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Thursday, 22 December 2011

A happy new year to all my readers. I am aware that it’s not January 1st yet, but let’s not allow a mere historical oversight to obscure that fact that the solstice took place at 0630 GMT. Our little planet, with its elliptical course and lop-sided alignment, is about to deliver to those of us perched on its northern hemisphere the annual wonder the lengthening day. Yes. I could feel my pulse quicken a soon as I got up this morning - although this rather lovely sky may have had something to do with that.

This is the pivotal moment of the year for me, although I find myself getting more and more irritated by this ‘New Year’ nonsense. Quite why we have tolerated a system of dates that tells us to celebrate renewal on January 1st, when every astrological observation since the year dot has shown that we should be doing so nine or ten days earlier, is beyond me. To borrow a phrase from a waitress I once met in western Kansas, ‘It aggravates the tar outa me.’ Perhaps it’s time we had a Solstice party. I have had them in the past, but people attending them seemed disappointed that we didn’t dance naked around a fire and slaughter quadrupeds. We had the fire, and plenty of beer, but for food we had to make do with a large pot of chile beans. And of course all everybody wanted to talk about was… Christmas.

Today has been one of the best Solstice days I can remember. For the first time since  the Monday before last I have ventured from the house. My cold symptoms seemed to be in abeyance, the sun was out, the temperature was nudging 10 degrees C (50 F) and I couldn’t resist the long walk to town.

Midwinter is an odd sort of time in our climate. The countryside is never quite as bare as our literature leads us to expect. This morning I encountered a gorse bush in full bloom and a hawthorn hedge, down by the little river Browney, that still hasn’t lost all its leaves - and that after several recent frosts. Mind, it is very sheltered down there under the tall trees.

Leaving aside these seasonal oddities, there’s plenty more going on to remind us that it’s a rare year in which you can’t find signs of life, even in the darkest days. Close by that hedge, for example, all the trees are smothered in ivy, most of it carrying a profusion of seed-heads.

And then there are the reminders that spring is, even now, on the way, in this case the delicate purplish buds on the alders, that will open up as catkins around March time.

Town was crowded. I didn’t stay long. I visited the market, where I bought a couple of trout, seven pairs of socks and a bunch of grapes, which seems an odd assortment. All I can say is that that was what I’d got on my list. Twenty minutes after arriving I hopped on a bus and was on my way home.

I’ll try to post one more entry on here before the holiday, then pick it up around the 28th. With luck, the new website will be available by then. We’re down to the last three pages.

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