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Showing posts from 2021

Abbatar

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    ( Image by pasja1000 from Pixabay ) It was with some amusement that I learnt Abba is not only releasing an album but will also be undertaking a series of live shows in London next year. That's not bad for a group now in its seventies that hasn't performed together for almost 40 years. Except, they won't be appearing in those live shows themselves but in virtual form with digital versions of the group members as they once were.  I'm not sure I'd like to be reproduced on stage as I was in the seventies, unless there's some kind of bonus that arises from being able to dance in platform shoes. However, you have to admit that it's a somewhat novel way of maintaining your youthfulness and I suppose demonstrates the next and inevitable step from video to hologram and beyond. Perhaps we will all one day spend our later years entertaining in virtual form, letting our avatars do the hardwork whilst we sit back and enjoy retirement. Incredible as that may seem, at

Bitten by the Bug

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No I haven't taken up a new hobby. Instead I'm becoming slightly exasperated. There was a time when I associated fly bites with holidays in warmer climes, now it seems that the insects in our garden have decided to turn on me. Worse still, it's now September and with a couple of days of unseasonally high temperatures, the local fly life is back, determined to outdo even Dracula with its blood sucking fetish. Okay, I know that here in the North of England, we've enjoyed a warmer summer than usual but that still doesn't mean Yorkshire has grown a population of mosquitoes and whilst midges have always been a nuisance, I can't recall ever reacting to their bites particularly. I swear my new enemy is the common house fly but when I looked them up, discovered they can't bite because of overlapping mouth parts. Well, all I can say is their suck is pretty painful too. Also whatever it is that keeps getting trapped on the inside of my sandal strap and then thinks its

Space Invaders

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  Do you remember when Space Invaders first came out? It was a long time ago because I was at university at the time. So long ago that I had almost forgotten about those little green men moving across the screen in our pre-home-computer days. Strange that I now look back with nostalgia at something which seemed so futuristic at the time but is primitive by early 21st century standards. I guess that's what happens in retirement, you begin to look back fondly at the most ridiculous innovations of the past. If I'm not careful I'll be describing the merits of dehydrated potato (Smash) next and I never did enjoy that! My memories of Space Invaders were unlocked during our Lakeland visit as a consequence of what I shall refer to as a Covid incident. Whilst we pretty much kept ourselves to ourselves, socialising only with the eldest and his fiancée who joined us for the week and exchanging fleeting greetings with strangers we passed on the fells, I had cause one morning to join a

A Forest Bath

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Forest bathing appears to be an increasingly popular wellness trend. I had naively assumed that it involved lying on a leaf strewn floor beneath a canopy of trees whilst meditating deeply. Not quite, for it turns out it's evolved from a Japanese relaxation technique known as shinrin-yoku where you indulge yourself in a sensory experience amongst the trees. The Forestry England website describes it as breathing deeeply whilst quietly observing nature. The National Trust has a web page with forest bathing tips on it where it emphasises the need to focus on the woodland around you whilst perhaps wandering slowly through it, touching tree trunks. The Woodland Trust lists the benefits of a woodland stroll and describes forest bathing as an immersive experience involving touch, taste, sight, smell and hearing. We have just returned from our regular summer stay in the Lake District where we envelop ourselves in a cabin at the edge of woodland overlooking the Langdale Beck. If two hours of

No Fog at Sea

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  On Monday the youngest, who was paying us another flying visit, and I went for a coastal walk, blowing the proverbial cobwebs away. It was a complete change of scenery and colour. Day after day, I am surrounded by the beauty of the countryside but it is definitely green and not blue. Grass and trees sway silently in the gentle summer breezes. Looking out at the North Sea, the waves came crashing in and the expanse of sky above an empty beach created a sweeping azure-soaked panorama. After weeks in the city on the youngest's part and in the countryside on mine, we both felt refreshed and re-energised. I was reminded of that feeling reading about research in Italy and Scotland where studies have shown that last year's hard lockdowns affected many people's cognitive abilitites causing them to suffer "brain fog." It's obviously important to exercise and socialise and whilst a routine can be important if you are working or studying, for the rest of us impetuous

Enough

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  This morning's Yoga session concluded with a poignant mantra. I thought it was so appropriate for the stage of retirement that I now find myself in that I  really have to share it:- I have enough; I do enough; I am enough. Apt though it is, I concede that I am still battling with: an abundance of items giving rise to far more than is adequate; the intermittent panic that accompanies an unfinished To Do List; the self doubt that spurs me to feel that I should be doing better and achieving more. However, I truly ought to know better by now: enough is enough. Going forward, I intend to keep repeating those 3 lines to myself. There's something about them that envelops me in an overwhelming feeling of calm. I may not be the best and I may not be excelling in retirement but, breathing deeply and expressing acceptance, "I am enough."    

