It’s nearly 6.30pm and I just about manage to get up from my cosy sofa and set off to my Yoga class. I have attended quite a few classes over the years and find it to be a rewarding discipline that can be practiced at any age.

I’m always amazed that within the space of an hour, you can completely centre yourself through various postures, breathing and mindfulness. The Sanskrit root of the word Yoga means to unite, to bring the mind and body together, to dissolve the duality and bring inner peace.

Once I get there, we gather our props: yoga belt, blanket and two blocks and I chat with my classmates. The teacher starts us off gently and I’m immediately aware of my poor posture and shallow breathing as we’re asked to sit tall and cross-legged, lower our gaze and tune into our breathing, the starting position for the class.

The intake of breath and pushing up of the sternum immediately has an expansive and therapeutic effect. The out breath releases tension and enables us to focus on our bodies. Maintaining the stillness of the pose anchors and increases our body strength. We hold each posture until the teacher releases us and you can hear the group exhale with relief. Some postures I find easier than others like the Lord of the fishes twist or the Eagle pose.

The teacher walks around correcting our postures. The use of breath is crucial as his adjustments push your limits and it would be so easy to just fall over and give up. The in-breath allows me to reach a little further into the pose of a cobra stretching the spine, and holding still in the pose of a boat for toning the abdomen; balancing is always a challenge and I struggle to hold the dancer’s pose.

Next we attempt a seamless flow of postures like the Sun Salutation, a series of gentle flowing movements synchronized with the breath. Taking it slowly and checking our body alignment in the mirror is helpful at our amateur level. I’m in awe at how focusing on breathing and meditation techniques can empty the mind.

At the end of the session, the teacher dims the studio lights and we lie down and cover ourselves with blankets as we cool down. We keep our backs pressed into the floor, legs outstretched, arms out and palms facing upwards. My breathing is slow and I feel tuned out. We are relaxed and at peace. We have pressed the pause button. We are triumphant, “being” not “doing” in a society moving at breakneck speed.

St. Stephen’s church is located south of the city centre, over the road from the King Harry pub.

Based on the writings of Matthew Paris, a Benedictine Monk at St Albans Abbey in the 13th century, St. Stephen’s is one of the three ancient parish churches founded in around 948AD established to serve the pilgrims visiting the shrine of St Alban.

 I love the rural feel and openness of the churchyard as I walk through the gate; neat rows of rose bushes enclose the small garden of remembrance to my left. I step through the Victorian wooden porch and go into the church and linger at the back of the dark and dusky nave; the stone font before me dates back to the 14th century.

 I immediately feel enwombed and as silence descends and I can no longer hear the traffic; I almost feel as if I have trespassed into a private sacred dwelling. A rib vaulted ceiling arches over my head. I realize how fortunate I am to have the place to myself and absorb the holy ambience.

 The nave is carpeted in dark blue; I like the softness under my feet and the fact that I can’t hear my footsteps. I sit in the stillness admiring the dark wooden carved pews and the Victorian stained glass windows of Christ blessing little children and saints such as Saint Julian and Saint George.

 I am mesmerized by the beauty of Saint Cecilia and stop to stare. The window has a gilded feel to it as the golden bodice of her gown and the gold set in the musical instruments held by angels illuminate the entire window. A roman martyr and patroness of music, St. Cecilia’s radiant complexion and blonde locks shine into the darkness.

 I spot a pile of old musical scores beneath the lectern. I can feel that this church has been lived in and holds the memory of its history and congregation. I imagine all the prayers that have been offered up in this spot filling the space with peace.

 Apparently little remains of the original building, and the architectural style is largely medieval with Victorian restoration. It is thought that it started out as two interconnected rooms acting as a nave and a chancel with no tower, and this still forms the main structure of the church. The Lady Chapel was added in the 13th century, a simple space with a small altar and rose window.

 A decorated Oak pulpit dating from 1936 overlooks the chancel. The main altar has a triptych window depicting Christ raising Lazarus in the presence of Martha, Mary and three of the disciples; calming luminous blue skies surround the figures.

 I pick up the newsletter on my way out and bump into the smiling vicar who tells me about the activities held in the adjoining halls. It’s wonderful that the church is so active within it’s community and I’m pleased to hear that after Easter, will be open to the general public everyday. Visitors are welcome.

