Apricity in the City


Posted by in February's Magazine

I learned a new word today. Apricity. I was standing on the hill of Pilrig Park, eyes closed, absorbing the wintersun or winter sun (I couldn’t work out if wintersun was two words or one). Having consulted the oracle of everything, a.k.a. the internet, it turns out winter sun is in fact two words and also one word: apricity. Apricity was coined in 1623 when Henry Cockeram authored The English Dictionary. However it became obsolete. Apricity is obsolete no longer – it’s now back in print on this very page, and we should all reclaim the word to describe the appreciation of the distant glow of the sun in December (or January for that matter).

This is important; especially as the day I’m writing this is winter solstice. Earlier today I walked around Holyrood Park with a special needs fitness client, in winter we know to walk towards the Duddingston side of the hill to get a glimpse of the sunrise (today 9.08am). We leave the main park, which is overshadowed by Arthur’s Seat, until after 10am and we stand in the sunlight there only briefly as it is cold.

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I’ve been in Scotland 20 years now and I’m finally learning the seasons. I have also realised I am a creature of the sun – we all are, to some degree. If you grow up here, you probably don’t freak out every December when the sun seems to disappear. It is no wonder we used to celebrate winter solstice – though nowadays we generally work indoors and rely on industrial farming – because we are still connected to the seasons. The impossibly long days of summer are peculiar too, where else in the world would the first glimpse of spring sunshine find peely-wally peeps heading to their local park with ‘taps aff’ to absorb glorious Vitamin D?

This fascination with the weather really began when I got an allotment and I could see the changing of the seasons first hand. It inspired me to publish the Healthy Living Yearbook in 2011, an exercise and recipe book that follows the seasons – in a similar format to an allotment diary, month by month, what’s in season etc. What we do in winter is quite different from what we do in summer. Summer salads are divine and roast vegetables on a cold dreich day just seem so…right. It’s my belief that roasted Scottish parsnips are the best in the world because parsnips harvested after a frost have a greater depth of flavour.

To those who assert that “if the weather was better in Edinburgh the place would be overrun with people.” I can only repeat my mantra: ‘There is no such thing as bad weather, only the wrong clothing’. When I first moved here, upon spying a blue sky I would assume it was warm outside and don sandals, resulting in frozen feet. I learned my lesson pretty quickly though. Nowadays, I swear by merino wool base layers and those sandals have gathered dust under the bed.
Should I worry that I prefer living in a crappy climate? No. The long days of summer are worth it and life is more interesting when the daylight hours vary so much; there is a rhythm to seasonality and, let’s face it, you have something to talk to your barber about! Because, whether we like it or not, we are obsessed by the weather. As a personal trainer who does lots of fitness work outdoors I have the Met Office’s forecast as a shortcut on my phone, even though I’ve long since mastered the art of dressing for Scotland’s climate.

An Impasse
A stumbling block was hit in the writing of this page. The editor had set a deadline for all stories to be submitted. However, like many people, when it comes to the festive season (and darkest days of the year) I simply stop being able to cognate clearly, let alone write. This page was literally three quarters done and, in one of the few times in the decade I’ve been writing for The Leither, I messaged Mr Billy explaining that it would be finished in the New Year, when the days started getting longer and my brain re-engaged with the rest of the world.

So, between the first paragraph and this we have had Christmas and Hogmanay. Hogmanay is most significant as it harks the dawning of a new year, new possibilities, and longer days. Over the week after Hogmanay we gained an extra half an hour of daylight each day. Not bad eh? My inner optimist is starting to emerge from its winter slumber. I’m feeling hopeful, I’m feeling healthier and I’m feeling happier already.

Coming up soon are The Leith Festival Burns supper, the Scottish Small Business Awards lunch (Griffen Fitness is a finalist in the Green/Ethical Business of the Year award), my birthday, and Coco’s birthday. And that’s who will be featured in my next column – Coco the Superpug Therapet. And too the days will get even longer… I’m already thinking about standing on the hill of Pilrig Park, face to the summer sun (two words), a mere 4 months away. Happy days. ■

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