Editorial: Out of the firing line

Many of the satisfactions and rewards of living in the deep south are abiding ones.

But there's something to be said for the fleeting pleasure and the occasional mercy too.

At a time when our northern neighbours have been readying themselves for a hiding from Cyclone Lusi, our own forecast for today was "Mostly sunny. Light winds" and for tomorrow "Patchy rain developing. Easterlies turning south-west later".

In the circumstances, that would appear to be satisfactory.

Straight away we should add that that benign forecast could already have been overtaken by events through nothing more startling than the normal changeability of the weather systems.

But the fact of the matter is that much of New Zealand is staring at a weekend of driving rain and easterly gales - and we aren't, particularly.

This isn't such a rare dynamic. While southern storms can at times assail the south, the more dramatic tropical cyclones like Lusi tend to intrude far more emphatically into our news bulletins rather than our own lives.

This is not an exercise in schadenfreude, that nicely evocative German word for taking shameful pleasure in the misfortune of others, but it's worth pausing just a moment to appreciate our comparative good fortune.

It does us no harm to stay alert to the falsity of the cliched view that southern weather isn't as "nice" as further north.

Our weather is cooler but the temperate climate has much to commend it. We are no strangers to the sun and the lack of a couple of degrees in temperature doesn't make our finer days less exultantly luminous, heartening and enjoyable.

It's southern weather that plays such a large part in producing the most fertile and verdant land in the country.

Obviously we do on occasion get a right kick in the pants and it must be said that after crisp and calm autumns our winters generally settle in to be, shall we say, wintry.

But oftentimes throughout the year our weather statistics make quite ugly reading when the reality outside has been far more agreeable. How often does it happen that after a thoroughly pleasant day hereabouts, the mid-evening TV news reports that the south was home to the national low temperature.

It's less that the figures are "wrong" than that one or two mere statistics each day aren't half as indicative as we think they are of how pleasant the day was.

More to the point, given the tribulations facing our friends and relatives in the North Island and upper South Island, it's worth remembering that the south is not, as so many people still tend to see it, the nation's climatic whipping boy.

Much as we may wish northerners well during the challenges of the weekend there's a particular body of good will towards Canterbury which has had such a hell of a time in recent years.

Christchurch is still cleaning up after last week's flooding and though the city is preparing for a worst-case scenario there are encouraging signs that it will be spared the worst of what lies ahead.

Seems fair. If only fairness wasn't, in meteorological terms, quite the irrelevance that it is.

The Southland Times