Last week saw the first frosts of winter in southern England. They were most welcome. As well as firing the starting pistol for picking sloes from the blackthorn to make sloe gin (the freezing helps concentrate the flavour), the frosts will have, hopefully, put paid to the insects carrying the newly arrived bluetongue disease.
The freezing nights came with crystal-clear skies and, for the fortunate not living in an area suffering from light pollution (why is more not done to counteract this?), there was also the beauty of the heavens to appreciate, not to mention spectacular sunrises to wake up to. The first frosts do put paid to various remnants of the summer; they kill the dahlias, which upsets the gardeners, but proved a great joy to Surtees’ famous hunting character, Jorrocks, who was overheard in Regent’s Park shouting: ‘Hurrah! Blister my kidneys! It is a frost the dahlias are dead! The warmth of summer is a sorrowful thing for hunting people.’
Frosts can be a pain when travelling: freezing points on the railways, iced-up windscreens and black ice for the drivers, but we should appreciate the good a frost brings. We in Britain are lucky to have them, but for how much longer?