Ruth Spencer on why you should never un­der­es­ti­mate the power of win­ter

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When the first knitwear hits the shops in March you laugh de­ri­sively. Then sud­denly, with­out any warn­ing ex­cept for the fact that it hap­pens ev­ery year about the same time, it gets cold. And bit­ter and windy and wet and bloody cold. The nicest knitwear has now sold out and the only thing left on the rack is a cold-shoul­der sweater, the of­fi­cial jer­sey of the de­ranged. Here are five things win­ter forces us to ac­cept whether we like it or not (spoiler: not).

It’s cold

News­flash: Brr. You might dress like a lum­ber­jack but you’ve never jacked lum­ber in your life, so it’s heater-shop­ping time. Heaters are ter­ri­fy­ing, un­pre­dictable mon­sters. Ev­ery year there’s a new kind you haven’t heard of: panel, gas, in­can­des­cent, so­lar­is­ing, ce­ramic, in­fra-red, mi­crother­mic, mag­ma­tronic. One of those is made up, but do you know which? Wrong, two of them are made up and the rest are just fancy stove el­e­ments. At the end of the day, all we want is to be cosy, but heaters also of­fer the thrill of un­cer­tainty. If not watched sternly, will it for­get to switch off and over­heat? Will it switch off and un­der­heat? It’s antarc­tic in here, is it even heat­ing at all or just dou­bling the power bill? Some­thing to chuckle over as we freeze to death?

Go­ing out

There are some ad­van­tages to go­ing out in win­ter. It’s dark ear­lier, so your evening makeup looks sub­tly con­toured and not like you wan­dered away from Cirque Du Soleil. No id­iot in more sen­si­ble shoes than you sug­gests that as it’s such a lovely evening you should walk to the bar. If you bought a de­cent coat in the last 10 years it prob­a­bly still looks like a de­cent coat, and makes you ei­ther Cary Grant so­phis­ti­cated or El­iz­a­beth Tay­lor luxe, hope­fully which­ever one you were aim­ing for. But it’s so, so hard to leave a warm house when there’s the op­tion of Net­flix and no chill. If you do go out, take tis­sues. Your nose will run and hankies are passé: there’s some­thing ter­ri­ble about blow­ing your nose and tuck­ing the re­sults back up your sleeve for later.


Win­ter is when soup be­comes a ubiq­ui­tous menu item, as though your in­sides are Mariah Carey and re­quire a hot, fra­grant bath be­fore they’ll agree to do any­thing else. Soup is any­thing you can puree, served ei­ther un­der a lake of olive oil or with the ap­pear­ance of a large bird hav­ing re­lieved it­self in the mid­dle. In restau­rants it’s what­ever the spe­cial was yes­ter­day mushed up, but at home you’re prob­a­bly chuck­ing a dry soup mix into the big pot to make nine cups of bar­ley slurry. The con­tent doesn’t mat­ter; soup is re­ally just an ex­cuse to eat a lot of but­tered bread, for which we are truly grate­ful.

No pri­vacy

As bikini weather fades and you can fi­nally start to cover up that thigh gap (lol), the leaves start to fall like a Trump voter’s tears. If trees dec­o­rated your win­dows through­out the gen­tle sum­mer, send­ing soft, dap­pled light into your lounge, you might have be­come some­thing of a do­mes­tic nudist. Just as well it’s cold be­cause it’s time to put some clothes on, Mi­ley. Gone is your lush, nat­u­ral pri­vacy screen — un­less, of course, you haven’t been shav­ing. Dusk falls early and your house be­comes a gold­fish bowl, lit from within like a child with a happy se­cret or a brothel win­dow in Am­s­ter­dam. No one is watch­ing

Short­land Street be­cause at 7pm your house is a bet­ter soap opera, es­pe­cially if you, too, play a bit of Doc­tors and Nurses.

Com­plain­ing about it

Any­one would think it had never been win­ter be­fore. Peo­ple are tex­ting you “it’s cold” but your fin­gers are too numb to re­spond. Some­one’s aunt posts “Where’s your global warm­ing now!!!!!!” on Face­book and it gets way too many hearts. Peo­ple are us­ing the word “snowflake” but con­fus­ingly, not as an in­sult. That one guy who bikes to work is telling every­one how cold it is to bike to work. We know, that’s why we don’t bike to work. The rest of us swap war sto­ries about the li­brary card we snapped scrap­ing ice off the wind­screen or how our ver­ti­cal succulent gar­dens that looked so Pin­ter­est in au­tumn turned to soggy brown mush in the first frost (but at least now they match the rest of the back­yard). Ev­ery of­fice has that one mar­tyred trouper that turns up even when rot­ten with flu and still in­sists on be­ing “the only one around here who emp­ties the dish­washer”. Please don’t empty the dish­washer, Ty­phoid Rachel. But that’s a nice cold­shoul­der sweater you’re al­most wear­ing.

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