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So what sort of a winter is this, anyway? We’ve had relatively little frost, no rain at all in January (yet) and it is being unseasonably mild. In the garden flowering plants and shrubs are already out. I had snowdrops at Christmas! Well, one lot anyway, which always come out early, but seem to be getting earlier each year. The rest of the white carpet is now beginning to appear in the lawn (well, that’s a polite term for the green area behind the house), soon to be joined by crocuses, daffodils, violets, cowslips, fritillaries – and the cyclamen which escaped from pots my mother used to put out on her patio – the seeds were spread round by ants! My Christmas Rose is flowering, the winter jasmine is covered in yellow, and there are even early iris stilosas out.

Winter is a dark dull time, the grey skies overcast, but these splashes of colour brighten up the view. At least they do at present. We are told to expect another Beast From the East soon – indeed it may already be on us when this is published. And what the late frosts will do to the blossom on fruit trees then?. I had absolutely no apples last year, zilch, nul, nada. Though I did get far too much fruit on my quince tree – 50 lb – which has either been turned into jam or jelly, or boiled up and frozen, to be made into a quince and apple crumble.

Winter is also a time for walks on muddy lanes and through the woods and fields. It was very wet before Christmas, and the sink holes at Water End filled up, so that the Mymmshall Brook, instead of sinking into its holes and flowing east to join the River Lee at Great Amwell, overflowed and became the River Colne, flowing past the gates of North Mymms Park and on to Colney Heath, to join the Thames at Brentford, way to the west. But on a walk on Boxing Day the waters had subsided, the stream a mere trickle. By now it will all be dry again.

If we do actually get some frosty nights, I’m looking forward to doing some star gazing. There was a meteor shower in the middle of December, the Geminids (named from the constellation Gemini), but the skies were cloudy, so nothing was visible. There are no more meteor showers now till later in the year, the most easily visible being the Perseids, around August 13th, in the Northern quarter of the skies. But if you can get away from the light pollution, the stars are still amazing to watch. You may even see the Milky Way, or the magical sight of the New Moon, a thin sliver of light, with the Old Moon in its arms.

Happy Winter! William Marsterson


You must be aware but still I will say
December the first was winter’s first day,
When we all want to turn the heat up to tropical:
Now is the time to be more philosophical .

Tighten the strings on your old woolly vest,
Your thermals I’m sure will deal with the rest.
A hot water bottle can be great at night,
Another blanket or two would be a delight.

One other thing I’ve often heard said,
Wearing a hat can have merit in bed.
When you go out, before you leave home,
It’s probably wise not to go all alone.

Take a hot drink and a kit for survival:
This should ensure your every arrival.
Maybe the northern folk have the best plan:
A seat by the fire and of course – a wee dram


Essay on Grandmothers.

A grandmother is a woman who has no children of her own, so she loves boys and girls of other people.

Grandmothers have nothing to do, they only have to be there.

If they take you for a walk, they go slowly past beautiful leaves and caterpillars.

They never say come along quickly or hurry up for goodness sake.

They are usually fat, but not too fat to do up our shoe laces.

They wear spectacles and sometimes take out their teeth.

They can answer every question, for instance, why dogs hate cats and why God is not married.

When they read to us, they do not leave out anything. They do not mind if it is always the same story.

Grandmothers are the only grown- ups who always have time.

Everyone should have a grandmother.

By an 8 year old