- January 2016
What is a Winter in England?
A Winter in England is a scratchy wool jumper pulled up over your snotty nose. Your knitted hat hugging low, restraining your wind enticed hair.
Salt in your eyelashes, crying against the conditions. Rays burning through the heavy sky upon your exposed skin, chapped hands, lips. That cold sunshine warming you through layers of cotton thermals and flannel shirts and thick hoodys and padded jackets and stiff waterproofs of last year, to your long hidden, summer deprived skin.
(A Winter in England is your salty dog curled up on your damp socks, keeping you warm, sharing your heat, as you steam by the fire, feeling safe in your loyalty, promising the same.)
A Winter in England is watching the rain from the drivers seat, asking your dog - do we really want to do this? Drops hammering down on the windscreen, like birds dancing on hot tin roofs from previous travels. The wind questioning you - do you really want to do this? A Winter in England zips your coat up to your eyes, pulls your beanie down to your lashes, doubles up your socks, pulls your laces tight. Force the door open - even the dog lacking enthusiasm over the prospect of the storm trek you are about to embark on. But once you’re on the beach, you two alone, joined by the elements, you don’t know why you deliberated for so long. A gale force rips across your skin, still showing the faint freckles of summer, lasting blondey bits. Dog chasing the dancing foam and playful horses of the ocean. So happily lonesome. (A Winter in England is that sudden feeling of calm when you fall back into your car, sheltered from the lashing world.) Only meeting long weathered driftwood, battered containers bearing the names of passing ships, lost overboard, hundreds of nautical miles away in rolling oceans.
Leaving the sand and scaling the cliffs, you stand with your jacket open, leaning into the wind, the rain hammering down upon your red cheeks and cold nose and squinting eyes- grey as the sea writhing in front of you.
A Winter in England is venturing into the empty woodland, towering oaks sheltering you, but storing droplets that roll unexpectedly down your nose. Looking up into the green and brown sky above you, wet leaves, flasks of hot happiness in gloved hands, a hidden den to lose and find yourself. Breathe deep the sweet smell of damp pines.
A Winter in England is that sinking feeling of sadness, knowing you forgot to hang up your wetsuit. Having the knowledge that it’s bundled up in a cold, wet, sandy ball of depression in the dirty, damp boot of your car. And knowing all too well that you can complain and regret and curse yourself for your forgetfulness, but when it comes down to it, you are going to strip off in the howling winds and drilling rain and gingerly ease yourself into your neoprene shield.
Damp boots on, car park dancing on the tarmac. Cold fingers fumble with wax, and dog in tow you jog down to the waters edge, already experiencing the brain freeze that is imminent and unavoidable.
The sea in the depths of a Winter in England reminds you what it is to be alive. Waves crash down upon you, so little of society reaches you, hidden, peaceful. Surrounded by movement, water. Bombing along in smooth curves, laughing, smiling, uncrowded pleasure.
Fellow warriors. People surfing for happiness, release, peace, freedom; in our unexplored playground. Back to your roots, forgetting and remembering. Wake us up from the winter dream we can fall into. A Winter in England is appreciating how lucky we are to be stuck in the forgotten season.
Words by Lottie Lewis
Photos by Toby Butler