Baby It's Dark Outside

Why the shorter days can be a blessing … 

While the temptation, for all of us, come January, is to pull the duvet up around our ears and hibernate, it's not really a practical option. For a start, who'd feed the cat, or walk the dog? And, in all honesty, would you really want to miss out on one of the most wonderful aspects of living in a supposedly-temperate climate? 

All that curling up with a favourite book, sipping warm tea by the fire. Enjoying the company of a furry friend, listening to some mellow tunes … bliss!  But sometimes, particularly when we're feeling a bit down, or are still fighting off the lurgy, even the most enthusiastic winterphile can begin to get a bit, well, uncomfortable. I know, if you're temporarily housebound due to a cold or a snowfall, there's not a lot you can do but wait it out, but you can make yourself more comfortable or, at least, comfort yourself. 

I love donning a soft, oversized sweater and some woolly socks. It's what I did as a child, and it still works when I'm feeling sorry for myself. It just makes me feel better. Cosseted, I suppose.  And nothing cheers me up like a proper cuppa. Preferably made with actual tea leaves, not that dust they put in teabags. I do use teabags, of course, but when you need a serious lift, leaf tea is the only way to go. The original "cup that cheers" did not come from a teabag. Okay, it was intended as an anti-alcohol slogan (the rest being 'but does not inebriate), but the point is the same. Proper poorly calls for proper tea … unless your cold has stolen your taste, in which case anything will do. But, if you can taste, there is simply nothing more delightful, comforting and soothing than a nice cup of tea. From a teapot. A teapot made from china or pottery or, if you're ultra-modern, from glass. The pot dressed in a knitted tea cosy and served from a tray would be my preferences, but maybe I'm being a bit too exacting on this one. My current tea du jour is the Sally Lunn Blend from the restaurant of the same name in Bath. And it goes with just about anything. From Christmas cake (yes, still have some of that left) to cheese on toast. 

When it comes to food, of course, it's as much about texture as anything. Let's take that cheese on toast for a minute. Crunchy toast, gooey cheese? Perfect! Soup with soft yet crusty bread, roasted veggies, casseroles and the ultimate comfort food … fish and chips straight from the bag. Yes, the flavours are important but it's just as much the mouthfeel that takes something enjoyable to really enjoyable. And comforting. And that's what we're looking for here. 

Rather than cranking up the heating, and drying out the house and your skin, why not keep it turned down a notch, fill up that old hot water bottle and pretend it's 1979 again? To really get into the spirit, you could always get yourself a mug of warm Ribena. And, red wine aside, there's nothing better for a throaty cold than that.

And, if you really can't stand the winter months, why not take solace in what's to come. Flip through that Next Spring-Summer catalogue and get some new togs for when the sun really does shine. Or pick up the seed catalogues that landed on your doormat and get your order in early. Because Spring will come around soon enough, mark my words …