Every year for about six weeks I check the snow situation in Finland hourly. I gaze at the webcam images religiously and try to determine what is going on. I message friends. I hope. I think I have even prayed occasionally. The Christmas of 2013 stands out as particularly bleak – rain, no snow – while Christmas of 2014 was a delight. This year was touch and go. I arrived late in the evening, there was four inches of snow, and the temperature was at a rather delightful -18°C. Then it got warm. On Christmas Day, all the snow almost melted away. But I got to enjoy many enough cold days and frozen toes to feel happy about winter.
Making presents. This scatter cushion cover was a last-minute idea, a gift to my godmother. This rather stretched my skills, which is good, and I liked the end result enough to buy yarn to make another. Christmas trees.
We built a fire. Christmas Eve.
…and then it got cold. On Christmas day, it rained. By 28th December the temperature had dropped so low that the sea froze over. The little speck on the horizon, just right from the centre, is another photographer, on the ice with his tripod and kit – I stood on the shore and wondered if I’m a special sort of wimp for not being brave enough even to step on the ice? Sunset.
Cold, golden winter sun.
This seems like a long time ago – on the one sunny day of the Michaelmas half term, I met an old friend I haven’t seen in years. We were driving back from Bampton (here frolicking in the leaves outside Isobel’s house), I pointed out how wonderful it was to listen to her talk like it hadn’t been six years since we last met. I’m so glad we have stayed in touch.From Bampton to London. I had a rather lovely walk along the South Bank, even with an Atlantic gale blowing. On my way I met the original man in tights, Laurence Olivier, and had lunch at the National Theatre restaurant. Sometimes I hate London, and sometimes she gives me a gift of a day.And from London to Oxford. The second half of the term was sometimes sad and often stressful, and the weather gloomy and depressing, but somehow we made it to the end of the term.We had one cold, crispy early winter’s day. One. But it was a lovely day.And then suddenly it was time for making decorations and presents, putting up the tree, and learning new crafts.And keeping up with the old.And now it’s Christmas.
Last look of London before traveling. I had a surprisingly successful season’s last outing on Monday (which turns out to be the best day to go; even Oxford Street was fairly quiet) two weeks ago. I walked along the river from Westminster to St Paul’s; I had planned to visit the Soutbank Christmas market, but was lured to the riverbed exposed by low tide. And what a treasure trove it was! – oyster shells and bones and pieces of china, with perfectly worn round edges. I even found a clay pipe. There are very few people down on the riverbank (though there was a very loud oompah band playing Jingle Bells again and again), making this a strangely solitary, quiet pursuit.
Day after, I was on a plane to Finland. The weather has been poor until mid-December, and I was dreading for another black, gloomy Christmas. Holidays last year were rather trying – the weather was too poor to go out and the arctic darkness oppressing without snow. This time couldn’t have been more different. The temperatures have dropped to as low as -25°C, the trees are covered in snow and frost, the skies have been clear. Days are still short and afternoons dark, but the snow makes all the difference. Spending time with my family has been surprisingly peaceful this time – my parents are elderly, and because of my mother’s Alzheimer’s, there usually tends to be some drama, but this time we have so far been spared from doctor’s visits and midnight ambulance calls. And it is Christmas.