Creaky joints, woolly undies and winters quest to keep warm

Jul 26, 2022
As an ex-pat from New Zealand, I am often asked how folk in NZ keep warm in winter. The answer is simple - they move to Australia. Source: Getty

As we are now well and truly enduring winter, the over 60s can exercise our legal rights to gripe about how cold it is and generally whinge about how winter always sets off our creaky joints.

I think there is a government regulation that permits all over 60s to grizzle about winter on any day with the letter ‘Y’ in it. And if there is no such regulation, there should be. With a clause allowing us to compare it to the warm, sunny winters of our remembered childhood.

According to the internet (so it must be true), the name ‘winter’ comes from an old Germanic word that means ‘time of water’ and refers to the rain and snow that defines this season. I always thought Winter came from an old Aussie word that meant ‘bloody cold and miserable’, but someone obviously figured long ago to blame it on the Germans.

The winter of 2022 has been defined so far by plenty of rain and more floods, bone-chilling frosts and the cheery news that electricity prices are going through the roof, just when we have dragged the heaters out and have the electric blanket set to ‘toast’ mode.

Keeping warm in winter has become the new quest for our retiree generation. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to keep warm because we can’t afford the soaring electricity costs to run a heater and also buy food. It’s a sad day when electricity and lettuce cost about the same.

We used to just burn things to keep warm – scrap timber, derelict houses or the odd forest, but not now. We aren’t allowed to toss great logs onto an open fire or shovel heaps of coal into a burner because it could have a detrimental effect on global emissions and the environment. Better that we should all be mindful of conservation priorities and be deeply frozen to save the planet.

I wonder if we could have retirees declared an endangered species? If so, we could demand free electricity, subsidised electric blankets and rates concessions to preserve the native habitat of the Lesser Spotted Oldie.

Keeping warm in winter has become fraught with conflicts between achieving warmth and paying for it. Some older folk choose to stay in bed all day, others rug up with sufficient layers that would enable them to walk to the South Pole, which is what a typical winter’s day now feels like.

As well as hats, coats, jerseys and gloves, I’ve even heard of oldies adopting ski field attire, especially the full face balaclava – however, a polite reminder here to remove said facial covering before entering a bank, otherwise you are likely to trigger the alarms and unexpectedly meet several members of the police force. Try explaining that to the grandchildren.

It’s during seasons like this that we should give thanks to the humble sheep, provider of nutritious meals and significantly, woollen clothing to keep us warm. I am currently wearing three layers of clothing, the outer garment being a woollen jersey which keeps me toasty warm without any adverse impact on the environment or any endangered species. Nor does it require me to set fire to anything to keep warm.

As an ex-pat New Zealander, in a past life I learnt many winters ago that to be warm in winter we should look to the sheep, which seems to have generated an unfortunate line of off-colour jokes in Australia.

With an eye to making a fortune, I figured that if woollen clothing keeps us warm, why not invent a line of woollen underwear? An internet search discovered someone’s already done this and it’s an Australian company that supplies our defence force personnel with woolly undies.

It’s reassuring to know that should Australia’s army ever have to go to war, our privates will have their privates protected by Merino sheep. The Kiwis will probably claim the idea as their own, like Phar Lap and pavlova.

That aside, I am often asked how folk in New Zealand keep warm in winter. The answer is simple – they move to Australia.

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