Nature versus Virus

When I wrote my blog piece last month, I couldn’t have predicted the isolation that billions of people around the world are experiencing today. I wrote about the importance of reaching out to people; the value of physical touch; the need for connection. One month later and the Coronavirus (Covid-19) has travelled from country to country, via the people. Bacteria hysteria has taken over our economy and our way of life. As it stands, the number of the virus-related deaths (according to the worldometer website) exceeds 79,000, but fortunately, and most importantly, the recovered cases exceed 298,000.

The first bit of advice in the UK to avoid catching or passing on the virus, was to wash your hands whilst singing Happy Birthday (a sure way to ruin the birthday song in the future!). The message worldwide now is very clear: Stay at Home. We have to avoid each other. The virus is strong. It can survive in an aerosol from a sneeze for over 3 hours in the air.

Now we’re in our 3rd official week of lockdown. We’re told it’s OK to go outside if we have essential work, or if we need to buy food, get medicine, exercise, or look after a vulnerable person. But anything else is a no-no. I’m craving the company of others. I miss tea and cake in a café. I miss my friends. When I go for a walk, it’s a little like being plonked in a human game of pacman: everyone in sight quickly crosses the road, fearful I might eat them. Sometimes I attempt to engage with a smile, a thank you, or an English nod of acknowledgment. Yesterday morning I received two smiles, one grimace, and about five nothings. Doing a food shop is a surreal experience, with orderly quiet queues to enter a supermarket and a 2-metre distance between people at all times. It brings new meaning to the term Mind the Gap. Buying a loaf of bread has become a stark reminder of what we are trying to avoid: death.

Nature seems to be one of our universal comfort blankets (for those of us lucky enough to be within walking reach). Countryside. Space. Colour. Air. Breathing space. It’s easy to stay inside and get absorbed in the stream of negative news online, so it is particularly beneficial to get outside and notice Spring now. The season of new beginnings. Blossom and daffs, buds and birds. If now isn’t the time to take notice and be appreciative for what we do have, then I don’t know when is.


An attraction to something new and natural can be a healthy distraction. Really looking, observing and writing might bring about some surprises. As an idea, if you would like to take a moment to be creative, why not opt for some nature tonic and sit and gaze at a natural object you find outside – it can just be something that captures your eye: a pebble, a flower, whatever. Then try writing an acrostic (a poem with lines beginning with the letters of the word). It’s doesn’t have to make sense or be grammatically correct, just think of it as a little challenge, e.g.


Sunshine penetrates the water

Trickling downwards towards the source

Remembering nothing

Every drop recycling

Away from itself and towards itself

Making headway when others can’t.

For those unable to go outside, or maybe you just want to stay inside, reading about nature can also help bring a sense of calm. The Guardian have a host of nature diarists – my favourite nature writer is Paul Evans, his writing can be found here.

I’ve also started dipping into the book, Women who Run with Horses – it’s an excellent one if reading lots at a time feels harder at the moment. If that’s the case, remember it’s OK to not do much of anything at the moment. A pandemic is not what we’re accustomed to. The mayhem and grief that has been bestowed on us, means we are having to adjust quickly. Some things might be out of our control, and with change comes a need for care. Self-care is something we can control!

So, stay safe everyone. Mind the Gap. Sing a song, it doesn’t have to be Happy Birthday. Write a poem. Breathe. Notice nature doing its magical thing. And if you do see someone wandering lonely as a cloud, try to smile : )

Finding Connection in a Disconnected World

I attended a training course on professional boundaries recently. The question of physical contact was discussed. In a Health and Social Care setting, hugging a client is usually a ‘no-go,’ and a definite No when it’s against company policy. This got me thinking about boundaries in our personal lives too. Boundaries can be blurry when it comes to physical contact, even with friends we’ve known for years. To hug or not to hug? Kiss on the cheek, or quickly duck when you see the face approaching?

