December 21, 2014

At the year's midnight

Solstice. I slept badly, woke late, turned the Christmas tree lights on against the dull morning and the dead garden outside. December 21, the shortest day: grey and anonymous and brief.

On Tooting Common the trees' branches were filigree black against a blank winter sky. As I walked, the dark mud beneath them clung to my boots, chilling my feet – though the dog bounded on, fleet and heedless. The exodus from London has begun, and the common was emptier than usual; it felt held still, like a breath, with little moving save for an armada of gulls like white cutouts on the grass.

But beside the railway cutting, beneath the old oaks, I saw next year's cow parsley and new green nettles pushing up through the trees' cast-off leaves.