Cold Fear

For the first time in living memory the approach of winter isn’t an unmitigated joy to contemplate. And the reason for this is a novel element in my life: gardening.

Now, there are many good things about winter. I enjoy colder weather and am much better able to cope in it than in warm conditions. I like winter clothes and I also have a very fine cashmere scarf to wear this year in the colours of my second English football team, Millwall, and my first rugby league team, the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs. In fact it’s blue and white striped, so even non-fans – people with no love of any sport – could wear this garment for it’s quality of materials and manufacture and for it’s all round smartness. Being stored away in a drawer makes me want it to be cold now, as you can’t wear a scarf when it’s warm: you’d look a dill. If conditions become severe I have a thick beanie, which Laetitia reckons makes me look like an axe murderer, or as I like to think, like an old-fashioned IRA hitman. I would wear it when we took the dogs for a walk on the quiet beach at South West Rocks.

Unfortunately circumstances have dictated that we don’t have an open fireplace where we are now and this militates against chopping wood and building a fire, although I suppose I could do it for fun, as long as no attempt at ignition was made, in one of the blocked up fireplaces in our rented house.

Colder weather also means football codes are played. I’m still a big cricket fan but I really needed the rugby league season to kick off this year, as if for medical reasons, like it had been prescribed, or more accurately as if I was thinking up ways of breaking in to the cabinet where it’s stored and taking some before the doctors said it was OK. This feeling started in about January. Rugby league amuses me. I’m passionate, to an extent, about my team, but a lot of what drives my interest is the immature dimension – the players are like naughty children who don’t know how to behave (it’s just that, as adults, acting out leads to getting arrested, not getting in trouble for breaking the crayons); the officials are like incompetent and occasionally strict school teachers; and fans’ devotion is like believing in the Tooth Fairy (behaviour which seems to not fit a grown person’s chronological age, but is somehow charming for that). There are heroes and villains and the villains twirl their moustaches and sweep their capes half across their faces and the heroes visit sick kids in hospital.

Also I’m almost obsessed with being at home and there’s a lot more reason to stay indoors when it’s not sunny outside. There might even be a game of footy on TV (see above).

But here’s the area of doubt, the problem I now have when I think about darkness falling early in the evening and getting cosy under the covers in bed. I’m concerned that I won’t know how to cope with those changes from a horticultural point of view. My quite successful approach to keeping plants alive has been to give them heaps of water and scale back the amount when they look unwell. Now that the sun is not likely to blaze as long or as hot I have to change my approach and I’m not sure it will work. I’ve already made a bulb start to want to flower months early because of excess watering. This excess watering could mean that the other bulbs in the pot are now rotting. It’s a serious issue. I want to be confident that the weather can change and that I can change too, but I need to adapt my methods to the new situation, when it comes, and that’s why I almost – almost – want to put off winter for a little while.

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