We have our reasons for our varying comfort zones when it comes to closeness, whether it’s a cultural upbringing or a protective act that directs us. But us humans have a need for physical contact…

I’m reading ‘Touch: The Science of Hand, Heart and Mind’. Linden writes about babies in an understaffed orphanage; the babies who received touch therapy put more weight on, had fewer infections and even slept better. Did you know there is a term for people who are craving physical touch? Skin Hunger. It’s not just our bellies that need a feed! Contact and connection can be nurturing. A hug can increase our oxytocin levels, and in the right circumstances a cuddle can reduce stress.

Putting aside the touchy-feel needs, social interaction is also incredibly important for good health. I’m not dismissing the benefits of solitude. As a self-confessed daydreamer, I know I benefit from a bit of space. Solitude can be good for the soul and just because someone is alone, doesn’t mean they are lonely.  But not everyone likes being alone. It can be painful.

I like to be alone

Not only does loneliness impact on our mental health, it can have detrimental effects on our physical health too.

Research into loneliness

  • “Loneliness increases the likelihood of mortality by 26%”
  • “The effect of loneliness and isolation on mortality is comparable to the impact of well-known risk factors such as obesity, and has a similar influence as cigarette smoking”
  • “Loneliness increases the risk of high blood pressure”

How do we know if someone is lonely?

As writer Olivia Llang says, “hidden behind a computer screen, the lonely person has control.” We can portray an existence online that is so far from reality that no one would know what is being experienced. Would you post a picture of yourself alone and declare your feelings of loneliness? Some of us are old enough to remember the time when technology wasn’t so prevalent in our lives, when masking ourselves wasn’t so easy. I expect everyone has experienced empty feelings of loneliness, maybe in a temporary state or perhaps for a more prolonged amount of time. And no one is immune. Loneliness isn’t something that only happens in old age.

In a world where so many people experience social isolation, reaching out to connect with others could make a huge difference. It sounds depressing, but I bet there’s a lonely person in a house near all of us.


Ways to connect with others:

  • A writer and musician I know in Frome is seeking people for a community project: PIPPA (People In Positive Politics Association). You can read more about it here where you can also hear her song Magic Money Tree – a campaign song for an equal society.
  • A list of regional events that are set up to support people who are experiencing social isolation can be found here here
  • Or if like me you like a good cuppa, there’s the Tea Party Raves

Of course, if you have a touch of skin hunger, a therapeutic massage might just be the nourishment you need…

Inspire your Heart with Art

The 31st January 2020: a day stained with uncertainty as the UK slip-slides away from the EU.

It’s probable that many (around half of UK voters, at a guess) will mourn the end of the 47-year relationship with the EU, and the sense of familiarity and law we once had. While the other half of voters, the leavers, might be popping the corks off champers this evening.

At a time of divide between people and countries, it seems sensible to me to take a moment to do something kind for ourselves. Maybe, if we are each ‘in a good place’ we stand a better chance at adapting and accepting change (this applies to all areas of challenge, in my humble opinion).

Did you know that today is national inspire your heart with art day?

Research shows that the arts are good for us! The Royal College of Psychiatrists recommended participation in the arts and developing creativity for the protection of mental health for a reason.

Perhaps now is an ideal time to let rip and create. Be brave. Don’t worry if you don’t consider yourself an artist. The arts are not biased! I find the peaceful ambiance of a gallery calming, music can reflect or enhance my mood, a dark novel is often enthralling. Nobody has to be a Picasso or a Debussy or a Shakespeare to reap the benefits of creativity.

art is a line around your thoughts

With the weekend upon us, take a moment to think about how you’d like to inspire your heart. Whether it’s dusting off your paint brushes, dancing in a puddle, writing a rant – whatever your preferred method, and regardless of the purpose, there is reassurance in knowing that the arts can have therapeutic value.

Life might be feeling unstable at the moment, especially for those of us most effected by the B word and the upcoming negotiations but there is some comfort in knowing the arts are a chance to express emotions or find solace. A Banksy mural might be just around the corner ready to speak to you, a poem could resonate, or perhaps you’ll head to the beach to build a winter sandcastle? As George Bernard Shaw said:

“without art, the crudeness of reality would make the world unbearable”.

