On Life

Up close and personal with Jack Frost, or lies my mother told me.

I live on a hill, near the ocean, in a town with a “mediterranean” climate. At least that’s what the tourist brochures claim.

But it’s winter and that mediterranean climate has returned to the Mediterranean along with the rest of the tourists.

When I was a kid, on winter nights, our home all warm and cozy, Mum would shiver and then declare: Jack’s out and about tonight. Then I’d peek between the curtains, stare into the dark, and hope for a glimpse of this Jack she seemed to know.

In the mornings my sister and I huddled by the heater while Mum dressed us. Her hands were always cold, and we’d wriggle and squirm and complain. Exasperated with us, Mum used to say: Frosts are good, they kill the bugs.

I thought she meant those scourges of childhood, tummy upsets and sore throats. She was probably talking about the aphids in her garden.

Last week’s beauty frost didn’t kill off my cold germs. Oh, no. Not all. Now there are two of us in this house coughing and spluttering and sneezing away.

But I’m pretty darn sure it finished off the aphids. Frost was on our BBQ table until late morning. That’s never happened before, not in the nineteen years we’ve lived in this house

Winter prunings

Winter prunings

On mornings like this Mum would cheerily announce: Frosty morning, sunny day. She made it sound as certain as the pot of soup we knew would be bubbling on the stove when we got home from school.

But then came black frosts. What an affront to hope, fairness, and belief in your mother. This year we’ve had them, a lot; grey days when the cloud bears down on us before the sun has a chance to warm the ground.

Along with Mum’s curious relationship to Jack Frost, winter brought out her cold cures; guaranteed to see off sore throats and runny noses, or so she claimed. They ranged from lemon drinks to the foulest of elixirs, the very word sounds poisonous to me, to inhalations and ointment.

The ointment was the worst. You’ll feel better in the morning Mum would declare as she rubbed my chest, her fingers like ice-cubes on my skin.

I hated the stuff. It was stinky and sticky and it made me feel too hot.

This winter, with this cold, I was desperate for relief. I’d have considered an inhalation, even an elixir. Between sneezes I rummaged through my cupboards until I found an old tin of Mum’s never fail ointment. It’s so old it doesn’t have an expiry date.

With nothing to lose, I rubbed it in; my fingers cold, just like Mum’s used to be.

The next morning? I felt better. Not well, but better.

Last night I said to John: Use that ointment, you’ll feel better in the morning.

It’s not a lie, not exactly.

Tell me, how’s the southern winter treating you?

If you’re up north and enjoying summer, I’d love to know about that too. Your summer stories are a soupçon of hope to those of us down under.

Credit where credit’s due, inspiration for this post came from:

Curt over at Lies Jack Kerouac told Me 

Hugh’s hilarious post: Ten things I hate most about summer

The WP Photo Challenge:  “Close Up.”

And Photo101 Rehab

58 replies »

  1. Our summer is a bit weird. We go from very hot and humid to thunderstorms, and everything in between. We’ve already had a heat wave and I’ve had to install some kind of ‘heat protocol’ to make it bearable in my nearly hundred-year-old apartment. My heat protocol: a fan, my feet in a bucket of water, a wet towel in my neck and doing nothing much. 😉 I do love the long days a lot! Today the temperature isn’t too bad, but skies are grey and I can smell Autumn in the air. It’s a weird and very changeable summer, but I enjoy my second summer of the year, even though my times in New Zealand earlier this year seems so long ago already. I just don’t want the summer to be over 😛


  2. We’re in the throes of summer where I live (Ohio, USA). In fact, we just spent the day in our state’s capitol at the state fair. All sorts of summer things going on there, including a pig race, which is something I never thought I’d find myself at! But all experiences are useful research for a writer, right? 🙂

    Thanks for visiting my site. Much appreciated!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello Carrie and welcome to my blog. A pig race – the idea alone makes me laugh. Although, that said, one of my favourite small towns near here celebrates Duck Day each spring. It’s like a mini fair. The high point is the release of hundreds of yellow plastic ducks in to the river. There’s a prize (fame and fortune!) for the owner of the first duck to reach the finish. I’ve been once and, believe it or not, it was a lot of fun.


  3. Hope all those Mother’s cures have worked their magic on you and John and you are both firing on all 4 cylinders again. I’m with Jude as a child having the daily spoonful of cod liver oil forced down my reluctant throat along with the Vick’s vapour both rubbed on my chest and inhaled from a bowl of hot water with a towel to keep all the fumes in… I think that may be an English Mother’s torture… Remember the Rawleigh’s elixir that I gave to my kids as a cure all when we lived in NZ. Here’s some sunshine for you if I can get this photo to link. https://memoriesaremadeofthisblog.files.wordpress.com/2013/07/sunrise-burleigh-beach-feb-14-pc-sx40-211_4000x3000.jpg


    • Rawleigh’s was and still is popular here, Pauline. And oh, those inhalations! My Dad was a serious fan of them!! I hated being in the same room when he was taking one – it was the stink.

