It’s been an unusually snow-free winter. There has been snow, but just enough to cover the ground. Not the usual amount that challenges and taunts us into hours of shovelling. All the hours we usually spend in December moving it into piles were now freed up for something else, but we couldn’t remember what that might be. We’ve often looked up hopefully into the sky, just to see if some more might be on its way, and all we’ve seen is a bit of snowy mist, disappearing into the air before it hits the ground.

All over Christmas it was like this and the season rather lost its charm as a result. There’s something unmistakably magical about heavy snow and darkness at this time. I’ve missed that, and haven’t really got into the festive mood. I’ve been keen to move on, to think of January and the coming period of sharp bright cold, rather than hold on to the season of midwinter as as I usually do.

And then, one day this week, the snowflakes looked a bit larger as they fell, a bit more serious, a bit more likely to make an impact. There were lots of them, filling up the black spaces, illuminated as balloons of pattern by the street lights.

Before long we were out there with the snow sled, noticing that snow was falling as fast as we were shovelling. That familiar heaviness in the legs, the feeling of hopelessness, that you can’t keep with it, that it will defeat you and the driveway will never be cleared. The return of hopelessness was an absolute joy. It was dark, and minus ten degrees. The snow swirled in front of my face. I started humming ‘Good King Wenceslas’. At last, Christmas.