In Flames

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  (Image by DeSa81 from Pixabay ) Recent reports of forest fires around the world have been distressing. Conflagrations that burn and burn have to be one of the worst human nightmares.  Closer to home, we have suffered our own blaze as the local television mast went up in flames yesterday depriving almost a million homes across the region of their radio and TV reception, "indefinitely" according to some reports. Obviously a Smart TV would be the answer but with the constraints on rural broadband I'm unsure how many people will be able to rely satisfactorily on this if everyone starts to stream at the same time. There are also many households (we being one of them) who don't even possess such technology although we do cast to our living room TV from a variety of other devices instead. Fortunately we are still at that stage of retirement where the television set is frequently silent as we find other diversions to distract and entertain us. Fast forward another 20 years

Great British Bake Off

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  July has been and gone but what a warm month; baking you might say. I'm certain it's becoming more challenging to cope with the heat as I age. For someone who has always loved hot, sunny weather, I confess I have found myself repeatedly seeking the shade of indoors and on Friday, when we finally got some heavy rain, considered a secret celebration. Well for once I didn't have to water the garden. I've had no qualms about exercising in the warmth, taking it as an ideal excuse to make my way to the air conditioned studio where gym classes are held. Desperately needing a reason to cool down every day, I've even taking to doing a weights class! Yes my dumbbells look a little light but I'm chest pressing with the best of them regardless. Of course lounging in the swimming pool too has been a delight in July's temperatures and in typical GBBO style I've emerged with a soggy (or probably in my case saggy) bottom. Regrettably it does mean all kinds of chores a

A Trip to Town

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 I know that many people associate a trip into the countryside as a unique day out. When you live permanently amongst green fields, however, a journey into a large town or city can generate equal novelty.  Hence,  accompanying Mister E to a hospital appointment today, there was the thrill of dual carriageways, large roundabouts, traffic lights, and the sight of multitudes of people, many of whom were drinking takeaway coffee as they walked. Leaving Mister E to face the staff-in-scrubs alone, I ventured across the road into a park. Perhaps as a countryside dweller it felt more enticing with its grass and trees than pounding pavements. I admit I was not disappointed by the bench seats beneath a myriad of mature foliage offering ringside views for people watching; there was a sculpture of sorts and, laid out as part of a trail alongside the pathway, an assortment of adult outdoor gym equipment. Yes, I tried it all, ensuring I remembered to sanitise my hands afterwards! It was interesting

Is Cake the New Normal?

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Normality is a word that seems to be bandied around with ever greater frequency in this the strangest of times. I wonder what it actually means for most people. I understand that if you have been furloughed, worked from home or even been stretched out in striving to maintain our health and care services that a reversion to one's accustomed workload executed in the pre-pandemic way might be an understandable interpretation. If, however, you are fully ensconced in retirement, how does conventional wisdom define normality? Freedom to do as you please, where you want, when you want perhaps.  Aung San Suu Kyi said "The only real prison is fear and the only real freedom is freedom from fear."  Clearly she had far more than pandemics on her mind when she wrote that. Nevertheless as debate rages about the prospect of opening up and the easing of restrictions, we must all be asking ourselves whether we want to seize the opportunity to walk through an open door (mask free) or is fe

Life's Purpose

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  (Image by Arek Socha from Pixabay )   In the Guardian today , columnist Zoe Williams posed the question: Where do we find life's purpose? I read the article, hoping to find the answer. Instead, she concluded that the people to ask are those of us who are retired! Fonts of all knowledge and masters of the universe, have we actually discovered the meaning of life? Of course, retirement presents the opportunity to search, to experiment and to wonder. But obviously if I had the answer, I wouldn't have read the article in the hope of learning something I think the gist of what she was writing is that when we discover that work itself does not meet our quest for fulfilment, what will? That of course is the scary thing about retirement; defined by work, how will we fill our time, will it be enough to satisfy us? Some people don't adapt. There's a large hole where work used to be and they return. Others find it a time of contentment but is that the purpose of life, contentm

