You know those mornings when you get your first real impression that the season has turned? My favourite has always been autumn, with its first hint of crispness and the fragrance of woodsmoke in the morning air, the first browning of a leaf and blush of purple in the blackberry bushes.

Here in Australia's far north tropics, according to the local indigenous calendar we have moved into Balnba - the rainy season preceding the monsoonal storms of January to March. The Gulumoerrgin calendar of the Larrakia people helpfully points out the chorus of croaking frogs, the abundance of shellfish and the ripeness of bush plums that characterise this season, but gloss over the less poetic aspects of the sweltering miasma; the lethargic sea breeze and the tap-dripping monotony of collapsing storms that dash your hopes of a break in the weather. It is the doldrums of the land, this build-up season. Occasionally broken by a passing shower, and only made bearable by the ceaseless swirling buzz of a ceiling fan.

But one day you wake up and the skies are a dull, waterlogged grey. Not the grey of a sky that will clear up by mid morning, but the soaking wet towel horizon of a low pressure system that isn't going anywhere soon.

The thermometer barely reaches 30 degrees.

And you can put some pants on again...and maybe even switch the fan off...it's kind of chilly actually. Living most of the year within such a narrow band of temperatures, it's almost as though every single drop in a degree feels like the equivalent of three in more temperate climates.

This shift in seasons seems to have arrived early this year. Of course an early monsoon doesn't guarantee a long and cyclonic season, and meanwhile the local newspaper and Bureau of Meteorology continue to play their usual cat and mouse game of vague statements by the latter being transformed into declarative headlines by the former. However, as we're only a couple of decent showers away from breaking all rainfall records for the month of November, and with a tropical low promised for the weekend, the notorious build-up has thus far barely had a dance at this year's seasonal ball. And I for one am not so sorry to see it playing wallflower for a change!

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