COUNTRY MATTERS

SAM_3628

The landowners of Devon and Cornwall are a feisty lot. They have acquired, in recent years, a serious interest in diversification.  Of course, one must empathise with them, for to own hundreds of acres of our green and pleasant land is surely a great responsibility?

That well-known and much-loved image of the ruddy-faced, Barbour-clad, shot-gun toting, cow-milking, salt-of-the earth friend of us all, will be sadly missed. He is being replaced by a business entrepeneur, who is casting aside the rape-seed field for a new crop; solar panels. All neatly fenced in, 17 acres of these gaudy little solar plants will fuel at least 450 households with enough electricity to keep the Wii boards up and running. Of course, the wild life will have to get used to living in a rural enclosed ghetto, but as they can’t speak up or write to their MP‘s, they will have to put up with it.

Other farmers have taken to the role of developer as a duck takes to water, providing the actual homes that these consumers will need. Planning applications are being poured over by Parish Counsellors in many a village hall. The lights burn until well past eight o’clock, as the plans are scrutinised for approval.

And if the plans are rejected, the jolly landowners ask the saints for guidance and come up with super new plans to build homes forolder people‘.  This group know how to be grateful to their squire and will put up with any amount of misrepresentation. They will linger fitfully in the estate agent’s office, staring at the colourful brochures and planning applications that promise them everything from meals on wheels to gymnasia, from bistro cafes to ‘level’ walks by bubbling brooks to their nearest town, where they can pick up their frugal provisions, as befitting people of their ancient age.

The over-fifties can retire with impunity to these ‘gated’ communities. They can be reassured that although they will be promised everything but get nothing, the landowner turned developer will call on them regularly and ask them if they are ‘ all right?’  How thoughtful and kind is that?Here we see jolly old Farmer Jethro Giles in 1945, uninterested in anything but his turnips.

Sadly times have changed.  His grandsons, Toby and Hugh, have no appreciation of root vegetables and as we can see in this picture, are only really keen to be seen in good flat hats. 

They also seek to promote a squire-like expression, hugely intimidating to their ‘over-fifties’ prospective house purchasers. Like the wild rabbits on their land, they are hard to engage in conversation and ever harder to understand. Their language is composed of strange sentences that always start with the words: ‘ I ‘ave a very hard life, y’know…’

And so, for those who do wish to communicate with this strange and changing breed of rural folk, a new code of etiquette must be established. It includes writing long letters to young planning officers, local MP’s, chair persons of all sorts of local organisations and, if push comes to shove, setting up resident’s associations. Indeed, some older people are taking the law into their own hands. In the twilight of their years they are studying for law degrees and learning to pass on secret information with others in their partisan groups, by special sign language:

Together, they feel they may be able to defeat the decadent land owners and their money-making schemes and persuade them to go back to the land and grow potatoes. Will they succeed?

THE LOVE BUG

Heart

Understanding the person you love is hard. Even in a long relationship, you may never fully know them. But then, do we really ever know anyone? Yet intimacy, that core foundation to any thriving relationship, can only survive when you have that ‘connected’ feeling with another person. I suppose it mimics the way we first experience love with our mothers. We are born ‘in love’ with our caregiver. We are vulnerable and small, with enormous needs and if our mother, or whoever is the first person to care for us, rejects us, it’s likely we will be damaged.

So falling in love makes us feel vulnerable. It exposes those early feelings and emotions. If we have a strong centre and were loved to distraction by our parents as we grew into adults, we will be able to deal with the feelings that being in love allow to surface. It’s often said that  being ‘in love’ is a fantasy; that it cannot last. We have to grow to love someone and loving is a slow process.

Loving someone still mimics those early years with our primary caregiver, because we have expectations of our loved one; we are ‘needy’ and demand they respond to those needs like a mother will to her baby.  We need to feel we ‘know’ them intimately and that they know us.

Relationships die when people grow apart. Yet you can remain deeply in love with someone for years and not see them. They have etched their being on your heart and nothing, not even if they left in a space ship for Mars, would stop the feelings you have for them. So what is it that makes such love so enduring, when you can live with someone for years, see them every day yet feel nothing for them?

I heard recently that we are all descended from one African woman, millions of years ago.  Genetic mapping has allowed scientists to make this incredible discovery. So in a real sense, we are all related. When you meet someone and fall for them and it lasts for years, even if you are apart, could it be that the string of DNA in both of you is so similar that you both recognise it and like a magnet, you are spiritually stuck together on some level, forever? I have also read that if you have grandchildren, the one’s whose DNA is most like your own is the one you will love the most.

