From feeling like a Baked Alaska to touching crisp, sun-warmed towels, this is the time of year I love most
IT BLOODY SNOWED here on Monday. But, overall, the signs are that Spring is getting 2021 in a headlock at last.
Yesterday, I was out running in warm sunshine, wearing my shorts – alternately horrifying and dazzling passers-by as bright light bounced back off my veiny old white legs.*
Afterwards, I walked up to our allotment and watered for the first time this year.
My wife’s been working on the plot for months as an escape from lockdown, and it’s looking in particularly fine fettle as a result.
We look like getting a bumper crop of strawberries, while the patches containing onions, garlic and raspberries are all weeded, composted and ready to grow. Purple Sprouting Broccoli is already… um, sprouting. Wildly.
At home, Her Indoors is already potting and hardening off** the next tranche of plants – summery crops, ready to go into the ground when it warms up a bit more. Greedily, I gaze at these infant leeks, tomatoes, peppers, aubergines and artichokes, and their promise of eagerly-anticipated High Summer.
Gardening is a show of faith that there will be something to look forward to”
One of the great psychological benefits of gardening, of growing things, is that it’s a kind of pact with the future. What I mean is, planning a garden – leaving stuff in the ground, and trusting it to grow – is a show of faith that there will be something to look forward to further down the line, which in turn makes you want to be there to see and taste it.
If you’re feeling blue, you could do worse than get on a bike
I FELT that I had to cycle yesterday morning: even though I was tired from riding the day before, and my bad knee was sore. Even though it was 9.30am on Monday and I ought to be working.
I was feeling moderately bad, mentally. The excitement of my birthday week and the weekend that followed it had dissipated and left me with a bad case of the Monday blues.
There’s something about the mess of a Monday – Sunday’s unwashed dishes, the pile of washing in the basket, unread emails piling up in my inbox all weekend – that unmans me, and makes me want to run away from my life.
I caught myself ruminating that maybe now that I’d reached 55, I should stop there and end it all because I’d reached the end of my usefulness. I thought about how my brother and I don’t talk and how it was probably my fault…
Then, just after I set off, I saw a pensioner and told myself: “You live like a pensioner. You don’t have the energy or the discipline to live a full life. All you’re fit for is staying at home and pottering around until you die.”
As I said, I wasn’t having a great day. But the longer I cycled, the more forgiving of myself I became.
I spent my birthday cycling across London in the rain, so I could cycle up a hill in the rain
IN THIS CORONAVIRUS year, I’m particularly ticked off with my parents for giving me a November birthday.
Trying to party in November is as daunting as entertaining young children in the dreaded February half term: for starters, the days are short and dark, and everybody’s mildly depressed from lack of Vitamin D.
It’s cold and wet, the leaves are off the trees and slushing up the pavements, and no-one can bear it outside for long. So, unless you want to hunker down for hours in a pricey café, or brave the insane crowds at the free museums and art galleries, you’re fucked.
But at least in February, we have the option of paying through the nose for our fun. This lockdown November – with no pubs or restaurants, cinemas or museums, shops or art galleries to celebrate in – I began to worry that it might be my worst birthday ever.
Back in the day, we would have got by very nicely on smoked salmon, bagels, fizzy wine and a day spent entirely in bed. But I’m 55 now, not 25 and – anyway – the kids are here, working from home.
So I threw my leg over the bike, instead. I spent my birthday riding across London in the rain, so I could ride up a hill in the rain.
If I can learn to fix two busted tyres in one morning, I’m not too old to fix my life
I’VE BEEN FEELING LOW over the last week or two.
In my sessions with the psychologist, I’ve spent a lot of time crying, going on (Boo hoo!) about how washed up and useless I am and how I don’t contribute anything.
Although – if I can manage to look at my situation objectively – things are actually slightly better than they were this time last year, I still spend a lot of my time beating myself up.
Despite making better decisions these days, and making some progress towards the things I want to do, I find that I’m still derailed very easily by any setback, no matter how small.
Yesterday, I had technical problems with launching this blog and, after a brief period of angry struggle, gave up trying to fix them.
I knocked off work early and stewed, decided that I needed a couple of beers to cheer myself up and – inevitably, since this is me we’re talking about – woke up this morning feeling there was no point in doing anything whatsoever.