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.