Country diary: The frost is so bright I can hardly see the stars

·2 min read

Stamford, Lincolnshire: It’s the coldest night in winter. I almost enjoy the sense of it working its way inside me


It’s the coldest night of the winter. Just hours ago, the world was agleam with wet cold, now – with the dark – it’s solid cold. Things that rustled now rattle, and the grass is in a beautiful rigour of felty frost. It catches the moonlight and sparkles, a miracle that turns the colourless and drab suddenly starkly beautiful under the light of the dark.

Clear winter nights like this are wonderful for stars. That, and to just go out and feel the cold and its tight silence around you. I stand and breathe deep, exhaling stiff, granular steam. And I start to feel it as it works its way in. Fingers, feet, nose. Then deeper, like an alarm of rising volume. Stand still enough for long enough and it takes hold of your core, a sickly pain, that – left long enough – will stop your life.

In my life I’ve been hypothermic, been frostnipped, yet still crave cold places and seasons. I feel the cold more than I used to. I have to walk quicker, and dress thicker, to stave it off. But it’s one of the reasons I love Britain: that I can stand in the same place at the poles of the year breathless with either heat or cold. Stark nights like this scratch any winter blues to raw white, a kind of elemental reset, however modest.

There is cold that is invigorating, restoring. Then there is cold that is a warning. Your body keens with it, reeling from an assault it can’t deal with for long. Find shelter. Get warm. It’s an anxious feeling, but a good one. A perspective. Some associate the cold with a sensory numbing; to me it’s the opposite. It’s an affirmation of feeling.

The frost is so bright in the moonlight that my eyes can’t adapt for the stars. The ground is shimmering more than the sky, and the cold is becoming enough, now. So I go back across the grass, each blade a sculpture that cracks underfoot. It feels almost wrong to walk on it.

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