Outlook for Sunday: not a good one at all

ALASTAIR PAULIN
Last updated 08:51 17/09/2012

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Alastair Paulin

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I struggled to get out of bed this morning. The two smallest suspects had crept into it some time during the night, and by 4am I couldn't find a spot not already claimed by a bony elbow or knee.

At 5am I gave up and decamped for the empty and cold small suspect's bed. I eventually got back to sleep but, when it was time to get up, my body rebelled. I was sleepy warm and the thought of facing the frosty morning made me linger.

I was already grumpy. I've been on a short fuse all week and when the oldest small suspect told me that he had created a Dad avatar in The Sims whose two key traits were “calm and grumpy", I couldn't protest: he had me nailed.

My wife calls the occasional dark cloud that drapes itself across my shoulders my “man period" but I resist that feminising concept: I'm claiming Seasonal Affective Disorder.

As I write this on Thursday morning, the sun is shining brightly, fresh snow is making Mt Arthur and the Richmond Ranges look postcard perfect and, as I drove along the west bank of the Motueka River, lambs were gamboling among daffodils and matchsticks.

That's a cluster of factors that make it tough to claim my mood is caused by a lack of sunshine - it is not as if we are deep into a Norwegian winter of 23-hour nights. Quite the reverse - the days are getting longer, the rhododendrons along Westbank Rd are putting on a magnificent show and I even saw a brave soul limping down High St wearing shorts this morning.

Instead, I think the springtime blues are caused by confounded expectations. The lambs, the daffodils, the longer days are all signs that we should also be gamboling. But then Sunday arrives and it is pissing down.

Local gossip has it that Motueka has had 11 straight wet Sundays. I haven't had the heart to keep count and I have not found official records of past rainfall that go back far enough to confirm the claim. Meteorologists are forward-looking, optimistic types - good at telling you what the weather probably won't be in days ahead but lousy at sharing the data that proved they were wrong.

But the claim feels right. I'm often photographing sport on a Saturday and Sunday is my weekend. Instead of pottering in the garden or taking the small suspects for a bike ride, I have been cooped up inside developing cabin fever.

I can handle the depths of winter. The fire roars, we stockpile movies, warming soups and stews bubble away. What gets me through is the knowledge that this shall pass; that the reward for sitting out winter will be a glorious spring. But now I'm feeling like a sucker, as if duped by Mother Nature's telemarketers.

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I imagine the whitebaiter whose car got stranded in the middle of a rapidly rising Motueka River last Friday feels similarly. The police told me that the 70-year-old man was embarrassed by his misadventure, which has been the talk of Motueka in recent days.

They said he was an occasional whitebaiter, “out there for a play", rather than a hardcore white gold panner.

His car sat on a gravel island, formerly a river bank, for five days, visible for all to see from the SH60 bridge over the river.

We watched the river rise and ebb over the days as the rain came and went, wondering if the car would be swept down the river. Although the driver probably wouldn't see it this way, he was lucky that he had not struck a king tide, said the police officer who gave him a ride home. And the rising river was nothing much, just a “fresh”.

(I love the classic Kiwi understatement of that term, invariably deployed by Valley farmers whenever I call to ask them how they have dealt with the latest flood.)

It looked as if the river got as high as the top of the stranded car's wheels at one point and apparently on Wednesday afternoon, when the river had receded enough for it to be rescued, the car was left on the bank with the windows open, perhaps to dry it out.

It was an apt metaphor for us all, snatching at these rare sunny days to evaporate our blues.

I've been especially focused on the forecast because the small suspects' uncle and aunt from California are visiting this weekend. We're keen to show off the beauty of the region and our great country outdoors lifestyle.

The timing seemed perfect: our place would be at its spring best and we could show them the region's highlights before the summer crowds arrived. We're off to Golden Bay for the weekend, bound for the wild waves of Wharariki Beach.

Just as it was for our wet whitebaiter, it looks as if it will be a wilder adventure than we had bargained on. Our guests may leave for the California sunshine more convinced than ever that we are nuts.

The forecast for Sunday? Showers, some possibly heavy. Chance of more than 10mm of rain: 95 per cent. Chances of more than 1mm of rain: 100 per cent. Chances of my cloud lifting: minimal.

- Nelson

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