January Blues and Green Shoots

I do not love winter. While other people are out making snow angels (or failing that,  fallen leaf angels, the hussies) I am sitting indoors doing my Victor Meldrew impression. I don’t like the long, dark nights and miserable weather and I can’t bear all the pious lectures we’re subjected to after the Christmas jollities.

Diets, exercise, Dry January, Veganuary. Vegans, I’m guessing, are vegans all year round. Yes, I should drink less alcohol and get more exercise and although I eat fairly healthily I should probably ingest smaller portions. But being told what to do makes me bloody-minded and I want to do the exact opposite. Childish, perhaps, but there you go. Pass the Bolly, sweetie darling.

Advocates of mindfulness, a word I detest, would tell me to count my blessings. I once went to a life coach, mainly because I’d confused her role with that of a careers advisor. She told me to write down 10 things every day that I was grateful for and urged me to read a book about cheese. Anyone who’s been down this route will know the one I mean.

The book made me grumpy because it was so simplistic and I was annoyed I’d further padded the pockets of the author. Writing down 10 things for which to be thankful became repetitive as I was (and am) chiefly grateful for my long-suffering and at that point highly sceptical husband, our friends and relatives, our cats and our home and garden.

It did make me focus on the flowers rather than the weeds, though, and to stop me whining about the latter I hired a part-time gardener. I suspect that solution goes against the spirit of the self-help mantra, not to mention the ‘get more exercise’ schtick, but it cheered me up no end. Sometimes I walk all the way to the end of the garden to give her a cup of coffee, so that counts, doesn’t it?

With Australia burning, Brexit looming and lunatics in charge of the political asylum on both sides of the Atlantic (a subjective viewpoint but I own it), there are bigger issues to worry about than seasonal depression. Food poverty is an obscenity, especially in a developed nation like the UK. We made a sizeable donation to a local food bank at Christmas and I have offered my services as a volunteer.

Wherever possible we buy from local producers and tradespeople to try to put money into the local economy. It’s something, but it’s never enough. Grass roots activism, by which I mean working to change things at a local level and not necessarily in terms of party politics, feels to me like a way forward. A way of making a difference, however small.

I didn’t set out to make you feel depressed, sorry. It’s a new year, a new decade, a new beginning. We live in a democracy, for all its failings, for which we should all be thankful even if some of us voted for the losing side. There are bright spots on the horizon – did I mention that it’s my birthday next month? Let me eat cake. I’m not sure how I’ve suddenly morphed into Marie Antoinette but if they send a tumbril it can blinking well take me to my favourite restaurant. Don’t even think about throwing mud.

Spring is just around the corner and already bulbs are pushing green shoots above the soil. That is not a metaphor for the UK economy, sadly, but it is snowdrop time, which is always cheering. I’ve started a new business and I’m looking forward to passing on what I’ve learned from a lifetime in the kitchen and, hopefully, to making new friends. I’m doing something I believe in, I’m working with people I like and admire, and I’m trying to boost their businesses as well as my own. Food and friendship. It’s a good start. Roll on 2020. Don’t do your worst, do your best.

20 thoughts on “January Blues and Green Shoots

  1. Rock-on Linda, I’m with you. I’ve started this year with no resolutions, no grand healthy eating improvement plans or weight loss diets. Instead, I,m planning to focus on being a kinder person and enjoy life as it comes. Great success with your new business venture in 2020 and beyond.

  2. best. new year’s post. ever~! you made me laugh, cry, do both at the same time and develop a light headache from nodding in agreement all the while. More than the sun smiling down on us over here as well today, reading this post made me happy. Reading something going through your own head, written by a like-minded person in a way you couldn’t have possibly put better does that sometimes~ I do have to say, though… as someone with a steady yoga practice, I probably shouldn’t view the signature “gratitude” exercise exactly like you do, but… well, I do. Today, however, I couldn’t help but think that, if I were keeping a gratitude list, today it would read “the written word”, “bright spots on the horizon” and “Linda”.

    Happy new year! The best of luck, health and success to you, your family and your new business~!

    (I’m still chuckling at he lunatics in charge of the political asylum… and probably will continue to do so for a while~)

    • That is the best response I could ever hope to wish for. To be honest, I nearly didn’t post this piece because I felt so negative when I started out writing it and there’s enough sorrow in the world without me adding my share. I re-wrote it to make it, hopefully, more balanced and to reflect that I essentially wrote my way out of my own gloom. I’m glad it worked for you! Thank you for your very kind words, it’s reactions like this that a) keep me writing and b) keep me going. All the very best for the new decade. Linda x

  3. Really, you should also teach writing classes. I loved this post and I’m about to read it out loud to my husband. You are so funny. I personally love winter and detest summers where I live, because they’re hot and humid. But your summers are so lovely, so I can see why you’d be anxious for them to come around again. I’m excited for your new venture, and can’t wait to hear more! Happy 2020!

    • Thank you, Mimi, my transatlantic e-sister! I am thinking of adding a food and recipe writing course to Mrs Portly’s Kitchen classes, although it’d probably be led by friends who are Published Authors (unlike me, they’ve written a rake of cookbooks and food books between them). Curiously, while I can teach people to cook, I find it really difficult to teach people how to write. I’ve been doing it for so long I suppose it’s become second nature and it’s hard for me to unpick what makes it work. I’m deeply flattered, though, that you appreciate the way I write. Thanks again. Linda x

      • I can see that. You’re obviously naturally funny and I’m sure you write like you talk. I’m guessing. I also wanted to say that if I even tell myself that on one day I’m not going to eat cheese, it’s all I want to eat that day. So that doesn’t work on me either! No resolutions here. I know what I need to do for my portliness, I just have to do it!

      • Haha, I’m more coherent when I write! I can talk for Britain, if it was an Olympic sport I’d be up there on the podium squirting champagne, but I’m a terrible rambler and witterer. NB I bought LOADS of cheese yesterday at the brilliant Borough Market. I keep telling myself that no-one will recognise me if I lose weight. Yours, Mrs Portly. xxx

  4. Great post Linda. I too am going to go down the grass roots route this year (Our local Pay-as-you-Feel, using otherwise discarded food, among other things, since you ask). Trying to Change the World, or at least British Politics didn’t go well last year. Food and friendship, working local seems a good way forward. And less depressing. Baby steps ….

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