This is a blog of the 31 things we will be doing in the month of January 2010 as part of our sustainable communities group. This post explains it all.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Things are good!

My journeying/travelling analogy from the last post seems to be ringing true.

The 31 Things "journey", if you will, really is generating all these positive changes or spin-offs in just the same way that a trip away from home opens up new perspectives, behaviour, brings epiphanies and insights and gives you energy to change for the better, and the space and insight to set new goals and be more like the person you really are underneath the daily distractions and crap.

The main changes we've noticed are these:

  • We are having all these adventures, and I know why - it's from being open to trying new things.
  • We're more open to talking to strangers in the community, more observant of everyone around us and everything, more curious and interested in them.
  • We're spending more time being active in the present, rather than procrastinating, ruminating and being anxious or depressed.
  • Ticking things off the list and the wonderful feedback from people we know, as well as others that one or the other of us have never even met, is giving us a fantastic sense of momentum.
  • We've got past the initial "Christ, we've overcommitted!" freakout and have worked out how to fit the 31 Things challenge into the rest of our lives.
  • Other people are getting inspired!
  • Being in something together is bringing out the best in both of us.

Meanwhile, it's hot.

Most people who are following the blog are our friends in Adelaide, so you all will be very much aware that we're having another heatwave. Interstaters will have seen the weather reports too, but for Nicole, Chris, Em and anyone else in the northern hemisphere, it's so hot here.

Doing the challenge is helping us keep empowered while the evidence of climate change is melting our senses.

The heatwaves are coming in a pattern of on-again-off-again, around every ten or so days. By heatwave, I mean a few days over 40 degrees Celsius at a time. In between, it can be anything from low twenties to high 30s. Anyway, it's new and weird and messing up things like vegetable gardens and orchards, not to mention causing distress to the entire population, human, animal and vegetable. It's also starting to feel normal, as we adjust to the extreme weather patterns ("Oh, it's only 37 today, perfect picnic weather"). I resist this adaptability, even as I pride myself on my physical acclimatisation and crafty heat-repellent household routines, because this shouldn't be normal and I don't want us to slow-cook like the frog in the bath and suddenly realise it's 50 degrees out there for 3 months of the year.

The cat door snake attempting to keep the heat from the western sun at bay. All the same insulating techniques that you use in winter apply equally well to summer heat.

For the last two years, we've had record-breaking two week heatwaves over 40 degrees, and I dread a repeat of this this summer. I guess we'll see.

We have an air conditioner as of this (very hot) spring. The serious alternative was going to be evacuating our two cats to my sister's place during extended heatwaves (last year one of them got heat stroke and had to be rushed away to safety!) and ourselves to Tasmania on a WWOOFING holiday. We were hoping to get housesitters to water our garden, but who would volunteer to live in an inferno?

Thanks for trying to kill my cat, Rudd.

The aircon is a strange wonder. We're trying to use it as efficiently and sparingly as possible, but for me it literally means the difference between being able to live here functionally or basically having to move away. Obviously it's not a long-term strategy.

Something for a near-future list has to be investigating insulation. Apparently there are government rebates that apply to rental properties (for example). We could also look at ceiling fans as a good alternative to aircon.

Longer-term we need to think about living somewhere else (either house-wise or geographically) that doesn't require aircon. A massive shout-out to those who are enduring this climatic craziness without aircon. Come visit.

For people without aircon or houses, the heatwave is just unbearable. We met a guy today collecting cans who was railing at the government spending on the Tour Town Under cycling race, as opposed to homeless shelters. He said that there are only three men's shelters in Adelaide and not enough places. All we could do was agree as we stood together on the sweltering footpath. I wish I'd got it together in time to offer him some money but he'd already stormed off down the street by the time my heat-slowed brain had thought of it.

I remember reading during the heatwave in 2007 about how terrible it was for homeless people. I hope there's at least some sort of van driving round with bottled water and sunscreen, and hats if there aren't enough places in shelters. Does anyone know?

Still high 30s at 7.30pm.

Even with aircon, our house is pretty bad. Last night, after a 40 degree day - with predictions for three consecutive days of 43 degrees to follow), John and I decided to get in a walk while we could.

We meant just to go around the block, but with our new 31 Things-inspired energy and openness to giving things a go, we soon found we'd wandered right into town. A nice adventure would have been to run into a random friend and maybe be shouted a beer! (we'd set out without any cash), but we didn't, so we picked up some information about massages, some cheap movie ticket vouchers and then, like animals drawn to water, wandered through the uni and down to the River Torrens.

Night walks! The ducks and carp swam towards us, hoping for a snack. We sat on the springy lush grass and talked about the way the river has been regulated since European settlement.

We've become interested in urban watercourses because they feature so heavily in our local area, where five heavily modified creeks cross under roads and through backyards to join the Torrens and eventually reach the sea.

