New year, new excuses to hibernate with this season’s best reads, streamers and storytelling.
“Plants and animals don’t fight the winter. They prepare. They adapt. They perform extraordinary acts of metamorphosis to get them through.
“Winter is a time of withdrawing from the world, maximising scant resources, carrying out acts of brutal efficiency and vanishing from sight; but that’s where the transformation occurs. Winter is not the death of the life cycle, but its crucible.”
If you like the cut of Katherine May’s jib above, you’ll love the book from whence it came, Wintering. It’s not new – nearly three years old – but it’s one to dust off and treasure each and every winter, to remind us of the season’s restorative qualities. May’s Wintering is a metaphor for the fallow periods in our lives, and a true balm for anyone feeling a bit gloomy this side of spring.
STREAMING A Note for Nature
There’s an awful lot of guff on TV at Christmas. But one programme that stood out by far was RTÉ One’s A Note for Nature, a 50-minute beautifully-shot love letter (and environmentalist battle cry) to Ireland’s natural world.
Not only did conservationists share aspects of their work, such as Pádraic Fogarty of the Wildlife Trust, it was star-studded with performances by some of the country’s finest artists, such as Christy Moore and sean-nós singer Iarla Ó Lionáird singing their hearts out in woodland and grassy knolls. But it was the duet by Clare Sands and Susan O’Neill performing ‘Carry My Song’ that was particularly potent, as they played, crooned and keened on a windswept beach, their long hair wilded by the briny air. If you missed it, fear not: it’s on the RTÉ Player.
There’s comfort food – and there are comforting TV series about food. Forget the coronary-inducing vicarious stress of recent kitchen-sink dramas The Bear, The Menu, and Boiling Point, and try Julia; HBO Max’s sparkling eight-part series about America’s first TV chef Julia Child.
Yes, Meryl Streep got there first, playing “the French cook” in the 2009 feature film Julie and Julia. But it’s English actress Sarah Lancashire – of Happy Valley fame – who shines brightly as the midlife cookbook writer who became a TV sensation and set the blueprint for cookery shows the world over. It premiered in the US last March but is fortunately for our viewing pleasure on Sky and Now TV.
PODCAST: Everybody is a Poem
“I call it Catchphrase poetry – I say say what I see,” says Dublin stylist and accidental poet Jan Brierton, whose wry commentary of pandemic life was published in 2021 as What Day is It? Who Gives a F**k, its themes of home schooling, imagined hugs, lockdown leggings and kitchen discos had us chuckling with familiarity – and wiping away the occasional tear.
There’s all that and more in her podcast, Everybody is a Poem, on which she invites fellow creatives to wear their hearts on their sleeves, with readings of her poems inspiring further excavations. Episodes with Maia Dunphy and Victoria Smurfit are particularly moving, each having recently lost their mothers, while hair stylist to the stars Andrew Fitzsimons reveals how he found his power in LA, while actress Hilda Fay extols the joys of dressing up.
DRESS CODE: The Long Set Pyjamas - Flora Burgundy
Matchy-matchy, moi? Let the Dry January brigade sip on kombucha while we colour-coordinate our pinot noir with this pretty two-piece pyjama set, whose softly elasticated waistband, deep pockets, super-soft 100 per cent cotton voile and piping details combine style and comfort. Sláinte!