When I think back to my childhood in New Zealand my most powerful memory is that I was cold. Permanently. As in, all the time. And having just googled the average temperature in Wellington (that doesn’t take into account the wind chill factor) I’m actually not surprised. Because the average temperature is 12.5C (55F). I knew it was bad!
And Wellington is a city that seems to be very much in denial because we were permanently sent outside to enjoy the great outdoors. Like it was the tropics.
At Waiwhetu Primary School (a school that has since been closed down), there was a swimming pool. And it was outside. And it wasn’t heated – not even by the sun. It was an above-ground pool but made of concrete so you had to climb up to get in. They didn’t make us swim in the winter but in every other season we had to have swimming lessons.
We would be marched in lines from our classroom to the pool where we would have our ‘togs’ and towel in a little bag. Bathing caps weren’t required and goggles were deemed, ‘What do you want those for?’ Once inside the gate of the very ordinary swim centre we had to enter the change rooms that were open to the elements as the walls fell short of reaching the roof so with all the gaps you could say they were well ventilated. They weren’t heated and there were no showers, not even cold ones. I don’t think there was any power connected to the change rooms, not even for an interior light. There were no toilets, no hand basins and no mirrors. The floor was covered in wooded slated racks and my mother would say, ‘Watch you don’t get tinea’.
Once we were in our togs we had to line up in single file and be marched under an outdoor shower of stone cold water and walk through a knee-deep water trough of highly pungent water that was densely concentrated in chemicals to disinfect us. And it would be a balmy 12.5 degree day with gale force winds that had come directly from the South Pole so violently they almost knocked us over. It was my goal to wait until the person in front of me had left the trough so I could sprint through it as quickly as possible and take the minimum number of steps to reach the other side.
We then had to sit on the edge of the pool with our feet in the water and kick. And you didn’t want to be sitting beside any boys because they would be being stupid and kicking wildly to make sure they saturated everyone around them like it was a huge joke. I can remember my bottom being so cold it would be numb from sitting on the wet concrete wall and as for my legs dipped in the water, well I’m sure the water temperature could not have been more than about 16 degrees.
After the kicking exercises we had to get into the pool where we were told to wade from one side to the other and I would be doing this on my tippy toes with my arms in the air trying to get the minimum amount of me wet. When we had done this a number of times we had to line up around the perimeter of the pool and then run in one direction to create a whirlpool. When the water was flowing swiftly we had to turn around and push against it trying to reverse the direction of the whirlpool. How they got away with calling these swimming lessons is beyond me.
Then those who could swim were singled out to do a few laps while everyone else was allowed to climb out and enter the change rooms. Unfortunately I was always singled out to do a few laps and I did this with my face barely in the water because the water temperature would give me a headache and make my face numb and by now I would be so cold I wouldn’t be able to feel my feet or my hands or even the end of my nose. The teachers always marveled at how quickly I could swim but I don’t think they realised how powerfully I was being motivated by the air and water temperatures. Finally I would be allowed out and I would enter the draughty change room where shaking uncontrollably I would dry myself off, get dressed and head back to class with wet hair and I would shiver for the rest of the day.
How we didn’t all die of exposure is beyond me.
It’s time for something warming…
Rich Self-Saucing Chocolate Pudding
Degree of Difficulty: 2/5
Cost: I actually didn’t have to go to the shops as everything I needed was in my pantry. This is a wonderful warming dessert that requires only basic ingredients.
- 1 cup self-raising flour, sifted
- 1/2 cup caster sugar
- 1/3 cup cocoa, sifted
- 1/2 cup milk
- 50g butter, melted
- 1 egg
- 1 tspn vanilla extract
- 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
- 1 cup boiling water
Preheat oven to 180C or 160C fan-forced.
Lightly grease an 8cm-deep, 6 cup capacity ovenproof dish
Place flour, caster sugar and half the cocoa in a large bowl Whisk milk, butter, egg and vanilla together in a jug. Add egg mixture to flour mixture. Transfer to prepared dish.
Combine brown sugar and remaining cocoa in a bowl Sprinkle cocoa mixture over batter. Pour boiling water over the back of a large metal spoon to evenly cover pudding batter.
Place dish on a baking tray. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until pudding bounces back when pressed gently in the centre.
Remove from oven. Stand for 3 to 4 minutes.
Serve with ice cream or cream.
This recipe is from Taste.
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