Enjoying the Winter for what it is

It was a cold day last Sunday, a fresh cold snap in the midst of a mild winter which apparently is due to last a while and get colder. Nevertheless, we had a decent turnout in the garden considering it was to hold a committee meeting, sitting still and discussing Spring planting among other things. We kept the meeting short, with tea to keep us warm. I could see that a couple of our members were struggling, and I salute their tenacity for turning up. It is perhaps understandable to not turn up because of something like the cold or rain, but it is all the more admirable to turn up in spite of it. You might ask why not simply hold the meeting somewhere indoors, but somehow I just couldn’t tear myself away from the garden; it is at the centre of what we do, so we may as well make our decisions there too.

I notice more and more how we in this country have become afraid of the cold. It’s something that our ancestors really had to deal with, while most of us now just try to avoid it, which is not the same thing. Come autumn I often hear people talk of that lovely smell of impending winter: a slight chill inside the nostrils mixed with the smell of chimney smoke, usually with nostalgic memories of childhood winters thrown in for good measure – childhood being a time when we seem totally impervious to the cold, while our parents would run after us to button up our coats. And yet come proper winter, many of us lock ourselves indoors and start longing for the summer, which itself is the time when we moan about the heat and turn on the air conditioning. Up till now it has been a frustratingly mild winter, but now that the weather has turned cold many of us will crank up the heating ridiculously high so we can still walk around indoors in T-shirts while simultaneously complaining about the cost of heating.

All too often in this country, the weather is neither cold nor warm, just kind of mild and dull most of the time. For this reason I like to fully experience the occasional extremes that grace our shores, be they heat waves or cold snaps, and so on a cold week like this one I like to spend even more time outside, to feel that real chill in the nostril and numbing of the fingers (within reason). There is much to be learnt from the cold, how to dress for it, how to work in it, what it does to you. Last year I lived in a horrible house with no central heating, and come winter I had to go to bed wearing six layers of clothing and using a hot water bottle; and yet not long ago this was common practice in many British homes, as leaving the gas heater on overnight would have seemed an unnecessary expense. I’m glad I no longer live in that house, but I’m still glad I got to experience at least one winter there (still, I wouldn’t recommend it to my worst enemy).

 There is also, of course, a yin and yang aspect to cold and heat, with each giving meaning to the other; being out in the cold makes coming into a warm home all the more pleasant and cosy. This coming Sunday will apparently be even colder. I hope it is. All the more a reason to be in the garden and experience it. If you think this is borderline perverse, it’s perhaps good to remember that few of us in the UK ever experience what it means to be really cold; I don’t just mean a bit chilly, but shivering down to our bones. Even in this country there are people who don’t have the luxury of just turning up the heating: homeless people out in the streets or pensioners living in fuel poverty. We should be grateful for indoor heating, not waste it, and learn how to use less of it more efficiently.

So while the weather is sunny and serene, take advantage of it, wrap up warm in several layers and take a proper walk in the cold. Winter has finally arrived, learn to enjoy it once more.

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