Seeking out scarves, gloves and boots to go and play in the snow. Writing cards under twinkling lights, and covering everything with glitter. Hunkering down indoors, lights against the dark shortening of the days, or heading out dressed as though for an arctic adventure. Winter brings new behaviours and old traditions together.
It’s a season celebrated in 26 Children’s Winters, a new exhibition at Edinburgh’s Museum of Childhood, which uses objects from the museum’s collection that reflect the experience of winter.
It includes a wide range of old and new – from jigsaws and board games, to crackers, chocolates, woollen jumpers to ice skates and a spectacular wooden sleigh.
Each object is accompanied by a sestude – a piece of writing that explores the emotions, memories and stories they’ve inspired in exactly 62 words. Exploring the exhibition, these invoke a rich depth of feelings, from wistful to laugh out loud funny and cover a range of themes drawn from personal family history to flights of fantasy.
As a member of the writer’s group 26 I was invited to contribute my own 62 words to accompany a traditional nativity scene. I was delighted to see them both together at the exhibition’s launch event this week and to hear three of the writers read their pieces. From marbles and spinning tops, Halloween decorations to a range of children’s medicines, their inspirations were as diverse as their responses.
I also enjoyed the poem that accompanied the old leather skating boots, written in Scots vernacular, that captures the rush, the exhilaration, and the coming down to earth with a bump after gliding along a frozen surface.
The exhibition and the museum itself on the Royal Mile are well worth a visit if you’re in Edinburgh between now and January. And you can now see all the objects and sestudes in an online advent calendar.