We can’t hibernate, but Hygge lifestyle does have its appeals

Humans don’t hibernate as such - but should we? Asks Colette Sheridan in her weekly column
We can’t hibernate, but Hygge lifestyle does have its appeals

With turf shortages this year, briquettes are still a viable option, as they provide ample heat to warm up your fireplace or home heating system.

HAVING hunkered down for the cold spell, only venturing out for essential supplies and some Christmas shopping, I’m not sure if I can cope with the jollity that’s expected at Christmas.

It will be great to link up with friends and relatives – assuming you get to see them without skidding on ice if driving or falling prey to an ungainly tumble in a puffer coat (never a good look) while emitting expletives through frosty breath.

It has become a game of daily survival, wrapping up in five layers of clothing and still feeling the need to switch on the heat.

If only it were a ‘game’. It’s our new reality, although I can’t help citing the lowest temperature in Ireland on record, when it was -19.1 degrees at Markree Castle in Sligo on January 16, 1881. And they didn’t have climate change then.

It makes you wonder. Are we over-reacting to the weather whereby it’s sometimes the lead item on news bulletins as we try to plan ahead and outwit the elements?

Humans don’t hibernate as such. Tucked under the duvet and blankets, citing reclusiveness when you turn down an invitation to go out, doesn’t count.

But we’re capable of retreating into a small world where, for those living alone, the only bit of human contact might be the delivery guy for those purchases you made online – because you couldn’t cope with a trip to town.

Now, it seems we may experience some enforced hibernation, with pubs and restaurants resorting to plans to cut opening hours because of high energy costs and the struggle to try and cope with unprecedented operating costs.

The economic forecast for the first quarter of 2023 is grim. While some people will try to forget their woes during the festive season and will socialise and spend money (and maybe turn the heating on at full blast), the dawn of the New Year will be a time of reckoning for many, particularly those involved in the hospitality sector.

Michael O’Donovan, chairman of the Cork branch of the Vintners Federation of Ireland, who runs the Castle Inn in South Main Street, is now using timers on machines that publicans would previously have ‘just plugged in and left till end of life’.

He says that things like coolers for beer are hard on electricity. He has cut a few hours of the pub’s opening times.

Some restaurants will close during the early weeks of the New Year. And it’s predicted within the industry that some restaurants will close for good.

It’s all looking gloomy. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

With a formerly temperate climate, our lives weren’t as constrained by the weather as they now are. Not to mention the constraints imposed by a certain war-monger who is responsible for extortionate energy costs - ensuring that for those living in straitened circumstances, there is little escape from the cold.

The spectre of people sleeping in tents is depressing. What has our world come to?

All we can do is demand more housing and decent accommodation for refugees, while trying to make life as pleasant as possible. Shivering and whining by the stove isn’t an option.

In regions where really bad weather enforces solitude on people, they are ready for it, making sure that life remains stimulating and enjoyable during the dark months.

That Danish Hygge lifestyle malarkey is all about encouraging comfort in the form of cosy rugs, candles, hot drinks and plenty of carbs to withstand the miserable conditions outside the glowing windows.

In Nordic countries, people stock the freezer with cakes and pastries during the winter. Should anyone brave it to someone’s door, they’re guaranteed a sweet treat – to ease the pain.

But most of us will lead a fairly quiet life in the New Year, at least until the spring, when we dare to have hope.

A friend who is living in a sunny clime for the next while fills me in every day on WhatsApp calls on her lotus-eating life. When she tells me she has been for a swim in the sea, I report that I just survived more than two hours without the heating on. Now there’s martyrdom.

She picked a good time to bolt. With her friend, the day’s decisions amount to what they’ll eat and whether another swim, followed by a massage, is on the cards.

I try to tell myself I’d be bored silly. But as my joints stiffen, I can’t help feeling envious.

The lotus-eaters are reading books while lying on sun loungers on the beach. That’s about as onerous as it gets.

Roll on the summer – but please don’t let it be too hot. (We’re never happy.)

In the meantime, let’s party for a few days because, if nothing else, Christmas gives us permission to tap into fun...

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