Pageant of Winter

15 Feb.  Crocuses were pushing through in Alexandra Park when we walked through on Monday in the sunshine, snowdrops, too. It was still cold though. Today the wind had shifted round to the south south west. Now it is official. The pageant of winter has been authorized for removal and destruction. Few will mourn its passing.

Pageant of Winter, Birchen Grove, Wembley.
Pageant of Winter, Birchen Grove, Wembley.

But I was in a funny mood. In spite of a rainbow and a troop of parakeets the day was more inclined to gloom than glam. Headlights were on in Hendon at four o’clock. Sunny Hill Park was conspicuously not living up to its name.

I liked the curve of the walk more than the detail: the view of reed bed on the south side of the Brent Reservoir, the north western hills – with or without houses they still evoke a deep connection between eye and limb – the lights sparkling up the Great North Road. It was the most birdsong I’d heard this year, not that I could unpick the notes and attach them to familiar faces – apart from the robin who didn’t see any need to hide and the blackbird because nobody sings better.

I enjoyed dipping into the Country Diaries on the tube to Wembley Park. I was quite surprised by how many of them I had already read. It was good coming back to them in real time as it were especially Francis Kilvert breaking the ice in the font to baptise a baby on 13 Feb 1870 at Clyro in Radnorshire. I hadn’t come across Thomas Turner until a couple of weeks ago. His to-do list (8 Feb 1756, East Hoathly, Sussex) reminded me uncomfortably of some of my own. But I liked his beer resolution. It sounded sort of doable.

“ … if I am at home, in company, or abroad, if there is nothing but strong beer, never to drink more than four glasses, one to toast the king’s health, the 2nd to the royal family, the 3rd to all friends and the 4th to the pleasure of the company … “

I’m a republican but I’ll raise a glass or four to the death of winter.


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