Time to step off life's treadmill

HOW has it been for you so far? That really is the only important question at this time of year. Some people will still be in the middle of a rip-roaring time, still in a whirlwind of family get-togethers, meeting with friends, outings with family.

Others will be saying in hopeful tones that it will all be over soon, that normal life is just around the corner, and that in a few days it will be safe to assume that everyday life has resumed its usual rhythms.

The Christmas holidays are not everyone's cup of tea, and it is easy to see why.

Christmas is perfect if you are in the middle of loving family life, with all its stresses, strains and rewards, but not so great if you are alone.

With every year that passes, Christmas seems to get more and more frantic, and seems to come around sooner.

The pressure to make it perfect is immense. At no other time of year are we made to feel so lacking if our lives do not live up to the perfection portrayed on the pages of glossy magazines and on cinema screens.

If our Christmas does not have all the best bits from both Charles Dickens and Nigella Lawson then we can end up believing that we have somehow failed.

Still, in a few days all that will, indeed, be over. It won't matter if your turkey was still frozen on Christmas morning, or if the meat was as dry as the Sahara desert.

No-one will care that your family forgot to serve the parsnips or that everyone fell asleep on Christmas afternoon. Already those memories will be fading and only the piles of leftover food in your kitchen today, and for the next few days, will serve to remind you – and the good news on that front is that soon you will be able to throw away what is left of the Christmas sprouts, giving up all thoughts of sprout-based bubble and squeak.

The thing to take away from Christmas is not the memory of overheated discussions in overheated rooms, but the feeling of having stepped off the treadmill of life for a short time. Continue to do that for the next few days as much as you can. The world will be gearing up for 2011 soon enough.

If you feel guilty about all the over-indulgence then take some exercise in the best possible way – out in the fresh air enjoying the crisp, winter air in the best county in England.

Yorkshire landscapes look breathtaking at any time of year, but in deep midwinter they have a special beauty, stripped back to the bare bones of nature.

The empty fields, naked branches and the December sharpness will blow away not just the cobwebs but all the small irritations of the holiday period. More than that, they will put into perspective the problems of the year ahead – there is nothing like a big, empty sky and a still landscape for doing that.

If you can visit the landmarks of the county, from Ilkley Moor to the village of Haworth, then do so, taking full advantage of the beautiful county in which we live. Otherwise, content yourself with a stroll around your local highways and byways.

This is one time of year when most of us do have time to stand and stare, and enjoy the beauty of our own Yorkshire.

Alexandra Shulman. PIC: PA

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