It's almost winter in Newcastle.
I know this because I hear "Geez it's chilly in the morning hey?" every few days.
Another indicator is that cafes in our temperate coastal enclave are enticing us freezing urchins with signs saying: "We have soup".
Clearly it's time to tuck into hearty broths as you never know when a snow flurry on Mount Sugarloaf will spark another super-competitive panic sprint to the shops for bed socks, fire-lighters and Tim Tams.
For me, the only reliable sign that it's dead-set cold in our fair city is a sighting of a bloke wearing a flanno-Ugg-boot-beanie combo with his boardies. It's known as the Struth It's A Bit Fresh Autumn-Winter Collection and is accessorised with a pie and dead horse.
You never know when a snow flurry on Mount Sugarloaf will spark another super-competitive panic sprint to the shops.
We are pretty close to this definitive signal. It might have already kicked off in some corners of the city, but could have easily been confused with 2020's Iso-Wear Collection.
I've seen a few tentative tradies securing their beanies under caps, but until their dogs are allowed to ride in the ute's cab, it's not strictly brass monkey weather.
In a recent Facebook post, a friend reported that she had ventured out in the classic winter footwear of socks and thongs. This is OK if you need to nick to the bottle shop or put out the bin. Ugg boots are more appropriate for bigger jobs, such as waiting in the takeaway for a Chiko and chips.
When I was young, we didn't have air-conditioning, but we had a kerosene heater. Once Dad fired up that beauty we knew we would be cozy (as long as we kept our highly flammable jimjams at least "a metre from the heater").
The only downside was that, for those few weeks of winter, the whole family would get around with the scent of kerosene in our hair.
It had no lasting effect, I think.
At the very least, none of us got hair lice.
A Melbourne friend, who once visited in the dead of the Novocastrian winter (two weeks in August), declared that he had never felt so cold.
Of course, I immediately got defensive as I thought he was having a go at Newy. But I calmed down when he reasoned it was because most of our homes were not kitted out for truly cold weather. Double glazing, Arctic-approved insulation and central heating are scant in these parts. A snake (draught serpent) shoved at the door is not going to cut it when a chill wind blows.
When I bought my old weatherboard cottage years ago, I was convinced I had a ghost. It "appeared" during my first winter in the house.
The evidence was compelling: at night - particularly when it was dark and stormy - I was woken by the sound of all the latches on my old chest of drawers clattering.
It would stop, and off it would go again.
No one took me seriously, possibly because I whispered creepily to them that I had a "phantom latch-rattler in my bedroom".
But a year or so ago, in a Scooby-Doo moment, my spectre was unmasked, and it wasn't the weirdo fairground owner or the shifty theatre usher.
It was something more chilling.
All was revealed when I ripped up the bedroom carpet to check the state of the floorboards. The 100-year-old boards were solid, but you could drive a bus through the cracks between them.
When the wind whistled under the house it came up through the threadbare carpet.
I still didn't believe that the wind could be that strong, until I put down underlay before installing new boards and the hefty material would magically levitate when the wind blew.
OK, so I didn't have a ghost.
It was just a wintry blow-in. Like the Pasha Bulker, but not as impressive.
It's a shame, I would have liked a chilling Newcastle ghost tale to tell over a steaming bowl of oxtail soup at the cafe.
Winter is coming, and, unless a bulk carrier lands on Newcastle's doorstep again (Stockton's OK, it has the tank traps), it's set to be more mild than wild.
So batten down the hatches, ignore the ghostly latches.
Get into the zone.
The temperate zone.