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It must be winter when…

December 8, 2013

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.,7.12.13-1


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?,7.12.13-2

You might enjoy Advent stillness, or some Advent excitements in My epic life.

18 Comments leave one →
  1. December 8, 2013 5:31 am

    Your ‘Santa Day’ sounds wonderful! We had our annual Santa Run where thousands of people ran/walked a 5k dressed in Santa suits. It is fun to see, but that is it – just a mini marathon. No market, no reindeer (though a few dogs were dressed up)

    • December 8, 2013 7:41 pm

      Yes, we are lucky; it gets better every year. A true community event. We are lucky that Santa can borrow some reindeer from just up the road too. 😉

  2. Snoring Dog Studio permalink
    December 8, 2013 12:18 pm

    I thoroughly enjoyed this post. How lovely you describe your surroundings and your days. I love how you cope with adversity and accept it. You live in a delightful place. I shoveled 6 inches of snow off my driveway yesterday and away from the porch. It’s very cold here, but we’re all safe and warm.

    • December 8, 2013 7:43 pm

      Thank you very much, you make me feel warmer already with your kind words!
      Idaho is a part of the States I’d like to visit one day, as we have one or two connections there. Not sure if I could cope with your winters though!

      • Snoring Dog Studio permalink
        December 9, 2013 1:22 pm

        Well, you’re always welcome here. It is 2 degrees out as I type this. It is cold!

  3. December 8, 2013 3:43 pm

    Yes, lovely descriptions of the good and the bad. I keep a can of that de-icer spray in each tote bag for each job so I am never without it. I took an old inflatable mattress (deflated) and use it as a windshield cover for when it’s going to get bad… the one thing I absolutely hate is scraping the windshield or waiting for it to defrost! We just have a dusting of snow so far but it’s extremely cold for December. We celebrate St. Nicholas complete with wooden shoes… he always comes!

    • December 8, 2013 7:45 pm

      How sensible, now why don’t I remember to keep a can handy? I have the windshield cover, but it’s not much use on mornings when I wasn’t expecting frost and had left it stowed in the boot of the car along with the de-icer…! 🙂
      St. Nicholas is not celebrated in this country. I think it’s a Dutch tradition originally?

      • December 8, 2013 9:24 pm

        Oh yes, we just do it because I spent some time there as a kid and we love doing it. We don’t do a lot, although we used to make a traditional Dutch pastry and leave it on the doorsteps of our friends’ houses, ring the bell and run away… it got to be too much effort… so it’s just our family.

  4. December 8, 2013 5:18 pm

    I would definitely say winter is here! What lovely descriptions, and I love your photo of the soup-making. Wonderful to see a woodcock too – always special! I can imagine how cold you were during the power cut, and I’m glad you’re thawing out! Dunkeld sounds like a lovely place to be for a Christmas festival. Hoping that your bug clears up soon.

    • December 8, 2013 7:50 pm

      Thank you, Jo. I am always thrilled by woodcock: they are birds I greatly admire. Funnily enough I was doing some sorting last week and came again across Colin’s beautiful woodcock painting on the cover of last winter’s Scottish Sporting Gazette, I think it was? Just exquisite.

      • December 8, 2013 8:51 pm

        Yes, it was! Well spotted, and thank you. We think another one of his pics might be featuring in the new issue – black grouse, this time! They have kindly offered to run some editorial.

  5. December 9, 2013 9:00 pm

    Dunkeld is a pretty lively place, between Perthshire Amber and festive frolics. Lovely that it doesn’t seem to involve manic flashing lights and imported jollity.

    I hope your chest infection is getting better. Will you go along to listen?

    • December 19, 2013 11:46 pm

      Belatedly replying to you: sadly I wasn’t even up to going along to hear ‘Messiah’. But I’m nearly fine at last, and no doubt will have other chances to sing it in the future.

      You are quite right about Dunkeld. We sometimes forget how lucky we are; it is a lovely and a lively place for such a small community.

  6. December 12, 2013 9:25 pm

    OOoh I can picture Santa in Dunkeld now! Hope all your “utility” problems are now resolved??? I have thermal leggings and fleecy lined walking trousers for such occasions…. no I never WALK in the walking trousers – but they ARE warm. LOL!

    • December 19, 2013 11:48 pm

      Hah, I do like the sound of your fleece-lined trousers. I can find them for my children but have never tracked down adult versions – I’ll have to look in some of these ‘mountain outfitter’ shops! As for the utilities, well, we still have a few problems, but hey ho…!

  7. Perpetua permalink
    December 13, 2013 11:06 am

    Winter is definitely here and Christmas is coming too. I love the way you allow it to arrive gradually. 🙂 So sorry to hear about your weather and heating problems. Broken central heating or power cuts are bad enough in an ordinary house, but in a castle they must demand real endurance. Brrr!

    • December 19, 2013 11:50 pm

      It is mild at the moment but, if the weather turns really cold, I intend to follow Sian’s excellent example and kit myself out in thermals and fleecy trousers. The problem is, when I am dressed for keeping warm at home, I half boil when I go out to other houses and shops! 😀


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