Sometimes, I find myself daydreaming idly about what I'd do in my ideal winter, if money were no object and I was able to bend time and space to my will.
OK, so if I could bend time and space to my will I'd skip winter entirely and cycle between spring, summer and early autumn, because winter is Not My Jam. The point is, we are sort of stuck with it unless we live on the equator. So here's the first of my two Ideal Winters.
Somewhere in the English (or Scottish, or Welsh) countryside, in a place that's quiet but well served by transport, is a massive house. From the outside, it's more of a castle. It has turrets and towers, ivy and wisteria climbing the walls, and it looks hundreds of years old. I'm not sure whether it has a moat - that depends on how grumpy I'm feeling that day. It could be intimidating, but actually it looks pretty welcoming, though we can't quite explain why.
Inside, it's retained many of the antique features that make it beautiful, but otherwise it's modern and comfortable. There are wide corridors and lifts (because some of my friends are wheelchair users, so everything has to be accessible), and there's underfloor heating. There's enough space for everyone to have a little corner to themselves if they need some quiet time, but it's super easy to seek out larger spaces for company. Some spaces are quiet areas, where people can gather and read in companionable silence, or craft, or write, or talk amongst themselves. There are games rooms - console and board, with a huge table for the RPG fans - and rooms out in the wings where parties can happen.
Because this is my dream-house, there's also a room with a piano and a guitar and assorted other instruments. There's a nook at one end that I can close off for private practice or if I need to do some songwriting, but there's enough space for groups to gather and listen to each other play or have a singaround.
There's a few big kitchens with fancy equipment. Vegetarians and vegans get separate kitchens to avoid cross contamination, as do people with allergies and religious dietary requirements. There's a consistent stock of all the basics (whatever that means to you), and scope to make just about anything you can think of. Every so often, there's a huge shared meal in one of the bigger rooms, where everyone who wants to brings what they've made and has a good time together.
Crucially, there are filters on all Internet and incoming broadcasts, meaning that anything to do with Christmas is strictly opt-in. Christmas posts on social media, advertisements, special programmes all flash up a warning, and if you don't feel like engaging with it then you can just press a button and you don't have to see it. You can have as much or as little contact with the outside world as you want.
There are grounds, too. Anyone who wants to get outside for a bit of fresh air can do so. There are quiet green spaces - some tended, some left to grow wild - and gardens for growing food and herbs.
I like to imagine that I would move into this place around mid September each year, and move out again in mid March when the weather is starting to get milder. And all of my friends and loved ones can come too and stay for as long as they like, and spend their winter in good company and a low pressure atmosphere where they're not expected to be or feel anything - just know that there are people around them who understand and who are happy to see them, whatever is going on.
Do you ever imagine something like this? If you came to my imaginary mansion, how would you decorate your space?