Winter Warmers and writing festivals

Baby, it’s cold outside.

The skies might still be blue but, with the temperature dropping to the chilly depths of the low teens, winter has arrived in Sydney.

Walking to work this morning, everyone I passed was bundled up in hats, wool coats and scarves, except for one confused looking group of Irish backpackers I passed who were happily running around in t-shirts and shorts and admiring how warm it is.

I used to think 13C was warm too – in Ireland, 23C is hot and over 25C is sweltering. I’m not joking – we once had a “heatwave” where noon temperatures stayed at 27C for a week and doctors were issuing medical advice on sunstroke and dehydration to a confused populace from every radio and TV. When I first arrived in Sydney I basked in the sun even in the middle of winter. Sadly, I have now been in Australia for long enough that when the temperature drops below 15, I get chilly.

The Queenlanders are rubbing it in too – happy Facebook and Twitter updates on how balmy it is, people talking about strolling in the sun at South Bank. In return my Sydney and Melbourne friends write unhappy little comments on their Facebook, and then we all get together and tease poor Canberra for its sub-zero temperatures at night.

On the plus side, all this cold is perfect reading weather. What could be nicer than curling up under a blankets with a really massive book? I’m back on my epics again – (rereading Game of Thrones, and catching up on the new Robin Hobb’s) and getting stuck into some non-fiction too.

That said, I may be longing for the sun but next week there is nowhere better to be in Australia for the annual Sydney Writers’ Festival at Walsh Bay. Fatima Bhutto  whose powerful memoir “Songs of Blood and Sword” explores of one of the world’s best known political dynasties and the tumultuous nature of life in Pakistan, will give the opening address setting the stage for a festival that explores the topic of power. Talks and panels will explore various diverse issues under this big umbrella, from reactions to Wikileaks, dealing with China’s growth in wealth and power, leadership and climate change.

The festival casts a broad net, taking in fiction and non-fiction, and inviting everyone from AA Gill and Anthony Bourdain to discuss food and life (sadly,  sold  out) to poets and political analysts to showcase their work.  If you are interested in climate change, don’t miss a chance to see paleoclimatologist Curt Stager (whose recent release, Deep Future, is currently keeping me company under the doona for evening reading) and others will talk about current issues and the future of action on climate change.

If you can’t make it to Sydney, (perhaps it’s just too cold for you here) you can still catch plenty of the highlights as the ABC will be broadcasting on Saturday and Sunday May 21 and 22 from the festival. You can also still find a lot of content from from 2010, allowing you browse your reading interests from under your doona. It’s enough to make you feel all warm and fuzzy.

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Sadhbh Warren

Sadhbh Warren is a freelance writer and proud booklover. Her name is pronounced Sive - like five – an Irish name, easier to say than spell! She lives in Sydney, writing travel and humour articles, and is always on the lookout for a great new book.