Log fires, cuddly jerseys, sherry, the sound of raindrops - but that's not all there is to winter.
For many people the onset of winter is a trying time as they live in substandard housing, and have limited fuel resources. But winter can be very severe in parts of the country and you need to get ready for it.
Unfortunately, ice-cold feet and blue hands are also realities of winter, so you have to give the coming winter some thought. What can you do to prepare for winter?
Bedding down. Sort out your winter bedding. A brushed cotton sheet can work wonders on cold nights. Cover your duvet in the same fabric for a really cuddly winter. An underblanket can really contribute to a winter without frozen feet. Invest in a good electric blanket - but remember these should be switched off once you get into bed.
Batten down the hatches. Much heat escapes from your home through doors and windows that do not close properly. Get a handyman to sort this out. Go to a fleamarket and buy one of those sand-filled sausage-like things to put against the inside of the door.
Get a flu shot. Do this in April before the winter sets in. It won't cost you much and you can get them at most chemists. This will most probably prevent your annual bout of flu, which can cost you hundreds in medication as well as a few days in bed.
Raise the roof. Does your roof leak? It might be something really small that could be fixed easily. Remember what it was like to listen to the sound of water dripping into a bucket at 3am? If it is something big, your structural insurance on the bond might just cover it. Check whether putting insulation in your ceiling might make your house warmer in winter and cooler in summer.
From top to toe. Check your winter wardrobe. You don’t need all that much to stay warm. Layers usually do the trick. Invest in a couple of pairs of fleece-lined socks, thermal underwear, flannel pajamas, a soft woollen jersey and one really warm jacket. A scarf and a pair of gloves to round it off will see you through any really cold morning.
Stock up on the vitamins. In winter people tend to spend more time indoors with others and this heightens their susceptibility to viruses. Boost your immune system before the winter sets in. A daily muilti-vitamin could be just what you need. Haul out these vegetable soup recipes.
Get the right cover. If you live in a windy area, a flimsy umbrella could collapse like a wooden shack under a tidal wave. Either invest in a sturdy golf umbrella (it depends how windy, since you could find yourself doing a Mary Poppins) or even better, a proper rain jacket with a hood you can pull over your head.
The heat’s on. What do your home heating arrangements look like? If your house is cold, it might be worth investigating the possibility of installing wall heaters. They don’t take much electricity and manage to warm your house, without parboiling the inhabitants.Bar heaters can be effective, but can also be dangerous if left unattended. Oil heaters have the added advantage that they can be moved from room to room.
Off the peg. Get one of those fold-out clothes driers that look like dinosaurs. They can be folded up and hidden away completely during summer. There is nothing worse than waking up in the middle of the night and realising that your washing on the line is getting drenched – again. Oh, except one thing, and that is putting on damp underwear on a cold morning.
Let me light your fire. There is nothing as cosy as a fireplace. Wood and coal is also not in short supply in South Africa. Have it delivered at the beginning of the winter by bakkieload. This works out a lot cheaper than buying individual packs from cafes. Just remember to let in fresh air somewhere into the room – you don’t want to become oxygen-deprived. Gas-fired fireplaces are very economical, if somewhat less romantic than the real thing.
(Susan Erasmus, Health24,updated June 2010)