Lingering in The Fleetville Larder our local coffee shop, I’m served a hot chocolate as I watch the snowfall; I take a sip, it’s the perfect temperature and immediately warms me as I think about what a crazy week it’s been! It feels cosy in here as snow flurries beat against the window and the place is filled with the sound of lively conversation and the smell of sweet pastries.

I’ve stayed local for the past few days and it has been an opportunity to relax a little and watch moving images on the news of those poor people stuck in blizzard conditions having to sleep in their cars overnight, or listening to those amazing junior doctors and nurses being interviewed as they walk for miles to get to work.

I, on the other hand, haven’t achieved a huge amount for humanity over these past couple of days. In fact, this week has been an opportunity to get to the bottom of my laundry basket, de-clutter my cupboards, bring some things to the local charity shop, polish my wooden floor and revise some of my old novellas relegated to my filing cabinet

I decide to cut across the park on my way home. Snowflakes continue to fall at a gracious pace into the white air.  Tall bare trees are silhouetted against a white canvas and I try to relax my muscles and lower my shoulders; surrendering to sub zero temperatures.

I breathe down the icy air under the white northern skies, wrapped up warm, I enjoy the bright stillness, the solitary pace of my steps crunching on the hard frozen grass through biting winds. A single gull circles in an upward sweep into the icy gusts.

Snow for me has always been associated with fun times as it was quite a rare occurrence when I was growing up and always resulted in playful snow fights with my brother and sister and building snowmen. As snow is really rare in Italy, my mother would get excited and whenever it snowed, would join us in launching snowballs.

I ask myself can it really be March? March has always been a time of daffodils, crocuses and tulips, buying Easter eggs, and putting winter jackets away in the wardrobe.

We’re told that we may be facing more extreme climatic conditions in the future, so be it; we can only accept Nature’s transience, but for now, Spring is almost here and I’m looking forward to the park being animated with life, and to sunlight bathing our pale complexions.

There’s a perfect balance of town and country in Harpenden. Located between Luton and St Albans, its centre is known locally as the village and it has certainly retained its charm. Harpenden is well protected by being in a conservation area and one of its main features is the Church and High street greens that stretch all along from the common.

It’s hard to believe that I’m only 25 miles north west of London as I feel a million miles away. I meander into an independent bookshop packed with shelves full of well selected books neatly divided into sections, then its off to Caffe Nero perfectly located overlooking the wide open green spaces. I sip a cappuccino enjoying the peace and quiet as I look out onto the common.

The arrival of the railway system from 1860 connected Harpenden’s rural environment to London and apparently in 1913 the National children’s home, housing over 200 children, was moved from the East End to the fresh country air of Harpenden. After only a year it was reported that the general health of the children had improved in the new surroundings! I’m not at all surprised.

The parade of shops shaded by Beech and Maple trees include a variety of independent boutiques and a glossy Space.NK that has just arrived. I step into Threads a family-run gift shop, and enjoy their huge selection of cards, Easter decorations, pretty notebooks and Estella Bartlett jewellery.

I walk on to discover Thorns, a traditional sweet and tobacco shop, established in 1918 celebrating its centenary. The dim lighting, smell of sweet confectionary mixed with the mild scent of menthol tobacco is the first thing I take in as I close the door behind me.

Surrounded by hundreds of varieties of traditional chocolates and sweets I have a chat with the assistant who tells me that the shop was opened by a man who had returned home after fighting in the First World War making it the oldest shop in town. I look up and am greeted by portraits of Sir Winston Churchill and Queen Victoria and can feel how deeply embedded this old confectioners is within its community.

The shelves are filled with boxes of orange and whiskey liquor chocolates. Behind the cash desk are paisley green tins of loose tobacco; on the other side are rows upon rows of old fashioned sweets in jars sold by the quarter from Cola Cubes to Aniseed Twists. I buy a packet of pear drops while my husband carefully selects some penny sweets for our daughter.

As we reach the cash register my husband points out a colouful box of Everlasting Gobstopppers and we smile at each other. I know exactly what he’s thinking and suggest that he doesn’t say a word!

I’ll be back for more sweeties and look forward to exploring the Farmer’s market held on the fourth Sunday of each month.