As all parents of Primary school aged children will know it is the earth’s tilt (approximately 23.5 degrees) that gives those of us who live a good distance from the equator our seasons. This is the second year on the trot that one of my offspring has drawn that well known diagram showing why the north and south experience their annual cycles.
And I love living in a country with seasons. Every time I go away on holiday anywhere near the tropics I am always surprised on the first evening when the dark descends, suddenly, like someone has turned out the lights bang on 6 p.m. I associate heat and sun with long drawn out evenings. With childhood memories of not being able to sleep because my inadequate curtains let in so much light. So I wouldn’t want to swap those long summer evenings for a regular 12 hours of light, day in, day out. How boring, how monotonous. If warm.
Similarly I wouldn’t want to go the other extreme that some of our Scandinavian cousins have to experience, full time dark and possibly even weirder full time light. The Vikings had it right moving over here- much more civilised.
No, as with a lot of things this country of ours has got this just about spot on, with, for me, one exception.
I struggle to pick a season I like the most. I adore spring, so full of promise and zingy colours, when the light starts to return, cheering my soul. Summer is heady and long. I forget to put the kids to bed as hours slip by bathed in glorious sunlight. And autumn has its own special melancholy, mists and colour and blackberries, the first frost but also the possibility of unexpected heat.
But one thing I can be categorical about is that I hate winter. I don’t do cold. I don’t do dark and to be honest once the distraction/ headache of Christmas has passed winter just feels like a huge mountain to climb. Through the foothills of January, the scree slopes of February and the seemingly endless knife edge ridge of March.
Everything is harder work in winter. My eldest was born in January. That month when day ends at around 4pm and doesn’t start again until gone 7am. That is an awful lot of feeds in the dark. A lot of time to fill when the out of doors is out of bounds. Even when the light was around getting out into it involved so much effort, wrestling with snow suits and pushchair rain covers, that often I could not be bothered. Middlest and youngest were summer babies and life seemed so much easier. We could pop out by merely unfolding the buggy, slipping on sandals and just, well, leaving.
And even now they are older it is still harder work. Collecting them all at their various times from various activities and delivering them later on to other activities takes so much longer when on each occasion I have to don gloves and hat, defrost the car and gird my loins for another dark drive.
But it is not only the lack of light. I hate the cold. I have always struggled with it. A combination of low blood pressure and lack of insulation. I start wearing my thermal vest in October and it does not come off until April is out. I am the one in layer after layer of clothing, under a slanket on my sofa and taking a hot water bottle to bed in an attempt to have warm feet by the time I drop off.
In my third year at Uni we lived in a house with no central heating. My boyfriend at the time and I would regularly wake up to frost on the insides of the windows. Our only source of heat was a gas fire in the living room. I used to wear nearly all the clothes I possessed to keep warm and sit as close to that fire as possible. One time I was wearing so much and sat so close that it was only a friend alerting me to a nasty burning smell that made me realise the arm of my outermost garment was on fire.
And I find it much harder emotionally in those dark, cold months. It is harder to battle inner demons. Harder to feel optimistic. Harder to accomplish tasks requiring perseverance and energy. It is not a co-incidence that I started writing this blog (a long held ambition) at the beginning of spring.
And so I find winter a chore. I spend four plus months of the year battling the dark and cold and expending a great deal of emotional energy in the process.
Then, every year, normally at some point during the Easter school holidays, I wake up one morning and realise I have emerged from it unscathed. More or less. The light has returned, the sun is up and I am free mentally and physically to take life up whole heartedly again.