There has been a noticeable shift in the seasons too. On my drive to Winchester this morning, I noticed a change in the scenery, as I roared past; the feeling that we have glided seamlessly and without any real awareness from autumn in to winter. There have been no further frosts- well not where I live, anyway- only this incessant rain. But the temperature has dropped and so begins the heady exhilaration of being chilly, of needing to wear wooly scarves and gloves, of being able to enjoy the cosiness of wrapping up in warm jackets, followed by the pleasurable warmth indoors, when we return home.
Just now, whilst washing up in the kitchen, I watched as a robin nibbled on the bread I’d put out for them, realizing that a bush I admired only last week, with miniature leaves the colour of burning flames has been reduced to a mass of brittle branches. I assumed the leaves had fallen to the ground, but from where I was standing, there was no visible sign of them. Intrigued, I wandered outside, observing with surprise that the leaves were in fact still in situ on the tree; only now the orangey-red ember had faded back into a blur of brownness that matched the slim branches.
So, it has become official that the autumnal colours have deserted us. Vast trees that line the surrounding fields are no longer bursting with auburn hues but have instead folded away their colouring palettes for the year, returning to those muted brunette shades necessary for their hibernation until spring.
In the space of a week there seems to be a different feel to the outdoors. If autumn beckons us to step outside and potter in the garden, to become at one with nature, then December and the sometimes-wearisome winter months are the antidote to that. For we have reached that time of year when it is the gardener’s challenge to head out in to the soggy, freezing cold atmosphere, or brace the dampness on days of never-ending downpours of rain, especially when there are so many other Christmassy tasks to be done.
Even so, after my revelation and the resulting calmness I discovered last week, I am, although still tired, upbeat and keen to do my weekly stint in the garden. Particularly as this week, I have decided it’s time to plant the spring bulbs, and Christmassy up the front borders, and that, oh joy of joys, means a shopping trip to buy them.
Nothing can be as exciting as a visit to your local garden centre (okay, so maybe I do lead a rather quiet life). A trip to one of my favourites often reminds me of the deliciousness of being a young girl, of those times when you have the chinking of coins in your tiny scrunched up hand.
Pocket money that is just itching to be spent when (and it doesn’t get any better than this) you’re standing inside a sweet shop; one of the old fashioned sort that nowadays you don’t find very often. Places where you become entranced by the sickly sweetness, tickling and tempting your taste buds, while your eyes roam across rows and rows of jars of sweets, of sherbet lemons, shrimps, bananas, chocolate sprinkles, cola cubes; far too many tantalizing choices. You desperately want a quarter of this or that, but you hesitate, waiting to see what your sister chooses, knowing full well that whatever she does decide upon, will last longer and end up being tons tastier than your own choice. It’s always the case; it’s just one of the unwritten sibling realities of the world that simply cannot be overruled.
Nowadays, if you’re like me, you may have that same feeling standing inside a library or a bookshop overflowing with shelves of books, your debit card scorching the lining of your purse. Each book presenting an opportunity: a story to be told, adventures to be had and mysteries to unravel.
Each one of them enticing, waiting for us to immerse ourselves within them, creating the potential to learn, to be someone different, all of them offering so many, so many thrilling possibilities.
There is a heady aroma of earth, potted plants and cinnamon candles as I enter the garden centre. Christmas lights are twinkling, carols weave through the air, a soothing lullaby to my shopper’s sensibilities, and there are, crucially, oodles of displays loaded with Christmassy products. I become the child in the sweet shop again, and right away the search for bulbs and bedding plants is forgotten by my distraction for all things red, and green and sparkly. I meander up and down, back and forth, my empty basket clutched tightly in anticipation, assuring myself that I do need candle holders, Christmas mugs, Christmas tissues, glittering bits and pieces of what I am to do with, I don’t know.
Somehow I resist, and move outside to where the Christmas trees are sitting patiently, waiting to be chosen. I peruse the bedding plants, deciding on the cute violas rather than the gruff-leafed, brighter colours of the cyclamens, where an enormous bee buzz buzzes around, hovering upon the red leaves. Is this the bee that escaped from the confines of my thoughts only last week? Perhaps it’s following me.
In the end, forgetting I want festive-looking plants, I choose dark velvet violas, mesmerized by the depth of their purply-ness, and hurry back inside to choose some bulbs, which end up being a selection of daffodils, crocus and tulips.
By the time I return home, the weather has turned back into miserable mode and rain is pelting down. With all my dilly-dallying up and down the Christmas aisles, I have missed my afternoon slot for gardening in this winter weather. Still, at least I am now prepared, and as soon as a dry afternoon for planting appears, I’ll be ready.