When I first decided to reclaim my Sundays I was more focussed on the challenges it would throw up than the benefits. It was early January and we were going through that really cold spell, so I knew that keeping warm would be my priority.
I have to admit that if I hadn't been fortunate enough to own a wood burning stove I probably wouldn't have contemplated trying to go off-grid in the middle of winter. I know I could have worn extra layers; coat, hat, scarf; mittens; etc... but I suspect I might have given up quite quickly if I'd set myself that level of commitment. However, one of my friends (Mike) who's joined me on the 'Off-grid Sundays' path has no alternative way to heat his flat, so he goes for a huge long walk in the morning to warm himself up, then spends his late afternoons/evenings reading on the sofa (by candle light) wrapped in a blanket and using only the candles for heating; pretty impressive!
One of the many things I wanted to achieve by going off-grid one day a week was to learn to rely less on the background gas central heating and more on my wood burner. I have a very small, open plan house, so it's quite easy for the heat from the stove to reach most of the rooms. This means if I want to be really warm I need to sit close to the burner, but the rest of the house still reaches a perfectly acceptable ambient temperature.
I've got into a bit of a routine on Sundays now. Whatever time I wake up, I go straight downstairs to light the wood burner. I've always set it the night before, so it only needs a match. I stick a saucepan on top with exactly the right amount of water for a cup of tea, huddle by the fire whilst I wait for it to catch sufficiently, then close it down a bit and go back to bed with a cup of tea and my thoughts. I leave a kettle full of water on top to heat up ready for a wash.
By the time I've finished my tea and had a wash, it's beautifully warm downstairs and there's enough natural light to read by. So, I spend the next hour or so curled up on a bean bag, by the stove, reading a book.
By mid morning I'm toasty warm, wonderfully relaxed and ready for a walk. Whatever the weather is like I always get out and walk on the Malvern Hills for a couple of hours. I have absolutely no idea what time of day it is because my mobile phone is switched off and I don't have a watch... but it doesn't matter anyway! When I start to feel hungry I head back home (with an arm full of fallen branches to store for next year's kindling) and warm up whatever soup is left over from the day before. Then, depending on the weather, I spend the rest of the daylight hours either reading by the burner or pottering in my garden.
When it gets dark (4.30pm on my first few Sundays!) I light candles and my neighbour, Louise, usually comes over for a cup of tea. She always notices how different the house feels to usual. There's definitely something different in the whole energy; it's more peaceful and 'natural'... as if time itself has slowed down. It's difficult to describe, but it's almost tangible. You'd need to try it out for yourself to understand what I mean. I put it down to not using any electricity and, especially, to not having mobile phone or wi-fi computer waves bouncing around all over the place.
Anyway, by the time I've eaten an evening meal I'm pretty much ready for bed. I heat water for a hot water bottle and head up to bed with a wind up radio. I listen to the radio till I drift off to sleep. I'm beautifully warm... completely relaxed... and ready to face whatever the new week brings...