Dressing for winter? Not if you're a Queenslander

Dressing for winter? Not if you're a Queenslander

Neil Breen on the challenges of buying a decent jumper

As the years roll, on I dread the winter more and more. 

I think it has a lot to do with my Queensland upbringing. In fact, it has everything to do with it. Yes, it gets cold in Brisbane in the winter, but only for, say, eight weeks. And the cold feels colder because the old Queenslander houses are built to handle the long, long summers, not the winters. So, when it’s cold, it’s cold.

But nothing like Sydney. Not for me anyway. When I first moved to the here nearly two decades ago, I didn’t take much notice of the winters. It was all a new experience and the cold was just dealt with.

But now I am well over them.

I am a keen swimmer, and I detest what the winters do to my morning routines. Yes, you can get to Cook + Phillip Park Pool where it’s nice and warm when you dive in. But you have to get there first. Walking up William St at 6.30am in July is not my idea of fun.

Two years ago, I decided to do something about it. So I took the winter on — head on. I bought a wetsuit and swam at Bondi Icebergs right through the winter every Saturday at 7am, just as I did through the summer.

I did it, and it hurt. Some Saturdays I hit the water and the “ice block headache” could last for a few laps. After two or so laps the body would warm up. But the head never really did. The other horrible part occurred after tumble-turning at each end. As you kicked up the wall, a small film of cold water would get under the wet suit at the back of your neck and run down your body. I dreaded tumble-turning.

When winter ended I convinced myself it wasn’t that bad. But last winter, I dogged it. I couldn’t go through that again. That was madness.

I have never really learnt to deal with winter because the Queenslander in me means I have never had the right wardrobe. Why spend money on stuff you need for six to eight weeks?

In my day job, I spend a lot of time outside. I know I should buy a big overcoat, but I’ve just never convinced myself it’s 100 per cent worth it. Then I stand in the cold and lament why I don’t have one. A guy I work with has one and I am forever saying to him “I have to get one”.

For the past few Sundays at Bondi Junction I’ve looked at a lot of big winter overcoats which would be suitable for work. Still, I baulk every time. Do I really need one? Is it worth it? Could I be bothered lugging it around?

I do not even own a proper woollen jumper.

Last winter I did make a big leap forward. I bought a long-sleeved winter pyjama top from Peter Alexander. 

This attitude towards winter has cost me dearly in the past. In 2011 I travelled to London in the first week of March and stupidly thought to myself, “How good, it’ll be spring when I am there”. I froze all week. I even attended Wembley — on March 1 no less — wearing a business shirt and suit jacket. I have never been so cold. Spring? What was I thinking?

This winter I am determined not to freeze. I am going to buy that overcoat. I have no idea where I’ll store it, but I will get one. I think. But I draw the line at a bulky woollen jumper.

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