Saturday, 3 March 2018

Trying to Stay Cheerful . . . .

but it's not easy in the depths of winter, at this late stage in the season. I had a post planned about the turf wars breaking out among the more aggressively territorial birds, like blackbirds, thrushes, robins et al. Every morning before break of day a thrush sat in the very top of the tall conifer in the garden and shouted out her war cry to all and sundry :”this is occupied land, enter my territory if you dare.” The thrush has been absent for days now, not a peep out of her. The icy Siberian winds, bringing heavy snow and the nastiest weather for years, frightened even the hardiest bird species. Instead of heralding spring they have been squabbling on and around and under the feeding stations. Twice every day I went out to feed them and clear some patches of snow for the ground feeders. It’s been a losing battle. Warmer temperatures are on their way. Hallelujah!

This is a country full of weather watchers, The leading news stories have all concerned themselves with travel conditions, weather reports, endless pictures of people stuck on the roads in cars and lorries, on trains halted midway through journeys, unable to move. Surely, if you don’t use winter tyres or chains, you stay at home when snow is falling in such quantities as we had this past week? And if you have to make your journey, surely you take shovels and blankets and hot drinks and other life saving equipment? As well as said winter tyres and chains? Nah, let’s all complain about the authorities not doing enough to stop the snow.

Anyway, I feel better now. Besides, I think I air this rant every winter.

So, staying cheerful. The more I am cooped up at home the less active I become. I’ve been binge watching ancient episodes of The Big Bang Theory, until I want to chuck something at the screen when Sheldon is at his most opprobrious and the others just humour him and fall in with his wishes. Even Penny just sighs and rolls her eyes.

I have also been binge eating chocolate. It feels like my waistband is shrinking. It can’t be my waist expanding, can it? TBBT, chocolate and frequent warming, calorific snacks, hours reclining in a large, comfy chair, occasionally nodding off for forty winks, none of these promote healthy and active cheerfulness. Ah yes, the gym was meant to provide for that. But guess what, I haven’t been to the gym for a good two weeks, partly due to other engagements and partly due to my car being stranded in the garage.

I had started to enjoy the gym, there is something addictive about regular exercise; the thing is if you, for whatever reason, stop going, the addiction wears off and lethargy sets in and you have to fire yourself up all over again. Tuesday and Friday morning old biddies and old chaps go and use the treadmills and stand bikes, medicine balls, weight training machines and lots of other apparatus whose names escape me. There we all are, turned inwards, counting squats, stretches, pulls and pushes, knee bends, etc.; the fitness instructors give you exercises and homework to do, so many of everything, and we perform, silently, lips moving with the effort of counting, breath getting shorter and muscles beginning to ache.  A friend and I were sitting on two adjacent bikes, both pedalling madly, like a couple in a two seater pedalo on a boating lake. Except that we were going nowhere.

Reading has helped to pass the time; there is a pile of unread books awaiting my attention but, instead, I searched for something utterly enchanting on my shelves. Quite unexpectedly, I lit upon the small row of Michael Innes’ crime fiction; I think nowadays these stories would be called 'cosy mysteries’. Innes’ real name was J.I.M. Stewart, he was an academic and serious writer of literary criticism, but his crime fiction is a delightful mixture of crime, erudition, adventure and a charming picture of an imaginary England which, if it was ever real, disappeared between the wars. I chose ‘Christmas at Candleshoe’, an amusing tale, beautifully told, of some eccentric country folk, and a gang of boys prepared to defend the dilapidated manor and its nonagenarian owner against all comers, particularly a group of shadowy thieves bent on removing long buried treasure. The book reads as if it had been a pleasure to write, with Innes indulging himself gleefully. I shall reread the others I have by and by. I am looking forward to reacquainting myself with Sir John Appleby next.




24 comments:

  1. I turn to books for comfort often. And you have reminded me that it is tooooo long since I revisited Michael Innes. Isn't it lovely to read a book which the author has enjoyed writing?

