know it’s a good fit.
Thanks for having us, lovely Tassie. Thanks for a great Autumn. We can’t wait for Winter.