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Nuala McCann: Amid Covid-19, the world is still waiting outside our windows... and it will be ours in 2022

Winter darkness makes Nuala want to hide under the duvet...

BY the time you read this, your goose/turkey/nut roast/vegetable roll will have been well and truly cooked, your pot belly stuffed and if you managed it all without an outburst worthy of a biblical martyr... well sirrah, I do doff my cap at you.

That's it for another year.

"Cheerful Charlie Chester," my sister would joke.

As she did the year that my mother sat up in her bed on Christmas morning and asked: "Why has the good lord not taken me yet?"

To which the only response could be: "And a Happy Christmas to you too, ma."

We laugh about it still.

Christmas is like giving birth.

There's such a build up - so much planning, so much buying and flinging about of cash involved.

In the run up to the birth of our boy, people were always asking: "Have you your bags packed?"

With Christmas, it's more: "Are you all set?"

Which reminds me of my father's tale about a childhood trick of ringing people in the directory with the unfortunate surname of Jelly and conducting a conversation that began:

"Hello is that Mrs Jelly?"

"Yes."

"Are you all set?"

It's a family favourite.

My sisters still ring and ask: "Are you all set?"

My argument is that you get yourself into such knots about child birth and Christmas.

When the baby actually arrives, all that joy is mingled with immense relief that things turned out.

Christmas Day delivers that same sudden wave of joy. There is a baby at the centre of it too.

It's a great rush of happiness with a huge side order of relief.

So although old Scrooge here doesn't like the mad rush, Christmas Eve at precisely the moment when the shops close, the gifts are wrapped and there is nothing more you can do is like that moment when you hover at the top of the highest peak on the big dipper.

It is that pregnant pause before, whoosh, you fly down the hill and the holy peace of a Christmas morning waits to catch you at the bottom.

A misty winter morning is a gift in itself and the gnarled black skeletons of trees; the soft warm breath from our horses that do not belong to us but canter over to say hello and the sight of the black farm cat picking her way through the long grass are all that we could wish for.

We have walked the same path through the seasons. We've seen the leafy trees turn skeletal and the water in the old stone trough turn to thick, plate-glass ice.

We've seen feathered ice on windscreens and savoured the crunch of ice on the puddles beneath our boots.

And now is as beautiful a gift as we could wish for.

Light a candle and curse not the darkness.

On 21 December, a friend texted to say that we're on the up and the longest day has already passed.

As a side note, he asked: "Have you your big light on."

Indeed and I do.

The big light on our landing was always on when we were children.

My father left the bedroom doors open and the landing light shone in to chase away nightmares.

Even now, I'm fond of sleeping with the light on. The two men in this house are having none of it.

My other big light is my lightbox. Everyone puts their sunglasses on when my big light comes out.

The lightbox sets my internal clock back on course.

It's a seasonal thing. I'm a martyr to Seasonal Affective Disorder and - apologies to Simon and Garfunkel - darkness has never been my old friend.

Darkness sends me to the heavy carbs cupboard and makes me want to hide under the duvet.

It makes me jealous of all those creatures who get to hibernate until a ray of Spring sun light pokes a finger into the pile of leaves they're sleeping under and wakes them up to a new world.

So yes, my light is on. Yes, I'm walking the walk out in the winter light too.

I can't believe that a year ago I was running 5km and swimming almost not quite a mile.

In this 'rona year, I turned sloth and weary - as effervescent as a glass of flat coke, as perky as a cold cup of coffee.

Still, here's to Tanita Tikaram and the world outside our window... it's there and waiting, next year it will be all ours.

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