Dear December, nineteen to twenty-two: lumiere.

Tuesday, December 22

It's the winter solstice today, so: the shortest day and the longest night of the year. I'm sitting by the window just now and I can tell you: it's pretty dark out there. The solstice also signals that autumn is over and winter is here. It has officially arrived. If it’s anything like last year, I know it’s going to be cold. Cold, and dark, and rainy, and biting. I’ll need to stock up on hand-cream. I should really buy an anorak. The underbellies of my fingernails will no doubt soon be filled with frost from the windscreen, my fingers stinging from the spray of the can, the click and shake and the ice dissolving.

But even so, I can’t help letting out a small sigh at the thought of it: Thank God, that’s it. The worst of the darkness has been now (...right?) Light will be coming back. It might take a while, yes. The sun will continue to disappear mid-afternoon. My breath will turn to cloud on my walk into uni and there will be days where not even steam from the bath will be enough to melt the shiver in my bones. At times, the idea of ‘anything other than this’ will seem impossible. I know that. I know it. It's been like that all autumn. I’m bracing myself. 

But even if it comes slowly, inch by inch, it is coming. The darkness has been: the light is coming back. It will come back. (These are words to repeat on heavy days: It will come back. It will come back. It seems dark now, but light will come back.)

Related to light: these (slightly fuzzy iPhone) pictures are from the Lumiere Festival in Durham back in November which I've been meaning to post for a while.  I was there for a weekend, giving my first ever (joint) conference paper (on 'fostering originality in student writing') at the National Association of Writers in Education conference ...and this quite, quite breathtaking festival of light happened to be taking place in the city at the same time. I’ve never seen anything like it before: both beautiful and eerie. Moving light installations all along the river, projections beamed onto the side of the cathedral and castle walls, double decker buses lit from the inside, street benches glowing. It felt like we’d stumbled into a city under enchantment.

Snatches from the weekend: walking round the streets and along the river in the dark - rain hammering down, seeping through my hat into my hair - but not feeling afraid. My heart in my throat. Moving images – stars, numbers, planets, stained glass figures – sliding up and down and along the sides of the cathedral. Standing on the grass, mud underfoot, eyes wide, and music surrounding us: so loud and drumming and achingly beautiful that I could feel it inside my veins. 

Sitting on a pew inside the cathedral for a few moments, arching my neck back, back, back to stare at the light lines moving, twitching, above our heads. Sitting quiet. Discordant choral music playing underneath the squeaking of boots and wet jeans slapping together as the crowd moved closer, forward, forward, towards the alter with gripped iPhone cameras. (‘How does it make you feel?’ Looking up at the light. Holding my breath, the lines shivering. Unsure how to put it into words. ‘Unsettled, I guess. Uneasy? There’s something kind of unsettling about the movement, isn't there?').

‘Do you want to light a candle?’ Thinking of Paris*, but unsure what to pray. Back outside and following signs for ‘fog this way’. Rain catching in the light, putting on a show itself. Twinkle lights strung up along the water's edge and then: the Fogscape. Fog pouring down the hill on the other side of the river, pushing through the trees, spilling onto the water, stretching closer and closer towards my shivering fingers like a spell had just been whispered. 

(*the conference and Lumiere took place over the weekend of the Paris attacks - and also the weekend my grandfather passed away - which made the rain feel more chilling, and the light seem more important.)  

Song a day 

Saturday’s song: The Wisp Sings by Winter Aid. Sunday: Believe by Mumford and Sons (though I've actually been listening more to Only Love but can't find a good version online. Buy it). Monday: In Dreams by Ben Howard. Today: Allegri's Miserere (part of which was played during the festival.

p.s. // Technical question: I'm testing out changing the font on the blog. What do you think of this? I've been trying to figure out an alternative for 'Courier' for years... but all other fonts seem either too big or small for blogspot (and I can't figure out how to adjust size to anything between 'normal' and 'large' on here). Comments appreciated below or you can send me a note on my facebook page.


  1. As usual, this was a moving view of life through your eyes.

    In terms of the font, while this one is more readable, I prefer the other, it gives a more personal feel, and I find that bold does not emphasise as well as a slight size change.

    On a related note, could you enable subscriptions by e-mail (or even better have an RSS feed) as it would be nice to get e-mails when a new post comes out.

    I hope this all helps, and, as you insisted, hello.

    1. Hello! (Though what's your name, friend?)

      Thanks for your feedback. I'm getting some mixed opinions from friends/family/other bloggers about it so still undecided about what to do! I do agree with the size point... changing the size of the writing in this font looks a bit awful though so I may end up switching back. We'll see.

      I will look into setting that up (thanks for suggesting it). In the meantime, if you're on Facebook I post a reminder whenever I have a new post so you could like the page (if you like) to keep up to date with posts:


  2. I like the courier font. It's very you. But do what feels best... :)


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