It may have seemed like January was going on for ever, but now we find ourselves at the start of another winter month, February, there are subtle signs that spring is definitely on the way. When my alarm goes off in the morning, there's no doubt that it's a little bit brighter than it was a few short weeks ago, and when I open my curtains and look out on my garden, I can see the first green shoots of my daffodils and snowdrops starting to pop up through the soil.
Their early appearance may be down to the fact that we haven't had a really cold spell this winter. That skiff or two of snow we had over the last week doesn't really count. Whatever the reason, I love the thought of those beautiful big yellow flower heads and their dainty little white companions making an appearance sometime soon and heralding the return of warmer days.
I'm long enough in the tooth to know that there's still plenty of time between now and the end of April for heavy snowstorms to hit, but those colourful, fragile little flowers remind me that spring is just around the corner - with summer hot on its heels.
I had a less welcome reminder of spring and summer this week when our dog was playing out in our garden and came back with what looked like a strangely shaped clump of leaves and sticks in her mouth.
When I tried to have a closer look at what she had found, she decided that what I really wanted to do was instigate a game of chase.
It was a full 20 minutes later, when I was red in the face and out of breath after tearing around the garden in her wake, eventually giving up any hope of ever catching her and instead bribing her with a treat, that I finally discovered what the strangely shaped object was. Removing the mushed-up leaves and twigs, I suddenly realised that our girl had stumbled across a wasp nest.
Last summer, given how inundated we were with the little black and yellow beasts, we suspected there was a nest hidden somewhere in our garden, but despite our many attempts at trying to follow the tiny blighters as they flew about, we were never able to pinpoint where it was.
Holding the nest in my hands, I felt my heart jump into my throat for a second, fearful of being stung, before realising that, had there still been any wasps inside, the chances are they would have emerged during our mad chase about, none too happy about their house being bounced around like a basketball.
I shouted for the kids to come out and have a look at our discovery, and even they were intrigued enough to come for a nosey. We cut it open for a look inside. There were a good few dead wasps in there, which wasn't so lovely to behold, but it was the hundreds of identical hexagonal cells, some covered with what looked like cotton wool plugs, that were so fascinating.
The complex but massively ordered building work was stunning and made me think about how wasps work together as a community, with one common purpose, to support and feed the queen and the larvae, until they become mini queens or yet more drone workers and ensure the continuation of the next generation.
I was telling a friend about our discovery and my musings on the wasps when she began lamenting the inability of humans to work in a similar fashion. I had to disagree for, while I can see that there's a lot to be admired in their selfless behaviour, I'd hate to be part of a species which didn't value individuality and difference.
Do I think that a rainbow Mohican is a great choice of hairstyle, or that a nose ring through a nostril is a thing of beauty? I'm afraid not. Do my viewpoints on the thorny subjects of politics, economics or Love Island always chime along with those of my nearest and dearest? Definitely not. But then, they don't have to. That's the joy of making up our own mind about something, instead of merely being part of a hive mind.
Although I think we can all agree that we'd rather not have a wasp nest in our garden...