      Thank-you for the sunshine 🙂 Better than tinned! From the photo it looks as if it may have been suitably, swelteringly, hot.


  4. Wonderful title, and what a great post…your writing style just brings out a smile when I read. As for the cold, that too brings a smile to my face especially since summer has been nothing but heat for me.


  5. Jill, thanks so much for mentioning me and my recent post about Summer.

    I adored reading your post as it bought back so many memories of my Grandmother and what she would give it us when we had bad colds. My father always gave us Whiskey and Honey. The whiskey was warmed up so it lost its alcohol content. It was horrid and even to this day I can not stomach the taste, let alone the smell, of whiskey. I also do not like honey. However, both would shift our colds and we’d be up and about really quickly.

    As for our Summer, well it’s been a very cool one so far. We’ve only had one really hot and humid day (July 1st) which was unbearable. Some parts of Scotland are forecast for a visit from Jack Frost later in the week, which is very unusual for the time of year. Then again the cool winds are coming directly from the North Pole. Last Friday and Sunday we had a months worth of rain in two days. So, as you can read, it’s been a great summer here in the UK! 🙂


    • You are very welcome, Hugh. I’ve been laughing about that post for weeks, now! As for whiskey and honey, I don’t like the sound of that concoction. But, recently I was introduced to whiskey and dark chocolate, and very nice it is, too. Actually, come to think of it, it could be a very drinkable and eatable cold cure.

      And, oh dear, you summer doesn’t very summery at all. Here’s to a perfectly autumnal autumn but not for a few weeks, yet.


  6. Sorry to hear that and how you’re in the mend.
    I love the Jack Frost story and the relationship with bugs. It reminded me of the mother of a friend of mine. She would always say that orange juice cures everything. Until today he drinks it whenever he feels unwell. These things stick in our minds.
    And if that is any consolation, the summer up here in this side of the Northern hemisphere seems to be over. For many days we have stormy weather, and temperatures not going higher than 18C.
    Get well soon!!


    • Your story about the orange juice made me laugh, Lucile. My sister, who will no doubt read this comment believes that if she can eat fresh pineapple as soon as she feels the very first tickle of a sore throat, it will provide an instant cure. The thing is pineapples don’t grow in New Zealand. So getting one requires a special trip to the supermarket with fingers crossed that a) they will have one, and b) it will be ripe.


  7. Sorry Jill that you and John are feeling the cold.
    Pleased Jack Frost has not dampened your good humour.
    This year Pauline picked up a bug and first time ever I escaped.
    Pauline kept saying how you feeling, are you ok, no headache, no tickle in the throat.
    She kept enquiring and coughing and sniffling.
    She kept saying things like ” I’ll be looking after you next week.”
    It is supposed to be tropical here but we have had a few real cool days.
    No Jack Frost just cool winds.


    • I imagine the eating or drinking of oranges/pineapples or any citrus fruits comes from the fact that they all contain large amounts of Vitamin C which is useful for soothing the symptoms of a cold, but as we all know, not a cure 😦
      When I developed a rotten sore throat and stuffy nose in Sydney on arrival I juiced fresh oranges for breakfast and ate plenty of mangoes together with the natural nasal inhaler and cold and flu tablets I eventually felt fine! I always think that a cold / flu in summer is twice as bad as one in winter. I do hope you are both on the way to recovery.


  8. Ah, my dear, summer’s not been so great up here either. Either cold and way too much rain and flooding and disasters or HOT and humid. My garden looks like a jungle and it will stay that way until the days cool off. In May, we had 27 out of 31 days with rain. Yup. And June was more rain and more flooding. Not here at home but I expect you read of my adventures with water in the basement on the farm and the submersible pump. In July, we had less rain but fierce thunderstorms dashing about from all the heat and humidity. But. I went up again last weekend and the basement floor dry. Miracles!! Fall is coming for us and spring for you, so I expect we shall prevail….!!


    • I did read your post about the visit to the farm, Janet. I can still see you sloshing across the basement floor in your bare feet and then later not telling your son. Good to know all is dry again at the farm.
      Every year, in the heart of winter, I dream of days with a slight sea breeze, the sun warm on my skin but not so hot as to burn and I imagine all my northern hemisphere friends enjoying similarly lovely conditions. But reality is always rather more messy. I know that come January or February when we’ll be sweltering, and hot northwesterly winds will be making everyone irritable, I’ll be thinking to myself, won’t it be nice when it’s time to start lighting the fire again. It’s a good thing the seasons change.


