Wed. 30 December, 2009. Out for my first winter run early this morning – damp and cold but quite clear. It looks good. As I leave the house K shouts from the window “Take your mobile phone. Just in case”. “Just in case of what?” I shout. “In case you have a heart attack!” That’s my girl. The last of the snow is banked against the hedges or lies lurking in the drainage ditches. The fields empty of all but a few bedraggled rooks. Down to the guided-bus way and across the fields to Histon, crossing paths with some half dozen early morning joggers, dog-walkers and ne’er-do-wells (the ones who always find the body in the ditch), pleased to see me it seems, with a Morning! Hi! and Happy New Year! Am overtaken by a hard-core runner accompanied by a slim bitch called Lucy on a lead, “Working off the Xmas lunch?” he scoffs as I struggle to keep up. “Actually I don’t celebrate”, I call back stupidly, then, “I’ll catch you up later”. The bastard. Elms and horse-chestnuts are silhouetted against the brightening sky.
Along the bike path now, and onto the Girton road – the home run. Early morning commuters flash their lights and send up arcing sprays of mud and water from the roadside puddles. My feet like bricks now, I’m barely able to lift them off the ground. Past one of the finest symbols of real England (worth fighting for, like footpaths) – a field of well-tended allotments, with neat rows of brussels, cabbages and winter greens, tin-can lids on strings to frighten off the birds, compost bins knocked together out of pallets, old sheds. I struggle on, wet now with drizzle and not a little sweat, speeding up past the early morning bus-queue and managing a final triumphant burst past the postwoman on her bike, reminding her, in an unwonted fit of seasonal generosity, to come round to collect her Xmas box. Then home, home to a hot shower, and breakfast of boiled eggs and toast, marmalade, and pot of steaming coffee. I’m wrecked, but dare not show it as I drag the younger generation out of bed and into daylight, before I crash out on the sofa.