January – Depths of winter or first signs of spring? Probably both…

John describes the fickle nature of January by looking back to one memorable month from his childhood

The evenings are already half an hour lighter than on the shortest day. Snowdrop and daffodil shoots are pushing their heads skyward. We have turned the corner, haven’t we?

Well it’s not so easy to be that chirpy as we stumble out into the still dark mornings, past the discarded Christmas tree. It’s naked (the tree, that is), but for one sad strand of tinsel, blowing in the chill breeze.

Our central heating oil solidified!

Our mood swings are mirrored by the fickle personality of the weather.

January 1982 was a month that will be forever etched in my memory. December had at times been notably cold and snowy. But by the turning of the year, mild Atlantic winds had swept in, bringing to many the hope that the worst of winter was over. Indeed January started uneventfully enough.

But barely a week after New Year those balmy winds were met head-on by an advancing block of intensely cold air, unleashed from the Arctic. At their meeting point a blizzard developed across the southern half of the UK, the ferocity and longevity of which I have never since known. Leaving several feet of drifted snow in its wake, the storm departed days later. But the temperature fell shockingly low through the following nights. I notched -18 Celsius in our Cotswold garden, whilst in the Scottish Highlands, an all-time record of -27.2 Celsius was measured. I can remember the wonderful beauty of the ice patterns, which grew ever thicker on the inside of my bedroom window. Our central heating oil solidified! For a youngster, this was thrilling stuff.

Yet by mid-month, the weather had turned dramatically and a rapid thaw ensued. Siberia did not come our way again that winter – much to one young boy’s disappointment. And the bulbs renewed their push for Spring.

January – an emotional and meteorological rollercoaster.

(Written by John for BBC Countryfile Magazine)

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