I don't like winter. And I like November least of all. (Follow the link for a short sharp exposition of how I feel about it!)
Now, I'm comforting myself with the thought that the shortest day is only just over a month away. Inexplicably, because the light grows very slowly, I always feel much better once that hurdle is past. I love Christmas and I don't even mind January, because here, at least, in the west of Scotland, and no matter how cold it gets, the snowdrops will soon be bravely poking through and by February there will be drifts of them here and there and catkins on the trees. Spring will be on its way.
One of my ways of coping with winter, though, involves various pastimes as well as the large tranches of writing work that seem to have built up while I was publicizing my latest book: A Proper Person to be Detained.
I've already planted my springtime bulbs. I need to get into the garden and do a bit of tidying, but that's a job for a less dreich day, and besides, the undergrowth helps the little birds to survive. I'll be doing some Christmas baking soon (of which more in another post, and a Christmas cake recipe that you can make quite late!)
The other thing I'm doing is playing the piano again: my much loved upright piano that I've had since I was thirteen, when we first moved to Scotland. It was a very old piano even then.
I had lessons from when I was seven years old, in Leeds. Then I carried on with them when we moved to Ayrshire and only stopped when I went to university at the age of seventeen. I passed a lot of exams, although I was only ever doing it for pleasure. The piano stayed at my mum and dad's house and I would play it when I came home from my various travels. When I got married, we moved it to this old cottage, where it has lived quite happily ever since.
During all those years, it has been tuned by the same talented man. Paul used to travel to the Kintyre peninsula to tune the piano belonging to a certain Beatle of the same name. He reckons mine is a Victorian cottage piano, and tells me he has never tuned an old piano - a genuine antique - that is still in such excellent condition. I love it to bits.
Reasonably regular tuning helps, as does regular playing. Our son had lessons, but when it became obvious that he hated it, I took his slot and spent a few happy years refreshing my skills with his excellent teacher. I was one of her more advanced pupils, so I think we both enjoyed the experience. Partly, though, it's because we live in a chilly old house. It's not damp, but since we can't afford to keep it too warm, it's a little - cool! And the piano seems to love that. Not too hot, not too cold. Cosy in the evenings. It's what it was built for.
This winter, I've started playing again. I tend to neglect it in the summer, when the whole life of the house switches to the back where the garden and the conservatory are. But the living room is a good winter room in which to do a bit of hibernating with the fire - and some cosy Ayrshire blankets to keep out the draughts.
I've dug out all my old music and made a plan.