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.