Yesterday when I left the office, it was almost light.
Not quite, it was that dusky dark blue punctuated with clouds, but it wasn't fully dark. As soon as I looked out into the sky, I practically skipped down to the train station, jollily hopping over the piles of dog poo and discarded Chinese take away boxes, and chirpily smiling at my fellow commuters who, when they caught my eye, looked away slightly scared.
As the train sped through the countryside making its way back to Brighton, I sat and stared dreamily out of the window, ecstatic to be able to make out the silhouettes of trees out of the window instead of pitch darkness. I could almost hear the birds singing! Well, I couldn't, because I was actually listening to a BBC Radio 4 podcast of "The Food Programme" entitled "What is Milk?" about the homogenisation process of dairy. BUT ANYWAY.
On arrival at my station there were still the very last wisps of daylight streaking across the sky. If I walked really fast, I thought to myself, I might be able to get home before they disappeared. I practically jogged home. To my left as I legged it home, I noticed the shoots of daffodils poking through the grass. DAFFODILS! The very signal that the monotony and endless dross of winter was soon to leave. My heart was singing as I let myself through the front door. Unfortunately it was singing Nelly's "Hey Porsche" but I suppose you can't have everything.
This sudden hope and joy within me that this long, drawn out, cold, dark winter might finally be ebbing away has really made a difference to my mental health. January was a month of abstinence, horribly tiny numbers on bank balances everywhere, hibernation.
I love myself a bit of hibernation -- as someone who is very sociable using the written word, I'm finding myself more and more inclined to revel in just sitting on my own and not speaking to anyone. Going out has been a chore. Even more so now that I have a cat, because I have an excuse! I can just go home and HUG MY CAT FOR HOURS.
I'm sure most people get a touch of the S.A.Ds during winter. I'm sure I'm not the only one now looking at my calendar and crossing off the days, mentally ticking off the minutes of extra daylight that each day brings. I'm sure I'm not the only one who had a full blown panic attack three weekends ago after waking up with 100 things whizzing through my brain and chattering over each other until I couldn't do anything except cry and hyperventilate until it passed. I'm sure I'm not the only one bored of soggy shoes and broken umbrellas and icy fingertips.
Bored, bored, bored. I have to remind myself every now and again that this eternal boredom will pass, that it's a symptom of the darkness. It's not my real life. It will go. life will soon be barbecues and Frisbees and hot, salty skin and impromptu picnics on Hove Lawns.
And so to the point of this article, for there is one! Here are some of the things that have been brightening up this long, LONG winter for me. Maybe you'd like to indulge yourself in one or more.
In any form. Hard boiled, they make excellent hand warmers for your journey to work. I also like them scrambled, fried, soft boiled, basted, poached. The most excellent portable snack. I am eating an egg right now and it is truly a joy.
My skin has really taken a battering with all this being bored and spending every waking moment indoors and the lack of sunlight and FUN. I found my complexion was looking as dull as I felt, so I decided to splurge on a new foundation despite not having used up all of my previous one. What a rebel!
I tried a few testers of different brands over the course of a few days and found this to be the real skin-awakener. It bills itself as a "natural-finish foundation...builds from light to medium coverage for a natural complexion and features light-diffusing properties and hydrating benefits."
I found it definitely worked to make me look brighter and less dead inside. I can get a little shiny throughout the day, so I finish mine with a sweep of my MAC pressed powder and the magical duo stay on my face all day with no need for touch ups.
Jack Monroe's Blog -- 'A Girl Named Jack'
Those of you not in the UK (most of you) will probably not have heard of Jack Monroe. Jack is an excellent writer and a real inspiration. She's a 25-year-old single mother to a young boy, and after finding herself on hard times (really hard, like, "turning off the fridge because it’s empty anyway...sitting across the table from your young son enviously staring down his breakfast, having freezing cold showers and putting your child to bed in god knows how many layers of clothes in the evening –- it’s distressing. Depressing. Destabilising.") she started blogging about her attempts to cook healthy, balanced meals for her and her young son on very little money.
If nothing else, her blog is an excellent source of resourceful, tasty recipes that cost very little to make. She is also sharp as a tack and has a strong political mind and I find myself endlessly inspired after spending 20 minutes or so scrolling through her posts.
L'Occitane Shea Butter Hand Cream
I got this for Christmas and I have been applying it endlessly. it's rich, soothing, smells divine and really works to eliminate tight, dry skin. I smooth it on and my hands forget it's winter.
We finally got a cat! If you follow me on Instagram (Natalie_KateM) then you'll already know this because since getting her three or so weeks ago I've posted about half a million photos.
She's called Moggins and she's 8 years old. We rescued her from our local cat shelter, she'd been hit by a car last summer and had to have a leg amputated, and had been at the shelter ever since. Obviously we had to have her.
She's the most adorable thing ever, despite being asleep for 99.9% of the time. The 0.1% of the time she is awake is generally at 6.30am when she shouts MIAOW MIAOW MIAOW in my face until I feed her.
I knew getting a cat would be the best thing, but it's even better than the best best thing. Her little fluffy face is so sweet. Every now and again when I'm at work, I suddenly remember I have a cat and I squeal "ARGH I JUST REMEMBERED I HAVE A CAT!" at my boss and he looks at me like I'm mental.
This nifty little website takes the information from where you are in the world and produces you with a nice little calendar that tells you when the sunrise and sunset will be every day. I love this, because I can see at a glance that the days are getting longer and lighter and that spring is on its merry way.
For example, by the end of February, the sun won't slip away until after 5.30pm where I am. I won't even have to jog home to get home before darkness.
Have you found winter tough? What things have got you through? And aren't daffodils just the loveliest things (other than my cat)?
Natalie's on Twitter - @Natalie_KateM