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