There was a day, a few weeks ago, when I went outside and thought ‘It’s really cold out here!’
‘Although, I suppose it is November.’
How exactly is it November already?
When we went into our first UK lockdown, in March, I knew it was March. But I still kind of feel like it’s March? How can 2020 be almost over?
I’m trying to remind myself what this year has been like, for so many of us. Many of us home-schooled one or more children between March and June: I had two kids at home, and although the school were great, there was a certain amount of ‘yes, you do have to do some work.’
Then in July, we moved house. That’s taken up just as much time and headspace as I thought it would.
Here’s to a productive 2021!
Did I tell you I’d been to the doctor about night sweats?
I was absolutely sure it was early onset menopause. ‘It’s the StReSs!’ I said to my GP. He sent bloods off for testing and apart from the traumatic experience of the surgery calling me on a Thursday morning and taking A LONG TIME to tell me I was basically fine, with slightly low iron levels, all was well. No menopause. Phew.
So, this is the bit where I admit to wasting NHS time. I am so sorry, NHS, I know how busy you are.
It was my new blanket. It’s not breathable. I realised when I took it to bed again after leaving it in the living room for a week or so.
I get night sweats when I wrap myself in its huge beautiful soft greyness.
It is not the right time of year for having the children at home. With Valentines smack in the middle, I predict the divorce rate will rise…
Instead of braving a range of elements: rain, wind, snow … we set up pillow forts and hid under blankets with our devices. I worked out I could watch Netflix on the laptop with my headphones – score! The kids morphed wing chairs into gamer chairs by moving them in front of the TV, and built more forts, this time in the Minecraft ether.
We’re economising due to the impending house move, so we treated ourselves to Morrison’s make your own pizza instead of takeaway, Next in Fashion with the curtains closed instead of the cinema.
Valentines worked out OK for me: Mr HB was off to Aldi. I received a bunch of reluctant roses.
Yesterday, I tried to write a nature poem.
Walked into the reality – the grime of outside. Cold shot-blasting my forehead, my fingers.
And yes, the long-tailed tit looked at me, all chipmunk-cute face and feathered arrow tail feathers.
And yes, there were green carpets just waiting for the bluebells.
And yes, the deer picked around the edge of distant fields.
And yes, the buzzard rose in a majesty of idle flapping.
But it all reminded me of the mess of the world: sporadic starlings strung across the telegraph lines, not enough for a murmuration.
The crow scolding the buzzard, haranguing it to stay away from her eggs.
Acres of wire and concrete, even here, in this ‘wilderness.’
Snow on the distant hills – a winter coming ever closer.
And I thought, ‘maybe I should take “nature writer” out of my bio.’
It’s raining again, and can I just say I’m relieved?
That week of February this year when it was ‘only a jumper and not even a scarf’ warm was so much creepier than the week last year of ‘snow, all schools closed, no bread left in the shop, icicles a metre long’ WHICH WAS THE SAME WEEK OF THE YEAR I MIGHT ADD.
Since Saturday we’ve returned to stinging rain and wind chill of minus 7, what I have come to expect in the first week of March.
When I do drag myself out for a healthy walk, I’m all too happy warm up in a bath. I’m lucky to get to do that. Nothing like coming home, running a bath of clean, warm water, sinking into bubbles and covering the pages of my new book with wet fingerprints.
Scraping the car in the morning, I was reminded of how much it reminds me of sitting in the freezing cold watching my Dad do the same thing.
How pleasing it was to watch him methodically remove the sugary coating from the windows so we could see out again, the fan blowing so loud we couldn’t hear ourselves think.
Now I have to sort my own car out.
But: I have a car.
I live somewhere with crisp frosty mornings, beautiful clear skies.
I got a new scraper the other day and it’s a good one.
I have my fans going full blast so when I’m ready to drive the car won’t be as cold.
I have excellent, thick waterproof gloves.
And unlike my youngest, I can reach the middle of the windscreen.
Just a tinylife job that brings joy!
Grateful for another thing that might not be considered classic gratitude material this week.
My notso successful writing career.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s going OK. I have crunched this year’s submission statistics, and not only are they a huge improvement on last year’s, they are above the average (which I believe is 1/7 acceptances: I had 1/4.2 this year!).
But despite this, I’m not working with multiple deadlines or receiving lots of requests for work. So when I wake up, like I did on Sunday, with a wee cold, I can stay in bed, drink Lucozade, and the edits and submissions can wait another day.
While I’m (not) on the subject, it’s OK to take sick leave when you are ill. My feelings on how this is perceived in UK workplaces would require more than 140 words for me to rant about!
This week I have been thinking about … snow.
I haven’t had a choice about it either way!
Snow. Then sun, replaced by snow by sun by snow.
Snow drifted to knee height at the front door.
Snow keeping us in the house, keeping Mr HB away.
Snow stopping all travel – snow giving us the first red weather warning for years. Snow silencing the roads, burying my car a little more every day.
Snow pulling a sledge with kindling and children in it (no, hang on, that was me.)
Snow bringing a whole village out onto the streets – ‘there’s still milk in the Spar!’
Snow filling a village pub on an otherwise normal Thursday, for cake and tea.
Snow, and post after post on our village Facebook page offering help to those in need.
Snow: reminding us of our amazing community.
Ten of the Best Things About Autumn
by Penny Hext.
- Woodland walks: fungi, fallen leaves, seeing tree shapes outlined against the sky.
- Short days… longer nights. More time for a) beauty sleep b) bedtime reading c) erm… recreational activities.
- Winter woollies. Colour and texture hide a multitude of sins. Summer’s AGES away!
- Hair lasering. Start on that beard now. (Moi?)
- Night-time sky walking. The best possible backdrop for creepy ghost walks. Go on. Try it!
- Enjoying Autumn colours: reds, russets, auburns, coppers…
- Time to take stock and recalibrate – before the year ends. You’ve still got time to fulfil your resolutions!
- Wildlife spotting: squirrels, herons… figuring out where the heck birds roost at night. Nests are for fledglings.
- Mulled wine.
- Puddings. Those brambles and apples you gathered in September need eating, don’t they?
Penny is a writer who lives in Edinburgh
The sun had been out
warm – well, through a window, anyway.
Chat at the school gates
was all about Spring,
Here at last.
Later, on the phone to my mother,
she told me
according to the weather she’d heard
we’d have snow tomorrow.
The next day I woke
to snow falling from a slate sky
as if March was clinging to
frightened of what Spring
I pulled gloves onto
my frosted fingers
turned the heat back up
in the car.
The hat hadn’t fallen out of use
because of gnawing Spring winds.
And I told myself:
‘Snow up to Palm Sunday.
It’s always possible.’
It’s my version of
‘ne’er cast a clout
till may be out,’
because I don’t know
what may looks like
(it’s the flower, not the month.)
Scotland will surprise you.