Technophobia

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  It's happened; I have finally reached that stage of retirement where I believe it appropriate to declare myself a technophobe. It all came to a head yesterday after permitting my iPad to  update to iOS 14.6. I'd been avoiding the upgrade on the basis that whilst it might resolve some issues it would inevitably create others. However, conscious that certain apps appeared to be struggling, I ultimately and unwisely decided to try it as a potential solution. I wish I hadn't bothered, or at least not without doing a little more investigating as to the consequences. How do you keep your passwords safe? I moved on from the favoured one or two repetitive sequences several years ago and purchased a purpose designed app that stores passwords in an encrypted format. It automatically backs up to iCloud,  and I recently even started to rely on it to generate frustratingly unmemorable chains of random digits. Now, I did consider, rather than chancing my luck and banking on the iPad al

Seven Years and Itching

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  It is seven years today since I closed the door on my legal career and I still have no itch or desire to return to the world of court rooms and orders. If I have a yearning at all, it is for a resurrection of the retirement life I had become accustomed to before this darned pandemic descended upon us. It is a craving that is now, however, tempered by the sense that the simple life I have long hankered for is within my fingers' grasp, if only... I noticed a meme the other day that just about summed up my situation. In essence it was indicating that lockdown has demonstrated that we need more than time trapped at home to organise and sort; the problem was never a lack of hours to devote to the task as we had always assumed, but rather something within that needs to be tamed and brought to heel.  Who would have imagined that seven years down the track with supposedly oodles of time, I'd still be contemplating how to declutter myself of  physical stuff?  Strangely the transition

Fair Weather Living

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During our first lockdown it was a pleasure to drive (so long as you had a reasonable excuse to do so, of course). The roads were empty, and progress could be made unimpeded by other traffic. I was reminded of that feeling of enjoyment this past week when choosing to visit my mother during one of the home teams' group matches in the postponed Euro 2020 football tournament. Clearly I was one of only a handful of people who had not felt obligated to gather around a TV screen to watch the game and once again the road was my own.  As with so many things in retirement, it is always useful to be able to pick and choose the timing of activities. Scheduling a journey to avoid the commuting rush that once I would have been stuck in, at the beginning and end of each working day, always gives me a feeling of satisfaction. Picking the right time to visit our local market town when parking spaces will be plentiful is a delight too. If I can venture further afield and stage it to avoid the cro

Reinvigorated

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  (Image by 955169 from Pixabay ) So 3 days of fitness classes later and I'm still here. Not even a slight twinge of pain as I sit typing. Actually I did wake this morning with discomfort from the obliques on the left side that were put through their paces during a core workout the day before, but an Abs Blast class appears to have sorted those. The endomorphins have been circulating and I feel alive again. If only I could attribute the elevation of spirit to exercising alone but  this would give a  totally wrong impression. Instead my return to the gym has, of course, also restored the capacity for casual conversation, laughter and interaction with so many people (socially distanced, obviously). Being physically active is something I've tried to maintain during lockdown but coupling it now with the chance to connect with others face to face, takes happiness to a new level. It's strange though that in discussing our respective situations, the last 15 months seems to have g

Fatigued

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  (Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay) I was somewhat tickled to log into this blog tonight and realise that my last entry was titled Exhaustion. Seriously? I don't think I knew the meaning of the word when I made that post. I do now. The easing of the coronavirus restrictions and return of the eldest from New Zealand, meant that the Bank Holiday weekend was a suitable opportunity for a family reunion. With the eldest and the youngest both joining us, we realised that it was the first time (because of their respective foreign sojourns)  that we had all been together at home since Christmas 2016. They both brought their partners to the get-together and suddenly our household of 2 became 6. Like the weather, it was wonderful but so tiring. There's something about lolling around in the heat, eating, drinking and chatting constantly that is quite exhausting. Keeping the fridge stocked with provisions for hearty appetites is an effort in itself not to mention preparing the house fo

Exhaustion

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  Who would have thought it?  Yesterday, according to my Fitbit app, I walked more than 5 miles without leaving the house; most of it was between wardrobes and the bed where robe contents were displaced and sorted. Now in the course of  the motivational training sessions, I was warned that one wardrobe and a time limit of 4 hours were desirable. However, when Mister E expressed interest in getting his hanging rails decluttered too, it seemed opportune to keep going. After all when the man who cannot even bear to throw away a cardboard box, admits his closets need a good tidy up and needs help to do this, who could possibly refuse? To be fair, he took to the process with a great deal more realism and less sentimentality than I did. In the end the hangers on his rails move freely whereas mine are still a trifle squeezed. Looking at the number of empty coat hangers we produced, I'm ashamed to say we must have jettisoned at least a hundred items between us, most of which were old work

