first day of winter

We used to send cards for Christmas or birthdays and that was it – until somebody discovered the joy of black and white photographs and then cartoons and witticisms and sympathy cards and “To The Best Dad In The World” and all the rest of the industry fell in behind.   I wonder how many people send cards nowadays as opposed to giving them – but anyway you’d be hard put to think of an occasion or a sentiment for which there isn’t a card.   Taste in cards is deeply particularised.   What you think is funny , I find offensive: what I think is appealing, you find pretentious. We’re all different. But sitting on the edge of the mantel is a small drawing of a tree limned in white on rose gold foil: apart from the fact that I like the illustration, I love rose gold. It’s a very special colour.

Dyes have changed over history, how dyes are made I mean. And of course fashion promotes this colour and pushes that back. When I was under 10 and my mother took me with her shopping for underclothes, she wouldn’t have anything to do with pink – “Such a God awful colour !” she’d say laughing.   And it was, early nylon, late rayon and oh dear. Somewhere along the line we discovered the term “neethy pink” in a novel and that was it. We giggled our way through knickers and bras and roll-ons, the underpinning of the fifties, no no no to prurient pink.   In other garments we might find a good strong sweet pea colour, or a pale romantic shell, but not often and I don’t remember more than a mention of bois de rose or rose gold till I was nearly 20, names as exciting as the colours..

Colour is one of the great pleasures of my life and the colours of gold or the ranges of pink were only part and parcel of a world that offered endless shimmering variations, whether I was looking at the side of a disused building, bolts of silk, the colours within a colour or how different the Finnish earrings I bought a couple of years ago looked when they were rose gold dipped.

The other day I saw a rose gold dog, a first cross English mastiff and Chinese sharpei and when I saw him for the second and third time, I saw that I hadn’t exaggerated, his coat was golden brown with a pink cast to it. I have never seen anything like it.

Every year Christmas cards vary.   For example, dogs might be very “in” this year, nothing as exotic as the rose gold dog of course but beagles in Santa caps, dachshunds skating, St. Bernards pulling sleighs.   These are cosy cards, far from the black and white ranges which always exist or the reproductions of the Nativity, some Italian masterpiece or a special stained glass window.  Some years you’re spoilt for choice, there are cards you like everywhere. But then again, you may not be able to find what you want and feel disappointed that you can’t find what you want to send.

“Radio Free Europe 1951”

And there are those who give the money they might have spent on cards to charity and tell their friends, so to share in the good deed – and it is a good deed – but I like cards.   I like to send them and I like to receive them.   The range of cards holds up where the range of small gifts doesn’t and two fairs that have regularly been my delight, palled a bit this year, because everything has got too clever for its own good, too slick, too professional so that the sense of finding something special and affordable is lost in the gloss of over-achievement.

But at the second fair, there were three camels walking through, suitably led, for the children to look at and further along, round the corner, two reindeer in a pen to feed, and sitting in a decidedly Russian looking square deep sleigh without runners was a girl in a raincoat with an owl perched on a gauntlet, a barn owl with feathers of agate and honey, tiny drops of rain gleaming like small diamonds across its back and, in a certain light, just a tinge of rose in the beautiful intricacy of its feathers.  And because it was so calm, I stroked it.          

One response to “first day of winter

  1. Angela Keatings

    My gran (who raised me) loved cards. She preferred cards to presents, being an admirer of kind and loving words, rather than the materialistic sense of Christmas and birthdays.

    I feel the same way. But now I mourn the loss of anything approaching meaningful verse or message inside the cards – in its place we have the bland and corporate sentiment, interspersed with sicky sweet mush. The disappearance of the small, independent card shops is a sad loss. Yes, cards for a quid are great for a budget, but not for heartfelt messages. We have the new card shops that are all singing, all dancing..mugs with messages, teddies, pens, balloons. All the brightly coloured celebration stuff – but somehow it just isn’t the same.

    Talking of brightly coloured..I love colour. A shade dicey around the neons, but generally forgiving of the brighter hues. I still feel the childish thrill when I see the pink spring blossoms, or the red tints of autumn. It is everywhere and is such an integral part of our being, our mood.
    As someone who has had depression since childhood, I’m all too familiar with “the black dog”. But for me, it’s not the black dog, rather it’s the grey world drained of every speck of colour, drained of the light of living – leaving a snapshot of nothingness. No light, no colour – no hope. Yet somehow the landscape changes. And I’m still here to tell this tale.

    May this year bring health and peace to you Anna.

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