22 Nov 2009

Winter Comforts

For those of us who live in the northern hemisphere, in places that are not blessed with the mild climate of California or North Africa, Summer is slowly turning into a distant memory, making way for the long Winter months ahead, spearheaded by the sparkle of the Christmas season that will fleetingly cast its glow over those long sultry nights to come…

Despite this, Winter is generally a drab affair between the bad weather and the shorter days, cutting short one’s enjoyment of the garden and most outdoor pursuits, and intensifying SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). Nature goes into hibernation and so do we, in a way, seduced by nights in rather than nights out, and gorging our way through carbohydrates and a number of forbidden treats, the foods that comfort body and soul!

Bakewell, Derbyshire

In north-western England, Winter 2008-09 was a drag, in particular Jan/ Feb 09, when we suffered weeks of frost and black ice in a way I had never experienced in my 15 years’ residency in the country! I remember vividly slipping down the pavement in a spectacular manner, while walking from my car to workplace. As it happened, one of the local residents had had the not ingenuous idea of pouring hot water onto their car to defrost it and the water had quickly set into lethal ice!

Some of those early mornings were spent battling with the car door that was closed shut by the ice, then having to negotiate those deadly bendy roads around the estate that the City Council seems to overlook whenever road gritting is required… The climate situation inevitably put a strain on the major road infrastructures too, with traffic delays, accidents and car batteries giving up the ghost! Let’s just say that the start to the working day was a tad frayed for the unfortunate commuter!

Bail House Tea Rooms in Lincoln

However one would ‘miss the point’ if they only chose to remember Winter for its predicaments, for there are enjoyments to be had, providing of course that you are fortunate enough to afford the basics of comfort, like a warm home and a balanced diet. In my book, Winter is a state of mind:

  • Winter is a time to clear the dead wood, quite literally, from the garden and your life. It is a time for introspection, it makes you take stock, and gives you time to think, about the physical and emotional clutter in your life, about things that need doing around the home and garden, and about the more metaphysical matters, if you are so inclined.
  • Winter also makes you appreciate what you have and may be taking for granted, like the comfort of your home.
  • Winter is an excuse for rallying the family around the fireplace and play a board game, join in a discussion, or light-heartedly share food, drinks, memories or good old gossip, cosied up on the sofa.
  • Winter is an excuse for self-indulgence that goes beyond chocolates: candles, a warm bubble bath, your favourite book or film, something that will lift your spirits and make you appreciate your own surroundings, your own company and that of your closest and dearest.
  • You need to experience the cold in order to appreciate the warmth! Brace yourself and go for a long countryside walk with your partner/ children/ dog. Then reward your bravery by going down to one of those cosy country pubs/ cafés and enjoy your favourite beverage, and – why not, a slice of cake or pack of nuts – comfortably sat by the fireplace if possible. Reminisce the moments of the walk when you were cold/ fed up/ tired: satisfaction guaranteed!
Bail House Tea Rooms in Lincoln

And if there is just one point to remember from this essay, this is it: like the Yin that only exists through its Yang opposite, Winter makes you appreciate Summer. If it were forever Summer, you probably wouldn’t be appreciating its glories as much!

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