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  2. I am currently reading Katherine Graham's wonderful autobiography, "Personal History." Dense and filled with a world long gone, I am enjoying it very much. :-)

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  3. -certainly not the same as heaps of snow, but we've had chilly rain coming down in intermittent buckets of late. I don't use a gym, but I do run outdoors. Rain met me about a mile out. It was a cold run back to the house.

    Enjoy your reading!

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  4. I guess it's the same no matter where you live... even though some of us don't have the winter that befalls others. But basically we're stuck inside and it can be challenging to find things to do. We could always clean house, but whats the fun in that? Reading, writing, binge watching on Netflix, quilting, and pottery (not to mention blogging) are my pastimes. I have always liked "The Big Bang Theory" (and also Young Sheldon - to my surprise). Enjoy cozy mysteries (not all, but some) as they don't get too graphic. Had to laugh at your comment about 'charming imaginary England' since DH and I joke about all the murders that seem to happen in those charming little villages. But I will check out Michael Innes crime fiction.

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  5. finished my book last night and got busy in the yard today before I remembered going to the library. I called to inquire what time they close on Saturdays...in 8 minutes. darn. guess I'll have to dig around the bookcase to find something to read til Monday. spring is finally here after a very cold and overcast winter. still overcast but warm.

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  6. what? you watch the Big Bang Theory? Oh, Friko, had such high hopes for you...sigh...

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  7. Hi Friko - an interesting post ... but am pleased you've found a book and an author to entertain you and while away the freezing hours, til sense and Spring returns to little England. It does sound as though it's rather foul - yes and why do Englishmen go out in their cars with nothing to sustain themselves stuck in snowy traffic. In the old days I used to travel around with blanket, shovel, supplies et al - it did help on occasion; now I don't leave home ... well wouldn't if I was in the UK ... and can't easily get out if the snow piles down here. Spring will be bursting shortly ... and then enjoy - but thank you for the JIM Stewart recommendation ... cheers Hilary

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  8. Ah, surely there can be nothing cozier than a cozy mystery. We have been similarly inclined, particularly now that we bought new recliners. Very dangerous, that.

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  9. I'm reading a good inconsequential one at the moment. Boarding school girls reuniting after 20 years and a hidden crime they all committed. Bit of a trope that, but sometimes the familiar is comforting. AND the days are longer, oh my!
    XO
    WWW

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  10. I know so well what you mean about losing the "addiction" to exercise when for some reason you stop going regularly. For nearly two months, I did not go to my gym, which is really just down the road from where I live and open 7 days a week. There are no valid excuses; I simply wanted to go home and stay home after very busy days at work, and cold, cold, cold weather on my way home.
    Last Monday, I finally made it to the gym again and felt so much the better afterwards. And today, I even may attempt a run for the first time in many weeks. I only run for fun, and at -12C, it would not have been fun. It is going to be around +10/11C this afternoon, and I do not want to waste this perfect opportunity.

    Thank you for telling us about Michael Innes' crime fiction. It sounds exactly like my kind of book, and I am going to look his books up on Amazon, see whether I can find them for kindle.

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  11. Is Sir John Appleby like Sir Humphrey Appleby? While it seems our own roads and public transport can't cope with heat or rain, I amazes me that England falls apart when it snows. It gets nothing like the snow it used to get, like back in the 20th century when the Thames and the Tyne rivers used to freeze over and there wasn't central heating. Gym, a good social gathering for the elderly, with the side benefit of some exercise. I wonder if here we have gym days for the elderly. I bet there is a lot of old people grunting noises at the gym effort.

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  12. The last of winter....so hard to bear. Especially after enjoying a few days of sunshine and warm temperatures. Hope springs eternal, as they say, and I know that warmer weather is around the corner. Although right now I am staring at over a foot of snow in our yard.

    I agree with your point about exercise. It feels so good to be active and moving! But lest we take a bit of a break from our routine, it becomes ever so difficult to get back in the swing of it all. I have a dear friend who enjoys exercising, and sometimes we use each other as a motivation to get together and get moving.

