Notes from The Old Chapel – First Winter

We have survived the first winter in our new home: The Old Chapel in Norfolk. Winter is not good for me these days. As the days shortened and the darkness gathered my mood darkened with it. I used to love the winter, the stark beauty, the promise of snow but I have lost the appreciation of it. My health deteriorated and I have  undone a lot of the good work I did in the summer. I had a sinus infection that would not shift. My dog walks became shorter and I stopped doing yoga. I tried to rest to get well. I had a new business to keep me busy so my writing also ground to a halt. I have started to sell things online: on my website and on ebay. I am selling boho gifts and Buddhist items. It was hard to get noticed and to get customers at first. It has grown slowly. I bought stock some of which sold and some of which didn’t so I was pretty poor through the winter. Christmas was quiet but there was lots of good food. We went to the Church and sang carols which made me cry. To my surprise it was packed full of people who never normally go. I still don’t really know anyone in the village. We say hello as we walk our dogs but it doesn’t go beyond that. There is the usual English stiff reserve. I felt guilt I hadn’t made more effort. I could have volunteered to clean the church like the other local worthies but I didn’t. Services are sporadic, less than once a month. I kept meaning to go. I didn’t go. There is a village pub but we don’t go to it. Maybe we should. My love of pubs has also diminished.

The fields became stubble. The footpaths were mud. There was still wildlife. Pheasants everywhere and the odd glimpse of red deer running in the distance. Winter birds and owls hooting at night. I love the animals. My dog didn’t want to go far. He liked the fire.

The chapel is built of clay lump which is common in Norfolk. It is faced with brick. It was never meant as a home and we found it to be freezing in January. The oil fired heating could not keep it warm. The log burner could if it was set first thing. It ate logs like a greedy dragon. We ran out. More and more. My daily aim became as simple as to stay warm. This was the goal. Life was reduced down to the basics. Eventually I gave in and bought an electric heater for the conservatory. Finally I could work at the computer without feeling too cold and heading back into the living room to the fire. We will have to figure something out for next year. The cold got into my bones and filled me so I could think of nothing else.

In January there was a death in the family. Winter would not let go. In England it doesn’t get as cold as the north and Scotland where I have lived for much of my life but I don’t cope will with it now. There wasn’t even any real snow, just a light covering for a couple of days. How do people manage in Canada and Alaska where they know real cold? In England the winter is damp. The wet gets inside of you spreading sickness with it. I dreamed of warmth, of summer and gardens in Italy, Mediterranean vegetables and blue skies.

I spent my days working on my websites and delivering my parcels to the post office in town. I have learned a lot about postage rates and packaging. The rules are multifarious. I kept making mistakes with the shipping. I walked my dog in the village, avoiding the long paths we had trod in summertime. We cuddled together in front of the log fire and read and watched films.

I kept meaning to write and never did. I kept sneezing. My infection hung over me like an elderly relative.

Late in February something started to shift. I could feel the ground waking up, warming. There were rare glimpses of sunshine. Snowdrops came and the little daffodils. My good mood returned with the sun. I have become more productive. I have tidied and organised and started to garden.

Spring has come. We have endured.

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