Winter is coming. Don't you just love saying that phrase, the motto of House Stark? So full of menace. So sexy. But winter is coming and not just in a Game of Thrones way, although something creepy is definitely lurking behind the wall(s of your own house). Its you, darling. And with your tan long gone, you do look a bit like a White Walker.
There's no denying winter has some lovely seasonal side benefits. With the tyranny of summer eating over, carbohydrates are a viable diet option again. No longer must we eat salad at every meal and check BBQ'd chicken for pinkness – now we can dine like civilized people, or hibernating bears with home delivery, on meat and potatoes, slabs of bread and butter; indoors, under a duvet, while drinking red wine and watching a boxed set.
There will be ice, if not right outside your front door waiting for you to fall over then somewhere, up a mountain, and this is an excellent excuse to guzzle large quantities of hot chocolate, for its anti-frostbite properties. Children will get insanely excited about the first proper snowfall and everyone will get a day off – except mothers – and snowmen (or large-scale models of genitalia, if you live in my street) will be things of wonder, until they all go slushy and resemble the aforementioned. As the nights close in, our primitive brains signal the need for dinner parties and candlelight to ward off the goblins of depression scratching at the window. The weather at our backs, we are more expansive, and expanding, until the first daffodil drives us into the arms of the latest celebrity diet in a fit of self-loathing.
Other nice things about winter: it isn't summer, when men who shouldn't wear shorts do and flying in the face of common decency take their tops off, parading wonky, badly-spelled tattoos naming the ones that got away. The air is crisper. Chestnuts roast on an open fire. Jack Frost nips at your nose. Hang on, I think I've drifted into a Nat King Cole song … anyway, to begin with at least, thanks to Daylight Saving, you're up in time to see the sunrise, usually only the purview of bakers and strippers. Also, slimming black opaque tights are de rigueur, hot tubs stop being sleazy and the hand-knitting of jerseys gives grandmothers everywhere a reason to go on.
Sounds fabulous, and it is. However, if you are a lady, winter is also time to take a much-needed break from personal grooming, relax the cruel constant vigilance that being gorgeous entails and temporarily scale-down the endless round of appointments with strange women who do embarrassingly intimate things to your body. Winter is the season of letting it all hang out, preferably under an oversized jumper with a reindeer on the front.
'To hell with it,' we think, 'Who's going to know?' Cleanse, tone, moisturize? Arrgh, cold water might dribble down the neck of my Onesie. And there's no point in doing your roots if a wooly beanie is going to cover them. Waxing grinds to a halt, and beauticians start to appear on the streets, looking desperate and toting cardboard signs saying 'will Brazilian for food'. Ditto pedicures (wearing Timberland socks with your dressing gown, its easy to “Meh”), and forget about attending to your fingernails – just wear gloves instead. Some women stop shaving for months, hairs growing long and lush from underarms and legs, not in a display of revolutionary feminism or furry pride, mind, more sheer feral laziness – with the unintended consequence of a winter coat you didn't have to spend two weeks salary on.
“It's just Nature's way,” says the economist, as I turn Eleanor Rigby, leaving my face in a jar by the door, and start to resemble Tzippy from Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are about the nethers – but men are always more sympathetic in a second marriage, and he's just pleased I'm not using his beard trimmer for something else.
Unfortunately, having let your guard down, chucked out the self tanner and gone pale and interesting, before you know it, things are a shambles and you've got an ankle fringe peeping out from under your jeans, like my friend Sharon. “Chewbacca in trousers,” is how she describes it. Surveying the wreckage of a once-proud woman, in the endless dark while hail pelts washing that's been on the line for two weeks, can make you feel sad. But cheer up, Hairy Maclary, and sharpen your razors: it'll be spring before you know it.