    Take care dear Friko; always so good to hear from you.

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  13. We can practice everything healthy at home; no need to go to the gym where we can catch some nasty virus among the exercises. Reading is rather passive activity; writing is better, it puts one's head to work.
    Interesting, that nobody mentions sleep. Sleep can 'make you or break you'; it all depends on whether you sleep the recommended 7-8 hours or not. Sleep does wonders to our metabolism,and to our overall health, especially when we are in the third age.

    Luckily, I live in a country with short, mild winters, so I'm out most of the time walking (I don't drive) and enjoying the sunshine and warmth. However, I'm aware of the fact that climate everywhere is not going to be kind to us in the upcoming years (climate change is real, very real), and we've got to prepare ourselves to the new reality.

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  14. I just finished a treatise on the phytochemicals of chocolate. They melt in the brain to make all sorts of lovely neurotransmitters that press the warm and fuzzy buttons. Good for you!

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  15. off the subject and all about me :^): if you have an interest in reading my manuscript in its' draft form, I would be honored for your feedback and critical advice. it's over 100,000 words, 330 pages, not a quick read. and no pressure whatsoever. But if it's an interesting diversion for you, I'd be tickled. :^).

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  16. I will have to look for Innes -- I wonder if he is now part of that classic Brit mystery series I've been collecting -- books from the 30s, mostly. Great fun. Ah, the gym. I really need to return. I do not find it addicting, unfortunately. I find it something that should be done, perhaps even must, but never a joy. And that explains a lot about me. At least not a chocolate fan, though in some forms delightful. But we all have our vices! And really, there are many that are ever so much worse!

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  17. Even Canadians, as accustomed as they should be to the whims of weather, go out in winter without proper gear. When I was a kid, we were taught to prepare for anything, but somehow that lesson has escaped a lot of people. My housemate left the other evening bound for a city 2 hours north, in the middle of one of the worst spells of cold we've had recently, dressed in her polyester dancing duds. No coat. She's got a good, reliable car, but still. I had to say something, which at least resulted in her downy coat thrown in the back seat. Sheesh!

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  18. You know a really good series you can get lost in is Dune by Frank Herbert and all the books after it. It is quite remarkable. It's science fiction, but not like any other sci-fi out there. It is very...deep thinking.

    Hope the snow melts soon and the sun comes out to invite you outside. :)

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  19. I've been chasing ghosts on Ancestry.com, reading every book Miss Read wrote, and nodding off as you do when the chair is comfortable. I am not near a gym so I take two two mile walks a day, more if the weather is good. It's a good life :)

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  20. Dear Friko, thanks for the book-reading tip. I'll look up Innes on our library's website and see what's available. I recently reread two of Josephine Tey's books and found them still so enjoyable.

    Yes, we stay-at-homers or recluses or whatever we are, do get into the habit of lackadaisicalness. I've been there quite a while now! I have managed to get a manuscript (Prayer Wasn't Enough) on my convent years done as a memoir. I feel good about that. It's being published on March 21 and that's inciting me to keep writing the next book. Writing always contents me. Take care. Please be gracious to yourself. Peace.

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  21. I read a wide range of books, and as you point out, on a rainy or snowy day, predictable storylines can be a comfort. I'll check out Michael Innes and thanks for your visit.

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  22. The beast from the east caught many by surprise. I guess for us that type of snowfall is not so novel.
    Big Bang eh? We are now getting a bit bored but are loving the young Sheldon version. Sadly I read only blog pists now as vision diminishes more.

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  23. Thank you, Friko. I've added Michael Innes to my list of authors to look for in the library.

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  24. Hi Friko, I hope your weather takes a turn soon so you can walk outside again. I do think daily exercise is important, but it's so difficult when the weather doesn't cooperate! I know when I force myself out even when I don't feel like going, I feel happier and more energized after the first 10 minutes. Chocolate sounds good too though - I hear it raises the spirits without having to sweat!

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