Tag Archives: winter

The Wild Frontier #5: A world of illusions

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My latest column for Prospect magazine deals with whiteouts, polar mirages and icy illusions. Find the full text on the Prospect site here, or after the fold.

Under normal conditions, human perception works so well as to render its workings invisible to us. But in certain circumstances—extreme weather conditions or extraordinary places—we push beyond its limits, sliding into a world of illusions as our brain struggles to make sense of its surroundings.

The photo above was taken by me somewhere near the summit of Mullach Clach a’Bhlair, which would normally look something like this.

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The Wild Frontier #4: Cold, cold water

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I’m back in Prospect magazine, and warming to my wintery theme with a piece on the pleasures of wild swimming in winter. This year I’m trying to keep it up all the way through. It gets easier, as your body adapts to the physical shock of it – that is, if you go once a week or so. Wish me luck.

Then, among the waterfowl, the changing of the guard. On winter’s approach, in came the chestnut-headed wigeons and pochards, the tufted ducks with their slicked-back quiffs and walleyed stares. A regular swimmer can mark off the months by the company they keep.

Full text on the Prospect website here, or after the fold. Ably illustrated by the superlative Kate Hazell, whose portfolio can be discovered here.

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The Wild Frontier #3: Winter’s Approach

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My third column for Prospect is now out on newsstands. It talks about the wonders of winter, and why we shouldn’t dread the coldest months. It’s no secret that I love snow and ice and frost and everything that goes with it (see my previous diaries of working at a husky kennels in Finland back in 2012/13); it’s always a surprise to me to find that I’m in the minority.

At noon on the very darkest days, the red sun still cast its rays into the very lowest reaches of the sky, washing it in blood and burgundy. In the twilit hours on either side, the snow shone blue and brighter than the sky, and the bare and stunted pines, candied with hoar frost, stood out black against it. It’s difficult to grieve the loss of the day if the night is so beautiful.

Give winter another chance! Here’s why.

Full text on the Prospect website here, or after the fold.

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Country diary: Shetland’s high energy coastline

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I headed to Shetland for Lerwick’s Up Helly Aa fire festival and while there took the time to pen this short entry for the Guardian’s brilliant Country Diary section, which prints short nature ‘postcards’ that charts the progress of the seasons.

Find it at the Guardian’s website here, or after the fold. The lovely pic above is of the Eshaness lighthouse, a beautiful example of the Stevenson-designed lighthouses, taken by Ian Cowe.

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Walking the Cinque Terre in winter

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I spent a lovely fortnight in Italy last month putting the very final touches on Thicker Than Water while staying at my friend Anna Blundy’s beautiful Tuscan home.

While there, my boyfriend Rich and I made the trip to Cinque Terre, near La Spezia, where we saw the area to its best advantage – almost empty of tourists! The weather can be changeable in February, but I highly recommend an off season trip if, like me, you dislike feeling like one of a faceless crowd.

As you can see in my photo above, we lucked out with the weather, and found the lemons  on the trees, bringing a splash of colour to the spring landscape. I wrote it up for an article for the Telegraph’s travel section, which you can find here, or after the fold.

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Ten things I’ve learnt from life in sub-zero conditions

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  • Below -20°C, the insides of your nostrils will crackle with frost and any hair left uncovered will gain a grey sheen, as though you have aged fifty years in a few minutes.
  • Below -30°C, nipping out the house for only a few seconds without jacket, hat and gloves becomes extremely uncomfortable. Cold metal feels like burning on contact, even through magic gloves. Eyelashes will clump with icy droplets.
  • Bowls of water will freeze solid in minutes, so to encourage the dogs to drink quickly we must mix meat or dry food into a watery ‘soup’ and feed it to them throughout the day.
  • Fingers and toes may be cold to the touch and throb, but it’s not until you have difficulty in touching thumb to pinky finger that you have to worry. Continue reading
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