Where I’ve been and what I’ve done
Well, the best laid plans and all that. At the start of the season I’d had ideas of visiting friends in the south of England for a long-overdue catch up, with perhaps a little holiday on the Isle of Wight. Lockdown in England in November, followed by a national lockdown across the UK from late December onward means I’ve been absolutely nowhere in the last three months, save a short visit to see my parents and sister in south Aberdeenshire on Christmas Day itself.
I relocated from Braemar to Aberdeen in December, so my activities have been limited to within the city boundaries, but it’s been great to explore parts of the city I haven’t been to for years and make new discoveries. Aberdeen is an incredible place for wildlife watching, and my winter sighting have included otters swimming in the River Don, roe deer in fields near the Bucks Burn and Kingswells, red squirrels in Hazlehead Park, and bottlenose dolphins hunting salmon in the mouth of the harbour.
With the opportunity for travelling internationally off the cards since last spring, and into the forseeable future, I’ve been getting a little bit of a travel fix by recreating my favourite meals from around the world in my home kitchen. I’ve been playing around with a few recipies over the last few months, and I’m sharing the best ones in the new Round the World Recipes section of my blog.
I was given a mission to redecorate the flat where I’m staying before I return to work in spring by my current landlord (and little sister). Walls have been stripped, scrubbed, and repainted, furniture renovated and rearranged, and junk sorted and stored in two out of the three rooms, with just one more to go now, as the remaining weeks count down.
My only real disappointment over the past three months has been that it was a phenomenal winter in the Cairngorms, with record-breaking amounts of snow and sub-zero temperatures, and I haven’t been able to get out to enjoy it or make use of the new ski gear (Marmot Refuge salopettes and Spire ski jacket) I bought in anticipation. I’m keeping my fingers crossed, but it;s more than likely the snow will have gone by the time I can get back out to the hills again.
This time last year, we were approaching the end of our season in Antarctica, where I’d had the chance to play about on a set of snowshoes (MSR Lighting Ascent) to get around the island for surveying penguins and checking camera equipment and fell in love with them. I’ve been eying up a set for myself, but with just one suitable day for snowshoeing in the city, I think they’ll have to wait until next winter.
My Winter Love List
Books: I continued with trend for reading history after finally finishing Scotland: A History from Earliest Times by Alastair Moffat (it’s a big book), with The Frayed Atlantic Edge: A Historian’s Journey from Shetland to the Channel by David Gange. I really enjoyed the author’s kayak journey and a perspective of regions often considered peripheral in our national story. I also read Moominland Midwinter by Tove Jansson to vicariously satisfy my longing for winter adventures in the snow, and have just started on The Solace of Open Spaces by Gretel Ehrlich.
You can read some of the other things that have caught my attention here.
Film and TV: With the great indoors being where I’ve spent most of my time recently, I’ve watched way more films and TV shows than I usually would. I’ve been working my way through Breaking Bad along with a friend and the Marvel Cinematic Universe films on my own. The absolute standouts of everything I’ve watched have been It’s A Sin, Pixar’s Soul, Black is King, and I May Destroy You. All highly recommended.
Sounds: Living on my own for the past five months, not working regularly, and with very limited opportunities to meet others, live radio has been the thing that’s really kept me connected to the world and given me a schedule for my days. Saturday mornings on Radio 4, Sundays with Cerys Matthews, and Steve Lamacq‘s weekly album club on Radio 6 Music have kept me going.
My other big love right now is the brand new album by Mogwai, As The Love Continues. This week in particular I’ve felt completely drained, but listening at loud volume and letting the sound wash over me has been restorative.
Training: While lockdown restrictions and weather conditions* have made it harder to get outdoors for physical activities, I’ve been making use of online workouts and training resources to keep fit (and try and lose weight at the same time). My go-to programmes are the 30 Day Bodyweight Challenge from Betty Rocker and Yoga with Adrienne.
*The start of our lockdown in January coincided with two weeks of freezing sleety rain and black ice coating roads and pavements, turning the outdoors into a skitey death trap and keeping people cooped up indoors. Who knew the Scottish government had the power to control the weather?
Clothing: Like many of the rest of you, I’ve basically lived in pyjamas over the last year, especially so over the winter months, so I was pretty sad when they decided to give up on me during a particularly good lunge in a yoga practice. But I treated myself to some new flannel pj bottoms from British Boxers, which have improved my busy schedule of lounging around the house no end and look smart enough if they’re accidentally caught on a zoom call.
Equipment: While it hasn’t quite been right for snowshoes in Aberdeen, I found my YakTrax Pro ice grips were pretty invaluable in keeping my feet as I went running and for local walks at the start of the year.
I was also overtaken with a fit of optimism at the start of the year and bought a smart new planner to organise my life (hahahahahahaaaaaaa) and keep on track with goals and good habits. Although I’m not exactly using it to full potential at present, I really do love my Clever Fox weekly planner.
Treat: I decided that to celebrate Hogmanay on my own at home, I needed to discover my own signature cocktail. After trying a few (many) possibilities I’ve settled on a variation on a Hemingway Daiquiri, which I’m calling a Vagabond Daiquiri, using Mount Gay golden rum, pink grapefruit juice, and a maraschino cherry added to the garnish. Find the basic recipe here.
To enhance the tropical vibe I’m creating in my flat, I’ve also become obsessed with this Botanica pineapple and rosemary scented candle.
I’m very excited to say that I’ll be returning to my role as a Seasonal Ranger in the Cairngorms National Park from mid-March onward. I’m really looking forward to getting back out on the ground again, catching up with colleagues, revisiting some of my favourite spots from last summer (hopefully before the dreaded midges emerge from hibernation), and welcoming visitors back to the park.
I’ve got my fingers crossed that the 2021 TGO Challenge will go ahead in May, as I’m quite excited about my planned route. If not, I still hope that I’ll be able to spend some time in the Highlands, and walk the Affric Kintail Way. I’m continuing to collect quality mountain days too, and hope to be able to book myself on to a Summer Mountain Leader training course by the beginning of summer.
What have you been up to over the last season? Have you been able to make plans for any local adventures or travels further afield for the next few months?
Remember I’m always here if you need a friendly ear to listen; I’d really love to hear from you.
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*Maybe enough for a coffee. Not enough for a yacht.