There was a symphony of rain during the last night of November: lilting refrains dancing upon the window. The deeper percussive rhythms of slower drips onto ledges and vessels below. And for a while behind these, the velocity and volume of the downpour on the land creating a roaring wall of sound. Then diminuendo to silence. The hush enveloping the night once more, and rocking it, and me, back to sleep.
The following morning was still and dry, the sky a watercolour of muted greys and blues. By mid morning, weak sunlight filtered through. I slipped into the garden briefly to dig two bareroot heleniums into the earth, wondering at how the dull coarse brown tangle of roots that nestled in my hand could harbour so much dormant life. I shall remember this when they hopefully spring into action in the new year, unfurling green shoots and leaves and finally the sunny faces of their flowers.
The sun was gently warm on my back as I bent down with my hand-trowel to make room in the earth, and when I straightened up again I lingered for a few minutes to admire the unfurling of a second cardoon flower nearby, the overlapping pointed scales of the huge bud opening to reveal a whorl of delicate purple petals within. I must remember to remove these flowers before they set seed, or next year will bring an army of cardoons through the garden – and our neighbour’s.
The world beyond the windows had turned a velvety black long before five o’clock. Only three weeks and the days will start to lengthen again, three more weeks of plunging deeper into winter. By mid-afternoon I had lit the central woodstove as my feet began to feel icy, and the flickering tongues of red flame lit up the room and sent their heat out into the house. We were partly expecting a delivery of logs to arrive; once early night had fallen I began to hope that a late delivery wasn’t imminent, expelling me from the cosy lit rooms into the cold dark night to fumble with tarpaulins. I was in luck, it seemed.
The woodstores hold enough to keep us going for the time being. A delivery of just over two cubic metres of logs arrived last week, a mountain of wood on the driveway when we returned home from work. It took us two hours in the dark to distribute the logs to the woodstores; our two wheelbarrows filled thirty-some times, wheeled around the house and down the garden, where we tipped them out and then stacked the contents neatly into the adjacent store. My mother-in-law says that logs warm you up twice: once when you are chopping and stacking them, and again when you burn them. It was indeed warm work, despite the cool night.
Our first gentle frost this morning, which quickly thawed in the early sun, heralds the start of colder weather. While the garden still looks quietly green, a few more frosts will soon despatch the last fleshy stems and flowers. Working from home, I light the fire earlier in the day as the sun is soon swallowed by pale skies, and a few drops of icy rain slide down the windows.