Saturday, January 15, 2022

Winter warmers

French Village Diaries winter warmers I'm with Ovo
Wrapped up warm on a winter bike ride

I’m with Ovo

If I mention UK news headlines this week and the phrases ‘embarrassing’, ‘poorly judged and unhelpful’, you might think I’d be referring to Boris’s ‘bring your own booze’ garden party, but you’d be wrong. The less said about that clown the better.


Ovo Energy, a UK based energy supplier, have also been in the news for a ‘keeping warm without upping your heating’ blog post, that they have now withdrawn. Their novel ideas included, putting on another jumper, eating porridge, doing the housework, hugging a pet or hula hooping with your kids. Well, no shit sherlock, this isn’t news - my wise old Dad said pretty much the same thing forty years ago, whenever I complained my bedroom was too cold. It was either “put another jumper on”, or “get outside and rake up some leaves, that will warm you up”.


Obviously, as a teenager I wasn’t interested in listening and I certainly wasn’t interested in moving my body to create heat. Back then I was much more into reading and complaining than exercising. Moving to a large, draughty house with a cantankerous old boiler, combined with the reality that France did get cold in the winter, meant I soon remembered Dad’s words and learned how to keep warm. If we heated our house to a constant 20º, not only would it cost many more thousands of euros than we have, but with only two of us floating around, mainly using one or two rooms at a time, it would be ever so wasteful. I don’t do wasteful. Most of what Ovo wrote in their blog, I’ve been practicing and writing about for many winters.

French Village Diaries winter warmers I'm with Ovo
Hug a pet - Mini turns 14


Layer like an onion 

I am never to be found without a vest from October to May, and for most of the really cold months, I’ll wear a vest under a thermal long-sleeved vest and any number of additional layers on top, all carefully tucked in. Exciting editions to our wardrobe this season include fleecy lined walking trousers, from sports chain Decathlon, ideal for those extreme randonées with a wind chill well into the -ºc’s. Obviously, with Mini having celebrated her fourteenth birthday this week (that’s about 103 in equivalent years), if it’s that cold outside, we won’t be out walking, but these new buys have ensured we’ve kept warm indoors. Combined with the thermal socks (from Decathlon again) tucked into my fur-lined boot/slippers, my toes are toasty and I’ve no need for any E.On Energy socks – another UK news oops this weekend (it must be the week for it).

French Village Diaries winter warmers I'm with Ovo
Winter vegetable soup


Porridge and soup 

I have been writing a regular five-hundred-word article for The Deux-Sèvres Monthly, a local English language magazine, for ten years now and looking back in my archives to January 2013, I was singing the praises of what I called ‘porridge and soup’ season.


“Winter has arrived, the days are short, the trees are bare and the temperatures have plummeted, but am I down? Well sometimes, I have to admit, yes, I am. It is at this time of year that my thoughts turn to comfort food. Gone are the vibrant coloured salads of summer that cheered up my plates with home grown delights but have no fear for we have arrived at what I call ‘porridge and soup’ season.”


Winter food should be different from summer food, that is the beauty of eating seasonally. The vegetables available now are perfect for thick soups made with homemade pork broth and warming curry spices, that put a fire in my belly all afternoon. Porridge oats are another favourite for us and I’m sure anyone who grew up in 1980’s Britain must remember the Ready Brek (finely milled porridge oat cereal) advert? Who didn’t want a warm orange glow around them as they walked to school on a cold and frosty morning?

French Village Diaries winter warmers I'm with Ovo
Trying out my Hula Hoop for the first time in 2020


Hula hooping

In March 2020, just before you-know-what hit us, my Deux-Sèvres Monthly article was all about ‘hoop and soup’.

“Always happy to find a healthy distraction from the mundane monotony of life, I’ve got a new exercise obsession. Thanks to a couple of nutty friends, I am now the proud owner of a hefty hula hoop, and when I say hefty, I mean 1.2kg of weighty hoop that massages you (think thumps) as it rolls around. Once you have mastered the moves and get past the awkward stage where you look like you’ve stuck your fingers in a plug socket, it’s a really fun way to exercise.” 

Ovo are right, it's also a great way of keeping warm and I often use it as a pre-yoga warm up over winter. Our other top tip for keeping warm is to get out on the bikes. Even if I get home with cold, red cheeks and nose, the rest of me is nice and warm whatever the temperature outside, and the colours on crisp winter sunset bike rides are a tonic for the mind as well as the body.


If there is one thing I could have told my younger self, it would be ‘to be more active’, so I’m with Ovo and agree with what they were saying, even if they maybe could have phrased things better. Another positive of these ideas is Susie Kelly’s Best Foot Forward, one of the first books I read and reviewed on the blog and her story of a long-distance walk from La Rochelle to Geneva, inspired by the need to move to keep warm during cold French winters. To think this book wouldn’t have existed if she’d just turned up her heating, is quite sad.

French Village Diaries winter warmers I'm with Ovo
A chilly morning view from the orchard


Temperatures have been below 0ºc these last few days, with crisp clear nights, heavy frosts and sunny days, but I’d much rather this than warmer, wetter weather.  

1 comment:

  1. Everything old is new again! Yes, I've been doing much the same and it's just common sense. OK, the hula hooping might be off the grid, but what reasonably sensible person wouldn't think to add another layer of clothing (or two!)and choose soup over ice cream for dinner. (OK -- maybe that one is a leap, although there are moments when ice cream for dinner could be fun!). I love how you took this one on. And I'm also interested in your fleece lined pants, which I'd not heard of, though I suspect they are available in the States too. I loved this post, Jacquie; it started my cold morning off with a warm smile.


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