How quickly winter comes upon us. With the changing of the clocks autumn seems on her last legs. I don’t much like this time of year; these couple of weeks where autumn drops her skirts and winter’s skeleton begins to show. The darkening days bring random thoughts, taking me on the strangest journeys. If we still had a Town Crier he’d be wandering down the street clanging his bell and proclaiming "Oyez, Oyez, Oyez! Winter’s coming, winter’s coming, Jack Frost’s only just around the corner, snow and ice and dark and sleet, Oyez, Oyez, Oyez!”
'Oyez', old English for 'Listen'.
Shhhhhhhh! I used to spend hours in the library as a kid on long, cold, winter evenings; looking up this, finding out that - scribbling it all down in my exercise book, then walking the mile and a half home in the pitch black sleet to the relative cosy safety of my bedroom; getting on with my homework, ready for the next day. Sometimes, near to Christmas, I’d collect holly from the holly hedge above the library wall and take it home to make decorations. Nobody does that any more. These days kids just go online, EVERTHING is there, all the answers, all the thoughts, even virtual holly – they just have to copy and paste. And as for holly as a way to deck the halls, keep out the dark, it’s all fibre optics and laser ropes. The libraries are empty, so empty that the powers feel safe to talk about closing them.
Listen, Listen, Listen! Soon last few leaves will blow away, as nights grow long with the shortening day, the winter wind, flat skies of gray, to fill our souls with melancholy.
It gets some people more than others, this winter darkness. Scandinavian countries have a hard time of it; long nights, very short days. In
On the plus side it is the time for roaring fires, fireworks, Christmas just around the corner with lights, and trees, and holly decked halls. My daffodil bulbs are already beginning to poke through the soil in my pot of hope, the sweet peas I planted a couple of weeks ago have sprouted green and strong with the promise of spring and the long, perfumed, summer nights that will follow. Just the long dark nights and short gloomy days to get through, and through, and through. Spring will soon be here as my mother mutters endlessly throughout the winter.
I bought some second hand books on the market a couple of weeks back, nothing very intellectual, just a few novels, paperbacks, and three for a fiver. One of them, ‘Her Fearful Symmetry’ by Audrey Niffenegger, author of ‘The Time Traveller’s Wife’, is a book that I’ve been meaning to read for a while. I didn’t notice at the time, but when I got it home and opened it, written on the page facing the title page, underneath the list of ‘other novels by’, were these four lines written in blue fountain pen ink in a wonderful flourished script – To dearest Julian – God save us from the winter night, God save us from our shadows, God save us from ourselves.
Spring may soon be here, but it can’t be soon enough for me. I’m going to light a fire to keep away the demon.