Thank you for the sandbags

Winter is not my favourite thing. The cold hurts my joints, my skin and my teeth. The earth is dead and hard, everything is grey and damp. But most of all it is dark. Dark when you wake up, dark on the journey home, dark Sunday evenings and dark Monday mornings.

And the darkness penetrates where even the cold can’t reach; right into my core. It sits, angry and suffocating in the pit of my stomach, making it hard to swallow, making me heavy and sad and useless. It grows, it gets darker, it communicates and it hates. It feeds on the cold and the loneliness, it moves up my abdomen and it fills my throat.

That’s how winter feels to me. But I’ve had years in training and I know how to combat it: Plan. Fill the dark nights with things. See people. Move. Get up. Shout back at its angry, clawing, suffocating stench. Light a fire. Make soup. Have hugs.

I know how. And every year I win; every year there’s Spring.

This year, knowing I know how had a new consequence: subconscious anticipation. The darkness knew I knew how and evolved; the darkness woke up in August.

The darkness does not belong in August. I didn’t know it, didn’t recognise it, didn’t understand it. It was scary and I was useless and stupid and stuck. But I know me: I know my obsessive logic in working things out, know my need to write things down, to analyse, to find explanations. Why was I useless and stupid and stuck? There was sunshine, and holidays, and outside and friends. So why was I heavy and lonely and sad? I recognised the darkness; it had looked a little different in the light but it couldn’t hide its own qualities.

Battle stations. Too late for defensive manoeuvres; I needed attack.

Drown the darkness in the swimming pool. Smother it in sofas and series. Poison it with pills. Asphyxiate it with heavy does of friends and activity. Stamp on it when it tries to ruin them.

Realise that stamping doesn’t often work. Admit that big groups don’t drown out its nitpicking meanness as well as well direct hits of good friends. Regroup not retreat.


Rebuild defences:

Shield 1: good films.

Shield 2: lots of gigs.

Shield 3: hot water bottles.

Shield 4: Yorkshires and gravy.

Shield 5: crunchy, frosty, sunny mornings.

But just to be safe, I gathered up sandbags from friends, asked them to help me dig a moat, hoist up the drawbridge and share my castle with things that make them happy too.

Snuggling with pets, family and loved ones. Log fires, woolly jumpers and onesies. Soups and stews. Nice warm pubs with proper fires. Strictly Come Dancing. Putting on your PJs at 5pm. Mash. Pork Belly. Forward thinking: summer is on its way. Blankets. Baked cheese. Mugs of hot chocolate whilst sitting on the windowsill watching the weather with your feet on the radiator. Jumper dresses, massive scarves, kickin’ mittens, handmade hats. Fairy lights. Sparklers. Baked potatoes that warm the kitchen. Pie and mash. People’s faces when it snows. Candle lit bubble baths with wine. Knitwear. Winter coats. Cold, crisp walks ending in pub lunches. Trips to the theatre. Knitting. Lots of candles. Wearing layers. Reading a book in front of the fire. Beautiful coats. Dumplings. Going to bed at 9pm. Winter holidays. Christmas. The Apprentice game. Good books. Thick socks. Cheese and port. New wellies. Slow cookers. Christmas trees. Penrhyn Christmas. Snow. Mulled wine. Mulled cider. Baileys in hot drinks. Masterquiz. All the wasps die.

Thank you for the sandbags.


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