My Why audio version of this blog available here.
If you’re not familiar with life in England, our average year feels a bit like a marathon that starts in bad weather and ends, well, in bad weather. I’ll give you a bit of a flavour.
January Early January gives us Brits a burst of energy that is born out of too much eating and TV watching over Christmas. Once all the good TV and specials are finished, we find ourselves kicked into the starting blocks of a new year, deciding with a confidence that this year will be different. The month even starts with a day off work. Winner! We now believe this year is the one we’ve been preparing for, now is the time. Like the marathon runner, tired of training and eager for the race. Let’s do this! Meanwhile it’s chucking it down with rain, but that’s ok because we’re ready. We’ll be slimmer, healthier, more motivated, we’ll get a new job, find a new house, have a baby, get a dog, be more creative, eat less cake.
However, January is a particularly dark, long, cold month and after a few weeks of drawing the curtains at 4pm, getting up on dark mornings where you still need the lights on at 9am, lots of rain, broken umbrellas, and a huge grey cloud that covers the entire sky for days on end - we start to question ‘Why am I doing this? What’s the point?’ And so we set the alarm a bit later and start baking cakes full of sugar. And by the last week of January we’re left with lethargy, the winter blues, and a general shock and disgust that Easter eggs have appeared in the supermarket. In the same way the runner might have the thought a few miles in, soaking wet; ‘Why did I decide to do this, again?’
February A shorter month, so it feels a bit less painful. Spring feels a tiny bit closer, we’re a bit further from Christmas, and if you stand in the sun (when it bothers to appear) there’s a tiny bit of warmth on your skin, and it’s amazing. Annoyingly, it has Valentine’s Day in the middle of it, so if you have a birthday around that time, expect a limited selection of cards to arrive, and you tend to be surrounded by declarations of love that no one really feels, or lives up to, after the age of twenty, but all the same, we start to feel like we’re on the move into the year. This is the bit in a marathon where you feel good, still got energy, know it’s what you trained for, the weather eases up on you, and you start to find your groove.
March Now this month is a contender for a favourite. Even though if you’d have asked me yesterday I think I’d have said May. March has the ability to have so many amazing things all coming together in one month, it’s the moment when the runner feels this is what he was made to do, everything looks beautiful around him, and he’s just enjoying it. But I’m not going to say any more about March till later, and you’ll see why.
April This is the first chance us Brits have to get some proper warmth in our weather. In the first Lockdown of Covid, April 2020, when we were all stuck at home, the weather was amazing in England. I’m talking, sit-in-the-garden-in-shorts-and-get-too-hot type weather. It can be a real boost in the year. It’s probably the equivalent of a marathon runner getting handed one of those bottles of water or sports drink from the side, and the fluid goes down really well and all feels good with life. You can tangibly sense for the first time that summer is on the way, the trees are in beautiful blossom, you can stop taking the Vitamin D tablets, everyone is talking about how light it feels in the mornings, nature is waking up and you just can’t wait for summer.
May May can be beautiful. I say ‘can’ because nothing is guaranteed with British weather, but on the whole it’s one of our driest months. Spring is in full swing now, flowers, leaves, sunshine. We got married at the end of May and it was so hot all our guests hid in a triangle of shade from the barn and three people fainted! Classic Brit behaviour. There are two Bank Holiday Mondays in May, so it feels like we’ve all won the lottery. We can literally taste summer now, and we can’t wait for it. In fact, we go as far as to start to get cocky with the fact it might already be here, and we’re in for an amazing summer that will see us through to Christmas. You can literally hear the lawn mowers and chink of Pimm's from surrounding gardens. We have made it.
June Yes. Oh June. In the marathon analogy, June is probably when you're starting to really get into your stride, feeling good, feeling strong, feeling confident, and then you stick your foot in a roadkill hedgehog, slip, and fall flat on your face. June turns up to the summer party and all it brings is… rain. It feels like the weird April Showers have slowly snuck into June over the years and they find it hilarious. Just at the point us cocky Brits have left our umbrellas and coats at home - we get soaked. Any sport like Wimbledon that feels like giving it a go ends up being rained off (before they had a fancy roof that closed, even though it does take 30 minutes). Brides all over the country get showered on, and many of us get a stark reminder of why you should never leave patio furniture out with cushions on.
