Going to sleep in the dark and getting up in the dark is not my idea of fun

Hilary Fannin: I suspect that it’s going to take more than a few cacti to salvage my home from wintery ennui

It’s the end of January, snow has settled over suburbia, and I am struggling. I threw some bread out for the gulls this morning and they flocked down to the shed roof to get it, wearing ear muffs and thermal underwear. The shivering cat hasn’t been out for a pee since Wednesday; she looks at the bruised sky, crosses her furry little legs and gets back to her crossword.

Going to sleep in the dark and getting up in the dark is not my idea of fun. Blame the Italian antecedents – I need light (and pasta). My 19th-century forebears got on the wrong side of Garibaldi and ended up running a Belfast chipper, which may have been where it all started going meteorologically pear-shaped for me. Basically, life is bearable if there’s a bit of mellow sunshine to splash around in halfway through the morning, but days like these, when the sky is one big plate of ice-cold mashed potatoes, are a challenge.

Driven indoors by the belligerence of the weather, I trimmed the wicks and cranked up the search engines to see how folk are surviving across the frozen tundra.

There are a plethora of January survival articles out there, most of them on the pursuit of “wellness”. The problem with wellness, as far as I can make out, is that it generally requires leaving the house, and I’m with the cross-legged cat on that one.


Ignoring all the well-meaning advice on the beneficial effects of staying hydrated and nipping out for a gong bath, I instead sought counsel at this, the most depressing time of the neonate year, on how to turn my humble home into a sanctuary of comfort and peace.

(What do you mean, you’ve never heard of a gong bath? Oh, do try to keep up. Gong baths are when you lie down on your yoga mat, usually in a fragrant place of communal meditation, and some well-intentioned yahoo picks up his truncheon and strikes a great big gong next to your shell-likes. Also known as gong therapy, gong baths are predicated on the belief that, on some cellular level, a gong’s frequency and vibrations can reduce stress, alter consciousness and create a deep sense of peace and wellbeing. Okay? Glad you asked? And no, of course all gong-bashers aren’t  yahoos, and if you’re benefiting from consensual vibrating activity that doesn’t burst your eardrums, don’t let me stop you.)

Banish the blues

Where were we? Oh yes, the creation of a peaceful and tranquil home. According to my less than extensive research, a surefire way of banishing the January blues is to light up your home by burning Palo Santo oil. And nope, I’d no idea what Palo Santo oil was either. I discovered, though, that it’s a spiritual oil, traditionally used by the Incas as a purifying antidote to negative energies.

Also referred to as “sacred wood oil”, such are the healing qualities of this particular elixir (there ain’t nothing it doesn’t infuse) you’d wonder how, without it, any of us have survived with an intact nervous system and a herd of potent goats.

Don’t, however, bung all your eggs in one Palo Santo-laced basket. In order to have your home spiritually spick and yang, you’ll also need several aromatherapy diffusers and a whole heap of healing crystals. Some people even have their healing crystals fashioned into coasters on which to place their steaming mugs of turmeric root. And before you leave the bazaar, a couple of Himalayan salt lamps won’t hurt either.

Apparently, Himalayan salt lamps emit the same “healthy negative ions” as a walk by the ocean, which is handy when your regular bog-standard oceanic stroll has been scuppered by the incandescent Incas and angry angels hailing stones down on us puny mortals from their purple clouds.

'A nesting trend'

Himalayan salt lamps, I learned to my surprise, are also “a nesting trend”. (My nesting trends, in contrast, are an overflowing laundry basket, a barely continent cat and some aggravatingly sticky non-stick ovenware.)

Apparently another nesting trend is indoor plants, such as terrariums and succulents, which should be placed at interesting angles throughout your mindful and mellow home.

I suspect, however, that it’s going to take more than a few cacti to salvage my home from wintery ennui, a leaky cat, used tissues, vapour rubs, cough syrups and probably a couple of mildewed seasonal cocktail sausages.

I have an uneasy premonition that it’s time to take the plunge and head out for a resounding gong bath.