Thursday, 16 January 2014

January Blues

This is often the time of year when January blues hit me. I feel "stuck in a rut". Normal routines seem heavy-going and irksome rather than familiar and soothing. The daily round drags rather than sings. I gather it's also the time of year when people most commonly evaluate their professional life and ask themselves whether they wouldn't rather be doing something else, so it seems to be a bit of a universal phenomenon.

In the northern hemisphere I am sure it has something to do with the lack of light and although the days are getting longer, the mornings lighten painfully slowly. I thought, may be, it was just my impatient perception so I looked up the times of sunrise and sunset in January in the UK and found that it wasn't just my impatient perception at all. The shortest day is 21st December but in fact it goes on getting darker, in the mornings, through to the end of the first week of January. It then sits broodingly static until slowly, minute by minute, the sun reluctantly rises, a bit earlier, each day. This pic was taken this morning about 7.45 am - the sky is lightening but it's still not properly light yet and it's already more than two weeks into January.

In the afternoons it's easier going and the sun sets noticeably later each day, but the lack of light in the mornings, I find, sits like a dead weight on everything, especially now we are back to the ordinary early morning timetable of work and school.

This year, that timetable seems to have hit us amidships, with GCSE mock exams for H and I have been trying to carve out time to support him with testing him on his revision as well as juggling all the normal stuff. This means if you ask me what is for supper this evening, you may well get a strange answer from a muddled mind that is full of trying to recall the vagaries of irregular Greek verbs and the properties of sundry metals in the periodic table. Physics revision testing is safer (for me anyway) - I never understood a word of physics while at school and I don't now so all I can do is follow the text book, word for word, which leads to some exasperation from H when I say, "No, that's wrong." to an explanation he gives, because it isn't word for word what is in front of me but is (apparently) another way of saying the same thing. You could fool me.

Anyway, the January blues which always affect me, have been bad this year. I usually combat them with various strategies, some of which are more successful than others.

An inveterate pattern hoarder, this is the time of year when I scour bookshops, magazines, Amazon and the Internet for new crochet and sewing patterns to add to my collection. I try not to remind myself too sternly that I will probably never make half these things. The possibility hovers that I might and that adds a glimmer to a dark morning over breakfast. A glimmer that can be extinguished by feeling guilty that perhaps I shouldn't be spending the money on yet more books and knowing that anyway I have plenty of patterns I haven't made, already in the bookcase.

I click on emails that promise sale yarns or fabrics at fantastic prices and wonder whether just a teensy weensy pile of yarn or two might not lift a grey and rainy day somewhat. Annoyingly, half the colours I want often seem to be out of stock or worse, permanently discontinued. Good for my bank account; not so good for my mood.

I try to look at my day to day routines in a kindly and positive light. Sometimes it works, sometimes it so doesn't! If anyone, for example, knows a kindly and positive light they can throw on putting in order, what seem to be unending piles, of apparently identical, black socks or sorting the rubbish for the recycling bin that is overflowing yet again or washing muddy footprints off the floor for the umpteenth time, I'd be glad to hear it!

Last Saturday I read an article in The Guardian here about the importance of mixing routine things with new variants which added some welcome grist to my mill and made me feel better about my acquisitive pattern habit and one or two of my other strategies. In fact the more I think about it, the more I think this article is onto something.

We need routine - it gives a stable structure to life and routine actually smooths the path of daily living, often, more than we realise - but we also need the motivation and energy awakened by curiosity about the new and untried. I feel guilty about being a butterfly sometimes who flits from one enthusiasm to another but I'm coming to realise that being a butterfly does not necessarily mean, (or at least does not just mean!,) I have the attention span of a gnat - it's a source of energy and interest that keeps me buoyant in life's flotsam and jetsam. And that butterfly needs feeding to stay alive and well.

It doesn't matter that some of the things I dip a toe into may not end up being permanent fixtures or a life passion. What matters is lightening the mix of daily grind with things to explore and be inquisitive about. New patterns, even if I don't make them all? Yay! New ideas? Bring 'em on! New skills? Why not? New challenges? Give them a whirl! New projects? Start planning!

So ...

... I'm feeling chilled about acquiring a couple of new crochet pattern books. These to be precise: 100  Snowflakes To Crochet - Make Your Own Snowdrift  and 100 Lace Flowers To Crochet. More on these when I've had a chance to digest them.

... I am toying with the idea of taking up horse-riding again. I rode a lot as a child but it's one of those things that's fallen by the wayside.

... I am determinedly exploring lovely non-English blogs like Haken en Meer, even when they are in languages I can't speak. I don't know a word of Dutch but, much to my satisfaction, I've even managed to order the book co-written by this blog's author, Claire and and her friend Saskia, "Haken en Kleur" from a Dutch website. Once I'd worked out that "bestelling plaatsen" meant "place your order" not "other bestsellers you might be interested in", that is! It hasn't actually arrived yet but checking the post for its arrival, is, for the time being, proving cheering.

... I am sitting light to feeling guilty - about the cost of a few books, spending time hooking or sewing, eating cake, that sort of thing.

Life is too short and too sweet not to live it as enjoyably as possible, within reason.

... I am wondering, (you may feel, slightly against better judgement!), about joining in with Sonia of Fabricandflowers who is running a homemade knicker swap here. I had no idea you could even try making your own homemade knickers. I know, I know, I may be a bit old for this kind of frivolity but then, who says? I am going to make a trial pair first before I commit to making any for a swap. According to the Trixie Lixie website video, it's a doddle, but we'll see! I do not anticipate giving M&S's underwear department a run for their money!

