Swings and roundabouts

Friday December 15, 2006

In a moment of idle surfing, sort of half thinking that I might set up a timer, I checked out the date and time of the coming winter solstice. This year it happens at 00:20 GMT on December 22. Just a week to wait, and then the days will start lengthening once more, imperceptibly at first and then all of rush as the Spring opens up. Snowdrops first, then daffodils, followed by bluebells, at which time there will be warm days, the bees will be working, and butterflies beginning their crazy dance. And the swallows will return, making summer for all they’re worth.

I can wait.

In primitive times it might have seemed, at this time of year, that the sun was going off on a long journey, leaving our ancestors behind in the darkness. We have science now, and astronomical tables that are as close to infallible as undisturbed celestial orbits can make them, but even so the spirits are depressed when the sun spends so much of each day on the other side of the planet.

Our local primitives, and their astronomers, built Stonehenge as a heavyweight means of determining the solstices and other similarly significant calendar events. A cane stuck in the earth with a few markers arranged round it would have served as well so it’s likely that Stonehenge had some additional purpose or meaning; we shall never know, which is probably just as well.

I used to buy an almanac each January, a small unbound pamphlet, printed on newsprint, that gave all sorts of interesting calendar information week by week throughout the year. It’s been a long time since I saw one of those. Nowadays we have to resort to the Internet for our almanac. It can be as mysterious as Stonehenge but it’s easier to heft.

While searching I found a little gem describing the months of the year:

Snowy, Flowy, Blowy, Showery, Flowery, Bowery, Hoppy, Croppy, Droppy, Breezy, Sneezy, Freezy — George Ellis (1753-1815)

I haven’t seen much of the Freezy about December so far this year, unless it refers to the steady slowing of my spirits.

Two other gems of the day:

At the doctor’s: I noticed a really splendid little Christmas display hanging in the ceiling space by the desk, carefully constructed from glass baubles, precisely arranged and strung, with much careful application. For some reason it really lifted my spirits. “That’s nice!” I smiled at the receptionist. “Thanks! You’d be surprised how few people even notice it.” Except, I wouldn’t. Most people lead lives of unquiet isolation, like the:

Man in supermarket with telephone bluetoothing in and over his ear like some kind of Borg construct: “I’ve never known a ******** supermarket with so many ********* slow old farts,” he bellowed into his phone as he tried to bulldoze his trolley through a tangle of old dears clustered around the fresh vegetables. I was on the point of blasting him with some suitably cutting response when I saw the funny side of it, and laughed loud and long at him. He didn’t notice, of course, but it made me feel much better.

I’ve felt reasonably good today, just a tiny bit of dizziness at one point. The sun is forecast to shine tomorrow, that’ll make me feel better still.

A day with a handful of gems in it and the promise of sunshine tomorrow isn’t so bad a day. A matter of swings and roundabouts, I suppose.



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