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Monday’s child is fair of face,
Tuesday’s child is full of grace,
Wednesday’s child is full of woe,
Thursday’s child has far to go,
Friday’s child is loving and giving,
Saturday’s child works hard for a living,
But the child who is born on the Sabbath Day
Is bonny and blithe and good and gay.

-A. E. Bray’s Traditions of Devonshire

January is a month of rushing headlong through the dark. Everything is grey, and night still falls at 3:30 pm, but term starts nonetheless, and conferences, with their attendant travel, scurry to take place in the tiny hiatus between holiday and the return of students to campus. Funding deadlines too cluster toward the end of January, and if one hurries, one can just about ease the requisite paperwork in under the wire.

But February, now, February seems to be another kettle of fish. The daylight hours at the 56th parallel may reach a very low low around the solstice, but it follows as a mathematical certainty that they become longer more swiftly than in more moderately situated climes. The difference is noticeable almost from one day to the next, and it’s no end of cheering.

Also cheering is that if January was an investment of time and a rushing to meet deadlines, February is, so far, a month of returns. Yesterday I found that I’ve been accepted to speak at a conference in June. In the Netherlands, as most of my conferences (3 out of 4, so far) take place in the same town. The same, well away from Amsterdam town. I bet it’s nicer in June than in December, though. I shall go armed with Scotland’s favourite midgie spray (the tough outdoorsmen swear by their Skin So Soft) and promenade fearlessly along the canals. I discovered that my favourite hotel in said town was not so much booked up as reserved for conference attendees, which rescued me from the unfortunate alternatives of more expensive hotels and B&B’s of questionable hot water. And NTS and I received our visas, complete with shiny biometric residence card. I have no idea how exactly this is a better than a sticker (a shiny and watermarked sticker, no less) stuck in one’s passport, as I now apparently need both documents for travel instead of just a passport. But the documents I spent so much trouble amassing are apparently completely unnecessary, and I need not think on them again. This is pleasant. So all in all, yesterday was a day of administrative chickens coming home to roost.

UPDATE: After reading the brochure (if I did that before bitching recording my initial observations, where would the blog be?), I surmise that the cards have to do with some sort of EU standards. I am almost, though not quite, reconciled to this external visa after noticing the tracery on the back: one vine with blooms of rose, thistle, daffodil and shamrock. It’s just too twee for words, but the tracery is rather fetching. I’m still weirded out by a biometric identcard. This is the future, and it looks an awful lot like certain sci-fi dystopias. Just sayin’.

And for the expat who, before Christmas, bemoaned the lack of fluffy white that facilitates snow sports and happy seasonal romps, the appearance of heather in bloom and cautiously glowing forsythia in sheltered doorways makes up for it with remarkable rapidity. Dark green dock leaves and a surprisingly advanced dandelion in the patch outside my own door suggest that spring is not, perhaps, so far off as February usually insists it is.

Of course, my point of view on this may be slightly skewed. In rural Maine, I usually hoped the Punxatawny Phil would see his shadow and tell us that there would only be six more weeks of winter. In hindsight, it’s possible that that’s not what the Pennsylvanians had in mind when they came up with the custom. Autres lieux, autres moeurs.

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