... I am thinking of braving the challenge of sewing clothing in jersey fabrics or crocheting those beautiful doilies I see everywhere in blogland, in very fine thread and with a crochet hook with the diameter of a hypodermic needle, both of which have I have felt, hitherto, have been beyond my powers. But I repeat, "Sez who, Mrs Tittlemouse"?!

Life seems brighter all of a sudden! Now where are those piles of socks? I may be ready for you! Even cleaning the kitchen floor no longer seems such a miserably repetitive chore. In common with the rest of the world, I am still asking questions of myself about my job, but that too is weighing less heavy. There are all manner of frivolous novelties in my head from making homemade knickers to crocheted snowflakes, to hang on a winter twig, to walking in my new pink flowery Hunter wellingtons along the flooded paths and fields in the mornings. A few metaphorical rainbows in the January skies, like this real one, this afternoon.

If you too are finding yourself assailed by January blues and the going feels heavy, I recommend some inspirational dabbling and trying of new things to change things up.

(As well as tea and cake of course! With which one can't go wrong!)

E x


  1. Although the mornings are still dark, I shut up the ducks at a noticeably later time every day, which I find heartening.
    I should warn you Mrs T that making knickers is not the job for anyone who approximates instead of measuring. A centimetre out in a skirt can be forgiven, but on knickers it cannot! I speak from experience. January is definitely the time for making plans, whether they come to fruition or not (and for ignoring the dirty kitchen floor because it will be in exactly the same state again tomorrow).

  2. Oh my goodness, making your own knickers, a challenge for sure!

    That rainbow just HAD to cheer you up, Mrs. tT.

    I'm seeing on bamboo jersey, not an easy task because of the drape. That is a challenge, but the swirl is fun.

  3. Our revision here (Brevet & Bac) is spiced up by the fact that I read questions out to the boys in bad French! It adds an extra level of challenge to the whole thing. I shall think of you and know I'm not alone, though. And guess what I finally put into an envelope today? It was my way of beating winter blues, I think...

  4. PS I had coffee & galette des rois for my low moment today. I may not be speaking good French, but I'm certainly eating 'French'!

  5. It's always good to shake things up a bit in January, good luck with it all
    Clare x

  6. Yes, January can be a bit hard going, but I know that by mid Feb I will see a change in the light and this always makes me feel more positive. I have also noticed that all the daff bulbs I put into tubs in early October are popping through the compost - this cheers me up enormously too. I went for coffee with some knitting/crochet colleagues at lunchtime and we discussed our plans for world domination with yarn (well, sort of.....we can dream can't we?) and for an hour or so the problems in the workplace disappeared. I think we all have to find our own ways, however small, of getting through the times that make us feel down.

    Do remember not to mix up your knickers with your snowflakes though. Decorating twigs with your 'smalls' might just be a craze that catches on!!!! xx

  7. Hi I hate the light in January but always find it one of my most inspirational time of the year...funny we all love different time of the year, what makes us individuals I suppose.
    Hugs x

  8. "that butterfly needs feeding to stay alive and well" : yes! exactly ! So, no more guilty feelings, just nurturing projects and ideas for the butterfly to fly away towards the rainbow !
    Love and hugs from France


  9. ooh, SO looking forward to seeing your hypodermic doilies!! You should get up at 9.30 like I did this morning - it's nice and light then!
    The horse riding sounds a brilliant idea - I think it would invigorate you - always a good thing in my book. As I say - roll on February.

  10. There is nothing wrong with being a dabbler, I think, as long as you finish SOME projects. Dreaming is fun, and so are gathering ideas and inspiration.
    By the way, if you think it's dark in the mornings in the UK, you should try Belgium. I walked the children to school this morning and the street lamps didn't switch off until around 8.25. It's still pitch dark at 7.30.

  11. I received the same 100 Snowflakes to Crochet as a gift from my husband. I'm making them from a blue yarn with a hint of sparkle to attach to a black coat. Then maybe on to some tree garland and a few extras for next years Christmas cards : )

  12. Dear E - once again you made me giggle out loud!!! I do soooo remember those dark mornings but here in SA I'm struggling with the opposite as it starts getting light around 4am and the birds couldn't care less that I'm still trying to sleep!!!! Good luck with the knicker swap.....not sure ANYONE would have a pattern for the kind of "big girl pants" that I sport!!! Hey ho!!! xxx

  13. Sounds like you're doing lots to break the January gloom. Can't believe we've reached the half-way stage of this grey month already. Roll on longer days! x

  14. I understand your feelings. I once had a friend say about the daily prepairing of supper that she had to "set her face like a flint." I totally resonated with that:) And I really, really understand the sock-matching problem! But the fact that you are taking measures to counteract the darkness instead of getting under the covers and waiting for spring makes me think that everything will come out all right. I wish I could send you some sunshine.

  15. I like the image of a butterfly flitting from here to there. A perfect way to describe myself that I shall from now on bring to any conversations about being enthusiastic about one thing today and another tomorrow, which is not always considered a good way to lead a fruitful life by some. For me, the January blues usually commences in February, which I always find the most difficult month of the year. The dark mornings are difficult you are right, the alarm seemingly sounding in the middle of the night. I sometimes wish I had studied Greek and Latin instead of Italian and Latin for my Bacchalaureate. As for socks, I now buy them with colourful toes to make the matching easier. Good luck with the knicker sewing project, this made my smile. Cx


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