The night before last, on the way home from dinner with John's parents, we took a short detour along one of the creeks. It was currently empty, concreted over and graffiti-ed with beautiful colourful pieces. Again the 31 Days Sense of Adventure, as well as some amazing lit up sunset colours, pushed us to check out a small section of this route that had, unbeknownst at least to me (John kindly didn't spoil the excitement by revealing he'd known about it for years until we were on the way home) co-existed the whole time with our usual walk between Norwood and St Peters. We turned back at a tunnel with no source of light visible at the end, that turned out on subsequent Google maps investigation to disappear under suburbia. (We couldn't actually find where it reappeared; it must have been after a long way).

The heavily modified creek. Don't try this at home because you can't get out the sides in the case of flash floods! (But we felt pretty safe given the current weather (we kept out of the tunnels).)

On the way home we met Kelly, from the Sustainable Communities group. Then yesterday we met Rapsodie in Foodland, shopping to keep cool. Eleanor, where are you??

While walking last night, we devised the best adventure yet. We needed to work out a way to integrate the 31 Things, especially blog posting, into our crazy January and February schedules, which are of the sort that make you so avoidant you...devise challenges for yourselves for the month of January that preclude you from addressing any of them.

Not this time! We decided to Face the Stuff We Have To Do.

Step 1.
Check weather. Discover that it is predicted to be hellish until next Tuesday.

Wait. How hot?

Step 2.
Call an emergency meeting for the following day, to simultaneously avoid the heatwave-induced household languishing/cabin fever and address the serious priority imbalance you have got going.

Step 3.
(Next day)
Get up early to avoid the heat. Make it fun by dressing appropriately.
Oops, this one didn't go as planned, and we found ourselves at the busstop at midday, a time where only mad dogs and descendants of colonial Englishmen go out in the midday sun.

Cass wills the bus to appear, but it is on the Saturday timetable.

Step 5.
Hold your breath as the bus breaks down due to a heat-related computer error, but restarts. Arrive in town. Walk a few city blocks in your finery, complete with sun-shielding parasol, and arrive at your destination...

The Hilton Hotel Adelaide!

Chin chin! Still a little pink, John declares the meeting open.

Why didn't we think of this before? Ensconced in comfy chairs by a delightful fountain, we immediately ordered G&Ts and settled in for a serious planning meeting and the rest of the day.

Actually we made some really good schedules and plans, proper meeting style (thanks TWS for all the on the job experience in strategic planning and facilitation). I think we were slightly nuts; we did the whole meeting thing in our hippie-ish attempted dressed-up outfits (at different times we decided we had been mistaken for part of a wedding party, or the entourage of the Tour Down Under, or perhaps not for anything other than the eccentrically innovative climate refugees we were. (I think the drinks waiter smirked when he said goodbye).)

Booze was confined to the initial G&T and this very tasty local beer from the Barossa Valley, that somehow involved shiraz grapes.

We stayed til 6pm, resisted the urge to put our drinks on the wedding party's tab, were assisted in infiltrating the 18th floor of the hotel to check out the view by a friendly guest with a swipe card, and worked out among other things that I need to spend 3-4 days a week on uni work, 1 on everything else (a zine, this blog, and a photography show for the Fringe), and the weekend on leisure (and overhang, I guess). John has to go to a course, do work experience at the Science Exchange, make work for 3 art shows in the Fringe (this one, this one and this one) and do the blog.

So there'll be some changes around here!, but we're not stopping the challenge. We'll do a "thing" every day or so, but probably report less frequently, or maybe as frequently but much more briefly. Hurray for balance, and thanks to the philosophy of permaculture for realising that, as I paraphrased in the gym post, your own house has to be in order first before you can functionally tackle the outside world.

Please stay tuned for follow-up posts on the shower timer, the gym (yes! we went back on Friday), and new, teed-up or started "things" we haven't had time yet to blog about (research peak oil and the depression, Tiny Towns, Peter Singer, the smoke alarm, worm poo, John's haircut and have a meal at Stirling Organic).

And thank you again for your wonderful feedback. It was a factor in us wanting to keep going with the challenge. That and the fact that it's SUCH GOOD FUN!

Adelaide bakes. From the 18th floor of the Hilton Hotel.


  1. So many things to say about this post! For now:

    1. Readers not just from Adelaide; at least one Melbourne person is an avid fan.

    2. LOVE your fat cats, look after them in the heat! (I know you will.)

  2. hey kids
    have you considered buying a portable fan?? we have one in our bedroom (which gets very hot because its got walls to the outside on 3 sides) and it gets us thru these fiendish nights. when fan alone doesnt suffice, ive sometimes worn wet/damp clothes too - that combined with the air movement keeps you quite cool.
    think fans are pretty low-energy compared to other options!
    x j

  3. Onyas for getting out into the heat, and embracing it! Ceiling fans do amazing things - but by Sunday night, not even air movement was making our bedroom any less like a pizza oven. In response we've been a) going to the beach, b) making fruit ices, c) having cold showers, not really drying off and falling asleep under a fan.