Wintering – by Holly Brannigan

A new series celebrating today´s winter solstice and all winter things.


Here at babaà we embrace the opportunity to cosy up that winter gives to us, bundling up in knits for long winter walks, sharing food by candlelight. And now that December is very much upon us, we asked one of our babaà friends to tell us what wintering looks like for them, how do they feed themselves through the months of short cold days and long dark nights?

Heralding this new series is Holly Brannigan, Cornwall based mother, and maker of community and pots. We invite you to savour Holly’s poesy, as she describes for babaà what winter looks like for her family.



Darker days and slower bones. The most noticeable shifts for me since the golden Autumn. As the wind howls off the sea and whips around our house, threatening at our windows, a bleakness tried desperately to hang in the air.

I feel my role as homemaker is to protect the house and family from being engulfed by the bleak moods. Fortunately Christmas is a wonder at distraction. It’s my favourite time of the year, and my mind whirs with excitement and cheery ideas.

First I start with the senses; candles are lit everywhere as soon as the sun begins to lower. That comforting, flickering glow, helping with the adjustment into earlier nights. A small tealight sits below the oil burner. When lit, the scent of sweet orange, cinnamon or Cedarwood spreads through the rooms. My daughter is learning to read, so more books than ever are stacked up around the rug on the floor. They spend hours between their pages, the stillness only broken by pages turning and a murmuring of sounds as difficult words strike her. The children are always hungry now. This third pregnancy has slowed my brain and coordination so meals are simple and baking endeavours have unfortunately almost come to a standstill, bar the odd round of mince pies or ginger biscuits. Instead we devour huge oranges, clementines, satsumas and grapefruit, piles of peel discarded all around the house. Revoltingly, tissues are too. I find them tucked into sleeves, pockets, piled on the arms of the sofa, and have to delve down the side of the cushions to check for more. Poor little lambs are so coldy and run down. We eat soups or stews rich in garlic and spices. Local honey spun on top of porridge and slathered on papa’s bread. I take her out of school, we spend the day in pyjamas and festive creativity comes into play. There are always gifts to be working on and cards to craft.

Each day of December we light one of her dipped beeswax candles and they rush to seek out that day’s advent, a diamond of paper stitched into a garland above the fireplace. On it, below the bold number, a note is scrawled with that days creative exploration. Today we are encouraged to gather together sticks and scraps of wool, tidy up the last of autumns dried collections and work together on a nature weaving. Yesterday to dance with ribbons to Christmas songs (it was missed because friends popped in, so today we may do both, or not, it’s so freeing to be loose about it!). Life’s incredibly slow and things are done thoughtfully, so the everyday rituals feel rich and indulgent.

I cannot say that it is always a picture of peace. Hormones drop on me just as we need to head out for the school run. I stand in the playground, hot and out of breath from storming up the great hill to the school, fear of being late AGAIN. Feeling lost among the clichés that form in groups of mothers. I fight the feeling of self pity, and am mortified to find myself on the brink of tears! These are the days the children always whine on their way home, picking up on my anxiety.  I try to distract them with questions or tasks like looking out for birds. They find none; that wind which pulls at their little scarves, has coaxed the birds to find shelter.

We are together inside so much more when the wind is bad, and often bickering can break out over whose turn to play with the ukulele, or blow out the candle after a meal. Who gets into the bath first, or which one of them can draw a bigger circle! I despair at the pettiness. But then, Liam comes in from work with a rush of cold air and quarrels are forgotten as they run to welcome him.

And then the wind calms, the skies turn pink and we look out at the reflections of her favourite colour on the water and the boats. In the morning it’s bright and a golden sun feels almost warm. We smile and walk to school hand in hand, chattering and singing, birds swooping high above us.

Winter is hard. But we do believe our pursuit of a slower pace and to let winter do her -often grumpy- thing, knowing Spring will come one day, does help to keep those days at a minimum.


Thank you Holly