Spare a Thought

For those of us lucky enough to have family and friends around us, Christmas is a magical time of year; a time when work is forgotten, food is lovingly prepared and gifts of appreciation are given. It’s also a time when the weather outside doesn’t matter one bit, because everyone’s wrapped up warm and cosy beside the fire, nursing a mulled wine or glass of fizz as Christmas tunes play in the background.

But every year at precisely this time I can’t help but think of the thousands of people for whom Christmas is a miserable experience; those who have no one to care for them, no roof over their head and no food to eat. Being homeless is a dreadful thing at any time of year, but at Christmas in particular it must exacerbate the feelings of loneliness and sadness that come with being in such a terrible situation.

And it’s not just the homeless for whom Christmas is a testing time. Each year there are also thousands of people who are forced to endure the festive season after losing a loved one, or who are elderly, housebound and alone. There are thousands more still who are penniless, clinging onto the roof above their heads but unable to heat their homes or feed their children, let alone buy them expensive presents from Santa.

My purpose in mentioning all of the above is not to make those who are fortunate this Christmas feel guilty or sad, but rather to encourage them (myself included) to be grateful for what they have; to realise what a blessing it is to be healthy, happy and loved, and to spare a thought (or maybe more) for those who have comparatively little.

Spring has sprung

It’s been a long old winter this year, one that’s greedily stretched its icy fingers all the way into April. Roads have been closed, leaving cars shrouded in snow looking like strangely shaped, grotesque and faceless snowmen. Homes have been without electricity and thousands of elderly and vulnerable people have been housebound and alone.

And all the while an overwhelming, cloying, crushing malaise has settled on the dwellers of London, this city I call home, as I’m sure it has across the many other towns and cities in our fair (or, let’s face it, not so fair in recent months) land. The kind of malaise that leaves you wondering with alarming regularity why you don’t just move somewhere with guaranteed sunshine and be done with all the greyness and the bitter cold once and for all.

But we Brits are a hardy bunch, and our impressive ability to moan is surpassed only by our ability to bear the weight of such an oppressive spell of poor weather. The lack of Vitamin D has no doubt been a factor in our collective mood this past few weeks, but deep down each and every one of us has been stoic in the face of the Big Freeze, purely because we knew it wouldn’t – couldn’t – last forever. We have been playing the waiting game.

And if today’s weather is anything to go by, that waiting game may soon be at an end. For when I stepped outside this morning for my run something felt different. There was still a slight chill in the air, granted, but as I ran I could feel the warmth of the glorious sunshine on my face and I just knew in my bones that winter was finally losing its war against spring. Clapham Common was full of runners, their gloves and hats stowed away at home for the first time this year, as were mine. Parents pushed prams lazily, without rushing or wincing in the biting wind. The collective malaise had lifted, at least temporarily, and in its wake were cheerful people blinking in the light like newborns, ready for whatever life saw fit to bring. 

Though we dream of jetting away from it all, we Brits are a hardy bunch.