The coat hooks in the hall will soon be relieved of their heavy winter burden but not just yet. For now, there is still a requirement for coats with hoods, coats with high collars and coats with fleecy linings. There are signs, however, this will not last much longer. It's likely the children will not wear the same coats again, which might seem like ingratitude after months of protecting small bodies from the cold. But they'll grow, inside and outside the house, between now and the next time hoods and high collars and fleecy linings are required; so, when the air is sufficiently warm, the coats will drift up to the loft. Who knows when the scraping of the ladder will next be for them? At some point they will reappear, even if not for another one of our own, and that will be the occasion for sentimentality as they come to symbolise the passing of not just one winter but whole years.
Like rolling out a dough before baking, the changing seasons allow parents to gently push out the boundaries of their children's vocabulary and understanding of the world outside the home. One of our daughter's new words is daffodil: they are new to the land just as their name is new to her. I remember hibernation was a favourite at the start of winter but now it's daffodil. It is a good word to know because they are everywhere and abundant, possibly acting as the periscopes of small creatures trying to decide whether it's safe to come out again.
Anyway, the daffodils are more than enough to look at: among the standard issue there are some with submarine-yellow bonnets and orange-red noses, while others are almost white, having apparently left their colour buried in the ground when they shot out of it. There are great clusters at either end of the street and in-between smaller numbers tuft brazenly in gardens, including our own. Further down, the daffodils run like a ribbon through canal's hair. They are the signal for months of activity that will make their own growth seem demure. It's somehow sad that such reticence should be thought necessary by flowers which blossom like little sun-drops with the power to draw their source out of hiding for the benefit of the rest of us. A daffodil: something good will come from that.
Maybe by appearing now their intention is also to welcome the return of the narrowboats. Where Rosemount Park flows into the water, they can be spotted tethered to the opposite bank by means of looping their tough, fibrous ropes through large metal hoops fixed in the ground. The boats have names like Sandpiper, Gosling and Orange Weaver, and the colours they favour are deep variations on red, green and brown. So far as can tell, they mainly slip east out of Falkirk and presumably they know other stops but this one is consistently well-used for a long stretch of the year.
Walking past the boats, my shoes are about level with the windows. This odd perspective might be common in cities where there are basement rooms with openings at street level but it is harder to find in town life, it seems. When I pass in the morning, the boats are mainly still and sleeping behind their little doors and short curtains. Soon, as heat comes into the day that bit earlier, I will find myself saying good morning to people leaning over the water with their first cigarette of the day or making good on that promise of an early start in the gossamer air. There are few better things, when it comes to setting the tone for a day, than saying good morning to a stranger who happens to be on a boat.
For now, it seems winter still has a foot in the door and a hand through the letterbox. A warm day can still be followed by one that is distinctly chilly. Bright morning sunshine is more of an accomplice in deception than a true guide to the embrace of the day. It can be a risky business, trying to convey the essential characteristics of the different seasons to a young child. Along with the names, they suggest something definite whereas the seasons melt and sprout and grow and fall into each other. When we took delivery of an unexpected morning snowfall a few weeks ago, we worried our daughter might think spring was over already and winter was back in full flourish. We were almost right. While our unspoken concern was vague, she distilled a specific question: was it Christmas again? I think she took the answer pretty well.