At the weekend I had what is becoming one of my favourite activities in anticipation of winter – gathering fire wood from the cemetery behind our house. At this time of year the local council thoughtfully prune some of the branches from the larger trees or cut down younger holly and sycamore and leave it for those of us with open fires or wood burners to come and forage for it, saving them the job of taking it away and giving us a free pass to cosy evenings cradling pints of ale or a whisky in front of the crackle and spit of last year’s haul. Last November 16th I wrote:
(It) feels that, in our agricultural pasts, once we had gathered the crops in we went through a process of gathering ourselves in, hunkering down for the winter with what we had managed to grow and store, trying to keep warm and well-fed.
This feeling has really stayed with me; thinking of winter as a mostly quiet and fallow season in which to ease off and enjoy the fruits and labours of the spring and summer really helped me to give it a positive place in my year. It may just be a romantic notion for city dwellers, but for me few things signify that gathering in and battening down than the gathering in of the wood that is going to keep me toastily tucked up in the back room while the cold bites down outside. Inevitably this is tied up with imagery from Good King Wenceslas and European folk tales that have kept with us from childhood; this gives a person a sense of continuity with what was a more necessary enterprise in earlier times, even if these days it involves loading logs into a Vauxhall Zafira with the help of a small child in a Superman costume. The day after I did this, the clocks went back. In previous years this would have filled me with foreboding; this year I barely gave it a second thought.
Here is last year’s wood collection which is going to help keep me sane this year, as well as warm.
Now I just need the weather to get cold. I’ve been packing for a trip to London and have put some shorts in as it’s forecast for 19 Celsius. That’s not going to help me get into a winter mood. It is still officially autumn though, so it’s time to listen to this…