Its cold again today. Not as cold as it has been – the thermometer in the garden by the back door was reading 3*C when i got back, and that gets some heat from proximity to the house, so true figure is around 1-2*C – and the frost/snow has mostly melted. The ground is still solid though, and there are little pockets where the sun hasn’t reached, little indentations in the ground where the frost remains. Jess runs around, sniffing, putting her nose into absolutely everything, stopping every so often to pee. She never does pee all at once, she dribbles it out, marking her route. I walk her on a leash, one of those extendible ones on a spring. she’s fond of wrapping my ankles up in it – I’ve learned to be aware of where she is in relation to me, so i can quickly unwrap myself. She’s quite naughty in that. She loves to pull on the leash too, whatever it is she’s smelling, she wants a LOT, and she has quite some heft. Its a sunny day, too, although the sun is low on the horizon.

My nose turns pink, starts to stream in the cold, my cheeks flush too, breath steaming. I’m well wrapped up – trackie bottoms, a vest, a jumper, a scarf wrapped around my neck, then a thickly padded coat with a hood, if i need it, but i don’t, not today. Leather gloves protect my hands, my camera in an inside pocket, my phone, keys, and roll of doggie poop bags in outside pockets. My ears are always the first to feel the cold. They stick out on the side of my head, because of my hearing aids, so are very exposed to the wind, and while its not windy, there’s enough of a breeze, and wind chill, that they start to tingle. In colder weather, when i’m out for longer, i have to consider wrapping my ears up – but if i do that, i have to turn my hearing aids off, and that’s a security risk, so i don’t do that very often – and on that path, not at all. There’ve been rapes on that path before now, although the perpetrator of those was caught a couple of years ago, its still a crime magnet for those up to no good.

But for all that, its a lovely walk. Gives something of the feel of the country, in the city. Its actually an old canal, filled in, so its wide and overgrown. Lushly overgrown, in summer. In winter, the skeletal branches reach out for you, like creatures from nightmares – in frost, they’re beautifully lacy, without frost, they’re brown, grey, dead. the grass is green, but not much else – the land sleeps. Even the grass is not maintained, wild grass, growing in tufts, tall in summer, up beyond my knees, in winter dying back to form a carpet of matted, dead grass. The exception is a foot or two either side of the path, which is trimmed twice a year by the council to prevent the path from being overgrown. The trees are tall, majestic – silver birch, horse chestnut, plane trees. there are smaller shrubs – holly, i’ve already photographed – but others too. Bluebells in spring, and daffodils, but for now, most of the land is dormant, asleep. Not dead, just .. quiet.

I end our walk. returning through the little park, then the streets back to our home, which is warm and welcoming. I open the door, shoo jess onto the towel. Heat hits me in the face, making me gasp. i close the door, my glasses steaming up. My coat comes off, then i bend to dry jess’s paws. Coffee and breakfast follow quickly: ready brek, to warm me through and sustain me. But for afternoon walks, on the days that are – like today – cold and clear, a brisk walk, returning to a warm home, with steaming mugs of heinz tomato soup and crunchy french bread is close to nirvana. In these days of central heating, warm cars, homes, shops – where winter consists of scurrying from heated home to heated car – getting out, walking, in dry cold air, the kind that makes you go “ahhh!” when you open the door – is a return to olden times, when mankind faced these temperatures routinely, and returned – with luck – to a roaring fire in a kitchen, and a hot meal on the table.

I love my walks with Jess in the morning. no matter the weather, even if its absolutely throwing down, windy, cold, with stinging needles of cold rain (which is about the worst weather for me), i still count my blessings once i’m home in the warm again. I breathe deeply of the outside air, clearing away cobwebs, waking up, and getting me ready to start my day.