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Jacqueline Kent is… a writer of non-fiction and biography, fiction, general articles and literary journalism. Her working background includes radio interviewing, print journalism, radio and TV scriptwriting, editing books, ghostwriting, teaching editing and creative writing, and arts administration.
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Winds

I know you’re not supposed to start a novel with weather, but nobody said anything about a blog, did they. Went for a walk yesterday, and we were almost shredded by the grey, blusterous westerlies.As I struggled along Rose Bay waterfront, I found myself thinking the usual grumpy thoughts of the middle-aged: we didn’t have weather like this when I was a kid. It may even be true, early effects of climate change and all.  I also found myself remembering something Ruth Park wrote in her book about Sydney: that, because of the tall buildings clustering in the CBD and elsewhere, the wind has changed in direction and flukiness, no longer being able to blow in the same place, in the same way. (Wind and its direction was pretty important to her: she wrote a children’s book illustrated by her daughters Kilmeny and Deborah and called ‘When the Wind Changed’, about a small boy who pulled faces until the wind changed and his features froze in a hideous mask.) I wonder if this is true? It sounds as if it ought to be, and in some ways the idea of a thwarted breeze is an attractive one.

Wind has always been very easy to personify, hasn’t it: there’s the Aesop fable about the duel between the wind and the  sun. It’s always been seen — at least in the northern hemisphere legends we grew up on — as either a cantankerous force or a gentle, insinuating breeze. Bucolic or bullying, that’s it. However, like so many other European-based things we were brought up on, the question of wind is confusing from this part of the world. ‘Blow the wind southerly’ sang Kathleen Ferrier, conjuring a picture of a strong, salt-laden wind that would bring her loved one to her. But in this part of the world the southerly is determinedly landbased, bringing a huge drop in temperature at the end of a very hot day. In her novel ‘Poor Man’s Orange’ Ruth Park described it as ‘the genie of Sydney’. The east wind is a mean, cold English wind, much loathed by the Jarndyce in ‘Bleak House’, who wouldn’t talk to anyone when under its influence. Here an easterly, or more accurately north-easterly, is a steady blue-and-gold onshore summer wind that causes the ting-ting-ting of rigging against mast on harbour yachts, that keeps the temperature down and brings the smell of jasmine at night. The west wind is not Shelley’s breath of autumn’s being, and it certainly isn’t blithe: it’s cold and persistent. And as for the north wind? Well, according to the English rhyme, it doth blow and we shall have snow and what will poor robin do then, poor thing? Not exactly what Wheeler and James, the authors of Australian Christmas carols had in mind: ‘The north wind is tossing the leaves/The red dust is over the town/The sparrows are under the eaves/And the grass in the paddock is brown.’

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