It must be winter when…
Several things have happened this week which I recognise from previous years as the signposts for winter. Rather than weigh into a long post, I thought I’d just note a check-list. I wonder which of these markers are on your mental list too?
So. It must be winter when…
1. We are late for school in the morning because, despite leaving the house in good time
for once, I discover a thick layer of ice on the windscreen. The de-icer and scraper are in the boot of the car. The boot is frozen shut.
2. The central heating breaks down. Putting on moisturiser feels more like smearing on yogurt straight from the fridge. The cold makes my lips sore, but also turns my lip balm brick-hard. I try to remember where I packed away my long-johns last spring.
3. Heading home down the drive between beech and oak trees, I have to brake to avoid a woodcock which hurtles out of the dead bracken and off through the woods, jinking through the bare branches. These beautiful birds are seasonal visitors, fleeing south from Russia and Scandinavia ahead of the advancing snows: true heralds of winter.
4. The boiler-man arrives to fix the heating. Warmth again! Then a winter storm sweeps in, rattling the roof slates and stripping boughs from the trees. Our power lines are snapped in several places by falling timber. We have a power cut. This is fine: we are used to it and are half-expecting it, so the torches and candles are at the ready. Except that we didn’t expect it to last quite so long….from before dawn on Thursday, at the height of the storm, until after lunch on Friday. As the house cools down, the long-johns come in handy. Hundreds of engineers were working flat out to repair damaged lines all over the country. While they labour, we discover again just how little daylight there is at this time of year, and just how simple and quiet life is without electricity. I make pumpkin soup by candlelight in the morning. We sing carols at the piano. We go to bed early.
5. Once the power is restored and the water has heated up again, I have the best, long, hot bath of the year.
6. ‘Messiah’ is this weekend: the Christmas concert by the city choral society in which I sing. It’s an old chestnut, I know, but it has been my great favourite since learning it under an outstanding choirmaster in my first year at university. I absolutely love singing it. Except that…
7. The seasonal bugs are sweeping through the population and I have had a chest infection for a week. An attempt to run through a few choruses with my husband this afternoon made it quite clear that there is no possibility of my being able to sing in the concert tomorrow. I am bitterly disappointed.
8. On the positive side, it was St. Nicholas’s Day yesterday, which in our family tradition has become the day when I allow Christmas decorations to come creeping into our Advent, starting this year with the children decorating the little Christmas tree in the family den.
9. The beginnings of festive feeling are helped by the arrival of the first snow, just as predicted by that woodcock. On Thursday, in the power cut, the blizzard outside didn’t seem too appealing: today, in a warmish house with the Christmas lights twinkling on the tree, it looks very pretty out there.
10. Christmas is coming, ready or not. Today was ‘Santa Day’ in Dunkeld. Crowds in festive jumpers gathered in the snowy town to see Father Christmas arrive, pulled on his sleigh by real reindeer from the Cairngorm herd. The stalls run by local craftspeople and charities did a brisk trade. We bought chocolate flavoured with Scots pine, Christmas cards from the Friends of the Cathedral and mugs of steaming hot chocolate made by the Girl Guides. Friends were met, festive window displays were admired, reindeer were coo-d over. Finally, when we could no longer feel our toes, we stumbled over the bridge to our car and home, while faintly over the river came the strains of the brass band playing ‘Joy to the World’.
I’d say winter is here, wouldn’t you?