I like November and I always have. The month just sits there, almost Christmas but still far enough away to be still kind of normal, and long enough after any summer holidays so any pining is well gone. Even though it can signal the true beginning of winter, a season I don’t shine too, with all the cold rain, wind, the leaves losing their leaves, I still look forward to November every year.
I think it’s one of those reliable months. I know it will be colder because the wind will suddenly pick up a notch and the temperature must drop a few degrees further. Despite this, I can prepare well. November is a great time for dusting out those heavy jackets, wooly jumpers, thick socks, gloves, scarves, and hats in warm, earthy colours of browns, burgundy, and dark greens to keep me cosy.
And to keep me satiated it is certainly a most appropriate time for food, with soups and stews and baked root vegetables all coming out of the kitchen. It’s a great time to really roll up my sleeves and rekindle the worthwhile craft of cooking a hearty meal. In Korea as well, there is no shortage of stews, and then of course all-weather barbecue dinners take on a new life as they move indoors. These are particularly special treats, which start as soon as I step inside and the hot air warms me through instantly, and after a feed of beef or pork, not to mention a few – if not several – drinks, stepping back into the icy night air afterwards is the ideal way of encouraging passage to the second round.
If you have a fire there is no better month to first light it than November. The joy of sitting by the warmth of a crackling, or gas flowing hiss, while the television shows a late night movie and my glass is half full with my second decent sized glass of red wine cannot be praised too much. Add to this the company of Herself or friends and I can do little to complain – unless I end up drinking too much wine and wake up with a corkscrew of headache and no memory of the end of that film I was watching.
In Korea, of course, fires are far from common in the home. In fact if I lit a fire I would probably be arrested, that’s if I survived my home burning down as well as the entire building I live in. I don’t think my neighbours would be impressed. As a worthy compromise there is the always reliable underfloor heating which is piped throughout every apartment. While it can be slow to start off, once the heating is primed it doesn’t take long for the house to warm up. Stepping into a room with the floor heating on always feels like I am passing into stove warmed cabin; it is cosy, inviting, and homely, and any memories of firesides with wine are forgotten once a basket of freshly baked sweet potatoes are passed around.
But for me, the real magic of November waits outside. By the time October has passed the trees are well beyond deciding whether or not they will move on to their winter hibernation. Their leaves are either in the process of their radiant discolouration, or they are tumbling down the street in a series of never-ending somersaults courtesy of the stiff breeze. Ochres, auburns, maroons, mellow yellows, fading greens and coppers are splattered about the trees, while the crunching and scratching of the already deceased come from where my feet meet the street. It is always hypnotic.
The air at this time of year has only began to bite and with each small gust it nibbles away at my ears and cheeks, as I duffle up my jacket fully for the first time and perhaps tie a scarf snuggly under my chin. The sky is as blue as if it has dressed for the occasion of being painted in a landscape, and if there are clouds they do the same, ballooning up in a white lather like bubble bath. At all times the sun shines down down, strong as ever, but warm like an old radiator in a big stone room.
The buildings stand in sharp relief to this bright blue scape, with their every angle being caught and stretching out in a long straight shadow courtesy of that sun which no longer reaches a central apex. It is undoubtedly as the architect had imagined when the designs were first sketched, with the sun catching in a pinprick sized corner of glass which reflects as beaming spot light upon the riotous Renoir painted scene below.