And so we arrive at that time of year when winter seems interminable. Your bones have been cold for so long that even a hot bath fails to thaw them. The English are invariably sullen over late-winter weather, and I've heard several times that we're in it for the long haul this year, that we don't stand a chance of an early Spring, as if we're children, we've been badly behaved, the thermometers want to punish us.
I stand outside, in our back garden. It's too bleak for words, the sticky black paste of mud and dead leaves, the naked shivering trees, the poignant abandoned laundry line, the table and chairs which have spent these long months buckling under snow and rain. I realize I haven't stood in the garden for weeks. From my study window I have a view of it; I watch cats trying to catch birds, I see the neighbours' sad detritus gathering mud, but I haven't actually stood here, surveyed it at ground level, for too long. I miss standing in our garden, I realize.
Every once in awhile there is still the lingering dream of African light, of trade winds, spice, valleys like bowls; but mostly the mundane has crept back in. I like how local I feel, here, how we go to the pub on the end of our road for bloody marys and sandwiches, how well we know the roads, how predictable the fall of night is each evening, how every night is getting a tiny bit shorter. I like the idea that I will, over the next few months, slowly reacquaint myself with our garden. We will grow potatoes again, maybe. One day we will wake up and it will be warm enough to start to prune and dig, and the colour will start to come back into our cheeks, which have already turned pale again.