The first of the excess Christmas pounds has been safely taken off and stored away again for next year. There are a few more to go, but it’s a start.
A few of the necessary calories were expended lifting the telephone and dialling two local gyms to discuss current offers. A few more were burnt off chopping extra vegetables.
But there’s been no running and no allotmenteering, so the only activity contributing to the lost pound has been walking. I’ve covered 60 miles in the last three weeks (obsessive stat-counter, moi?). This means, I have realised, that to lose half a stone I would have to walk nearly 500 miles. So walks are not a very efficient method of losing weight. I could so something simpler, like eating less.
But what walks they’ve been.
Ditchling Beacon has been resplendent in January sunshine, with ravens croaking and skylarks singing and only the kindest of winter breezes blowing. To the north, the Sussex weald stretches for miles into the hazy distance, with its towns and villages laid out like Legoland models amid the fields and hedgerows. To the south, the green waves of the South Downs fold downwards to the sea.
The ravens are a new arrival – huge and black, and engaging in impressive aerial combat with gulls and any other bird willing to take them on. Like buzzards, they’ve established themselves in areas of Englandshire once off-limits. I have no idea what impact they’re having on the ecological balance, but it’s a bonus to see them without having to yomp up a mountain or pay an outrageous fee to get into the Tower of London.
The skylarks are much older-established residents, trilling away in the clear blue sky about the joys of life and, quite possibly, about the loss of much of their habitat elsewhere. A couple of years ago I had the possibly unique experience of cross-country skiing on Ditchling Beacon to the sound of skylarks singing – priceless. On our 11-mile trek this week, there was no snow, just wall-to-wall sunshine and birdsong.
Cows had somehow extracted themselves from their miles of boring grassland and broken into the turnip field. They were still contentedly munching there hours later when we returned. The grass is never greener on the other side, but sometimes what you find on the other side isn’t grass.
So turnip-munching cows, a kestrel hovering above them, a flock of fieldfares taking flight as we approached them on Blackcap (sadly no blackcaps on Blackcap), the ravens, a yellowhammer perched on a hawthorn: it all added up to a great day’s walking.
But the week’s other walk was arguably even more memorable, a classic tale of pain and gain. I could tell you we got caught in a sudden downpour and got absolutely soaked, which was true. I could tell you we saw the most beautiful double rainbow, which was also true. Was the glass half-empty or half-full?
I’d say half-full – the soaking clothes have now dried off but the photographs and the memories of the rainbow remain. There’s also a glorious liberation in getting absolutely soaked and knowing there’s nothing you can do about it. And I can now confirm what’s at the end of the rainbow: it’s a horse. A brown one.
So after all this, I’m celebrating my lost pound, but working out how to speed things up a bit. Running needs to get back on the agenda. General Sloth and Major Disinclination have prevented its resumption since a month-long virus struck in mid-December. Sadly it means my last run was my worst one, until I get myself back out there.
Allotmenteering has fallen victim to the same deadly duo of Sloth and Disinclination. I keep meaning to at least get as far as planning what’s going where, drawing another year’s chart, marking the raised beds, the paths, and the permanent fixtures like the raspberry canes, and then working out how to rotate the crops. It can be done from the sofa. Surely I can manage that? But thus far, it remains stubbornly on the “to do” list.
The next few pounds will, I hope, follow the first one into cold storage, but either way I’ll enjoy the view on the way down. Walking – even in a city – opens up worlds of possibilities, whether it’s the glories of Richmond Park or the fascinating back streets of Shepherds Bush or Clapham. Not everyone can, I know, but for those who can, it’s fab and it’s free!