We have discovered the joys of ‘wintering’. It’s a no-brainer when you think about it. Winter is here. It’s real. There’s no avoiding it. So, we may as well enjoy it while it lasts.
I stole the term, wintering.
It was in a recent Sunday Times article (indulging in the spread of weekend papers is one of the many joys of wintering, but I’ll get to that). The argument is that we spend all winter longing for summer, and all summer dreading the onset of winter. When really, we should enjoy both with equal measure.
So what, exactly, does winter in England have to offer?
In the tropics, our bed was large, but sparse. Our comfort came from the quality of the mattress and bedding below us and the efficacy of the air conditioning system above us. There wasn’t much else to it. In winter we sometimes added a top sheet or cotton blanket if the outside temperature plunged below 20 degrees overnight.
In Suffolk, we have created a wintering sanctuary.
A wonderland of pillows, cushions, duvets, linen sheets, quilted throws, mattress toppers, electric blankets, woolly bed socks, and long-sleeved pyjamas.
Somewhere, sandwiched between the soft, heated base and puffy clouds of toppings, you’ll find us enveloped in its warmth, like a couple of hibernating bears.
Our bed has become more than somewhere to retire at night. It is Russell’s music practice room, my occasional office, our place to drink morning (and sometimes afternoon) tea, with toast and jam. It’s our winter retreat.
“Why should we rise because t’is light? Did we lie down because t’was night?”
John Donne wrote that, sometime in the 17th century. It makes so much sense.
Hands up (or paws up) who doesn’t love a crackling log fire on a winter’s evening?
The log burner will become a cold and lonely feature in the summer, but right now it’s our favourite spot in the house. Apart from our bed.
The slightly more roaring log fire at our local pub is also one of our favourite spots, especially on those really blustery winter evenings when undertaking the one minute walk from our front door to theirs could be described as an act of bravery.
My wardrobe in Cairns consisted of T-shirts and shorts, with the odd flouncy blouse and more business-like skirt thrown in for good measure. Getting dressed was very quick and easy, but I sometimes longed for a bit more variety. And weight.
While wintering in the UK, we have acquired drawers full of thick, heavy jumpers, socks, leggings, thermal underwear, overcoats, boots, and scarves. I bought a vintage woolen coat that has a fur collar and sheepskin lining. I’ve bought more jumpers in the past three months than in the previous 30 years. And my feet permanently reside in fleece-lined suede ankle boots or brightly coloured gumboots.
Winter clothes are such a fun novelty. I will miss all those layers in the summer.
Ask any Australian to describe a winter’s day in England, and you’ll hear words like bleak, dark, wet, miserable. Certainly not sunshine. We never imagined we’d get so many bright, sunshiney days in the middle of winter. It makes throwing open your curtains on a cold February morning almost a pleasure.
Although throwing open your curtains does require you to get out of bed.
Hours of guilt-free pleasure
This is the real joy of wintering.
At the peak of winter in the UK, we get precisely 7 hours 49 minutes, and 42 seconds of daylight. That’s almost 9 hours less daylight than at the peak of summer.
It sounds pretty grim when you put it like that. But think of it another way. At the peak of winter, we have almost 9 hours more time to indulge in guilt-free pursuits like:
- Taking as much time as you want to read the spread of weekend papers on a Sunday afternoon because it’s too dark to take the dog for a walk.
- Finishing work an hour or so earlier than you would in summer because your brain’s telling you it’s time to down tools.
- Having your first drink of the day when the sun’s over the yardarm.
- Allowing yourself to fall asleep in front of the TV instead of deadheading the rose bushes.
- Staying in bed.
Oh yes. Winter has been a surprising pleasure.
But in the past week or so we’ve started to notice the primroses and snowdrops pushing their way through the layers of winter leaves. I bought a bunch of bright yellow daffodils at the market last weekend, and found myself opening the curtains to greet another sunny morning, at 6.15.
I think Sping is on its way.