Regardless of the what, why, how and where, connecting with the arts is a way to inspire your heart.

Create the space to be inspired.

I’d love to hear about the different ways you find inspiration with the arts. And if you’ve created art, will you share it?


Extinction Rebellion Bath

Breathing in toxic air happens every day and it is killing us. We know this, but the fact that thousands suffer with illnesses such as asthma and lung disease, isn’t enough to create immediate change.

Scientists have communicated to governments what needs to be done in order to save our planet (that includes life, of all kinds). The UK’s target is to reduce the production of dangerous gases by 34% by 2020 (that is less than a year away), and a zero carbon emission by 2050. Nearly half of the UK’s carbon dioxide emissions come from the energy we use every day at home and when we travel.

Today, Extinction Rebellion Bath protested for clean air. Unlike some protests, Breathe in Bath, was peaceful and civilized: the people respected the police, and the police respected the people. The route was organised, rules were given and accepted.

The group of XR members and other locals gathered in Kensington Meadows and walked to Queens Square, via Bath Abbey for a mass die-in. Disruption to traffic was minimal. There was singing, banners, cheering and lots of encouraging support from onlookers.

As someone who often walks along the main roads of Bath and dislikes the lorries and traffic-jams, I am not surprised that Bath has some of the highest rates of pollution in the country.

Time will tell if Bath Council are committed to achieving their pledge to cut carbon emissions. Maybe London Road has a chance of becoming a tree-lined avenue with a tram system? Or as one protester said to me today, the whole of the city centre can become pedestrianised?

In my opinion, Extinction Rebellion aren’t a group of angry people wanting to cause a fuss about nothing; these are a group of environmental activists urging politicians to act on the facts given by scientists. There is something deeply sad about needing to march for clean air. Clean air is a human right.

As sung by the XR protesters in Bath: Never doubt that a small group of people can change the world, indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.



Sources and info:

Breathe in Bath – A Rebellion


poluted buildings




Botanical Gardens of Bath


Bath Botanical Gardens

I went for a walk in Bath’s Botanical Gardens this week. It was disheartening to see that one of my favourite trees, a blossom tree, had been removed. All that remained of it was a stump.

I remembered a piece I wrote, written some time ago. Here’s an edited version – stripped back and hacked, just like the tree:

Through the Queen’s Gate that holds a bronze lion, I follow the Royal Avenue to where I want to go. I pass the bandstand, the Crescent and an old torn tennis ball. I find The Botanical Gardens of Bath. I don’t walk far because I am struck by the sight of one tree. Branches abound with buds spill to the ground. Its name turns out to be: Prunus Pendula Plena Rosea. Drooping Rosebud Cherry, its common name, poised, pretty in bloom.

I sit on a weathered bench, ‘Dedicated to Charles Hall who loved these gardens’, and soon realise as I gaze at the veil that I am not the only one drawn in. A small girl, barely five, skips through the hanging shroud of spring and twirls around the trunk. Another girl, a couple of years taller, makes her move in. She gives a strand a yank and leaves.

The distant sound of cars is mellow, but the grumble of a Harley Davidson roars and a siren bleats. I hear a melody. Something that sounds like a cheeky gopher squeaks from a different tree. Birds chatter and a bumblebee hovering below the bench, hums. A rattle of a scooter comes from around the corner; the boy wearing a hood that says, ‘Just Do It,’ stops to adjust his glasses. “Look at that tree, it’s like an umbrella.”

Those who stop to admire the tree don’t see me lounging on the bench. “This is nice,” says one man. Then it is Granddad’s time to hide. “Ready or not, here I come: one, two, three …”

Tiny midges dance in the sky between me and the tree. Like painted horses on a merry-go-round, they dart up-and-down-and-up in lines. It seems pointless somehow.

The Langport Mummers go Sailing

langport mummers_off boat

photo credit: Peter Roberts

It isn’t every weekend you get invited to be part of a boat regatta with a group of actors …

I ventured south through the Somerset countryside with a friend and found LangFest18 (the Langport Festival). Another friend was performing with a local entertainers: The Langport Mummers.  They’re a vibrant, colourful troupe who act traditional Mumming plays, peppered with contemporary twists and humour – accessible for young and old.

