Cape of Storms
14 Feb 2018
The first winter storm of the season hit the Cape recently and it was a doozy!
Black bully clouds, heavy with ammo, heaved their bulky selves up the mountain, gathered together at the top in a final council of war, slapped hands in thunderous agreement then hurled their collective payloads down at us with furious abandon.
It was beautiful.
I love weather, especially extreme weather, but more to the point, I love Cape Town weather. If it’s going to rain then it must rain properly; none of this half-arsed, pitter-patter, drizzly stuff they get in Natal. You can get caught in an afternoon shower in Durban and still not got wet, damp maybe, but not drenched as you would in the Cape.
I have only two words for the weather in Durbs: ‘Hot’ and ‘Humid’. It never changes; hot and humid in Spring, unbearably hot and humid in Summer, slightly less hot and humid in Autumn and then comfortably hot and humid come Winter - What the hell’s up with that?
Anyway, the predictable climate conditions in Natal besides, I feel we need to be more aware of weather patterns and take those that occur where we hang our hats more seriously.
The point is that we are exposed to weather every day and elements such as temperature, wind-speed, precipitation, fog, mist, hail and snow to name but a few have a direct influence on how we live our lives.
Weather is about more than wardrobe selection. It affects our personalities too – ask anyone who has had the misfortune of driving on the N1 highway in Cape Town – in the rain! I’m the first to admit that when it comes to driving behaviour, Cape Townians tend towards a distinct alter-ego. In adverse weather conditions, Dr Jekyll rides shotgun and Hyde takes the wheel. It’s as if, at the first sign of rain the red mist descends!
But other than using the weather report to co-ordinate our wardrobe we seem rather oblivious to this global phenomenon that happens all around us, everywhere, every second of every day.
Of all the factors that influence how we live our lives the weather is perhaps the most significant yet it is the one that we have the least control over.
For all that you’d expect climate conditions to be central to our future aspirations as a species, considering that the climate is solely responsible for providing a habitat that supports all life. Instead we choose to ignore this vital health barometer and continue to favour industry over nature – talk about death by a thousand cuts, a senseless, slow and methodical suicide.
We need commerce to survive? No, numb-nuts, we need clean air, drinkable water and food to survive!
I mean it’s not as if there’s another habitable planet just up the galactic road - there’s not, but we march blindly on, hell-bent on self-destruction. It’s just bizarre and for the most part we, as a species, seem blissfully unaware of both the magical realm we inhabit and our own imminent demise if we continue to destroy it.
Open your eyes! Weather is BIG dammit! It’s HUGE! It occurs on a scale that we can scarcely comprehend and presents with displays of colour and sound that should have us in raptures of awe and amazement. Instead, the most glorious of sunrises, sunsets, rainstorms, windstorms or even just the unbelievable spectacle of a perfect summer, winter, spring or autumn day pass us by with the barest suggestion of acknowledgement or appreciation.
Continuous and constant exposure to splendour has dulled our senses.
Complex weather systems congregate to produce virtuoso performances that play out across the planet in dramatic fashion. These unique and wonderful acts should elicit shouts of ‘Bravo’ and ‘Encore’ but instead are reduced to little more than conversation fillers to overcome awkward silences.
Picture it: two blokes, strangers, stand around the fire at a braai, beers in hand, wives chatting with mad abandon about girl stuff (as wives are wont to do); wives disappear to the bathroom to continue their conversation (once again, a female thing the reasoning of which I am ill-equipped to comment on) and the two blokes are left alone, well, almost alone; just them and an awkward silence. What follows usually goes something like this:
“Soooo, hot today, wasn’t it?”
“Yep, it sure was.”
“Gonna be another cracker tomorrow.”
“Yep, they say so.”
*Twiddle thumbs, look around, take a slug of beer – then sudden inspiration*
“They say it’s gonna rain Friday, though.”
“Yep, rain for the weekend.”
“And cold, very cold.”
