How I survive an Aberdeen winter



There is a whole undeveloped block enroute to our bank (and icecream and chip shops–also important destinations) which the locals call “The Rockies” on account of a massive chunk of rock that makes up part of it.  Pottering through it the other day we discovered some carvings on felled tree trunks like the one above: * HAPPY CREATURES * NATURE HEALS BODY+MIND+SPIRIT *  Yep.  Agreed.

So far in my parenting career, I have found that the most helpful thing I can do to survive a hard day with kids is to get outside.  Even though I am a devoted fan of the “great indoors”–with its cups of tea, engrossing books, and quiet, makery projects–getting outside as often as I can, is really a good idea in general, with and without kids.

May and September in Aberdeen are my favourite months.  In part, because they are as advertised.  May alludes to warmer days, and draws us out of our restlessness with pops of colour and promises of crunchy veg and tender fruits.  September is peaceful with leaf rustling and hot drinks had on the garden bench.

While not a difficult season to get through, I am consistently disappointed in the summer months, which, in my opinion, never seem to get warm enough to be titled as such.  However, because I dread Aberdeen’s winter so much, I try not to complain about summer, so I won’t go on about it.  Aberdeen winter, here are the five things I think you could work on:

  1. The wet
  2. The grey
  3. The dark
  4. The buses, which are ridiculously expensive and confusing to use
  5. A few more inexpensive indoor things to do with kids and more places with toilets (looking at you, branch libraries)

Technically points 4&5 are not so much about winter, but they do make winter-living in Aberdeen noticeably more difficult for us, and are factors that I think about when trying to plan days with the kids that don’t result in tears.  From the kids neither.

So I try to avoid buses when I can, and limit activities that cost.  This means often the things we do outside involve walking.

Now, I am all for a nice walk in the woods, but it is hard to get my four-year-old out the door without a destination or purpose beyond “exercise” or “fresh air” (both good things, but what four-year-old goes outside for those purposes?).  And truthfully, it is hard to get my sorry ass out for no good reason when the sky has been stone grey for three days.

So we walk to the bank.  We walk to visit friends.  We walk to the library.  Then there is all the walking to food sources.  We walk to the coffee shop.  We walk to the supermarket and get oil or whatever other pantry staples we need.  We walk to gather brambles or elderflowers or whatever else is in season.  We walk to the Polish shop to buy bread.  We walk to the butcher to get stewing lamb.

And on the way to these destinations, there is always some entertaining thing to get interested in: puddle-jumping, pinecone collecting, or brambling, for example.  And then the walk is no longer about the destination, but the journey itself.  Which I guess makes it about the walk, which I was trying not to make it all about… hey ho.

Anyhoo, these destinations are all in different directions from one another, and while you could say that this is the most inefficient way of doing our shopping (you’d probably be correct), it is actually the most efficient way for us to stack some of the things I want to include in our day–outdoor time, walking time, food-fetching time, family time.  It is all there in that one period of time.  And because food is the one thing that we continually need to bring into our home, it has become the main thing that gives our days a purposeful walk.

However, in winter there is a tendency for me just to want to jump on a bus or hop in the car to get to these places, or go in the evening when I don’t have to schlep the kids and muddify the house when we return.  I need a little extra encouragement–ie, a set-up that makes it all seem easier.  For example, I try hard to live by the phrase “there’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing”, which basically means I will never win a fashion contest.  It’s true though: owning wellies and waterproofs that feel like a hug in the cold really helps me to get outdoors when it is pouring with rain and blowing a gale.  Having a way to dry aforementioned clothing in our small inner-city flat (in our bathroom) also helps.

In spite of it feeling like the whole of winter lies ahead waiting for me to sink without a struggle into its darkness, it is possible to not die of cabin fever, depression, or light deprivation in January.  It is possible to get through winter without going to the Carribean for a good portion of it, or spending more days than not at an indoor playground.  It is possible to actually get through winter and appreciate it for what it is.  And this is how it is done: one day at a time.  One walk at a time.


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