I’m sure there was a time when all humans in the northern hemisphere, in tune with other mammals, laid on fat during the seasons of plenty, then used up their fat reserves during the winter when food was scarce.
Not anymore. Especially not if you’re a gardener. A friend of mine, who isn’t a gardener, has claimed she gained a pound an hour during the festive season, and I’m not far behind.
Most of my additional fat layers were accumulated during hibernation. Hibernation of a sort I suppose; hiding in a dark cave, huddled round a fire during the worst of the weather from November to February, while still indulging in some necessary activities such as operating several remote controls, hunting in cupboards for chocolates and biscuits and gathering paté, smoked salmon and other high-calorie items from the fridge to prevent starvation.
This year I have decided – with the utmost reluctance – to come out of hibernation prematurely or while I can still fit into a small pile of seasonal garments, garments several sizes too large last autumn, but wisely kept for girth emergencies, several of which I find myself in the middle of as I write.
The world is coming to an end – not in December 2012 or as forecast by some ancient South American calendar but, according to the weather in Shetland, each and every day.
The sun does attempt to rise, but is, as soon as it has managed to break through the clouds for a few seconds, eclipsed by instant nightfall. It is dark out there, even at midday, each day and every day.
Hail and rain are lashing this inhospitable archipelago day in and day out. Half the pastures are under water and the sheep look as if they’re living in an ovine spa, with permanent, slimming mudpacks enveloping their legs and bellies.
Lea Gardens is a mud bath, and each day, as I venture out there, weighed down by sacks of hay, the mires are trying to rob me of my gumboots, sucking them into the mud.
I had expected my daily fight against the elements, climbing a steep ladder to the hayloft, stuffing dusty hay into bags, sweating behind a farmers-lung-preventing face mask, struggling over fences and climbing to higher ground to lay out the hay on something still resembling pasture, to constitute a vigorous daily work-out, but I was deceived.
Fighting against the elements etc. gives one a healthy appetite and my waistbands are growing tighter by the day.
And now, as this is a gardening blog, I should sing the praises of the garden, marvel at all the new shoots that have pushed through the bog, kneel in admiration before the gorse flowers, and swoon with delight at the winter heathers and snowdrops. But I don’t feel like it.
Those shoots can go on shooting and those heathers can go on blooming, while I return to my dark cave – for another day or two.