Still barefootin’


Dundrum Bay, County Down

At home I almost never wear shoes. I’m either in socks or barefoot. But recently I’ve been going further. Some people reading this post will think I’m a nut and they might have good reason to do so. After all, who in his or her right mind would wander up and down the beach barefoot in the winter? Ireland isn’t really a good place to go about unshod. It’s often too cold and wet.

The Mourne Mountains

But this afternoon I did just that at Tyrella Beach. And on the Sunday before last I took my usual route from the Murlouhgh Nature Reserve down the beach to Newcastle’s Slieve Donard Hotel, and, yes, I was barefoot there too.

Now I should point out that these are two extraordinary cases. I took these barefoot trips on days that were about as mild as a winter’s day could be, when there was no rain, no snow and the temperature was about 9° or 10° centigrade. Also it was at low tide, which means I could walk over flat sand instead of crawling over shingles and rocks, which is what I often have to do at high tide.

The question still remains, though: why do I do it? There are two answers.

1) Because I can. Yes, I’m not getting any younger and I don’t know how much longer I’ll have the physical and mental strength to go on walking trips that can be as much as twenty-five kilometres. In the near future I could be in a job that takes up six days of the week and leaves me limp as a rag on the seventh day. I want to do all my walking while I still have youth on my side and plenty of spare time.

2) I enjoy it. I really do. I love the feeling of walking about without worrying about sand in my shoes or having to walk round large pools left behind by the tide. Besides, wet feet are easy to dry off; wet shoes and socks aren’t. I could come wearing wellies but they’re not much good for the long distance walks I take. And my feet need to breathe as the rest of my body does. After a ten-kilometre walk my feet would stink like billy-o.

And I’m not the only one with a predilection for going around barefoot. Here you can read about people in fiction and in real life who are more or less like me concerning footwear.

… and the goose is getting fat.

In a few hours time it will be November, the beginning of my least favourite time of the year. The clocks reverted to GMT on Saturday night / Sunday morning and the weather has been dark and miserable.

What I dislike most about this time of year is the relentless commercial racketeering that takes up at least two months. In fact, over the last ten years, Halloween has gained a prominence in the capitalist calendar that it never had before. The result is that shops start putting out their Halloween junk and their Christmas junk at the same time, in the last week of September.

So not only have capitalists bastardised the Christian feast of Christmas, they’ve also bastardised the pagan feast of Samhain.

As for all those kids who follow that odious American practice of going from door to door demanding treats with menaces (which they call trick-or-treat)… I reserve my language.

At this time of year I wish I could hibernate until February. But I’m doing the next best thing: I’m putting out all the lights and going to bed early.

Curse the winter!!!

I’ve got to tell the world what a damnably foul mood I’m in. Winter is the season I dislike most, and this is the worst winter week I’ve known for years. The last time winter brought me down to such a depth of gloom was early 1987.

And I feel exactly the same way now. Sub-zero temperatures, snow and ice everywhere…

I will not mince my words. I HATE WINTER.

I hate the dark mornings and the even darker evenings.
I hate the cold wind and the freezing fog.
I hate the snow and ice.
I hate having cold hands and feet.
I hate having to keep the heating on all day and constantly drinking hot drink.
I hate having to constantly watch my step when walking across snow and ice.
I hate not being able to get out on my bike.
I hate all the disruption to our everyday lives the winter weather causes.

In short, I HATE THIS WHOLE «blankety-blank» SEASON!!!

Worst Saturday Ever!!!

At least it’s the worst Saturday we’ve had for years. It didn’t look too bad early in the morning – cold and icy, yes, but tolerable – so I decided to make the most of the morning before I did my weekly stint in the Charity Shop.

I cycled to that giant behemoth in Edmonton called IKEA for a little window shopping and pop into IKEA’s restaurant for a mid-morning snack. I arrived there at about 9:30. When I looked out the window of the restaurant my heart sank lower than it had for ages. Ten centimetres of snow augmented by a blizzard greeted me.

Now I am no fan of snow. In fact I hate it, and making my way home in a blizzard is misery. I did think of jumping on the bus but the traffic was snarled up to a horrendous degree. And so began a bike journey to Tottenham Hale.

I phoned the shop to tell them I’d be late, and they said, “Don’t bother coming in. It’s not worth it. We’re closing early today anyway.”

So here I am in Costa in Walthamstow mall. Anyone with sense would just go back to bed, but I spent most of the previous night in bed and I just can’t spend the whole day like that.

Besides, I can take pride in myself for one reason. Snow never stopped me going where I want to go and it hasn’t stopped me today. And I doubt it’ll stop me from going to church tomorrow.

Cold, cold, cold

“Sing goddamn, damn. Sing goddamn!
Sing goddamn, damn. Sing goddamn!

Winter is i-cumin in,
Lhude sing goddamn!
Raineth drop and staineth slop
And how the wind doth ram
Sing goddamn!

Skiddth bus and sloppeth us,
An ague hath my ham
Freezeth river, turneth liver,
Damn you, sing goddamn.
Goddamn, goddamn, tis why I am goddamn,
So gainst the winter’s balm.

Sing goddamn, sing goddamn, DAMN!”

Ezra Pound

My least favourite time of the year is upon us. Dark mornings, darker evenings, lack of daylight, miserable weather, cold, damp, freezing fog… And don’t get me started on Christmas. I griped and moaned about it last year and I don’t like repeating my blog entries.

On top of all this, I’ve got a cold. Not a severe one, though. I’m not bed-ridden and feeling at death’s door. It’s just a nuisance, more than anything else. I’m constantly having to blow my nose and it’s nearly always blocked up. Honestly, where does all the phlegm come from?

It’s not as bad as it was at the weekend. And I’ve been spending the past few days feeding the cold and drinking lots of hot liquid. And it’s slowly clearing up. It’s the first serious cold I’ve had for more than a year and I am defeating it!

Winter solstice

Well, it’s been a pretty grim time what with all the ice and snow and the long nights. But even now there’s reason to be cheerful. The winter solstice is past. We have reached the nadir of the year and the winter’s gloom is slowly starting to recede. It won’t be long before we see nature renewing itself. Roll on, the spring!

Another little rant (sermon?)

Some more evidence that our society is becoming estranged from Jesus: Marks & Spencer’s xmas slogan reads, "Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without Marks & Spencer" Sorry, but that is bull! What’s Christmas if you forget about the event that started it off, in a stable in Bethlehem some 2000 years ago? Jesus Christ was born. That seemingly insignificant event changed the world forever. Just think about it, and all the trappings of xmas today look so shoddy.

Seasonal affective disorder

December. "It’s the most wonderful time of the year…" as that Andy Williams song goes. No, it flipping isn’t! Gloomy, freezing, foggy, wet weather, dark mornings and darker evenings. And all the phony brightness and glitter and the xmas music make things all the worse. All I want to do is curl up and hibernate.