It's nearly July, and we're seeking summer. Some of us are flying to warmer locales, while others stay to repeat the routine of wiping window condensation, before rugging up and sitting in front of the heater with a cuppa. The deep-body chill lingers, even after we escape the wind. I daydream of hot pools, wondering how I'd force myself to exit. Pruney skin or passing out are indications time's up on the communal crock.

There are other ways to conjure the sunny season in these cold, dark, post-solstice days. Like staying alert for signs this is a beach community, even in the dead of winter. The Bay does not disappoint in this respect. If I were an attorney presenting the case summer's essence survives year-round, I would present the following evidence:

Exhibit A: I pull into the Mount New World parking garage and exit my car. Immediately, I'm hit by a familiar, yet incongruous smell. Burnt toast? Did a demonstration of garlic ciabatta go wrong? I walk towards the smell. Two young backpackers in the second row's last car park are cooking from the back of a van. If Tay St was too cold for toast-making, they've found a solution.

Exhibit B: It's 6pm and dark as midnight as we drive Marine Parade. On the right-hand side, a young man pedals a bicycle with a surfboard attached to the side. His chin-length blonde hair blows in the breeze. Imagine emerging from the surf at night, wet and happy before catching pneumonia (old wives' tale, I know, but my advancing decrepitude allows me to cradle delusions close to my gravity-challenged bosom). Miss 14 recognises the lad as a Year 10 student at her school. Ride on, son. Next time, wear a helmet. They function year-round.

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Exhibit C: We're walking the dog at Papamoa Beach during the day and spy a woman and her young daughter tilling the sand. Another girl walks to the toy library and grabs another plastic implement with which to dig to China, or Wakanda, or wherever kids these days are trying to reach. Dogs in every direction are digging, fetching, swimming. They've no idea it's winter until they're inside and curl up next to a heat source as if they've all become hairless terriers.

Exhibit D: Summer bodies. People are gyming it hard, keeping up their health club memberships in hopes of gaining confidence to finally get that navel piercing or wear board shorts or backless one-piece without flesh flopping over the side. Visiting the gym and breaking a sweat help, but legend has it people who continue fortnightly gym payments without using the facilities can also lose heaps - of money from their bank accounts. I prefer a year-round regime of living with a 12-year-old and a 14-year-old who eat ALL THE GOOD STUFF. It's done wonders for my waist, but not my wallet. Do what suits you, but please don't tell me how health-conscious you've become while stuffing muffin wrappers and chippie bags into the bin.

Not a summer body, a body for life: checking in with Colette

In January, I shared the story of Bay mum Colette Orringe, whose goal was to lose 30kg by mid-April. I asked for a mid-year update, knowing Colette has faced significant life changes the past few months. She says she started off with a "...hiss and a roar. I thought, jeepers, if I carry on like this I'll be a head on a stick by March, so I allowed myself to slow down a bit and not be so strict, as I was sticking to a very low carb, high protein diet."

Unfortunately, the business Colette and her husband started folded, and their landlord gave them notice on their six-year rental. Stress crept in. Priorities shifted. She stopped walking one hour each day, which slowed her progress and motivation. Weight loss has plateaued at 12kg. Colette and her family found a home in Papamoa, and she and her and husband have new jobs. "I have started focusing again and plan to hit my goal by December this year, which is probably more realistic, anyway."

Colette has resumed her daily hourly walk and also walks often to her new caregiver job rather than drive. Also, she walks her client's dog twice a day on the beach. She's retraining herself to eat healthier again. "I know I'll feel better for it once I do. And of course, summer really is just around the corner."

Any big goal is fraught with challenge. The line connecting start and success is more zig and zag, with ruts and hurdles, than straight path clear of complications. Colette is overcoming barriers, not in the timeline she'd envisioned, but according to the schedule of the universe, who acknowledges our plans, clutches her stomach - and laughs.


- Dawn Picken also writes for the Bay of Plenty Times Weekend and tutors at Toi Ohomai. She is a former TV journalist and marketing director who lives in Papamoa with her husband, two school-aged children and a dog named Ally.