GLUM, glum January. Grey, chilly January. Dank, dark January. Blimey, sorry about that. I’ve even depressed myself.
It’s no wonder this is the month when counsellors are at their busiest.
It doesn’t help that we had a fabulous Christmas and New Year with family and friends. The spring suddenly seems a very long way away.
It’s time for some reasons to be cheerful. Feel free to email your own. The address is above.
HILLS are your friends. Athletics coaches say that, and cycling coaches probably do as well. But even if you’re just going walking, those Devon hills are your friends.
We live in the perfect place for vigorous exercise. Just going to the shops can be a lung-expanding experience that will increase your heart-rate and raise a sheen of sweat.
No wonder people who live in Suffolk or Cambridgeshire burst into tears and throw their bicycles into the nearest hedge when they get here.
Cherish those South Devon hills. Pelt up past Living Coasts and the Imperial on your bikes, sprint up Preston Down Road in your best trainers, or just gambol along the coast path between Berry Head and Kingswear as the sun breaks through.
Spring never feels quite so far away when you’re scrambling up past Mansands on your hands and knees.
TRUST me on this one. Fill your lungs wherever you are. Well, unless you happen to be walking past a dog bin.
Stroll among the takeaways of an evening and enjoy the cosmopolitan aromas of curry and kebabs, pizzas or just plan old-fashioned fish and chips. Once upon a time when Carwardines sold loose coffee from their shop in Torquay it was a joy to wait for a bus outside and fill your lungs with the impossibly exotic smell of the beans from far away. As a caring organiser of evening runs for my clubmates, I often take them on a route through Preston where every possible food aroma assails them in quick succession, from the Subway sandwich at one end through to the exotic garlic wafting from Thariks at the top of the hill.
My runners moan and grumble at the temptation, but I’m heartless and won’t let them stop.
BIRDSONG is like the sound of church bells. You don’t even hear it until you listen for it, and then you can’t hear anything else.
The arrival of slightly brighter mornings means there are birds singing in the treetops when I drag the puppy on his reluctant morning walk. He’s reluctant, by the way, not me. He doesn’t do mornings.
It won’t be long before the passerines are clinging on to the spindly branches of Speaker’s Corner, as we call the topmost branches of the tree in our back garden.
Then it really will be close to spring.
YOU can chart the passing of the months by the position of the stars and the constellations, of course.
People much cleverer than me can do it with great accuracy. Mrs H, who is obviously much cleverer than me, knows the seasons are changing by the position of the Plough.
“There,” she says. “Mid winter’s here, because the Plough is right over next door’s chimney.”
She is very clever.
Television’s professional stargazers, from whose midst we sadly have to do without the great Patrick Moore this year, have been busy already telling us we should make the most of the night sky. And they’re right. Look up. On a clear night it’s the most incredible, monumental free show on earth, specially if you get yourself to somewhere away from the street lights where the entire sky opens up for you. Wave at the International Space Station as it passes overhead. We always do, just in case a lonely Cosmonaut is leaning on a porthole and looking down one night. I sometimes have a bit of a problem with the use of the word ‘awesome’. Your new shoes are not ‘awesome’, for instance. Neither is the current storyline in EastEnders, and neither is the fact that I can join you for lunch at some stage. But the night sky? That’s awesome.
YOUR local pub will look after you until the spring, and well beyond. If you haven’t done so already, make friends with your local, embrace it. Bin the supermarket booze and go out instead, for a decent pint in the warm and dry, where you can hear yourself think and eventually, just like in Cheers, everybody will know your name.
IF you combine all of the above, you will pass through the rest of the winter with a sprightly bounce in your step and be ready to greet spring like a welcome old friend when it arrives.
The TV is largely terrible anyway, so lace up your stoutest shoes, find those gloves you got for Christmas and stuffed into the gloom of the scary cupboard on Boxing Day, and step outside into the evening darkness.
Walk, run or cycle. Don’t be scared. reclaim the night as your own. Fill your lungs and listen for all the sounds. You won’t have to go far before you hear owls, foxes and badgers. Lions too, if you live in Paignton within earshot of the zoo.
Then there’s that lad from down the road on his scooter with a hole in the silencer. Bless him, he’s as much part of the night-time landscape as anything else.
Look up and take in the sky, if it’s clear. You can get a free thingummy for your mobile phone that tells you exactly what is up there. You’ll be amazed.
Then pop in for a pint on your way home.
Follow these simple steps and spring will be just around the corner.