A day on the beach on the first day of a new year beats a green smoothie and a liver cleanse any day. Start as you mean to go on and be nice to yourself, advises Valerie O’Connor.
January, we are being warned, is a hard time, so take no notice of those heavy feelings and lack of enthusiasm that seems to permeate the post-Christmas season.
Newspaper articles featuring office workers slumped over their desks tell us about the January blues, blue Monday, black Monday, either way we are all meant to be hanging on by our fingernails and keeping our heads down until this month passes.
I never had an issue with January, it’s when my birthday happens and the quiet few weeks that follow Christmas are happily broken by a night out for dinner with pals, followed by a bit of unruly dancing in a club, where we are inevitably way older than everybody else.
January is a time for breaking new year resolutions and a time when gyms get lots of business, I haven’t used my gym membership for months since their boiler went on the blink and the pool was as cold as our blustering, river Shannon.
I’ve gone through periods in my life, in recent years where I was a fitness-obsessed, weight-lifting bunny, always in the gym gear. Day in, day out I was doing yoga,
pilates, rowing boats and hauling weights about the place. I’ve dialled it back a bit now and have taken up that genteel form of exercise; walking.
Walking makes a huge amount of sense, firstly it’s free, secondly you don’t need any special gear to do it, just your feet, preferably with shoes on them though barefoot walking whenever you can is the best. Walking brings you from A to B, it takes you out of your house and out of yourself and you can go anytime you like, on a whim and without calling someone, though a walk with a pal or your kids is a real treat.
Walking gives you vitamin D even when it’s not sunny and we Irish are prone to shortages in this essential vitamin which keeps our brains happy and reduces anxiety. Walking is the cheapest way to get somewhere and makes a lot more sense than getting in the car, sitting in traffic, paying your gym membership and getting changed in a busy locker room to climb onto a treadmill and pound an imaginary pavement while staring at a wall inside an artificially-lit building.
Walking joins you with the world, you see life, trees, the sky, other people and you feel the elements, the wind on your face and even the rain on your skin. The Germans are credited with the phrase “there is no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothing”. I lived there — they mean it — and a good rain jacket and boots will keep you toasty and happy for years.
New Year’s Eve was spent with a small group of friends in their home singing along to the Hootenanny around the tree while guzzling bubbly and eating crisps as if they were the main meal, but that’s just the precursor to the big day, the first walk of the new year. There’s a tradition building of going for a big walk on the beach on the first day of the new year, maybe the tradition has always been there, I don’t know.
The excitement of those of us around the breakfast table was palpable as we arranged who would go with whom and then, we piled out into the Tipperary sunshine, to make our way. My almost new car wouldn’t start as a light was left on overnight, and the fun began with lots of swearing and me cursing the fact that I’d ditched the AA to save money, Jump leads, however, got us to the off. A good long drive later, with adult child number one roped in to join us along the way, we were excitedly looking out the car window to see who could see the sea first. A gang going for a walk is infinitely better than a solo stroll as dogs, Mums, Dads and kids made a fine line of walkers.
Lahinch is a stunning setting and has become a surfers’ paradise that attracts money and car regs from all over the country, (surfing is my new year’s resolution by the way). The beach has been battered by storms and re-enforced to a huge extent but it still brings many walkers to navigate the dunes and rocks as they make their way to the end of the beach and the beautiful bridge.
Then we turn around and faced the magnificent winter sun. A sunny winter’s day will lift your spirits and warm your soul, blow out the cobwebs and get the wind in your shaded wintery face. Whip off your wooly hat and get the wind in your hair and there’s nothing as fresh and cheering.
As we walked back along the wet sand, the tide began to whip in quite cheekily and myself and the son jumped up on the rocks to make our way along the skinny dune pathway. Quickly the gang were surrounded by water and everyone had to be hauled out of the cold water that had them wet up to their ankles. Barking dogs and fraught kids made for an exciting rescue mission.
There was only one cure for the cold feet, hot tea and a bag of chips. As we made our way to the chipper, we passed a huge family all piled together at the back of their car with the boot open and a couple of toddlers sitting chomping on sandwiches.
Large men had steaming cups and Mammies were doling out the food from huge Tupperware boxes — this day had taken some planning and the satisfaction of the tea and bread could be felt as we paraded past in our soggy socks. Does anything taste as good as tea and sandwiches at the beach?
Armed with tall brown paper bags of real chips, we found a perch to sit on and watch as the huge waves crashed against the waterfront, soaking a gang of unlucky boys to the skin.
Chips at the beach on the first day of a new year beats a green smoothie and a liver cleanse any day. Start as you mean to go on and be nice to yourself.
Meanwhile here is my favourite recipe for home-made wedges that you can shove in the oven while you go for your own walk.
A pile of these with a good burger or salad, or both, makes a warming and
delicious dinner. Enjoy the walk!
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