On the good side, the sun is feeling productive and gets up at 4:45am to help people to work, and hangs around until 10pm while we’re all sipping drinks on wet patio cushions after work. This is why the rain is even less welcome when he shows up, because we’re all desperate to get out and enjoy the long daylight hours.
Well, July is a mixed bag too at times. Technically, middle of summer, should be amazing. And my birthday month, so there’s always that bonus for me, but weather wise it’s still a little hit and miss. However, overall summer is underway, the greenery in this country is amazing (yes, partly because of our rain). Life is feeling pretty good for England.
As far as temperatures go, according to Wikipedia, July has the highest temperatures on average around 21 degrees Celsius (70 Fahrenheit for you US folk). The record high for England was July 2019, in Cambridge, when it hit 38.7C (101.7 F), but then the record low for the month is -1C (in 1965), so that shows how ridiculous this country can be. It does have the most average hours of sun though. All-in-all potentially a good month.
Unless the rain shows up again.
August High hopes for August, a lot of weddings get planned, and the schools are off for the whole month. Very similarly to July it has a lot of sunshine and the potential for the second highest temperatures, however, again there is a chance of rain, and I’ve been to my fair share of rainy August weddings. But when it’s nice, like July, it’s really nice. Going back to the marathon, this is when it starts to feel like you’re working hard but you can really feel all your training kicking in and you’re pleased with yourself. You’re motivated, the hedgehog debacle is behind you, and the people watching at this point have no idea that even happened. You’re feeling like you’ve gone the furthest you’ve ever done in a race, life is good, and you are succeeding.
Plus, because the schools are shut, suddenly everyone’s commute to work takes half the time, and there’s a Bank Holiday. Unfortunately if you’re working from home and it’s sunny, the surrounding noise level from children goes through the roof, particularly unfortunate if you record a podcast, so you end up doing it after 10pm to try and get some quiet air around you.
September Schools go back, so podcasting becomes a dream to record again. Plus, again weather can be lovely. Great time for more weddings. If August has been disappointing with the rain, then September gives us all one last hope that they’ll be a shot of warmth and sunshine before the looming winter. Annoyingly the arrival of Christmas in the shops tends to drag everyone into a funk about the fact that winter’s on the horizon, but we moan about that in the garden at least. Well, until the sun clocks off early at 7pm, another reminder, things are going in a direction we can’t control.
October Everything starts to shift at the end of September, and when we reach October we’re all feeling very mixed about life. Initially, all you see is the end of summer, the long dreary winter ahead, Christmas is looming, green leaves starting to turn brown, and when you stand in the sun the warmth has gone. We go through our mourning period with that, but then we remember that autumn is coming, and suddenly all the stuff we love about autumn is here. In my previous blog, ‘The Autumn Fall’, I talked about the beauty to be found in Autumn and the trees showing us how lovely it is to let things go. We don’t like to give up too easily as Brits, so we start kicking around the dry leaves (unless the rain comes and makes them all soggy!), we marvel at the reds, oranges and pinks on the trees and in our gardens, and we enjoy nature’s final hurrah before it starts to close in on itself for winter.
Then just in the last couple of days, we get the kick in the teeth of the clocks going back and we’re thrown into dark mornings and closing the curtains at 4pm, wondering why we feel ready for bed at 8 o’clock all of a sudden. October is the point in a marathon where you start to question if you can do this, but then there’s the realisation that the end is closer than the start and you’ve nearly achieved your goal, yet your body feels like it’s dying, it’s a mixed bag of emotions.
Just to point out, I’ve never run a marathon, I’m just envisaging all this!
