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Winter: A few thoughts on…

    Winter is a strange time of year. Where I live, the place is thriving and buzzing with life between early May and late August. Then August bank holiday hits, and almost like a tap tuning off, the tourists leave. There are a few that still trickle in, but nothing like the flood of a few months earlier. The winter draws in, the wind picks up and the days grow shorter. Winter in West Cornwall is a winter in the truest sense of the word – the area goes into hibernation in terms of population, activity and nature.
    The falling temperature is subtle – the thermometer drops ever so slightly and you don’t notice it for a long while. Even today (7th of November) I am still wearing shorts and t-shirt.
    The reason for this is debateable. Scientists call it global warming or climate change. Jeremy Clarkson calls it bollocks. I don’t know enough about it to have a strong opinion either way, but whatever is happening I don’t remember the winters being so mild previously. I often get up at 6am in order to go to work. Even then it is not that cold. Nippy, but not freezing. I can count on one hand the genuinely cold days I have experienced so far this winter.
    As we leave summer behind and march steadily on into winter, we reach an annual tradition called Feast Day. Feast is held every November (this years feast was held on the 4th and 5th) and marks the dedication of the parish church – something I doubt many people even know! The feast itself is a 2 day event with a church service and civic procession being held on the Sunday of the feast, and a larger scale popular celebration being held on the Monday, which includes a meeting of the local hunt and an excuse to get royally pissed.
    Local ‘celebrity’ Jethro arrives back in town to remind everyone how much of a tosser he is. The horses fill the air with the pungent smell of manure. The traditional football and rugby matches take place, there are market stalls erected in the square and the pubs make enough money to make Bill Gates jealous. If you are out at the right hour you can usually catch a live fight or two. The observant amongst us will spot the occassional drunk sat in a puddle of his own piss and propped up against a car. Its fun for all the family. There was even a story of a family feud a few years back that concluded with a man being thrown through the window of the local Spar by his brother. I kid you not.
    I overheard a couple of gym members talking about Christmas shopping. It’s nearly that time of year again. I love Christmas, but thanks to the retailers ramming the whole thing down our throats since September I am all Christmassed out by the time it actually arrives. Still, never one to avoid an opportunity to binge, I accept the challenge with delight. I eat too much, drink too much and walk the dogs on the beach. Last year my dog Elvis decided it would be fun to throw up in the back of my car. As the Queen herself would say, one was not amused. We had just arrived back home – if he waited 2 seconds he could have decorated to the tramac, but no, he had to do it in the car.
    On either Christmas day or Boxing day (depending where you are) there is a traditional swim. Well, when I say swim, I mean a sprint down the beach to the water, throw yourself in, submerging your entire body, then sprint back up the beach cursing yourself for being so stupid. The rule is that you are not allowed to wear a wetsuit. You spend 5 seconds in the water and the rest of the day wearing 14 layers and sitting in front of the fire with a hot drink trying to defrost. The worst part of the swim is (oddly) not the water itself. The water is not that cold – the problem is your freezing feet on the pebbles. It is downright agony.
    We then move onto New Year. It is a big deal here. One member of the local community is famous for his fancy dress – he is a rather flamboyant gay man and every year dresses up in drag for New Years eve. In my lifetime I have seen him dressed as Queen Victoria, Dolly Parton, a Playboy Bunny and Widow Twanky. Up the road, St Ives is also jam-packed with people. Without fail it rains, soaking everyone in the street. The pubs are so busy that you cant move. You find your way to the bar through luck, not judgement. I swear you are picked up off your feet and end up where the crowd decide. Fancy dress is a big deal, with some people expending a lot of time, effort and money in their costumes. Luckily in the past I have picked easy costumes to put together or had them made by helpful people. I have the sewing skills of a drunk baboon.
    And so it continues into late winter, early spring and the cycle starts all over again. There is something comforting in these yearly cycles and traditions. The fact that we have a plan to life and every year is the same, but somehow different. We may celebrate the same things and choose the same activities, but years from now look back at (hopefully) all of them with special memories.
    The reason I was thinking about this was I noticed I had parked my car next to a huge pile of horse shit, just outside the drivers door. It could mean only one thing – feast had just been!
    I left the house this afternoon chuckling to myself as my Dad cremated some bacon, setting the smoke alarm off in the house and forcing the dogs to bark like crazy, as if. I wondered what I was going to buy everyone for Christmas. Its coming again, you see….

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