Quite irrationally I am irritated by the use of ‘season’s greetings’ at Christmas. If you do not wish to mention Christmas, why not just send greetings for the New Year instead? There are four seasons in most parts of the world, and in one of them, summer or winter depending on the hemisphere, come Christmas and the New Year. The age-old image is of a child born in the ‘bleak mid-winter’ and that ‘frosty winds made moan’, though we’ve hardly seen frost this year, and there is little prospect of a snowy Christmas. Then ‘earth is hard as iron’ – no, it is distinctly soggy. Whether caused by climate change or not, it is unlikely that we shall have a snowy or even a frosty Christmas. It will certainly be chilly.
I thought a lot about seasons when visiting Equador in November a few years ago during the bulb and rose season. It was spring, so that didn’t surprise me. As we were close to the equator, the sun rose and set at about six in both the morning and the evening all year round. When we drove through a nondescript small town of single storey dwellings, our guide told us that it produced bulbs. I imagined vast factories churning out trillions of light bulbs, but my thoughts were derailed when she added, ‘for the Christmas markets’. I imagined plane after plane taking off packed with bulbs, all seasonally programmed to think the northern hemisphere winter is spring, so they burst into premature life at Christmas in a forced change of season.
Wherever we went there seemed to be vases overflowing with red roses. ‘Why red?’ I asked, and was told they were flown to North America and Europe for Christmas, and red is the Christmas colour.
Unfortunately for me, it happens not to be a colour I particularly like. It is too strident. There is not one red flower in my garden. When poking my head into a flower shop this morning, I quickly retreated, repelled by what seemed like a dark red wall. There were shelves from floor to ceiling of dark red poinsettias. I am fearful that someone might give me one for Christmas!
‘You’re like a bull!’ I’ve been teased. ‘Red infuriates you.’ I think bulls, like most or all animals, are colour blind. They just react to the flapping movement of the flag or whatever is being waved.
When I walk up the road outside my house, I pass a front door with a rickety table outside. On it are plastic flower pots with bulbs just nosing through the compost. They are labelled ‘hyacinth – blue’ and ‘iris – blue’ and are £1 each. I have bought two of them, slipping coins into a small worn money box beside them. I shall return the plastic flower pots when the bulbs have flowered and been planted outside. Somehow I imagine a young girl has been planting and selling them and I plan to find out. She too must prefer blue, like the pale silvery blue wallpaper in the room where I write which is the colour of the clear sky outside. It is a gentle colour that leaves space for thought.