To Build A Fire

The first little brightnesses of winter are beginning to appear after the long mulch of autumn and December; the low sun is in a clear blue sky and soon restaurant plates everywhere will be lit up with flashes of Sicilian blood orange, dark-grown Yorkshire rhubarb, and pale green leaves speckled with mahogany. Everything will be bitter leaves and cured fish, as if January had no more need for comfort. These flavours are welcome, of course, as welcome as a walk around the sunny park when for a week the sky has been a uniform lead grey, like living in one of the grimmer Jack London stories; eating uncooked fish and sour-sweet fruit is almost always welcome, and it feels like you are being good to yourself in a very particular way, the way of brisk walks and bitter cordials and melancholy non-fiction. Sometimes that is the self-care you need, to feel fresh and clean or at least alive in the face of leaden greyness; sometimes you need to take the opposite path, and sit in your warm pyjamas drinking a deep amber wine, eating anchovies on hot buttered toast, half listening to the radio, and half writing this.