Winter's coming

ivy garden-list




I have trimmed all the wild and rampant late-summer flowers of my garden back into neat, stumpy little mounds. Bending close, I can just see the buds of spring's growth waiting there, sleeping now until the southern hemisphere circles back closer to the sun. The pomegranate, crepe myrtle and Japanese maple trees are all putting on colour, and dropping leaves like golden confetti at our feet.

Twice a week when I go out early to exercise in the still-dark, the cold air hits like a slap when I open the front door, and my fingers and toes are numb from wind and wet grass* before we even get started. But when we all lie down on our yoga mats to prepare for crunches, I look up, up, beyond the black outlines of the trees, to a sky that is so full of stars they look like rain-drops, frozen in time, and it is perfect. And is that Venus I can see, glowing so big and bright? Why is the sky so much cleaner and more... precise... when it's cold? Dawn breaks somewhere in between plank-holds and left-hook punches, and mist makes clouds of our puffing breaths, before real mist rolls up and over the park, and swirls like a familiar cat around our ankles. 

We have pulled our winter hats and scarves and coats out of storage, and I have turned my thoughts once again to soups and casseroles and mulled wine and home-baked bread. I am even ready to befriend the slow-cooker

Knitted gloves and wooly socks, wading and dancing through rivers of fallen leaves, watching the Christmas pine-cones pop and crackle in the open fire, toasting marshmallows, baking good things with apples, and lighting candles at meal-times. Winter's coming, my friends! 


*Wet shoes and socks are the WORST

Winter solstice

solstice-winter I welcomed the sunrise on the morning after the winter solstice in the solitude of my still-sleeping house. The first cup of tea of the day was beside me on the window-sill, making miniature mist on the cold glass.

Slowly the long, long night - the longest night of the year - burned away into grey dawn. The first light pierced the antique glass above our front door, now pink, now gold, and soon the whole room swam with morning. Upstairs, my family began to stir, and the day began.

My winter coat, draped over a chair to dry, still smelled of damp earth and woodsmoke from the previous night's solstice bonfire (a bonfire which, thanks to a week of rain, had taken a lot more coaxing to ignite and somewhat lacked the primal oomph of last year's fire, but was nevertheless beautiful and brilliant in the end).

On the solstice night there had been a tiny break in the clouds as we waited for the bonfire to catch alight and, seeing it, Ralph had yelled "The moon! I want to touch the moon!" We showed the children the Southern Cross, and the two Pointers that show the way, and, glowing steadily directly above the moon, we found Venus. Ancient fires and rocks, all of us, spinning and hurtling through millennia, marking the dark days. And the light ones too.

As the morning's temperature crept into double digits, I ventured into my frost-melty garden to dig and plant and prune, and to think some alone thoughts about winter and hibernation and stillness, and about all the quiet rest and rejuvenation that happens underground, for life to burst forth life in spring.

Animal etiquette


"No animal, according to the rules of animal-etiquette, is ever expected to do anything strenuous, or heroic, or even moderately active during the off-season of winter." - Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows

We are recovering from Scout's fourth birthday party yesterday. As luck would have it, today is a public holiday, so I intend to be unheroic and inactive, all day. Back soon! xo



The trees that line our street are bare, their leaves rotting in brown, woodsy, rain-soaked piles in gutters and corners. We are spending more days inside. Baking bread, writing letters, painting, cuddling.

Pumpkin, pomegranates, cinnamon, crumpets. Mandarins, red wine, sausages, cloves.

Every morning I rise before the sun, readying the house for my still-slumbering family. I turn on heaters to take the chill off the rooms, flip the kettle on. I squeeze half a lemon into a glass of water and sip it, leaning on the bench as I contemplate the day to come and the jobs ahead. The kettle bubbles, steams, then clicks off, so I pour a cup of tea and take it into my little study to start writing. I turn on the computer, take a sip while I wait for everything to load.

The first sip of the first cup of tea of the morning is one of life's highest pleasures.

The dawn is beginning to grey the sky when the children are ready to get up. Scout looks out the window, pauses with a spoonful of Weetbix half way to her mouth. "Mummy! It is dark outside!" she says, eyes wide with wonder. And then, just to be sure, she cautions me: "But it is not our bed time. We did only just wake up."