Overnight my garden has had a makeover. When I opened the bedroom shutters this morning, I discovered my garden had turned green.
I should have anticipated this transformation last night, when I went out to collect some firewood from the shed and heard an unfamiliar noise on the conservatory roof: a soft, persistent drumming. I was given a clue as to its identity: wet slippers.
“My goodness, it’s rain!,” I cried aloud. “I remember rain! ”
It was a very welcome sound, not least because it meant it was no longer cold enough for snow. There followed the rush of relief that a cloudburst must bring to drought-ridden nations. I told myself briskly not to be melodramatic – in my case, the arrival of rain was hardly a life-saver.
Even so, the sight of a verdant garden this morning was a delight after weeks of the monochrome of snow. For a moment I was Dorothy, opening the door of her black-and-white house, air-lifted by the Kansas tornado, to find the glorious technicolour land of Oz. I’d forgotten how green my garden could be in the middle of winter. Yes, there are rusting remains of sweetcorn and sunflower stalks, but these are eclipsed by bright and copious ivy, glossy grass and the ever-optimistic leaves of spring bulbs.
The experience felt like a mini Winterval celebration, a welcome reminder in the darkest depths of December, at the time of the shortest nights, that the sun will return. It’s surely no coincidence that this Christmas, amid blanking piles of snow, more people than ever seem to have felt the need to put up colourful outdoor lights. I was no exception.
I began Advent with a string of soft white lights in the apple tree in front of my house. Nothing garish for me, I decided, sifting through B&Q’s festive offerings. But when I got home, I discovered that against an all-white backdrop, my subtle choice was insignificant. I swiftly added some magenta and royal blue Christmas tree baubles to the stark brown branches and was astonished by how many neighbours remarked favourably upon them. Then a few days before Christmas, I decamped from any attempt at good taste and strewed a string of brightly coloured fairy lights over the porch. Along with my candle arch in the living room window and the Christmas tree lights in the old shop window (my house used to be the village post office), these conspired to lift my spirits (and my core temperature) every time I went outside the front door.
When I was a child, we used to make a game of spotting lit-up Christmas trees on the walk home from tea at my grandparents’ houses. I’ve played that game every Christmas ever since, dismissing from my mind any prissy environmentally-friendly thoughts about wasting energy and causing light pollution. (Who wants to stargaze in sub-zero temperatures anyway?) Though caustic about the first one I spotted in mid-November this year, by the time the snow fell I was going out of my way to seek them out.
One night when leaving my sister’s house, I braved ice-packed sidestreets to investigate a glow of near-daylight intensity. I followed the light, magi-like, to the end of a cul-de-sac, where four houses were festooned with enough flashing Santas and prancing reindeer to necessitate 24-hour sunglasses for the residents. It was worth the dangerous detour.
And now, mid-morning, there’s a fine mist descending, the teasing ghost of the snow that’s melted away. As spring steps up to the starting line, all that will be left is a white memory, dwindling to homeopathic strength. By the New Year, we’ll all be sighing nostalgically about how beautiful it was while it lasted, all thoughts of school closures, delayed mail order and car crashes forgotten. But even so, I’ll be very surprised if we’re craving a white Christmas next year. Here’s to colourful New Year!