Hebden Bridge author's winter journal

Horatio Clare's new book is a winter journal that embraces the colder weather and the healing power of nature. Chris Bond talked to him.

Winter hymn: Hebden Bridge-based Horatio Clares new book finds beauty in winter. (Photo: James Bedford).
Winter hymn: Hebden Bridge-based Horatio Clares new book finds beauty in winter. (Photo: James Bedford).

The idea of leaving Verona, a city characterised by pretty piazzas and forever synonymous with Shakespeare, for a market town in West Yorkshire might, on the face of it, seem a little odd.

But that’s what writer Horatio Clare did five years ago when he swapped northern Italy for Hebden Bridge. “I remember arriving in Hull and someone asking what I was doing and I told them I was moving to West Yorkshire from Italy ‘for the weather’ and he said ‘welcome home.’”

While he may have been joking about the weather it does play a part in his new book The Light in the Dark – A Winter Journal, out this week.

It is in essence a diary though in truth it’s far more than that. It is a lyrical evocation of a British winter and the feelings it can inspire.

At this time of year with summer little more than a fading memory and the autumn colours offering one last, defiant hurrah, there is an innate desire to hunker down.

“I think our natural rhythm is to hibernate and survive through winter and come up smiling in spring, farm and harvest in the summer and celebrate in the autumn,” says Clare.

Winter is a time when many people look to spend more time inside, rather than outside. There are many people, like Clare, who suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression.

“In turns out that we call the ‘winter blues’ affects around 15 per cent of people and six per cent of them have SAD,” he says. “But if you start doing something where you’re taking winter on you can feel better.”

He looks for the beauty in winter and says writing the diary was a form of therapy for him. “It’s a very honest time, it shows who we really are. We aren’t wealthy playboys jetting off on our hols in August, we’re people who do jobs often in the dark and often in the rain.

“But I actually think there’s enormous beauty in winter and I maintain it has the best colours, it’s an elegant time and invigorating and lots of people enjoy the colder weather.”

The Yorkshire landscape has, not surprisingly, influenced him. “The moors are incredibly beautiful and my mother came to visit and when we went over Blackstone Edge she said it looks exactly like the border between Turkey and Iran.

“It is breathtaking, it’s rich in bird life and in winter you can see them because there are far fewer leaves on the trees. There’s wonderful light because our skies are amazing, so clean and tempestuous and for me it is the most stunning landscape.”

He hopes readers find succour in his book. “I hope it provokes other people to keep diaries and also to go out more, because at this time of year you see the landscape pared back as it really is.”

The Light in the Dark – A Winter Journal, published by Elliott & Thompson, is out now priced £12.99.

Horatio Clare is doing book signings at The Book Case, Hebden Bridge, November 8, and The Book Corner, Halifax, on November 9.