It’s the month when things start to change for the better – just not fast enough
IF EVER A MONTH had no mates, it would surely be February.
The 28 days we’re currently living through – or should that be enduring? – have had no end of detractors. In word and song, as well as in real life.
Perhaps its most famous rinsing came 50 years ago, when Don McLean sang: “February made me shiver/with every paper I’d deliver”.
And since then, a long queue of writers and musicians has formed to give our least favourite month a proper kicking.
Author Anna Quindlen, for example, once called Feb “a suitable month for dying”.
“Everything around is dead,” she added, “the trees black and frozen so that the appearance of green shoots two months hence seems preposterous, the ground hard and cold, the snow dirty, the winter hateful, hanging on too long.”
Alice McDermott asked: “late afternoon in early February, was there a moment of the year better suited for despair?”
Terrible, dreepy, dark”
Sebastian Barry, meanwhile, called the year’s second month: “Terrible, dreepy, dark”, and Clive Barker likened it to a monster, writing: “The great grey beast February had eaten Harvey Swick alive.”
But, personally, I think we should be laying off February: for me it’s nowhere near as horrible as it’s made out to be, at least on this side of The Pond.
In fact, February is the month when things start to change for the better – it’s real problem is that it doesn’t change things quickly enough.
I know this argument won’t cut much ice (ahem) with anyone reading this in the American Midwest, where February still = sub-zero temperatures and snow, but there are already definite signs of Spring over here in England.
Yesterday, the sun was warm enough to hang out the year’s first load of washing on our rotary dryer – though at the risk of it being torn from the peg and flung into the distance by the accompanying gale.
February is the ‘Are we there yet?’ of months”
Snowdrops and Crocuses are poking up, and sometimes the long-forgotten perfume of cut grass wafts across the ever-so-slightly warmer air. People are driving around in the sunshine with their windows and hoods down, albeit layered up.
And that’s the problem with February: it raises our expectations. At the weekend, for example, I saw the sun and went to sit in the bottom of the garden with the newspaper. It looked lovely, but 10 minutes later I was driven back in by the wind.
On Monday, I went out slightly under-dressed for a big ride in the sun and came back blue with cold. As my daughter said: “It’s not as nice as it looks out there.”
February, therefore, is a bit of a tease.
It’s only the very prima of primavera, it’s The Herald of approaching Spring, and not The Real Thing.
It’s the “Are we there yet?” of months.
It’s when the year swings around after Winter”
So perhaps it’s no wonder that people sometimes say mean things about February: it flirts, but doesn’t quite deliver on our pent-up desire for change. And in this year of all years, when we’ve all been confined to barracks for months by something bigger than just Winter, we’re feeling more pent-up than ever.
But this isn’t to say that February does nothing for us – even if it’s under-the-bonnet stuff, it’s already working to make our lives better.
Fred Bruemmer, the polar photographer, noted that the Intuit of northwest Greenland, the world’s northernmost people, called February seqinniaq, or ‘the month when the sun appears.’
In the UK, the broadcaster and gardener Monty Don says February is the month when the garden year “swings around again” after winter – a fact that offers Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) sufferers like he and I huge comfort.
And… it’s short”
From our hungry scanning of websites like Time and Date, SAD sufferers know that that February is the month that really starts to bring light back into our lives.
When it first blew in, days here in the UK were a mere nine hours and 11 minutes long.
But when it bows out later this week, this most abused of months will have quietly added more than 100 minutes of light to our lives, departing with the days lasting close to eleven hours.
Having written all these nice things about it, I will admit that I’ll still be glad to see the back of February at the weekend, so that we can at last move into the ‘proper’ spring month of March.
But then, isn’t that another thing to love about February? It’s just so short…