Ann Fitzgerald: Get active to fend off gloom of the long dark nights after Samhain

Ann Fitzgerald

Ann Fitzgerald

So what are you going to do for the long winter nights?

And, pardon me if this sounds preachy, don't anyone say, 'more work' or 'rest'; there will always be work to be done, and there will be plenty of time for the other when you're pushing daisies.

So whether it's signing up for a woodwork class, joining a table tennis club, men's shed or the ICA, go for it.

While learning a new skill or liberating a stifled one may be the supposed premise of such activities, the real point is meeting people. And that will never be more important than in these coming months.

Technology means that anyone can take a fairly decent photo, and there are plenty of courses to enhance your photographic further.

So seriously did I take this that I actually went out and did a book largely based on photos. And it was even a commercial success. If I could do it, anyone could.

One of the most useful things I learnt in a METAC course with well-known photographer Alf Harvey was how to label and store images for easy retrieval.

Or have you ever dreamed of penning a book? Or how about reading, and joining a bookclub?

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Having joined one for the first time last year, I can now understand why they are so popular. As someone once said, "there are no faster or firmer friendships than those formed between people who love the same books."

I have always loved dancing. As a child, I used to have this recurrent dream about swirling around a grand ballroom to the Blue Danube in the arms of Prince Charming.

Fortunately, I got to marry my Prince Charming, who is at ease in every social situation, except one - avert your eyes now all those of a sensitive nature - the dancefloor, where he demonstrates all the grace of a fly trying to extricate himself from a spider's web.

So if I want to dance, it's going to be on my own.

There is something very appealing about the freedom of Sean Nós dancing.

Unlike many Irish families, when I was growing up, ours had no tradition of Irish dancing. While my classmates were heading off after school to learn their 1, 2, 3s, we were going home to ride our ponies before feeding the calves or doing other seasonal jobs.

In my own head, if I were to take up Sean Nós, I would (of course) be some sort of geriatric sensation. I know … dream on.

My mother had a sweet voice and I have always loved to sing. Hence my decision last year to join the Munster Rugby Supporters Club Choir.

Weekly practice is a 90-minute drive away in Charleville, which makes it a considerable commitment. But I'm really enjoying it.

And I'm going to take this opportunity to put out a call for help - the choir needs more men. Membership promises fun, new friends, longer life (this has been proven!), and a cure for baldness (not yet proven!).

Back to the dancing, I do have a small bit of form.

When line-dancing was sweeping the country in the 1990s, there was a shortage of instructors, and an aerobics teacher friend mine was asked to take on a class on a particular night. She was busy and, half for a laugh, put me forward instead.

We were just learning ourselves but, within a month I was teaching over 500 people a week over four weeknights out of five.

(I had to take the other night off to do a class myself so I could stay ahead of my students).

It was great fun, and great for the waistline.

Last year, over 20 years on, I was even asked by a few friends to do a reprise.

There are also some opportunities to do courses and participate in activities online, if you really don't have enough time or don't feel up to going out to meet people.

A new interest might just get you through to the spring.

Indo Farming

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