My Northern Soul

This morning’s rainy-season school run was under overcast skies, and the big drops started falling just in time for clambering out of the car.  But I was having a happy moment.  The heavy daylight gloom made it easy to see into lit shops, offices and apartments.  The usual bright skies mean that interiors become dark caves as you pass, where you get just a vague sense of what goes on inside.  But this morning, light from welcoming and busy interiors spilled out and illuminated the gloom.  For a moment it felt like winter.  I was back a few years, on my morning commute in still-dark Aberdeen.  The car’s heater doing its job, glimpsing cozily-lit homes spilling warmth into the street, imagining families waking into blankets, preparing coffee and porridge (rather than the rushed reluctant getting-ready reality at my place…), ultimately looking forward to a day of indoorsy-ness. 

Of course I enjoy warmth and sunshine.  I love the brightness of our home when the sun shines through the windows, and how liberating it is to be able to step outside without having to think about adding layers.  Dips in the pool, eating on the terrace, sundowners…outdoor living is just cool.  We spent our Christmas on holiday in the Seychelles and it was everything you would expect…chilling in swimsuits and shorts, breaking up swimming sessions with strolls along the beach, hammocks under the palms, refreshing cocktails and mocktails…a glorious cliché of indulgence in paradise.

But the moment when a rainy day in even the Seychelles cheered my soul a little bit, there was no denying my true nature. Even though I’ve adapted to living in heat, thanks to scorching south of France summers and seasonless equatorial Africa, even though I’ve finally started wearing shorts (I own three pairs now!), I am of the North.  With my northern physical attributes, applying sunscreen quickly gets old, as does being tell-tale shades of pink, and there are days where I just yearn for those layers, for some nice comfortable knitted armour.  Then there’s my northern soul…taking indulgent pleasure in rainy days which let me stay indoors guilt-free, even better when baby, it’s cold outside, and there’s a fire to be lit and a pot of tea (or pan of vin chaud) brewing.  And no mosquitos.  

Snow on palm trees…one of my favourite juxtapositions
 6 months ago we left a hot French summer (which started early) to come to Congo, so I’m now full of anticipation for our trip home to Scotland in a few weeks.  I’ll pull on thick tights and knitted boots, accessorise with woollies and buy a new coat for the first time in years.  I may be cold, but I’ll be fresh, not sticky and sweaty and dusty for half the day, and I’ll be able to put on perfume without having to then obscure it with mosquito repellent.  I’ll go to the pub and sit inside, on a comfy seat, and settle in.  If we’re lucky, there will be a late snow (after the plane lands), and the boys will get what they’ve been craving since watching all the Christmassy cartoons on our French TV channels.  And the snow on their gloves will dry (on a nice warm radiator) unlike the sand, all the sand, which is always everywhere.

(And yes, I know within minutes of getting off the plane I’ll probably be complaining of the cold, or biting my tongue at least, now that I’ve written this…but still, I’ll be happy.)

There, I’ve come out and said it.  I choose winter.  The company can keep sending us south, and I’ll adapt, and make the most of it.  But every two or three years I’ll be crossing my fingers for a Scandinavian posting.  Magnetic north will always pull at me.  My coffee mug says Khaleesi, but light me a fire in Winterfell.  I am of the north.

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