February by Richard King

Story type: Essay

February is the month when, cold-red are the noses–and so (oh help!) are the “toes-es.” No one ever sings about February: scarcely anyone speaks about It. It is indeed unspeakable. Its only benefit is that, once every four years, it keeps people younger a day longer. If you’re thirty-nine, you’re thirty-nine for an extra twenty-four hours, and at that period of life you’re glad of any small mercy. It is the month when the new-rich depart to sun themselves in their new-found sun, and the new-poor, and others who are quite used to poverty, swear at them in secret. Oh, yes, indeed! If the Clerk of the Weather has a left ear it must surely at this moment be as ‘ot as ‘ell! Nobody likes February–it is the step-child of the months.

One simply lives through it as one lives through a necessary duty. It’s a month–and that’s all. Thank Heaven! somebody once made it the shortest! By the end of January most people have had more than enough of the English Winter even if the English Winter thinks we can ever have enough of it, and comes back saying “Hello!” to us right into Summer, and starts ringing us up, as it were, to tell us it’s coming back again as early as October. Just as if we didn’t know–just as if we ever wanted to know! The English Summer is far more modest. Usually it’s gone before we have, so to speak, washed our hands, tidied our hair, and dressed ourselves up to meet it. But Winter in England not only comes before it is wanted, but outstays its welcome by weeks. And of all the months it brings with it, February, though the shortest, seems to linger longest. March may be colder, but the first day of Spring is marked on its calendar; and we wait for it like we wait for a lover–a lover in whose embrace we may not yet be, but who is, as it were, downstairs washing his hands, he has arrived, he is here–and so we can endure the suspense of waiting for him with a grin. April may fill the dykes fuller than February, whose skies are supposed to weep all day long, but generally only succeed in dribbling, but April belongs to Spring–even though our face and hands and feet are still in Mid-Winter.

February always reminds me of the suburbs–appalling but you’ve got to go through them to get to London. Were I a rich man, I would follow Spring round the World. In that way I should be able to smile through life like those people who, in snapshots from the Riviera, seem composed principally of wide grins and thin legs, and whose joie de vivre is usually published in English illustrated journals in seasons when the English weather makes you feel that Life is just a Big Damn in a mackintosh. To follow Spring round the world would be like following a mistress whose charms never palled, whose welcome was never too warm to be sultry, whose friendship was never too cold to freeze further promise of intimacy. What a delightful chase! and what a sweet-tempered man I should be! For, say what you will, the weather has a lot to do with that spotless robe of white which is supposed to envelop saints. If you can’t be pure and good and generous and altogether delightful in the Spring, you might as well write yourself off for evermore among the ignoble army of the eternally disgruntled. And if you can be all these things in weather that is typically English and typically February, then a hat would surely hide your halo.

And this is about all the good that February does, so far as I can see. True, once in four years it also allows old maids to propose. But the three years when they had to wait to be asked have usually taken all their courage out of them. Besides, the married people and others who are otherwise hooked and secure have turned even that benefit into a joke–and no woman likes to place all her heart-yearnings at the mercy of a laugh. So that, what Leap-Year once allowed, people have turned into a jeer. But then, that is all part and parcel of February. Somebody once tried their best to make it as attractive as possible, even if it could only be so once every four years. But everybody else has since done their best to rob it of its one little bit of anaemic joy. Perhaps we ought not to blame them! Nobody ought to be blamed in February. It is a month which brings out the very worst in everybody.

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