Esther O’Moore Donohoe on wintering well after two pretty bleak Christmases
We’ve all experienced two pretty miserable winters, so this one really does feel more special, writes Esther O’Moore Donohoe.
In my winter fantasy, I am dressed like Carrie Bradshaw circa The Russian. There’s a Met Éireann Status Orange rain warning in place, but this does not affect me. My legs are bare, feet cocooned in cashmere socks and I am trotting about the place in a pair of turquoise Bottega Veneta Canalazzo ankle boots. Offering zero protection to the elements, my 100 per cent non-heat-retaining velvet jacket and silk shirt turn heads. Yes, my lips are turning blue and I’ve lost the feeling in my toes, but these are mere trifles because the ensemble is pure stunning. Behold, I am wintering at an elite level.
The fantasy continues. In my parallel universe, my work day is 45 minutes long. I spend afternoons in art galleries in Europe and evenings dining in New York, where I assemble an eclectic, but loaded group of friends who have no idea what a trolley token is. To them, “ordering a three-in-one” means getting Botox, filler and a chemical peel in one sitting. And as I gaze out the window of the 122 bus, someone playing a video of a rapping parrot full blast in the background, my daydream ratchets up to its key scene.
It’s 11.59pm on New Year’s Eve and crowds are gathered at St Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin. A lone voice starts singing a slowed- down version of “Crazy World” by Aslan as a delicate snow begins to fall, kissing our foreheads softly. Soon, we’re all singing along, cheek by jowl, not an FFP2 mask between us. “This will be the greatest winter ever,” I say to the stars as I walk home, where I crawl into a box, lined with straw, until March.
“The end of the night is signaled by the ceremonial opening of the phone calculator by Good At Maths friend.”
In my winter reality, I am wearing leggings under my tracksuit bottoms at my work-from-home desk because I am operating a strict “no heat before 5pm” policy. I go to make myself a coffee to warm myself up, but there’s no milk left. So I take my life in my mitten-clad hands and head to the chaotic newsagents across the road, where a lit firework has just been lobbed through the entrance. After a full workday, I arrange to meet friends for dinner.
While we wait for our meal, we look each other dead in the eye and in a threatening but loving way tell one another with deep conviction, “I am not buying any presents this year. Do not get me anything!” The end of the night is signalled by the ceremonial opening of the phone calculator by Good At Maths friend, whereupon the bill is split equally and money is pinged between apps.
The real truth of winter, however, lies between these two imaginings. The key, as with most things in life, is to manage our expectations. If you set yourself up for having the Best Winter Ever and hygge too hard, you’re in for an icy fall. But if you reduce the next few months to counting down to spring and timing showers, that’s not great either. Flashback to this time last year. To say I had whipped myself up into a cautious, yet frothy cappuccino winter frenzy would be an understatement.
I had hidden myself away for so long, I was determined to make the most of the party season (safely and doused in hand sanitiser). I then planned to spend the remaining months in restoration, gazing into the middle distance, lighting non-toxic, soy blend candles. Alas, a Christmas week PCR test put an end to all these great ideas and in the end, I spent the 25th in bedroom isolation, clad not in cashmere but in the finest viscose PJs money can buy.
Initially, I was upset, of course, but like all the best Hollywood films, in the end, the goodwill I felt during that first wintry month kept me warm until well into February. A stream of friends and loved ones called to the door with endless good wishes, cards and boxes of Celebrations. People’s kindness was overwhelming. And on the big day, my mother delivered dinner on a tray wrapped in so much cling film, it would have made Greta Thunberg’s pigtails unravel in horror.
This season, I really, truly do not want anything from anyone but their time. That said, winter sea swimming is still a hard no TBH – but if you ask me to go for a bracing walk or to grab a coffee, I will go/strongly consider going.
This article originally appeared in the Winter 2022 issue of IMAGE Magazine, on shelves now. If you cannot find the latest issue in your local shop, make sure to visit image.ie/magazine to buy your copy and have it delivered to your door, anywhere in the world.