Are you ready for winter? This is a question I ask anyone in North America, Latin America and Europe. Where does the expression come from? Well, in the olden days before indoor heating, plumbing and electricity, the communities would preserve the food for winter, when the ground was barren. The more industrious families cured the meat, ground the grain for flour, pickled or dried the vegetables, and make jams. If you had a cow, then butter and milk could be made fresh. Chickens and rabbits ensured protein throughout the winter months, and most importantly, the firewood had to be chopped and stacked up.
The advent of electricity and modern telecommunication has changed how we deal with winter now. Heating and electricity provide for the basic comforts, and there is always a supermarket to run to for food. So the question Are you ready for winter? has taken on a more decadent meaning and refers to clothing more than anything. When I moved back to Europe last year I realised how badly I was prepared for winter. Nothing I bought in Manila was thick enough for Berlin, and I spent several months building up my basic winter wardrobe, making the classic mistakes that I completely forgot about in my 11-year absence (most of the trips to Europe in-between were always in summer or late spring) . It isn’t about thickness but about layers! Except when it comes to stockings and socks, where thickness does indeed matter. The thing about Berlin winters, and why I hate them so much, is that they are cold, bitter and unpredictably long. It starts in November (this year being the huge exception) and carries on until about April or May. So winter clothing is essential in this city, making it really difficult to remain fashionable. Somehow I managed to get through my first winter, and I have learned from my mistakes. I stocked up on sweaters (many of which keep escaping to my daughter’s wardrobe in Italy) and thermals, but realised I always had cold feet.
Boots are the name of my game this year and I am determined to keep my feet warm but still be able to walk around town without sacrificing comfort and succumbing to the Berliner Grunge look. Maybe it is my age, but high-heeled boots are the biggest lie ever invented in footwear. They are not properly cushioned and if you have to run after a bus they slow you down. The warmest boots I had last winter were my hiking boots, but those are inappropriate office wear, not to mention a pain to have on the whole day. Mz favourite brown boots, I discovered the last 12 months, are suitable for Spring and Autumn and are just crap in winter – and dangerously slippery too, since the soles don’t have the right grip for snow and ice. There are more boots out there than I can even shake a stick at, but not all of them meet my criteria of comfort since I have wide feet, so that eliminates most of the Italian brands for me. But I have come to terms with one or two brands that don’t require several weeks to break in.
On another level, my soul is in search of its own winter boots. You may now ask yourself, WTF is she talking about? It brings me back to the original question at the beginning of this article: Are you ready for winter? I am past the summer of my discontent, and am well into the autumn musings of middle age. So the inevitable question is now, am I ready to face winter? Have I prepared enough firewood, meat, and pickles for retirement? Will I get through the winter to see another spring? My banker, insurance agent, lawyer, and therapist all asked the same question recently, all urging (but supportive) me to make up for lost time.
Am I ready to grow old in Germany? Ready to grow old, yes.
In Germany? No.
Where then? I have no idea.
I am still trying on different boots for comfort and size. So far my Berliner boots are pinching in all the right places but I have grown into them over the last 18 months.