It was not, to say the least, the most promising of forecasts.

With a day of rain and wintry showers on the way I was reconciled to a day spent indoors, but there was something about the break in the clouds when I was washing up the breakfast dishes that said: maybe you can still get out. Once felt, the tug is hard to resist so I decided to head out anyway, and hope for the best.

It was sleeting again by the time I got in the car, but twenty minutes later, the skies had cleared.

I found myself with a good ninety minutes or so to walk by the river between showers.

It was cold, it was muddy, the water was sleety slate grey and the skies were often looming heavy, but still, all the way along, I felt absurdly lucky at this chance to walk, at the unexpected gift of time between showers.

It was darker than I had realised and although my fingers got frozen taking photos I don’t have the images I’d hoped for, only those I’ve stored in my head: the reflections of the viaduct rippling in the water; the flight of a duck, low and determined as he headed upstream; the mallards drifting, swimming, laughing by the banks on the other side; a sudden glint of sun catching the last of the seed heads; the trees almost bare just the splash of berries, a blue tit, the robin; the cold on my face, in my fingers, the sound of the river in my ears and the feel of the sleet on my skin when the showers returned ~ these are the gifts of my walking on a Sunday, camera in hand, saying over and over, to the river to the trees to the birds: thank you, thank you, oh thank you.

And this is why I try and walk at least once a week, even when the days are so short, and when the weather’s bad.

When you’re inside it’s sometimes hard to make yourself go out, but when I’m walking it’s impossible to remember why you wouldn’t want to.

How else to remember the look of this day.

How else to remember: how it feels to be alive.