On Sunday afternoon they performed Alfred and the Viking in-front of a backdrop of trees by the river Parrett. The play was full of cracking one-liners and comical moments. The highlight had to be when King Alfred, their local hero, caught a frying-pan of cakes on fire and the cider-drinking character ‘Geezer’ promptly extinguished the flames by *urinating on it (improvised, of course).

When the performers bowed and the audience finished applauding, the troupe gathered on a wooden boat and sailed downstream, taking me and my friend with them. I had never travelled on a boat with a jester, a raven and a viking before. It felt very majestic, and slightly surreal. The piercing shrill of bagpipes filled the air as we followed dozens of canoeists who gracefully led the way and onlookers waved us past.

A big thank you to the Mummers, and especially to ‘Geezer,’ for inviting us on-board. That was a fun afternoon LangFest18…


*no real urine was used in the performance

them on boat

photo credit: Peter Roberts


photo credit: Peter Roberts



Music and Sacred Dance from the Roof of the World


Tashi_Llunpo.jpgTibetan Monks from the Tashi Lhunpo Monastery and Sound Healers, Michael Ormiston & Candida Valentino, with Nyima, presented a charity concert: Music and Sacred Dance from the Roof of the World, in Frome earlier this week.

It was an evening of mesmerising sound and sight – a cacophony of music, mantra, and chanting. We were introduced to instruments from around the world – including the bird-call of a deflating balloon (who knew!) and unusual Mongolian overtone singing. Unique masked-dance performed by the monks filled the stage with the bellow of the horns and drums.

This taste of an ancient and sacred culture  left me mulling over reincarnation. The Dalai Lama writes:

“… reincarnation is a phenomenon which should take place either through the voluntary choice of the concerned person or at least on the strength of his or her karma, merit and prayers. Therefore, the person who reincarnates has sole legitimate authority over where and how he or she takes rebirth and how that reincarnation is to be recognized.”

(Dalai Lama and reincarnation)

If this is the case, this means that some of us chose to be born to our parents and the world as we know it, maybe. Food for thought perhaps? The question of how reincarnation is to be recognised – well, that is another blog (or play) in the making (literally) …

For now, I sit with the calming memory of monks meditating and the gentle chime of a gong.

I recommend experiencing the captivating performance of the Tashi Lhunpo monks, and the work of great sound healers, if you get the chance.

You can find out about the Tashi Lhunpo Monastery here:

and Candida and Michael’s work here:





Český Krumlov

Cesky Krumlov Castle.jpg

Once upon a time in Český Krumlov…

Nestled in the South Bohemia region of the Czech Republic, the picturesque city of Český Krumlov is fitting for any fairy-tale. I stayed here for two days as a temporary Princess on a budget.

Its 13th century castle is the 2nd largest castle complex in Europe and is without doubt the ‘jewel in the crown,’ standing proud by the curving Vltava river. Taking photos are prohibited inside the buildings, but the views from the grounds and the gardens are stunning –  enough to run any camera battery down.

Paying for a guided tour was worthwhile and is the only way to see inside. One of my favourite rooms was the Masquerade Hall, a theatrically painted room with walls adorned with characters from Commedia del Arte. Capturing the imagination of others since 1748, and now lucky students have their diploma ceremony in the same hall.

I recommend turning a blind eye when you cross the bear moat. There is a 26 year old beauty pacing slow circuits in the pit below. Especially sad knowing his fate is most likely as a rug, along with his ancestors on the castle floors.

To get to the castle, cobbled alleyways, bridges and faded frescoes offer breath-taking sights. It’s no wonder this place is a tourist trap. I pretended the constant flow of visitors were witches and goblins – it helped add to the ambiance.

Worthy of its UNESCO World Heritage Site status, the terracotta roof tops, ginger bread shops and galleries offer a little piece of magic after the 3 hour bus journey from Prague.

Top tip: Do the Wiseman free walking tour. It starts at the main square twice a day during high season, and lasts 2 hours.