It’s been a while since I wrote one of my weekly missives. Most weeks recently I just don’t have the time, the inspiration or the energy to write something entertaining (for me or for you). I know the idea is you show up, you write and that is the work. But I feel like I’ve had enough going on with my regular work to be taking on extra work.

Since I came back from holiday in September, work has been busy. These last months of the year are always busy. There are deadlines and chains of events that have to happen in order for things to be completed by year end and that has been occupying a lot of my time as the deadline for these tasks come up one by one. But I think from here I can see the end and it’s going to be a careful balancing act to stay on the good side of everything until Christmas.

I’ve just passed the eight month mark in my secondment. I’m surprised that it happened so quickly as I can still remember the confusion and anxiety of my first months in the role. It now feels like I’ve been doing this forever. As to whether I can do this forever, that will not be revealed until next month when the woman whose maternity leave I’m covering has to announce her intentions. Several people from management in my old team have already called me up to ask when I’m coming back. (While several of my old colleagues have already started to joke with me about me not coming back.)

I am now Covid-boosted. I had my 4th jab at the start of November – the same week I had my flu vaccine. I know anyone who doesn’t believe in vaccines is probably horrified that I have compromised my immune system so completely, but happily for me I believe in science not superstition.

My hiking boots died. The faithful Berghaus boots that walked me along the Norfolk Coast path, and up Ben Nevis. They literally fell to pieces – the soles of both shoes separated from the boot upper at the same time, giving that flappy open-mouth look when walking.

This means new hiking boots are needed, and needed soon in order to get worn in before we tackle the West Highland Way next year.

There are many shops selling hiking shoes but very few of them have outlets near me. Shopping for a purpose is not actually a lot of fun. We have spent four precious weekend days Saturday trying on shoes in as many outdoor-wear shops as possible. Last weekend we took the Tube and train to South London and checked the outdoor shops at Kingston upon Thames, before taking two trains back into London and out again to Croydon to check two more shops (the final and possibly most useful one we got to 19 minutes before it closed.) We’ve finally made a decision on the most comfortable shoes and have ordered them online. They should arrive next week and we can start wearing them around the house to break them in. All being well, come December we can start our walking training.

I have a friend who walked the Camino de Santiago and asked her how she prepared. “Someone told me the only way to prepare for a long distance walk is to walk the walk, and I think that’s true,” she said. Her stories from the Camino made it sound appealing and also not something I want to do.

Winter weather has been surprisingly warm. I’m still wearing my early autumn lighter weight coats and most days can get by with only two layers. Some days even one coat is too much. There are still leaves on some trees. While it’s good not to be freezing cold, it’s bad that this is climate change causing this disruption to the weather. Every year as a gardener I notice the season gets longer and longer. It used to be I had to shut up the garden by end of October but now things are still growing (and there are still raspberries on the raspberry bushes) and it’s nearly the end of November.

I read a post by someone talking about the art of noticing – really paying attention to things instead of switching to automatic pilot. I’m trying to do this on the Elizabeth line part of my commute in the morning. Mostly I look for colours. This is London late autumn – on most commuter transport you will see black, beige (a blanket term for light brown colours from cream to camel), navy and grey. My red coat stands out. So does my lime green one when I wear it. I’m looking for other people wearing bright or interesting colours or patterns. Not necessarily coats – a woman with a top the colour of a bright blue sky; a woman in a zebra pattern dress; the woman with pink hair. In the dark, bland mass of commuters, there are splashes of colour if you look for them.

My birthday is coming up, and knowing Husband tends to panic and not know what to do, I’ve outlined a suggested weekend of activities. And if he doesn’t get organised in time, that’s fine. I can book myself a visit to the Planetarium, make my own gooseberry coconut cake and drink my own champagne (that I pre-bought myself and have stored in the cupboard). What would be helpful would be to have him organise a bunch of people for a round of mini golf at the local dinosaur-themed mini-golf place followed by afternoon tea (with aforementioned cake) at our place.

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