Planning for the Big Day

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 Saturday is the big day. It's been a long time coming but after participating in an online hub on decluttering this week, the weekend is when I seek to address my wardrobe. To be honest I couldn't see what all the fuss was about when I signed in on Monday. It was a timely challenge in that after redecorating and repurposing the built in wardrobe/cupboard outside our bathroom, I have any number of items now strewn on a spare bed that require hanger space somewhere. With wardrobes full to the gunwales a serious declutter is necessary. Naively, therefore, I thought I'd be filling charity and rag bags by Tuesday morning but that is not how these things work. It's been back to the old preparation, preparation, preparation with the motivational message of "Failing to prepare is preparing to fail." Anyway it transpires that opening the wardrobe door and simply jettisoning everything that falls on your head or you take an instant dislike to, is not how these things

Grateful for a Good Week

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  Altogether it's been a good week. Transformative even, one might say. Not only did I finish painting a cupboard outside the bathroom, amongst other places, but we also made it to IKEA for the storage boxes I wanted to go into it. Best of all, I managed to construct them without any assistance from Mister E. Creativity comes in many forms, be it screwing together pieces of wood or arranging the finished product on shelves. Brutal simplicity is the best description for the effect achieved, I think, and I confess I still can't pass that particular cupboard without a little peek inside to marvel at the conversion. Also, I got the result of the antigen test I'd submitted for research purposes into Covid-19. "Antibodies clearly detectable," it says. I guess I'd have been seriously perturbed if it had revealed anything else, but it's still good to know that the vaccine has done the trick, for the moment anyway. With a second dose since, I am reassured as to

At Your Own Pace

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    Well it took me so long to get started on this decorating lark, you might think I'd be attacking it as I would the 100 metre dash. You are possibly correct in that respect, except these days my sprint would be more akin to walking pace and that's the speed the painting is going too.  I'm intermingling it with tasks in the garden, as well as taking to heart that the key to a good result is preparation, preparation and yet more preparation. The great thing about retirement, of course, is that you have as much time as you want to throw at these assignments. You are not being paid, so pick the hours to suit and spend as many as you want on the job in hand. Freed from the workplace mantra that time is money, you can be as much of a perfectionist as you choose. Love it or loathe it. If the former why not indulge yourself with a few extra hours of enjoyment? If the latter, why bother at all? Obviously my intention is to maintain the impulse to move things along. I'm aware,

They Still Have the Power

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  Even in retirement and depite reaching that third age or whatever, you can't deny the power adult kiddies still have in provoking excitement and anxiety in equal measure, deep within. So it is that today I have a big beam on my face, or at least I have since 15.40, when the eldest touched down at Heathrow. Before that I was gripping my nerves tightly, anxiously following his 28 hour journey on a flight tracker. More than 4 years ago now, we waved him off as he flew out to New Zealand to begin a new chapter in his life. Today he began to write another when he returned with his long-term girlfriend who is also now his fiancée to take up new positions in London. They are obliged to quarantine for 10 days in self contained accommodation, so it will still be a while before we actually see them, but just to know they are back on home soil is more than sufficient for a permanent grin and lightness of heart.    

Onwards and Upwards

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  (Image by David Reed from Pixabay) It might be all those Scandi-noir series we watched last year or, now I've matured a little, an aversion to the millennial green gracing our walls but, entrenched in decorating and decluttering, I'm aiming for a minimalist feel. So much so, that today we decided on a trip to IKEA for some wooden storage boxes to complete the look of the upstairs area that I'm very gradually painting at the moment. An incentive to finish what I've started if you like and believe me, with the contents of one large cupboard strewn all over the landing, I do need to get on. Trouble is we only got half way there when the tyre pressure warning light popped up on the dashboard. I slowly drove off the motorway to the nearest garage which, as we'd hoped, had an air supply. A visual inspection failed to reveal an obvious puncture, so Mister E sprang into action, checking the pressure for each of the tyres and then inflating the culprit. Of course that the

Old Fogeys up t'Dale

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  Mister E and I had our second vaccine inoculations yesterday. It was quite a carnival atmosphere in the sunshine with everyone in sunglasses, some in shorts, many stopping to soak up the sun on the benches by the pond whilst others had reserved seats at the terrace cafe. All it needed was an ice cream seller and the quintessential summer's day vibe would have been complete. Not that Mister E and I would have partaken, as we had travelled equipped with our own provisions, determined to make the most of the warm spring day with a picnic. Leaving the vaccination centre at Leyburn behind, we drove up the dale onto the top of Grinton Moor, stopping at an isolated spot at the edge of the road. The view was stunning but with a bitter north wind blowing across the hills, we had to add another two layers over our T-shirts.  This was no ordinary picnic either, as Mister E magicked folding chairs from the boot of the car, along with plates, cutlery and a culinary feast from out of a large c

