Never the best to go rushing time4th February 2014
When I was looking for my first step into the world of work after university, the quietness of some months were frustrating. January and September appear to fall into this category but I now see them differently. The sense of stasis has not gone but I now prize it because so much of a year can go in a frenzy. A working life will do that with its many deadlines and the events of family life can do the same as I found last year. Then, there can be the chasing of good weather from the start of year until summer. The whole mix can leave one so exhausted before autumn comes that hibernation looks attractive. It quite possibly explains my energy profile over the course of a year.
One matter that makes me wonder is when I start hearing about events towards the end of year being advertised right at the beginning. Concerts given by famous artists may be very desirable but why go wishing away the present? The same trick is used by marketing folk in the world of digital technology too and the risk is that you never appreciate what you have. Sections of the technology media do not help matters by speculating over what might be in the next iPhone or iPad but does it matter? Much of the time, the hubbub needs ignoring so we can enjoy any other delights that come our way in this life.
Another thing that amazes me is long term planning. Some plan their holidays a year in advance and I ask myself how on earth do you know how things will be then. Life’s twists and turns bring the unexpected and that may be the comfortable situation that you expect either. Laying out your life before you just sounds like hubris to me and recent years have enforced that thinking with the progressive frailties of elderly parents. Parents of young children may feel the same. Your life may feel like it is being put hold but the present can bring joys too.
There is no doubt that January can feel too quiet for some and minds go racing ahead to designs on summertime holiday bliss. With days like Blue Monday and the current long run of stormy weather, such escapism is understandable. However, Blue Monday actually came up sunny this year so you could cheer yourself with a walk away from our more built up areas. That may not cure money worries or people trouble but the past year has reinforced for me how essential a good walk can be for easing a troubled mind and thinking over things. Even venting stress through footsteps often is what is needed and is all the better so no one else gets hurt by what is going on within you. Complaints from knees and feet are better than those from others with injured minds.
The real use of a quiet January is to take stock before the year’s distractions get cracking. The month wasn’t so quiet in 2013 but 2014 brought what was needed and my mind could wander elsewhere. On digital maps, I have ranged over the hills of mid Wales and along the courses of the Wye and Severn rivers that rise in Pumlumon. The Black Mountain in the Brecon Beacons National Park has been perused too while a general survey of transport possibilities have been ongoing. Any bus service that looks useful was noted with Sundays being better to avoid until the summertime Beacons Bus network recommences. While a little stay to sample what is in those places sounds promising, no dates are set as the course of life remains largely unknown and the uncertainties and vagaries of the weather lie among those.
It was the same sort of metal wandering that led to my visiting the Western Isles in August 2008. Quieter times allowed the formulation of an escapade that I am loathe to consider at the moment. Then, the playing with different configurations actually led to one that fitted in a week when other parts of the U.K. and Éire were getting a soaking. However, I pulled a cracker that I never will forget.
Another thing that I relished last month is a sense of steadiness that was so different from how much of 2013 felt. It so felt like bliss that it was tempting to procrastinate and leave some less pleasant and necessary tasks for later. Those now need listing and tackling because procrastination is not the way to go either. It’s as bad as wishing away time ahead of summer holidays or the launch of an attractive gadget. Moments need seizing even if the freedom to relax a little is all the more appealing; no one can relax all the time.
January is not only for contemplating and designing escapades because it can have some of its own too. 2011 saw me head to Wales, Scotland and Ireland on successive weekends before I was swamped with work. Being in the off season does mean cheaper deals and lured me to Edinburgh and Llangollen one weekend after another. The first allowed me to recall times from my student days in a wonderful city and the second had me threading new ground with views of spots seen and sampled on previous outings.
February can be less frantic too though it was filled with angst in 2011 and weighed down on me in 2013. In 2012, it was so different with a weekend trip to savour a section of Northumberland’s coastline that I had walked under cloudier skies. Last weekend, I got as far as Lincoln to visit its cathedral and its castle. The latter is under restoration ahead of the octocentenary of the signing of the Magna Carta next year. Currently, all the scaffolding is restricting what you can see so I didn’t get the photo of Lincoln Cathedral that I had fancied. Another visit when it’s all done sounds a possibility though the entry prices surely will have gone up from £2 for an adult by then. English Heritage look after the old Bishop’s Palace and charge £4.60 for adult entry so that maybe what the entry charge for Lincoln Castle should be. Even with a reduced charge, the lady issuing my ticket took pains to tell me how little there was to see though a free tour was available if I fancied that. In the event, what was there satisfied me and I rather fancy the idea of seeing more should the occasion arise. What I saw around Lincoln’s Cathedral Quarter looked very attractive on a sunny Sunday and I’d venture that the actual cathedral itself is more ornate than York Minster too. I left for home with a sense of satisfaction.
Whatever others may say or think, I have a certain affection for the months of January and February. They can be the calm before a frenzy and escapes from the everyday are a possibility. While having a breather appeals to me at the moment, there is no harm clearing niggling tasks out of the way too and the post-Christmas clearance often allows the space for doing exactly that. Then, it is a matter of taking the rest of the year as it comes. After all, long term planning often gets derailed by life itself.