It’s raining. How unreasonable. As the hottest year on record draws to a close the clouds are mustering, the leaves are dripping and the early morning school run starts with the mournful toll of the computerized thermometer on the car warning us that the temperature has dropped below 4 degrees. Everyone, everywhere is suddenly talking about hygge – the Danish art of hunkering down, which if a thousand lifestyle websites are to be believed, can get you serenely through winter with just a few candles, a wood fire and a pair of sheepskin slippers artfully arranged on a hearth rug.
This is all a bit too tasteful for my liking. As far as I’m concerned, November, with its almost endless darkness getting four minutes darker every day, with its perpetual damp and its perpetual mud, its intermittently working central heating and its draughty windows, is best enlivened with a little-bit-more-than-subtle sprinkling of bling. By all means bring me a burning log and a Danish pastry but if you really want to see me happy bring me glitter.
I may not be in any way ready for the darker side of Christmas – the endless lists, the house cleaning or the shopping mall scrum – but nothing pleases my bleak little November heart more than candlelight and the eternal twinkling of a few thousand microscopic iridescent plastic facets.
At present, most of these glittery particles are anywhere but where they should be. As I type I can see that the kitchen table, despite a good scrubbing, is shimmering prettily in the sunlight. The floor is awash, my farm boots glisten as I open the gate into the 34 acres, even my eyebrows sparkle back at me in the mirror. Sparkly trails lead into every room in the house. I even notice a little glint on one of the pug’s teeth as he stands on the examining table at the vet and I don’t think he’s been brushing. The only things it seems hard to glitter are the things that I am trying to glitter. Spray glue – unbelievably good at sticking to everything I don’t want it stuck to – is totally ineffectual in the face of dried weeds.
All summer long everywhere I went I saw ragwort plants (which are poisonous to cattle, sheep and horses) on every patch of wasteland I passed – in farm gateways, on motorway verges in central France, even in the Halfords car park waiting for the school bus. Ragwort, and the thought of having to pick it before we could make any hay for our livestock, tormented my waking hours and haunted my dreams.
But now all I see are teasels, cow parsley stalks, dried docks and some other unknown weeds with pretty seed heads like husky pearls. They are my new obsession – these plants stripped of flower and foliage, dried in the late summer heat and the autumn breezes. They grew in abundance, frothy in the waste space between the buildings at our farm in Jevington, and I harvest them now in their winter skeletons, as I listen to the newly weaned calves muttering softly in the barn alongside. They will be perfect, I think, for some tasteful (not too tasteful) winter decorations for the Ox.
So great is my obsession that stuck in a long tailback on the A23 on the way to her Eastbourne Girls football match, my 12-year old daughter, Ted, has to bodily restrain me from leaping out onto the central reservation to harvest a prickly but magnificently proud array of teasels. Instead, I have to be content with imagining a giant heavenly glitter shaker raining clouds of glitter snow over their weedy splendour in situ. I imagine each tiny tendril, each seed head, each dent in the crash barrier highlighted with a delicious crust of sparkle – just enough to catch the light of a stray celestial sunbeam.
And then I reason that not even a heavenly shaker would have a hope in hell of getting the glitter to stick to those plants. Instead, all those billions of particles would drift under the wheels of every car that passed and gradually, magically, the entire road network of southern England would turn sparkly silver, lit up by a million headlights in the gathering twilight.
Now that’s my idea of hygge.