A very happy new year to each and every one reading this. I hope that your hearts will be full in 2018.
My mother says that you shouldn't have spring flowers in the house, like hyacinths, tulips, narcissus, until after Christmas. That it's just wrong to have them in the house before Christmas. I think it's the something to look forward to thing. To be honest, January in England is challenging when you haven't really experienced it before. The days are really, really short. The sun rises at 8am and sets at 4pm. Which means there are about six hours of useful daylight. I've discovered that the only way to survive is to get up early and to greet the day. Whatever your mood, whatever your level of cabin fever, whatever your housebound nature, however hard it is to get out of your warm and comfortable bed to set foot in the freezing, terracotta floored kitchen, actually making it outside into the weather, the naked trees, the singing birds, changes everything. I force myself not to procrastinate, not to make an extra cup of tea, and to hit the muddy ground running. Your face freezes, your nose gets red, the red veins on your cheeks which make you further resemble your mother get more pronounced. Your eyes pop blue from your ruddy, scrubbed face. Your hands are permanently cold. You carry around Neutrogena Norwegian formula hand cream, and apply liberally. You've bought two new thermal undershirts shirts and you wear one every day and you tell people proudly that it's your favorite item of clothing. You make turkey and ham pies. You become useful with pastry. You wash your own knickers, because you like the feeling of warm, soapy water on your hands. You fantasize about crawling into the dog basket in the middle of the day.
It could be a superstition. Like keeping mince pies for three months.
But yesterday Charlie brought me tulips, pink ones with frilly edges like microscopic ric-a-rac, and they're on my scrubbed kitchen table, between two white candles, and they bring joy and optimism and hope.
"How do you do it?" I asked a friend. "Frankly, it's better than the snow," she replied.
My children brought me cuckoo clocks and cheerful blue printed napkins, a bud vase, a shopping bag with dalmatians on it, navy and white stripey socks, a hand-carved wooden cheese board, a jug with a bumble bee on it. I am spoiled. Mostly I am spoiled by having them here, all of them, all four of them, children and beloveds, smiling and slipping into their gumboots and Norwegian socks (I bought five pairs in various sizes for muddy walks in the rain). We walked to Ivinghoe Beacon in the snow, five of us, two dogs, one in a cone of shame, and breathed in the icy air at the top. It felt like the right thing to do after Christmas feasting.
And now the wind is howling through the chimney and blowing in the oak trees outside. Tis the bleak midwinter, frosty wind and all.