Life

Nuala McCann: I'm feeling SAD again but gym babies provide a silver lining

Those closest to me call the hunger thing my Irish genetic footprint. The ability to down full packets of Kimberleys, Mikado and Coconut Creams is, apparently, related to dark winters of my Celtic ancestors when they knew hunger and their bodies knew to store up fat for the months ahead

It's not the instruments of torture that lift me in the gym but the young mothers and their babies

OCTOBER is a dark month. By November, the witch will have hooked up with the harpie in my soul.

Remember that old Cliff hit, “Beware the devil woman with evil in her eye”? It’s trending in our house. Even our adopted cat is boycotting the doorstep and his fish bikkies – he knows a devil woman when one crosses his path. No way is he lying down, rolling over and showing the witch his tummy.

The others in the house have kindly unearthed my big white light. This is probably done in a spirit of self-preservation.

They do not love that light. It is about as subtle as living up close and personal with the super trooper of Abba fame. It leaves them scuttling around in dark glasses, blinded by the light. I sit, stock still beneath it, a bewitched meerkat, worshipping the sacred beam.

SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder is common in this hemisphere. It sneaks up on sufferers with the dying of the natural light.

One minute you’re floating about in your summer flip flops, size 12, and loving it; the next the biscuit tin is the gift that keeps giving.

My daily devotions take place outside the patisserie window.

Also, in these parts, the fleecy pyjamas go on at 5.25pm, chip hankerings begin at 7pm, the local Chinese is on speed dial and, in the mornings, you want to pull the duvet over your head and make the world go away. SAD is not funny – the clue is in the acronym.

Those closest to me call the hunger thing my Irish genetic footprint. I am devoured by the hunger. The ability to down full packets of Kimberleys, Mikado and Coconut Creams is, apparently, related to dark winters of my Celtic ancestors when they knew hunger and their bodies knew to store up fat for the months ahead.

The Viking descendant I married doesn’t get that powerful carb n sugar urge full throttle – it’s not so marked in his DNA.

So in an effort to keep the weight down and the spirits up, I decide to exercise the very arm and a leg that I’m splashing out in gym membership and pay a visit to look in on my annual investment.

But it is not the instruments of torture that lift me... there is a new moving staircase that you can run up for as long as you like before you drop and the treadmill has a setting that feels like a quick dash up Mont Blanc at full pelt.

No, what lifts me are the young mothers in the changing room, flitting about, full of energy, squeezing their babies’ chubby arms and legs into miniature swimsuits, laughing and chatting.

It is like a door whips open into the past and I’m back at those early trips to the pool. Yes, getting anywhere back then with a small baby felt like planning for an Arctic expedition.

My sister never saw it that way. “I remember your baby boy sitting smiling in his little seat in the cafe while you sipped your cappuccino and read your Irish News,” she used to say accusingly.

I could never convince her that that was a once-off and getting to the toilet on your own in toddler days was a big thrill.

More often than not, Friday afternoons at 4pm my other half would walk through the door from work and I’d throw him the baby and dash up stairs to have a bath, all by myself, locked away from the world with only bubbles, a candle and a tatty novel for company.

But in the gym last week, those new mothers were tender to the gaze. You can fall in love with babies far too easily – you chat nonsense to them and they chat back – you smile and they smile back, as if you’re their whole world, just for a minute.

In all the rush of back then, there never seemed time to enjoy those moments. There was always a bottle to sterilise, a nappy to change and carrots to squish.

So that in the gym last week, I found myself staring down at a four-month-old boy, blue eyed and chubby, who happened to share his name with our long ago boy.

“Look after him for a minute,” said his mother as she ran to grab something from a locker.

So I sat beside him and we chatted. As a cure for SAD, it was hands down better than the big lamp.

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