Winter Notes

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January and February can seem dispiriting months. After the golden glory of autumn, with its flashes
of colour, and the celebrations and bonhomie of Christmas, New Year feels grey and leaden-footed.
It’s dark, cold, and the most fun we can expect is unpleasant and occasionally savage weather. As I
write, the BBC warns of travel and power disruption from snow and gales, tornadoes even. Winter
holds sway, with freezing temperatures and harsh gales still to endure. Nature seems asleep – but
there are signs of stirring in that sleep, signalling the lighter warmer days that will come eventually.
As the winter afternoons very slowly lengthen, suddenly, sharp pale green points of spring bulbs
have leapt up in outside pots and borders, and on roadside verges. Today in my garden I can see
small shy buds forming on the silver birch, cherry and laburnum trees; cheeky fluffy new growth on
the roses and honeysuckle (too soon roses, you’re not pruned yet!)
hile I watch, despite a brief brutal attack of small-bore hail, iridescent starlings are strutting across
the frost-rimed grass like naughty schoolchildren, their beaks stuffed with bread crusts. Pushy
sparrows bustle and edge each other out beneath the bird table. The odd little pied wagtail tiptoes
carefully round the fringes of the noisy gathering. Our resident robin, scarlet chest puffed up and
prominent, oversees the chaos, serene in his ownership of the garden.
Somehow our bird neighbours know that better times are coming, don’t they? Their cheerful
determination to survive the worst of the weather’s challenges and prepare for the year ahead
inspires me, too, to defy the cold. I fetch out my down jacket and thick socks and boots. oolly hat
down over the ears, thinsulate gloves pulled firmly on, and the front door closes behind me as I step
out through a cloud of misty breath.
Puddles cracking and oozing sluggish mud underfoot, I walk down the lane in the thin pale gold light
of the winter afternoon. I notice how shapely the pruned hedges are in their nakedness. In the
distance groups of bare trees outline the horizon, highlighting the bones of the winter landscape.
Dusk approaches, and I stop to watch, thrilled,as a graceful twisting murmuration of many starlings
dances over the distant marshes. inter really is beautiful in a pared-down silent way so different
from other seasons.
The birds suddenly disappear, the last of the lowering light thins and sinks away. Time to go home
now, to draw the curtains and build the fire for a long cosy evening ahead.

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