This is my plan – I’ll do a diary style post per month, drawing my inspiration from The Almanac by Lia Leendertz
Last year I didn’t manage to buy this lovely book until September, but once I had it I loved it…I ordered the 2019 one in November last year so I didn’t make the same error!
Here we go then, with January:
We began our January further north than usual, in Copenhagen, which was as lovely as ever. I have never seen so many New Years Eve fireworks in my life before, the displays went on for hours! On the first of January we walked though the local wood to the coast, in sparkling winter light, the sea was astonishingly blue and the air so very clear. Used as I am to being landlocked I always feel transported by a brisk coastal wind and shimmering sea.
Sunset on the first of January was around four-ish, by now it’s after five. I have really noticed the days stretch out – though I may still be setting off for work in the dark the longer afternoons make everything more pleasant. We drive past daylight fields to my son’s after school drum lesson in a barn on a local farm (we like to think it’s a tiny bit Rockfield Studios). Wittenham Clumps is no longer just a gloomy shape on the horizon, and I get the urge to go up the hills after a December hibernation.
Indoors, the kitchen is a lovely place to be in winter. I make marmalade every year from a Riverford Organic ‘marmalade kit’. Though it is a little bit of a faff the smell of oranges and sugar wafting though the house is delightful, and the resulting marmalade delicious. It also reminds me of a winter holiday to the Sierra Nevada, we arrived late, in the pitch dark. Waking up in our rented house the next morning it turned out to be in the middle of an orange grove overlooked by the mountain – a bit magical. We’ve had blood oranges and clementines in our veg box too…and all with no plastic net or wrapping round them like the supermarket ones (I’m sure they taste more orangey too).
My first Almanac recipe was Cullen Skink – a hearty Scottish smoked haddock soup. The ingredients list tells you you’re in for a treat; smoked fish, potato, leeks, butter, full fat milk…and a treat it is. I only made half the amount for two of us, I should have made the whole recipe!
I can’t stay inside the whole time though, never have been able to. It’s now common knowledge that getting outside, even for short periods of time, is incredibly good for our wellbeing. My love for trees is on a par with my love for the coast, but trees are very much more accessible to me. I went out, with the Almanac, to do a little native tree spotting, and returned with a fair number of twigs, currently sitting proudly in a raku pot surrounded by Lego. I found field maple and birch, and also – though these are not listed in the book – horse-chestnut. I really do think the best time to gaze at a tree is in winter, when you can see its glorious structure. As I write this, with snow laying along the branches, they look even more beautiful.
Snow – brilliantly, just at the end of the month, I was able to refer to the the list of ‘types of snow’ with actual snow on the ground, though I had to wait until the 1st of February to get a really good look at it…so more on that next month.