The most frequently used word right now – after, ‘Christmas’ and ‘merry’ – must be ‘busy’.

Everyone is so very busy, and don’t we all know it. If they haven’t had time to ring us to tell us how busy they are, then their Christmas card will have arrived with the newsletter which outlines their busyness over the year, culminating in mega-busyness over Christmas. Or if it comes attached to an e-card we know they’ve been so busy they’ve had no time to buy cards.

Now busyness is all well and good, and I do understand that the responsibilities of parents in particular, with all the pressures and expectations loaded on them at this time of year, results in them being very very busy. However, too often the word ‘busy’ comes with an unspoken ‘and be impressed with my life and all these things I achieve’. And I am impressed, to a point. The point when they start telling me how busy they are.

For a long time I’ve threatened to put ‘busy’ into my spam mail so every email that comes to me with that word in it is automatically junked. Threatened, but of course never done it or I’d never hear from anyone.

Kiruna is a good antidote to busyness. The open landscape stills the mind, makes you slow down a bit. That’s not to say we don’t have lots to do – I’m constantly thinking of things I want to do, or need to do. But most of these activities aren’t what you’d call ‘goal-oriented’. Take the inevitable snow shovelling. You never achieve anything. I’ve spent two hours on it today and I’ve still got a driveway full of snow. It’s no good telling people how busy I am clearing snow, they won’t be impressed. And it’s no good going at it hell for leather, being busy busy busy, because I’ll never get to the finishing line, so what’s the rush?

After a while here you learn to enjoy what you’re doing, and not keep up any particular tempo. Some very good advice I received early in my snow shovelling career was take it easy, don’t work up a sweat and just let it happen. It was our (fairly useless, but amiable) builder who gave me that advice. I don’t know if he knew that Lao Tzu said something similar in the 6th century BC: ‘Practice not-doing and everything will fall into place.’

On the internet I came across someone discussing the idea of ‘not-doing’. At first he couldn’t see what Lao Tzu meant, but then, he writes, ‘I had a Zen epiphany in my Zumba class….’

In his Zumba class???

You see, that’s the trouble with busy people – even while espousing inactivity they’re telling you that they’re filling up every waking hour with something or other.

Just like Bing Crosby, I can be ‘busy doing nothing’, and unlike many busy people, I find that it’s a very good idea not to multi-task while I’m doing it. One bit of nothing at a time. Bing’s tasks included waking the sun up and rehearsing the songbirds but I’m sure he didn’t do them at the same time. ‘Hustle bustle’ he sang, ‘and only an hour for lunch’.

So if you’ll excuse me, I’m just off into the garden with the snow shovel. And while I’m out I really must pick up all those footprints the hare left there last night.

But where to put them all? Hustle bustle.