Daily delights: war chest against the dark months

October 31, 2011 § 2 Comments

We put the clocks back on Saturday night. More than the equinox, Harvest Festival and Bonfire Night put together, turning the clock back marks the start of the long dark march through winter for me.

For years I have suffered from the winter blues – long before I knew that they were a bona fide condition. Although each year my body and mind are on guard for the first signs of the seasonal mood slump, they seem to have been particularly attuned to the effects of winter’s long shadow this autumn.

Paradoxically, in introducing my body to normal daylight hours during my 4-month sabbatical, I have developed not just a taste but a desperate hunger for a daily dose of sunlight, as if I am making up for the deficit caused by years of burning the midnight oil. I started to notice my need for the restorative and invigorating power of natural light when I returned to work in August. By lunchtime my body emerges from a 40th floor office starved of natural light and fresh air. So although late summer days are turning to greyer autumn ones, I am all still eating my lunch out in the open amidst the concrete and glass of La Défense, soaking up the ever more feeble rays of sun.

But now the days are growing darker and shorter, I am raiding my war chest for strategies and cures to give the darkness – an unwitting harbinger of the blues – a run for its money. Here are my current top ten weapons to help me square up to short dark days.

{Fresh air}

As my body has discovered it likes air as much as it likes light, I am looking for any excuse to venture out and explore London’s parks and markets, the river bank, creeks and canals, and the splendour of Victorian graveyards.

{Photography}

The camera is proving a superb additional weapon in my stand-off with the dark months. As daylight dwindles, my desire to seek it out increases. So, when I read about Vivienne McMaster’s Light Hunters: Getting through the Grey – a photographic course designed to carry you through the winter months – I had no qualms about signing up.

{Night sky}

I am also making the most of such light there is by looking up at the night sky. As my knowledge of the stars is limited to a few constellations known from Greek mythology, I have booked an afternoon at the Royal Observatory’s Planetarium to plug this gap.

{Tea}

I am diluting my regular consumption of English Breakfast tea (with a dash of milk) and thick espresso with fragrant Earl Grey, mint and lemon tea to enliven my sense of smell.

{Spices and herbs}

Similarly, I am increasing my intake of lively spices and herbs. Hot paprika goulash, partridge with juniper berry stuffing and plums stewed in heady all spice are set to tantalise my taste buds and re-energise my metabolism.

{Pickled herring}

Taking a leaf out of the Scandinavians’ book, I am – much to Mr M’s delight – stocking up on jars of pickled herrings as this humble fish is a good source of vitamin D.

{Rosemary}

In addition to embracing herbs in the kitchen, I shall also be hanging sprigs of fresh rosemary under my shower and bath taps. Breathing in the fragrant smell released by the steam will not only invigorate my senses; it will also whisk my mind back to Skopelos, a Greek island where the evening winds carry the smell of rosemary and pine down from the hills.

{Crystal and candles}

Whilst food will stimulate my sense of taste and smell, I am digging out the tea lights and my parents’ crystal wine glasses to add a visual feast to meals with the refracted dance of candlelight.

{Tea  ceremony}

And what better way to embrace the cosiness of winter than by turning a cup of tea into a little moment of luxury, complete with bone china cups and homemade petit fours.

{Fine wool}

Finally, rather than ramping up the central heating, I am pulling out the cashmere, alpaca and merino wool cardigans, sweaters, scarves and bed socks as the soft warmth of natural fibres against the skin is sheer delight, if not medicinal, on cold dark days.

Please feel free to share your top tips and old wives remedies for tackling the winter blues head on.

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