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In the Bleak Mid Winter

Feb 10, 2024 | The Grand Adventure | 14 comments

We have now experienced three winters in the UK. Our first was magnificent: clear blue skies, no rain or sleet, gorgeous crisp days, and cosy log-fire nights. Our second was. . .meh, not so good. Our third has been downright bleak, and we’re only mid-way through.

I’m an Australian. Get me out of here!

Don’t get me wrong. There have been some wonderful highlights and it’s not all grim and depressing. December has always been quite bearable with the distraction of Christmas and all the festive cheer that goes with it.

I get to spend time with my lovely family, eat way too much food and go for long, cold walks. Meanwhile, my nephews and nieces are encouraged to be kind and attentive to their old Australian aunt for at least one day, else they won’t get their Christmas pudding and mince pies.

And it’s not like we haven’t had any of those bright, sunshiney winter days when we’re expected to go to the beach for more long, cold walks. It’s just that they’ve been few and far between this January.  

And then February really kicked into gear.  So far, our days have typically started around 8 am when the sun finally decides to rise, but the euphoria of seeing it evaporates as the soggy murk rolls in. That’s when the grey clouds envelop the brief brightness of the sunrise and – oh joy – it starts to snow.  These photos were taken over a two-hour period on a February morning. How is it actually possible for the sky to get darker and gloomier as the day gets lighter?

We have become winter hermits. We hibernate like two grumpy old bears who make brief appearances outside our cave for essential purposes only, like going to the pub. Anything else requires way too much time and effort. Do you know how long it takes to adequately attire yourself for an English winter? 


You start by changing your footwear into thick socks and sturdy boots. Then you pull on your warmest coat (woollen, down to the shins, with a fur-lined collar). Next, you start layering yourself in scarves, neck warmers, woolly hats, earmuffs, an extra scarf for good measure, and finally, gloves because once they’re on, you can’t do anything else.

Now you’re ready to grapple with the door handle in your gloved hand and waddle through like the Michelin Man.  All that just to check the letterbox!

Some people say they like the changing seasons. They enjoy the cold of winter, the blooming of spring and the colours of Autumn.

Me, not so much.

My default comfort zone is summer, preferably somewhere near water, with a good book and a long, cold drink. This winter, for the first time, I really missed the sun, the daylight, and the warmth of Far North Queensland.

On 19th November 2019, I wrote a post called ‘Farewell to Cairns’, which turned out to be fairly prophetic. Here’s what I said in part about the things I thought I would miss:

“Some things will remain firmly rooted in Cairns.  Like the weather. It’s magnificent for 330 days a year and a tad unbearable for 35, or thereabouts. And with the balmy, tropical weather – which I will miss so much on grisly, wet winter days in England – comes the instant mood lift. There’s nothing hard about getting out of bed on a Monday morning when it’s warm. And the days always seem to go better when you start them with a barefoot walk on the beach.”

Life’s not always a bed of roses, and I can get as grumpy as the rest of them, but I always think dealing with shitty things in life is so much easier when it’s sunny. 

Roll on summer 2024, and please be good.



  1. Thanks, I think, John!

  2. 16 degrees is a balmy summer’s day for us, Jill! I’m so sorry for all the bad stuff you’ve been through and that we weren’t there for you. We’ll make up for it when we get back.

  3. WOW! The 4 pictures tell it all Mell….open shoes LOL

    Winter on The Gold Coast in July is 20c – 24c day, yes jandals & sunnies Sorry 🙂

  4. Mel, can you believe it, it’s cold and rainy in Noosa QLD, only 16degrees today, and has been for a week. Thank god for the gas log fire I had installed before I moved in, just in case!
    Been through a lot of change this year, losing Den, a week after Suzys shock loss of her Satch, moving house, and now sadly Suzys big C, health issue.
    Still “Glass half full”, though, and your welcome travel stories, are a delight!
    Look forward to seeing you soon back in Sunny (usually) Oz. Jilli

  5. Thanks, Sue. You’d certainly know all about winter clothes in Canada! All I know is T-shirts and shorts. When I arrived in the UK I didn’t own any socks or shoes that weren’t open-toed. Talk about unprepared!

  6. I can definitely relate to the endless layers required in winter. Trying to get it correct is tough; too little and you freeze, too many lawyers and you roast. Your stories are just splendid!

  7. Yes, they can be magnificent when winter days are crisp and sunny. Sadly, we didn’t get so many in the winter of 2023/24. It was more like rain and gloom! Thanks, for reading, Mike

  8. Such wonderful evocative prose, Mel, love reading your stories of adventures in Blighty, brings back fond memories of the one or two crisp, sunny, blue sky days in mid winter!! Forget the rest….

  9. Don’t tease me,Shelagh!

  10. Possibly, Trina!

  11. Come home! Weather today, mid winter, sunshine, fluffy clouds, top of 27c…perfect.
    Having experienced UK winters for the first part of my life, and a few bits since, it’s just not humane…

  12. Four winters! Well done, nothing like an English winter to send one packing. So we’ll be seeing you soon?

    Amazing adventure… is there a book on the horizon? Loved reading all about your travels. 🖐️💥

  13. Yes, Leslie, you were one of the few Aussies to brave the elements in January! Thanks for being there.

  14. Great to feature in one of your Winter experiences, definitely could relate to the arduous task of rugging up to brave the elements, you truly have made the most of your “Village” experience, for selfish reasons we hope to see you back in FNQ, sooner than later 😀

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