The Sequel

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  Following all those packages I referred to in my last blog post, this arrived today: Biological Substance Category B.  I've been invited to participate in a study to assess the level of immunity to COVID-19 within the population. Why not, I thought. After all, as well as contributing to the research, it might be interesting to learn just how protected I am at the moment, coming up for my second dose of  the vaccine. I might also gain some insight as to the general situation from the summary of the study outcome that will be forwarded to participants, Of course it could end up being a blow to my confidence as we begin to merge again with the outside world but at least I should have a slightly better idea of the risk level. Meanwhile, if anyone can explain why, just when restrictions are being relaxed, I have finally opened those cans of paint that I bought 13 months ago for decorating during lockdown, I'd be most grateful. Is it really a sub-conscious excuse to  stay at home,

A Presumption of Innocence

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  Every now and again a Gangster Granny makes front page headlines when she's caught dealing in drugs. HM Prison Holloway isn't where I want to spend my retirement but obviously there is a small minority that thinks differently.  During lockdown we have been surrounded by neighbours with not only courier deliveries but also collections. Laughingly Mister E and I have come to the rather comic conclusion that it must be opiates. Were you to meet these upstanding members of our community, you would understand how ridiculous the notion is. Sadly, however, if they could see the contents of the parcels I have handled of late, they might be forgiven for assuming my own guilt.  A few days ago I despatched a DNA test. Tracking down my ancestors has reached the stage where the need to mix spittle and stabilising fluid has overridden the long and desperate wait for the reopening of the County Records office. Honestly it felt truly odd posting a phial containing that blend off to a laborat

The North Wind Doth Blow

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  So the pandemic restrictions are eased to enable two households or up to 6 people to meet outdoors and what happens next? Just like the rhyme: the north wind doth blow and we shall have snow. Well it cetainly made for a chilly Easter weekend when we caught up with various parts of our family that we hadn't seen for months, braving the cold to sit in gardens in winter coats and mittens. Mister E even resurrected a fetching bright red Michelin Man-style jacket last worn trekking in the Himalayas. Chic indeed. I relied on a thermal vest and porridge for breakfast! This week, non-essential shops have opened again along with beer gardens and restaurants on the terrace, just in case we start to feel a little too cosy indoors. Nothing much has altered in our behaviour as yet though; "lockdown-lite" I think it's called. Meanwhile, and because of the hard overnight frosts, all the seeds I enthusiastically sowed last month are enjoying the B&B experience in my utility roo

Happy Easter

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  One of the joys of retirement isn't so much the opportunity to enjoy creativity but rather to embrace again one's playful side. I succeeded in combining the two over my coffee breaks this week when I went into Easter Bunny knitting mode. To be truthful they are chocolate creme egg cosies, although why I should think that a creme egg needs to be kept cosy is something that I am finding impossible to explain. With spare wool left over from a baby-knit and espying a simple and free pattern online from To Be Adorned, I just couldn't resist. Happy Easter!

Humbly Chastened

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  My apologies, it appears I was mistaken when I made my last blog post . Mister E has laughingly pointed out that in September we spent a whole week at St Abb's Head in a lighthouse cottage. How could I have forgotten? A little like Covid vaccines, perhaps the effect of all that bracing sea air is only good for 6 months and then you need a booster. Humbly chastened, I accompanied Mister E inland today to Richmond Racecourse. That's Richmond, North Yorkshire and the racecourse which opened in the 1760's held its final races in 1891. The site on Low Moor just above the town is registered as public land and the world's oldest surviving public stone racecourse stand graces its highest point. I say surviving but, to be honest, it is very definitely a ruin after the local authority dismantled the upper floor for reasons of safety.    Alongside it stands another ruin, namely that of a private stand for the Marquess of Zetland built in the mid-1800's some 75 years after t

Sea-Saw

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    Today we saw the sea, for the first time in over a year.  My last sighting had been on our trip to Cyprus last year, whilst Mr E had made a quick dash to Crinan to mothball the retirement project just before the first lockdown was implemented. Since then it's been all fields, trees, and grass in varying shades of green and brown. What a contrast to be surrounded by blue.  It was a glorious day. With gale force winds forecast, we thought we might find the coast quiet and were not disappointed. In the event the huge cliffs around the bay at Saltburn and then at Sandsend seemed to keep out the worst of the wind and the sea was surprisingly calm.   There was no haze or drizzle to spoil the view southwards to Whitby and the abbey. In fact we found several brave souls in shorts; some with feet in the water. I had gone dressed for the worst in thermal-lined winter trousers and a heavy duty coat that I wear for cold walks on the hills. I didn't quite get down to shorts but I did