There is nothing to do in the garden. Now is the time to believe in No Dig gardening because messing about with earth in winter will confuse it. No point waking weeds up, or creating space for rain to wash life away. The flowerbeds can look after themselves and, now that the chickens are locked away, it’s a lonely place with nobody rushing over saying to saying ‘Hello, have you got any snacks?’
The frost makes pretty decorations overnight and the cats refuse to go out, preferring to hunt birds from the window. Today a fat pheasant turned up and sent the cat into spasms of chattering and swearing about what she would do to it, if she could only get through the glass. The pheasant was unaware and sat there like a Constable painting called ‘Splash of colour in bleak mid winter’. Then it flew off to see if it could get itself shot, as that is the main point of being a pheasant round here. So the cats are back to watching starlings fighting over fat balls, which is always good sport. Starlings get so angry with each other that they forget to eat the fat, just chuck it on the floor for the robins to collect.
The arrival of the sticks.
Christmas brought me Nordic walking sticks. Nice to have sticks, I thought, useful for clambering over rough terrain, but maybe not on gentle strolls.
Sometimes you see walking groups by the canal. Their sticks wave around a lot and I have wondered if they are extra worried about falling over or if there is another reason for using them on a flat path.
I googled Nordic Walking in case there was something I didn’t know…
The dawning of a new sport
The Nordic walking websites talked of all the benefits. You can join local groups, make lifelong friends, who are better than your old ones, and you will become much fitter than lesser, ordinary walkers. Fantastic. I was in. But you have to pay £30 to learn how to do it first. What nonsense was this? Pay to learn how to walk along holding a stick?
Acquiring the necessary skills
So I learnt how to do Nordic walking on YouTube, saved £30 and a good hour of my time. It took 10 minutes and I was ready to go and get some cardiovascular and muscular improvements. I forced a friend, who luckily had some forgotten sticks herself, to join in and we set off for the forest.
From theory to practice
If you go to the woods on the edge of a city exactly four days after Christmas at 2pm you will arrive at the same time as a hail storm, and everybody else in the city. This is sod’s law of ‘gettingoutafterchristmas’. It doesn’t help that nobody shares cars any more either.
After considerable bad feeling in the carpark , you have to get past crying children and over-excited dogs whilst trying not to look at the person who was aiming for the space where your car is. Then it is time to remember the YouTube video and get going on this exciting new sport.
It is difficult. Legs and arms have to move in a certain way and you have to do this with one stick 6 inches longer than the other, because you forgot to bring the bit of paper that tells you how to adjust them. It is also inspiring. You move fast and, after 5 minutes, you know you have done a heavy workout.
It is tiring. After 10 minutes of fast lopsided hobbling with arms swinging the wrong way, it is time to put the sticks away because the YouTube video has faded into distant memory. The idea of going out with a teacher is suddenly comforting.
Notice the true Nordicness of the woods
That is the point where you get the other benefit of Nordic walking. Stroll along at a sensible pace and see how many Scandi scenes you can spot. Here are mine.
This is where the trolls live. Clear evidence of activity.
Silver birch and blueberry bushes. It could be central Sweden, except the snow is missing.
Winter sunshine through the pines
Home for pasties
Then I made pasties. This happens every couple of years and they are usually horrible. But not this time. The secret is to put potatoes at the bottom, protein in the middle, onion on the top and lots of butter on the next top. And always use chilled pastry. This is lifechanging information if you have never been able to make pasties before. The main thing about a pasty is that it is a vehicle for consuming beige food made of wheat, carbs and fat. So it is, of course, delicious and you are only allowed to eat them if you have done a day of Nordic walking.
Beyond the heather, pasties and Nordic walks it’s not looking great out there. Good luck to everyone for 2021. We are all going to need it.