  9. Spoonfuls of malt and cod liver oil in our house – and I loved it 😀
    Can’t offer you any relief in the weather, although it is our midsummer the temperatures are barely reaching double figures! I’ll happily send you some sunshine when it comes 🙂


  10. As a kid, I would get the same torture treatment as Dan…Vicks VapoRub on the chest, covered with a rag pinned round my neck to keep it from ruining the sheets. Awful.

    For what it’s worth, we’ll hit 95 today…my lawn is turning a lovely shade of brown. And great title for a post, by the way. 🙂


    • Oh, my Giddy Aunt, I’ve plagiarised you, Curt! I hate it when that happens to me. I was complaining at the weekend about people taking my photos without any attribution. I’ve added a link giving you credit for your part in the inspiration for this post. Thanks for pointing it out in such a good natured way.

      As for the cold cures – were our mother’s friends? Was that rag red, by any chance? My mum used a piece of red flannel. I used to think it was part of the cure.

      Brown lawns, huh. Down here they’re a sign of a decent summer!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. And yes, we have experienced Vicks vaporub as well. There is a homeopathic syrup called Alfalfa, which used to be my husband’s favourite for all health problems….


    • You have Vicks Vapour Rub, too? What a truly international remedy!! I’ve heard of alfalfa – we often eat the sprouts. But I’ve never heard of Alfalfa syrup – I wonder is it green? I really don’t know, but for some reason I imagine it might taste like grass.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Ha ha, loved reading about Jack Frost. India is reeling under high summer temperatures. Us in the northern hills have a lovely monsoon. Fogs rolling off the hills into my backyard 🙂


    • Hello writenlive, I’ve been reading in the news terrible stories about the heat wave in India. I do so hope that passes soon. It sounds so unrelenting. I remember seeing a photo you posted on your blog of the hills where you live. I can only think that fog would make them even more beautiful, romantic even.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Hello Sammy D, If the cold winter means a pesky-pest free summer, it would almost be worth it – almost.
      BTW my sister gave me a plaque which stands on my kitchen window sill. It says : “OMG, my mother was right about everything.” And every year that goes by I discover yet more that Mum was right about.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Almost 😀

        My mom would love your plaque!!

        I used to have a chart about Dads that was similar. They are graphed on a reverse bell-curve starting with a high ‘my Dad knows everything’ when you’re a toddler to a low of ‘that man is out of touch’ during your rebellious breaking-away years to a high of ‘i wish Dad was still alive to answer my questions’ when you’re in your own twilight years.

        Liked by 1 person

  13. Sorry you have a cold. Winter or summer, I hate that feeling. I remember the ointment. Here it was Vicks VapoRub and it seemed worse than the cold itself. We are enjoying summer. Last week had a miserably hot and humid start but ended with some of the nicest days we’ve had in a long time. As for the frost, I almost look forward to those days since Autumn is my favorite season. One thing we have here a couple of times each winter is freezing fog. The fog simply freezes onto everything. It’s dangerous but quite beautiful. I hope you and yours feel better soon.


      • It is beautiful Jill. We get freezing rain, which coats everything in about 1/10″ inch of ice, but the fog leaves a very thick coating and it sparkles. The danger comes from the fact that it freezes on the road surface as well, but it’s very hard to see. They call it “black ice” because when you look at the road, it just looks wet but it’s extremely slick.


        • Dan, it sounds truly, truly beautiful. And the black ice sounds truly treacherous! We don’t get it around here, but in the winter it’s a problem for people driving through the mountainous regions.

          Liked by 1 person

  14. Wouldn’t have been that tin of red stuff from the Rawleighs man would it? We had that at home. But Mum always swore by Vicks and would put a dab on our nostrils. yuh did that hurt.


    • Huh, Funny how it’s always a Rawleighs man, and an Avon lady. We had Vicks Vapour Rub, as well. But Mum always seemed to revert back to the Rawleighs – an old-fashioned cure-all.


  15. Like your mother, I was confident that Jack Frost would kill the bugs……humph…..not the cold bugs, that’s for sure. So I hope he has worked his magic with the garden bugs or I will be very put out. Hope you are on the mend. I haven’t been this sick with a bug in about 20 years! My grandmother used to tie a little bag of camphor onto my mother’s winter singlets. That was supposed to kill off winter coughs and colds.


  16. My dad went through a phase when he would feed us a tonic named “Blackberry Balsam.” It was absolutely horrid! At some point, he dispensed with the yearly dose. I was ever thankful of the fact!!!


      • Yes it had that same dreadful gift that just kept giving. Blackberry sounds like it should be delicious, but it was horrible…There was also a tan thick cough medicine that tasted, I swear, like vomit. He was fond of that as well. Seems like it was named Horlick’s or something like that. Where have all these ghastly tonics vanished to? Back to medicine Hell, I guess!!


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