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Feather's Miscellany: November

...Perhaps it’s the hedgehog in me; a kind of annual hibernation which comes over me each November. My dear mother believed that the blood used to thicken each autumn and thin again in spring, and for sure with me a kind of drowsiness sets in about November and lasts until the end of February...

John Waddington-Feather is content to snuggle up in his home during the dark, dank days of November.

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The dark, dank days of November are on us again; and even as I write grey skies lour almost to the roof-top, it seems; and it’s raining – that thin, cold, filmy rain which clings to your jacket and gradually seeps right through till you’re chilled to the bone. Right now, I’m reminded strongly of Thomas Hood’s poem “No!” which captures exactly the weather’s present mood.

“No sun – no moon!
No morn – no noon –
No dawn – no dusk – no proper time of day –
No sky – no earthly view –
No distance looking view…..

No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease,
No comfortable feel in any member -
No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds –
November!”


And it’s been like that here in Shropshire all day. The farthest I’ve dared out was creeping with my umbrella to the post-box four hundred yards away down the main road, where I had to wear my luminous waistcoat over my jacket to avoid being run down in the half-light.

Nevertheless (and why I don’t know) I feel cosy inside. Perhaps it’s the hedgehog in me; a kind of annual hibernation which comes over me each November. My dear mother believed that the blood used to thicken each autumn and thin again in spring, and for sure with me a kind of drowsiness sets in about November and lasts until the end of February.

There’s also an element of stoicism in the British in winter. We put up with abysmally dreary weather and lack of sunshine for months. It’s had the effect of making us a nation of grumblers (‘Whingeing Poms’ the Aussies call us); so much so we’re lost unless we have something to grumble about.

My mentor and fellow Yorkshireman, J.B.Priestley, was a grumbler supreme and always said he had a face to prove it. Come to think of it, there is a certain Pennine cast of feature which is undoubtedly gritty and I believe it’s all due to the weather up there. In time, anyone born on the Pennines develops the same grumbly look, through walking head down into driving, sleety winds day after day or coughing their way through raw fogs.

In winter, they retreat into their television boxes or books, only emerging outdoors to watch their favourite football or rugby teams; while on the other side of the globe, the Wallabies, Kiwis and Springboks bask in glorious sunshine all the year through. But would I change places with them? No. I like to grumble too much.

Of course, I like a bit of sun now and then, and sometimes take off for warmer climes for a week or two in February, but to live in temperatures hovering around 30 degrees C for weeks on end isn’t really my scene. When I’ve gone to sunny climes like theirs I’ve spent much of my time indoors under air-conditioning. And if it isn’t the heat, it’s the flies and ants. Even the evening barbecues are pestered with mosquitoes.

Now that the house is well insulated and my study blanketed against the noise outside, I can work away hour after hour in warmth and peace before nipping upstairs for a zizz. I’ve come to like England and its weather and I like growing old and grumbling here.


After all, November isn’t that bad. There’s currently a bronze carpet of leaves on my lawn and patio – which the gardener will clear in time. When the sun catches it – and the sun does come out when he feels like it – the whole scene glows golden. It really is breath-taking and uplifting; and it doesn’t cost me a penny. Its Creator gives it me free like so much else.

And another thing in November: our native birds are beginning to stir once more after hiding away in the moult during the late summer months. There’s a noticeable stirring of blackbirds and wrens, while the ever-present robin is chirping away again like mad. The fields round my home have been ploughed and the first blades of spring wheat are nudging through the black soil. Chestnut buds are beginning to swell under sticky coats and the snowdrops in my garden and wood are well rooted. Come January, they’ll lay a carpet of white; followed in March by a trumpeting of yellow daffodils.

So although November may be a ‘no’ month for some - as it was for Thomas Hood, who lived under more Spartan conditions than I – for myself it’s an hiatus of cosy hibernation; the start of a timely lull which lasts for about three months, gradually moving into the momentum of spring in the longer-light of mid-February and March.

Then, I really come to life again!

John Waddington-Feather ©



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