One of the best posts I like to read this time of year, are the ones that remind us of all the good stuff that comes from the near-constant cold of an English Winter.
Before we get there though, it all begins with Autumn. Even from the beginning of September, everyone looks forward to Halloween, unless of course they are gripped with an unfortunate fear of the frightening; of your ghosts and clowns, demons and poltergeists. I look forward to getting down and making my best effort to unnerve everyone in the room – alternate contact lenses, pale makeup and blood “dripping” from various orifices. None of this has quite worked yet, but I’ve found the perfect way to pull it off this year. As a hint, couple’s costumes are always cool; the best Joker and Harlequin couple’s costume I’ve ever seen was pulled off by two girls with a penchant for awesomeness when it comes to dressing up. A few others I could include, for ideas, are Morticia and Gomez Addams, for the especially lovey couple who want it creepy; and Sweeney Todd and Mrs Lovett, which says more that the lady wants to dress up, while the man’s only thought is “meh”. Halloween is also a great excuse to do up the house – I loved that idea in Modern Family, making a haunted house of your home and scaring the bejeezuz out of your neighbours. Pumpkins can really help with the decoration here, whether as a centrepiece for your frightful feast, or as a ghoulish garden ornament. Carving a pumpkin is something I’ve never actually done myself. I have scooped the “brains” out ready for someone else to start the carving, but it hasn’t occurred to me so far how fun it could be until I saw This gem on Pinterest (unfortunately I couldn’t tell who it was by). Safe to say, this will be a year of experimentation!
Soon after the 31st, the Halloween clippings make way for November the 5th. Everyone has to have at least one good childhood memory of bonfire night; putting on gloves for sparklers, sneaking extra parkin (Mm) and standing just a little too close to the flames for your parents’ comfort. Last year we attended a community bonfire in the local park – snack bars set up specially, the meaty savour of hot dogs mixing in with cotton candy and caramel apples. We could feel the fire – which looked like a small mountain, with one poor sod stuck on top (the Guy) – from way across the field, and while our feet were frozen in wellies, everyone’s faces were glowing as they watched the fireworks emerging from somewhere behind the tree line. Then of course, the best way to warm up afterwards is to head home, curl up together in PJs and a throw with a hot drink, watching V for Vendetta for the fiftieth time.
Even before the fires have burnt out, the next person is already thinking ahead to Christmas. In truth, some people I shan’t technically name – Mother – actually started way back in June! It’s around about now that most of our spare time is spent in the comfiest clothes possible, wrapped in every blanket we own, hot water bottles, slippers, the lot, and the kitties begin to find more excuses to cuddle up to us. Despite the otherwise unbearable bone-freeze, one of the things I always look forward to in December is the snow. Where we’ve lived for the last few years hasn’t produced the least bit of a chance that we could be snowed in; a few flakes here and there, a pitiful coating that has stopped just before we wake. The kind I’m talking about muffles the world beyond our window, and is likely to take the area by storm this year. Heavy snow invites memorable moments like, walking Mum’s dog through the snow drifts, watching him disappear for a moment beneath the white and re-emerge in a flurry. The Christmas Markets of Manchester; the coldest you’ll ever be, until stumbling upon one of the twenty or so hot alcohol bars – warming your cockles on the first sip of Glühwein (be sure to try it if you haven’t already), and resisting – or not – the temptation of Bratwurst and toasted almonds. Some of the most spectacular sights in the Market come from stalls that boast homemade items; candles one couldn’t dream of otherwise, shaped like colourful and warped coral; novelty wooden toys, nutcrackers, handmade jewellery and so on. I saw a stall last year, covered in leather-bound books, some plain old brown, others distinguished by the jewels fixed to the cover, wrapped in leather cord. It’s stuff like that, which could make the perfect Christmas present if you’re stuck for ideas – when in doubt, everyone likes a leather-bound book.
Today, it’s still ok to wander outside without a jacket, enjoy the last of the sunshine while we can. With the days growing colder though, and the nights darker, it is slowly becoming clearer that it will be a big one – worst winter in 50 years, according to The Daily Mirror, only slightly refuted by The Guardian. It is for this reason that I, for one, will be saying yes to hot chocolate for once, not only because of the upcoming big freeze, but because (to paraphrase the best Christmas film ever), if you can’t say it at Christmas, when can you?
So, whether you’re headed for sunny sands this Winter, or huddling up close with family for Christmas, one thing’s for sure: Winter is Coming.
It would be great to know what you thought of this, whether you have any seasonal habits and events you’d like to share. Until then – CW