November Poor old November. It really doesn’t have much going for it. It’s the only month of the year with no school holiday in it, so steer clear of teachers. It’s dark. The evenings that were once filled with socialising and light, are now all lamps and candles, and you go out to a supermarket at 6pm feeling like you’re heading out at midnight. And yes, we always seem surprised by this turn of events. I feel like November is the point in the marathon where you hit that wall and want to give up. They say around mile 20-23ish can be the worst for a 26 mile marathon. I think that’s November. Dark mornings, dark evenings, wet, cold, grey weather. It’s the grey that’s the worst, it’s not the cold or the wet really, it’s the endless grey. In fact, even though it’s February now, I’m going to take a photo of what’s outside my window as I type this. There. See. Grey:
The other problem for poor November is that it’s sandwiched between October (stunning autumn colours and some coldish sunshine) and December (Christmas lights, hope of snow that rarely materialises, and chocolate, mince pies and cake!). It has all the stress of Christmas planning with none of the joy.
Maybe I need to start a ‘redeem November’ campaign?
December By December we’ve rallied ourselves to the fact that a lot of nice things appear, and made our peace with the Christmas stuff being in the shops, in fact we’re now searching it out. And regardless of how you feel about Christmas (see my blog, ‘Christmas - friend or foe foe foe?’), there is a lot to be enjoyed - colourful lights, mince pies, gingerbread lattes, the Starbucks red cup, a Christmas tree in the house, presents, food, more food, and food, decorations, stolen, Christmas jumpers, Christmas cake, Christmas music, carols, nativities, Bank Holidays, time off work and, marzipan. There’s got to be at least one thing there for everyone to enjoy. So, we sort of accept the weather and dark nights and mornings, because to us, that’s Christmassy, and the month goes fairly quickly with increased social events, or hiding from them, and a feel in the air that something is different, and then complete, as you see the month out with New Year’s Eve - whether you enjoy that or not. And just like that, feeling like death, or feeling alive, you walk, run, stumble, or fall, over the finish line.
Now I just want to say that for all my negative comments about the rain, I’m very conscious that many countries would give anything for our rain. But to be honest that makes me dislike it even more, because it won’t share itself out for those that need it, and it lazily just hangs around us all the time.
And another thing to note about the year - there’s always my moon. Yes, since my last blog on him, ‘Meet my friend, the moon’, I’ve actually claimed him as mine. He comes and goes all year round, no one in the general population really knows when he’ll be full, or half, or eclipsed, or supermooning, but in the coldest, darkest months, he’ll suddenly appear, shining super bright, enjoying his extra time when everyone else is bemoaning the sun’s absence.
I think the changing seasons of the year provide us with a lot of food for thought on the seasons of our life and how we navigate and learn to accept and live with them. So much so, that I’ve decided on the first week of every month my My Why will be dedicated to all the aspects of that month that we can learn from and be encouraged by (pray for me when I need to prepare for November's). I really believe that just as autumn teaches us to let go, and spring teaches us there is always new life, we can learn more specific lessons from each month of the year.
If you stay stuck in the past season, or fixated on the future season, you will miss the one you’re in. Maree Dee
I learn so much, just from watching our garden through the seasons, and I’m excited to share that with you, in words and images. Obviously for some of you around the world your actual seasons will be very differently timed to Britain’s, but I’m hoping the lessons in them will be able to help us all through the valleys and the mountain top moments of our lives, whatever season we find ourselves in. We’re all in different places emotionally, some of you will be in a winter when I’m talking about summer, some will be in an autumn when I’m talking about spring, but it’s amazing how even a different season can teach us about the one we’re in.
As it says in Ecclesiastes 3 in the Bible, or you might know it from the lyrics to ‘Turn! Turn! Turn!’ by The Byrds:
To every thing there is a season… A right time for birth and another for death, A right time to plant and another to reap, A right time to kill and another to heal, A right time to destroy and another to construct, A right time to cry and another to laugh, A right time to lament and another to cheer, A right time to make love and another to abstain, A right time to embrace and another to part, A right time to search and another to count your losses, A right time to hold on and another to let go, A right time to rip out and another to mend, A right time to shut up and another to speak up, A right time to love and another to hate, A right time to wage war and another to make peace. Ecclesiastes 3, The Bible
So I’m looking forward to journeying through the year with you and sensing what each month wants to teach us.
And next week we’re starting with March.
Beauty is the only thing that time cannot harm. Philosophies fall away like sand, creeds follow one another, but what is beautiful is a joy for all seasons, a possession for all eternity. Oscar Wilde