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Cold walks

There’s something rather wonderful about wrapping up warm for a winter walk. This is particularly true if the wrapping achieves a satisfactory level of warmth. Today was successful on that count.

My core has to be completely layered: padded out and swaddled. Several layers of thin clothing are required, at least one of which needs to have a close-fitting high neck in a soft material. Maybe a woolly jumper or thicker fleece can go just below my coat, if there’s room.

I find that the tops of my arms are particularly critical and if they have insufficient coverage, I will be shivery whatever I do. A thin scarf wrapped loosely around my shoulders before putting on my outer garment is usually best, regardless of how many other layers I’m already wearing.

My quilted jacket (showing its age this year although it’s only its third winter I think) plus a simple but good quality waterproof were donned with great difficulty in zipping because of the fat yellow scarf I have recently acquired and which is a devil to tuck in. I fashioned a clever collar arrangement with the scarf today which allowed me to zip the waterproof up nice and high, which in turn kept my hood in place.

In fact, my outfit was initially topped off with a most ridiculous fleece cap – owned for about 15 years I reckon – with earflaps and a peak which I am usually embarrassed to wear in my street in case someone sees me (and they always do). But today was so cold that I needed the waterproof hood up too, against the biting wind, so that covered the silly hat and the combo was perfectly warm. 

My feet, below the double-clad legs (woolly tights plus denim jeans), boasted two pairs of socks (one thin, one chunky walking) and of course my trusty hiking boots which have been doing service for nearly 20 years now. My hands, perhaps the most vulnerable part, were stuck firmly in my ski gloves. (Aside – I have only been skiing once in my life, before I had children. My older child has just reached 28. Can these really be the same gloves I purchased in C&A all those years ago? I don’t remember buying ski gloves more recently, and the labels inside are completely worn out. A quick Google search uncovers a couple of pairs of identical gloves for sale on eBay – one in Italy and one in Russia. Only €10. Can’t be antique then, but who knows. They are brilliantly warm – I used to wear them on my walk to work even when there was no snow. Don’t care if they looked daft.)

The ensemble rendered me several sizes wider than usual and very slightly restricted in upper-body movement, but I was completely ready for action! Off to Richmond Park to stomp out a few calories and take in some nature to cleanse the soul.

Today’s sky was very grey, and for most of the time a ‘tiny’ snow was falling – none of those juicy fat flakes here, just juvenile crystal clumps with irregular shapes blowing in the wind (I caught some to check – they were definitely not the lush and pretty doily variety that people like to paint).

For once, I shunned the podcasts, audiobooks and Spotify playlists and left my headphones at home. I would instead listen to the world. Well, I mostly listened to the rustling of my hood and the brushing of my waterproofed arms against my sides – and in one place near Robin Hood Gate, the dual-carriageway A3 rushing past – but there was also the underfoot crunching of icy puddles, the guttural grunts and occasional roars of deer who seemed not to care about the cold but just wanted a fight a bit, and the endless screech of parakeets which still seems incongruous in winter.

There were few people out today. I navigated around a small bunch of intrepid sledge-wielding children trying desperately to believe that the slopes had more snow than they actually had, while their mothers stood several metres apart with their phones and hot chocolates.

At Pen Ponds there was brown ice where the path should be, but the Ponds themselves had not frozen over, much to the relief of the geese and swans. I spied a young man in shorts with bright red legs (so red I didn’t even need to stare at them to notice, honest!) leaning exhaustedly over one of the bird identification boards – a veritable redshank himself. He gave me a cheery smile as I passed, clearly deranged, and later huffed and puffed past me.

Other humankind, aside from a few other jogging bare-leggers, were dressed rather similarly to myself, and mostly trailed dogs or occasionally a walking partner a few feet apart, clearly grabbing the opportunity for some clandestine, but necessary, company in these lockdown days. The statement bobble hat is big this year, and there was a fair selection on view, but most people had gone the full Arctic and either sported double layer headgear like me or – in a few impressive cases – trapper fur flaps! 

The view was bleak, not romantic or glorious like the deeper snow blanket a couple of weeks ago. But there was a feeling of contentment as I marched around in all my wrappings, exposed to but protected from the elements.

My stupid eye was crying the whole way though! I guess it just hadn’t got the cheeriness memo.

And you’ll notice I’ve only given you a photo of Pen Ponds and not of me or my outfit. So you’ll just have to imagine that for yourself. Can’t be any more ludicrous (or comfy) than the real thing.





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