‘Ronseal’ Sundays. A joyous thing in a winter of rain and clouds that follows an autumn of rain and clouds that followed a summer of much the same. 2012 seemed almost seasonless in its monotony of precipitation.
Except for this Sunday, last Sunday and New Year’s Day have been the only breaks in the cloud of 2013 so far – where I am living anyway – and for some considerable time prior to that. According to the Met Office the sunshine levels for December 2012 were 120 percent of the national average. However they also recorded 257.3mm rainfall for the month (178 percent of the ususal) in the South West and South Wales region, which equates to 23 days of rain. I am tired of wellies. I am tired of rain. I like rain, usually, but the ongoing absence of sunlight is mentally draining. We’re at that treacherous time of year that means leaving the house in darkness, watching the sun rise (if you’re lucky) on the way to work, missing the sun set (provided it ever put in an appearance in the first place) whilst you are at work, and returning home in the dark.
But today, whilst the rest of the UK were shivering indoors and putting up photos on facebook of snowmen, sledging, trees covered in snow, houses covered in snow, cars covered in snow, driveways covered in snow, post boxes, bins, fences and other usually mundane objects now made more aesthetically pleasing by their covering of frozen water, the Cornish, the non-Cornish Cornwall dwellers, and their dogs/children were out in force in their boots, hats, and coats; or in one chap’s case board shorts and nout else on Swanpool Beach. There’s always some crazy sea-swimmer about whatever the weather. I joined them (the walkers, not the swimmer), having enjoyed my first taste of wintersun last week so much.
I’ve seen sky and water brighter, bluer and more beautiful than it was last Sunday, but after so long seeing it steeped in however many shades of grey (no, not that many) it was refreshing to admire the scene of Falmouth Harbour in fine weather. When I got home I found I had to delete quite a lot of really pointless photos that I’d taken for the novelty of the weather, somewhat in the manner of the facebookers and their snow scenes, except for me it was the bright light and the blue skies.
I felt like I’d forgotten how it felt to have the sun shine directly onto my face. I was getting over the inevitable viral cold and found I had regained both a semblance of a sense of smell and partially clear hearing for the first time in about two weeks. My brain reeled with the sensual onslaught. The distance was hazy, so looking westwards the receding headlands overlaid each other in graduations of fading denim hues: Pennance Point, Rosemullion, Nare Head and Manacle Point, each one a darker blue behind the last. I sat for a good twenty minutes on a rock looking southwards out to sea, sleeves pushed back despite the cold trying to maximise my skin exposure to the sunlight.
Vitamin D – needed by the body for the absorption of calcium and phosphate – is the only vitamin that can be photosynthesised with sufficient exposure to sunlight. (Technically this negates its qualification as a vitamin: the definition of which is a necessary chemical that cannot be made in sufficient quantities by an organism. However, it is not always possible for the body to produce enough vitamin D solely through photosynthesis, it has to be obtained through diet as well, so it is halfway to being a ‘real’ vitamin.) It is made in the two deepest layers of the epidermis, where a chemical called 7-dehydrocholesterol reacts with ultraviolet light to produce cholecalciferol, or vitamin D3. When humans moved into the northern latitudes paler skin tones evolved to enable better vitamin D synthesis in weaker light levels and varying seasonal daylight hours. Deficiency can cause the softening of the bones known as rickets. Research is ongoing to discover how much of an effect vitamin D has on other health issues such as heart disease, cardiovascular health, and the strength of the immune system. It is often thought, though not definitely proven, that lower vitamin D levels in the winter months are a factor in the prevalence of colds, flu and generally higher levels of sickness.
Today was less clear but cold enough to steam breath and redden cheeks. It was refreshing to be blowing my nose because of the colder atmospheric temperature rather than the other sort of cold. It made cheering outdoors weather, with enough mud to relish squelching in but not too much to bog you down. Streams in spate splashed satisfyingly noisy down the cliffside to the shore. Robins and dunnocks flitted among the ivy berries. Early periwinkle’s petals echoed the winter pallor of the sky.
A bank full of violets, like snippets of deep purple velveteen scattered throughout the undergrowth were some recompense for the lack of snow down here. Tiny brights in a long and dingy time of the year.
According to the Vitamin D Council there were 3,600 papers discussing vitamin D published last year, making it the most academically popular vitamin of 2012. Who knew? For more information, and to find out whether or not sunbathing every day can actually be good for you and if vitamin D deficiency could be giving you a headache visit their website.
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