“Winter is not a season, it’s an occupation.” Sinclair Lewis
Now, as the cold sets in and the winds bite, we can turn towards home. The lack of strong daylight draws us to the soft lighting, the fire glow, candles and a good torch for the Last Dog Walk at bedtime. I find I read even more, if that is, indeed, possible. My tastebuds changed their tune and thick soup replaces a rocket salad. I remember Elisabeth Luard, the famous cookery writer saying to me, once, that she loved the winter. All those bonkers unmatching hats and gloves, the fat woolly jumpers, thick socks, big boots and nobody watching her waistline, least of all, her. It was almost with a sigh she welcomed Spring, knowing full well that those pretty frocks might well resist joining at the zip.
Gone are those foraging walks, the fresh tang of autumn with skies full of redwings and the leaves turning into gold and red to finally fall to the ground, a crunchy carpet at first, then a soggy mulch beneath our boots. Mud gathers below the verges, frost splits the tarmac and the potholes re-appear with a vengeance. But, walking into winter can hold its own delights, after all, who doesn’t like jumping in puddles? If you have gone beyond puddle jumping there is something wrong with you because it may be the best form of excercise you can take and there is never any harm in re-visiting the inner child. So many of us lose our sense of play and it is a Zeus of a mistake. The finest people I know still play childish pranks at 80 with twinkly winkly eyes and a dare in them for you to even think of disapproving.
In Sweden, so I am told by my viking daughter-in-law, there is no rain/sleet or slush. There is only snow. Kissing the ground at first, this white out can grow to terrifying depths, disappearing whole houses overnight. If it ever happens here, there is considerable panic as if we are all about to turn into snowmen. Trains stop, buses stop, and nobody can get to work. Well, I struggle to find the bad in that, unless, of course, you are an emergency service. In Sweden this is all carefully thought through and those who need to get about grow wings. Although I don’t want to say this, I do wonder at the flapdoodle this country gets into about seasonal changes, and I do shake my head. At Tapselteerie, if the track was impassable, we just didn’t pass it. Sudden holidays, lack of food, the power off, no phone, all meant fun. As long as the stock were fed, milked and checked, we were all quite happy to play. I remember once being at the hairdresser in town and the local police (pronounced poh-liss) popping his head round the door of each shop to recommend that those of us who lived ‘over by’ meaning anywhere but the town, should head home as the hill road was fast being wiped out. Being wiped out is exactly what happens. The terrain is just one hilly blanket and there is no way to tell where the road lies within it. I said to the poh-liss that I wisnae going hame with one side cropped and the other trailing over my right ear, and, by the time I did head overby, someone had already found the road and marked it out which was very thoughtful even if it did take two attempts to top the highest hilly bend with a neat short back and sides.
It seems to me that fear is the killer here. What on earth is there to be afraid of? It’s only snow and puddles after all, although not both together. Ice is a bit different though with its chameleon ability to become the road. When someone ahead of me scooted neatly off the single track road in the un-gritted glen, landing just under the nose of a startled horse munching hay, all of us stopped to help. We hefted and bumped and, on finding all that hefting and bumping quite pointless, popped the inhabitants into our own cars and trundled them home, waving to the horse as we drew away.
And, of course, there is always the promise of Spring. Crocuses are coming, snowdrops pushing into the cold light, birds looking for nest sites. But we should honour winter. There is a beauty in it, a bare stark beauty that should not be missed, like building snowmen, puddle jumping, making soup, wearing bonkers and unmatching hats and gloves. Longing for something to end just lengthens it I find. Our winters are unpredictable, unlike Sweden.
How versatile are you? I personally want to be able to bounce like Tigger (or move like Jagger) whatever comes my way, even if it does require forward planning and something to hold on to. And, there is always a temporarily unbouncing somebody who needs my help.