Heavy sigh and rueful shake of head; “Yep, it’s going to be a cold one.”
*Twiddle thumbs, look around, quick slug of beer, fake-recognise someone at the other end of the patio, escape!*
How sad that we as human beings play out our mundane, banal and often brutal lives against the spectacular backdrop of meteorology and think that it is our lives that are the essence of the play.
We have become so self-absorbed with our own trivial walk-on part that we have lost total sight of the magnificent theatre in which we perform.
But not me. I still get a thrill whenever I see a cold front approaching Cape Town. The stage lights dim and I hear the drum-roll and know that in the next scene I’m going to have weather coming at me and I know it’s going to come at me hard! Brilliant!
Give me a good Cape winter storm any day of the week, including Saturday and Sunday! One where rain lashes down with intent, where gale force winds gust at over 120 KM’s per hour so that rain does not so much lash down as come at you from every conceivable direction – up, down, sideways and often from all directions at once.
It’s no surprise, given the temperament of the climate that our rugby team is called ‘The Stormers’. Sure, they blow hot and cold but one thing is assured, they always arrive with energy and purpose.
And that’s the way it should be. Seasons should be definitive; you should never be in doubt as to which one you are in. There should also be a distinct transition from one to the other.
Sure, in Cape Town these transitions may all occur on the same day, hence the old ‘Four season’s in one day’ gripe from our cousins up North, but for the most part Cape Town’s seasons have their own unique personalities and like a doting dad I love each one. Even autumn and spring, which can be schizophrenic in other places, are fairly well adjusted in the Cape.
The weather in other parts of SA, however, is not as well behaved.
I’ve already mentioned Durbs – one constant weather pattern all year round; boring and predictable, like their rugby side now that I think about it.
In Jozie, summer thunder storms provide some entertaining theatre but they are too abrupt to be of any consequence. If it weren’t for the delicious aroma of burnt ozone that lingers in the air – ja, the lightning on the Highveld is Cracker Jack, I’ll give them that - you’d be hard pressed to convince yourself a good storm even happened.
The main purpose of a Highveld thunder storm seems to be to adversely influence the outcome of International T20 cricket matches, especially those where a Protea victory is dependent on a dry pitch with no interruptions.
Oh, and they also seem to have a nasty habit of arriving just as I step onto the tee farthest from the club-house on the world’s longest PAR 5. The first time I heard a lightning hooter sounding on a golf course I thought I was having a flashback to a particularly debauched Trance party from the previous weekend, but one blinding, white flash that almost singed my retinas and a clap of thunder that very nearly had me crap my Plus Fours disavowed me of any rhythmic dance moves and had me legging it for cover. The fact that I had 14 excellent lightning conductors still strapped to my back eluded me at the time; I was too busy praying that God’s aim was as bad as my putting had been that day.
The rest of the year in Jozie is either hot and dry or cold and dry. On a recent business trip I was forced to plug lip-balm sticks up my nose just to prevent each of my nostrils from drying out and curling up on my face like potpourri petals.
And let’s not even talk about Bloem or Kimberly. The Free State, like its cousin, the Northern Cape, has just two seasons: Hotter than Hell and Colder than a Witches’ tit.
You can keep them.
Give me the temperate Cape Town climate any day. Our weather systems not only usher in each new season with authority and aplomb, they also bring about breath-taking changes to the landscape as vineyards, fields and mountain ranges parade their bright colours and we get to experience them each year as the real-life actors in our own stage production.
The colour further North is brown. Light brown in summer and dark brown in winter.
Yep, us that live in the Cape are truly blessed. We have everything here; beautiful cities, beautiful landscapes, beautiful people and a beautiful culture.
No wonder the other provinces hate us so much.
Oh ja, and we have a mountain. Don’t forget the mountain.
So do me a favour, if you’re in the Cape, take a moment to appreciate the beauty that surrounds you and if you’re anywhere other than the Cape, come visit; we’ll crack open a bottle of Merlot and chat about the weather.