A LETTER FROM HOME - JANUARY 2023
A Happy New Year to Everyone (and apologies for the delay in posting this)
|Low afternoon sun lighting up the trees outside a school where I used to teach.|
THE FULL MOON IN JANUARY is on 6th January. One of its names is 'Stay at Home Moon'. Sounds a good idea to me. This morning (6th January) it looked as though the oak tree was preventing it from setting.
WORD OF THE MONTH
1. (of an animal) having normal physical functions suspended or slowed down for a period of time; in or as if in a deep sleep.
2. temporarily inactive or inoperative.
I’m sincerely hoping that the second definition is the one that applies to me; I feel as though the first definition has been a more appropriate description of how I am in cold weather! Everything seems to have slowed down, including, unfortunately, my mental acuity (no there’s another good word). So these days I put the milk in the teapot and the tea leaves in the cup with depressing regularity, and find that I have sat like a lump in front the television while one episode of ‘Murder She Wrote’ follows another. I’m waiting for warmer weather, when I shall emerge, like a dusty moth which has been sleeping in a corner, and start moving around again.
LIGHT, and LENGTHENING DAYS
My Christmas decorations will stay up until Twelfth Night. Even when the tree is packed away I will still keep a string of stars in the front window until Candlemas Day, the 2nd February, which is when Jesus was presented at the Temple and Simeon prophesised that Jesus would be ‘a light to bring light to the Gentiles’. Candlemas is also the time when people used to bring their candles to church to be blessed.
One of my Christmas Presents this year was a handy undated A5-sized daily diary, each page headed with space for you to enter the date as you go along. That meant I didn’t have to wait until the New Year to begin using it. The first page is therefore headed ‘Christmas Day’ and records the presents I received, starting with the friend who gave me the diary, and the phone calls and zooms and people I spoke to on Christmas Day.
I have also added the time of sunrise and sunset. On Christmas Day sunrise was at 8:04, and sunset at 3:59. So the day was officially (I’m counting on my fingers, give me a moment…) 7 hours and 55 minutes long. On the 31st of January, I see that sunrise will be 7:41 and sunset at 4:50 (more counting on fingers….) 9 hours and 9 minutes. That’s already an hour more than on Christmas day!
Here are the times for sun rise and sunset for January in London;
Sunday 1st January Sunrise 8:06 Sunset 4:05 Day Length 7 hours 59 mins
Sunday 8th January 8:04 4:13 8 hours 9 mins
Sunday 15th January 8:00 4:23 8 hours 23 mins
Sunday 22nd January 7:53 4:54 8 hours 41 mins
Sunday 29th January 7:44 4:46 9 hours 2 minutes
This all looks very encouraging to me.
I am look forward to the lengthening days and hopefully warmer temperatures as January passes.
There’s been a lot of research it seems on the importance of real daylight, and many ‘self-help’ and ‘self-care’ books recommend going outside every day, preferably first thing in the morning to ‘reset your circadian rhythms’ or ‘promote your well-being’. I’m not a great ‘self-helper’ or ‘self-carer’; I find that my natural inclination towards ‘less is more’ and ‘never do today what can be left until tomorrow’ - in other words, laziness - needs no encouragement. However, I have found that trying to get outside the house for a few minutes every day is a Good Thing; if the weather is too dreadful I just stand and look through at the garden through the back door window for a few minutes.
SOMETHING TO MAKE
Well, of course, as it is January, it must be time to make our New Year Resolutions? For a number of years I have stuck to the same few, and kept them pretty well. Here they are;
1. give 2 bags of ‘stuff’ to charity shops or collections every month. Notice that I DO NOT specify the size of the bags, or how much is in them! Sometimes they are huge bags, and other times it might just be a few books or bits of bric-a-brac.
3. Keep up my ‘page-a-day’ diary. I started keeping a diary quite recently, in 2014, because I was beginning to think that my days were so full, and were flashing by so quickly, that by bedtime I had already forgotten what had happened in the morning. Now I really appreciate them – a mix of journal, occasional sketches, lists of what happened or what I did on that day. It makes a moment to reflect on the whole day before turning the page, turning over in bed, and starting a new day tomorrow.
The good thing about these resolutions is that I am able to keep them all year without a struggle, so that here is another thing that I can deem a success in my life!
This month’s self-indulgence is an Amaryllis bulb. I have sent off for one, mail order, and am looking forward to its arrival. How can all that stalk fit inside just on bulb? I’ve often had one as a Christmas present (not this time) and so enjoyed watching them emerge and grow, and grow, and grow….
BOOKS THAT BEGIN IN JANUARY
I’ve already mentioned my daily diary. I really enjoy starting a book at the beginning of the year which will accompany me through the next twelve months. These can be gardening books, cookery books, craft compendiums, or other people’s year books.
This year I am looking forward to starting ‘The Kitchen Cabinet’ by Annie Gray, a spin-off from the Radio 4 programme which will be restarting in January, and also ‘Read Me 2; A Poem for every Day of the Year’, chosen by Gaby Morgan
I also like to have books of short snippets and essays to dip in and out of as an alternative to the more concentrated type of reading other books require. I have been loaned a copy of 'Mrs Griffin sends her love and other writings by Miss Read' which perfectly fits the bill. It is fairly hard to get hold of; this is a second hand copy sold off by a public library and bought from an on-line booksellers.
If you like nostalgia, ‘One Woman’s Year’ by Stella Martin Currey is what it says; a month-by-month selection of essays, incidents, recipes, suggestions for reading and excursions, originally published in 1953. (And it is also the inspiration for this newsletter.) It is published by Persephone Books in Bath.
OUT AND ABOUT
In January? You must be joking! No, but really, (this is me trying to convince myself) you will be glad you wrapped up warmly and went outside, even if it was only to replenish the bird feeders.
This is when witch hazel
and viburnum (our neighbour, bless him, has a shrub right by the fence adjoining our gardens. I have plans to put another one in on the other side of our garden later this year.)
are in flower, with their lovely fresh scents. Christmas Roses and snowdrops valiantly bloom in all weathers.
The days when the air is crisp, and the skies are blue, and the air is still are to be treasured, cherished and enjoyed, even if only for a few moments.