Something makes love stick some couples together forever, while others drift apart and end up feeling nothing. I have often likened that pull called loving to a fullness in the heart, that rises and falls as memories of the loved one flood into your brain, even when you are apart.  You can truly conjure them up, like a ghost. My mother loved my Dad very much and when he died unexpectedly at the young age of 58, she swore she could see him, smell him and hear him all around the house. Was that his ghost or did her love for him refuse to let him go? Deep love is like that. I sometimes dream of my children so vividly that the dream will haunt me for days.

Love is very sacred and very beautiful, because it is like no other emotion we humans can experience. It is better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all is a well known saying; it is true. But what sort of love? It is better to have loved and lost if the person you loved turned out to be an abuser or ran off with all your money! If your love was not reciprocated, yes. Never to have loved at all could work for someone who has difficulty in expression emotions. To fall for someone like this means that one person will be unhappy. To make love work, both lovers must express their feelings freely. If one withdraws or holds back, the other is left alone. There is no loneliness than the loneliness felt in a cold relationship.

Getting older means that you reassess your life on a daily basis. And you think about those you love and have loved. For me, I want to hang on to those feelings until the world is taken away from me by my death. I will be going nowhere when I die –  the world will go.  So does that mean that the love I have for others will stay in me; in my heart and my soul? Yes, I think it will.

BOOKS ARE MAGIC!

Books
Image by henry… via Flickr

I admit it, writing is such a selfish thing to do. You and your thoughts, together for hours on end with only a pen or a mouse and a screen to keep you company. And what is the outcome? Words, words, words. And what use are words? They don’t buy anything, unless you a write a best-seller and how many of us do?

Maybe the Philistines are right? Maybe we should burn all the books? Maybe our kids can survive without them. They can be raised on a diet of Disney. They can sit in front of a small screen all day (a bit like a writer does), their little minds numbed by the non-stop Technicolor rubbish that comes down the tube and hits their young retinas, invades their thoughts, turns them into quick-fix junkies…

The pen is mightier than the sword. In Afghanistan, books groups are springing up all over the place. The women meet in one venue and the men in another. They have been offered funds to help them establish the groups but they have refused. They don’t want to be accountable to anyone. The groups are for them; for the sheer enjoyment of reading and discussing together what they have read. In a country where books have been banned for so long, where people and particularly women, have been persecuted and prevented from becoming educated, from reading anything at all, this is incredible. These new book clubs are the first step to a free society.

Books are precious. They open door to the rest of the world, to the universe, to anywhere! They make us think. They help us organise our lives. They give us hope and change the way we see things. They are an ear on life itself. They are the eyes and thoughts of our fellow humans. They waken in us senses and feelings we didn’t know we had.

Books are magic. To be able to read is the most wonderful thing we can ever learn. So why is it that so many of our kids are leaving school unable to read?

COUNTRY MATTERS

SAM_3628

The landowners of Devon and Cornwall are a feisty lot. They have acquired, in recent years, a serious interest in diversification.  Of course, one must empathise with them, for to own hundreds of acres of our green and pleasant land is surely a great responsibility?

That well-known and much-loved image of the ruddy-faced, Barbour-clad, shot-gun toting, cow-milking, salt-of-the earth friend of us all, will be sadly missed. He is being replaced by a business entrepeneur, who is casting aside the rape-seed field for a new crop; solar panels. All neatly fenced in, 17 acres of these gaudy little solar plants will fuel at least 450 households with enough electricity to keep the Wii boards up and running. Of course, the wild life will have to get used to living in a rural enclosed ghetto, but as they can’t speak up or write to their MP‘s, they will have to put up with it.

Other farmers have taken to the role of developer as a duck takes to water, providing the actual homes that these consumers will need. Planning applications are being poured over by Parish Counsellors in many a village hall. The lights burn until well past eight o’clock, as the plans are scrutinised for approval.

And if the plans are rejected, the jolly landowners ask the saints for guidance and come up with super new plans to build homes for ‘older people’.  This group know how to be grateful to their squire and will put up with any amount of misrepresentation. They will linger fitfully in the estate agent’s office, staring at the colourful brochures and planning applications that promise them everything from meals on wheels to gymnasia, from bistro cafes to ‘level’ walks by bubbling brooks to their nearest town, where they can pick up their frugal provisions, as befitting people of their ancient age.

The over-fifties can retire with impunity to these ‘gated’ communities. They can be reassured that although they will be promised everything but get nothing, the landowner turned developer will call on them regularly and ask them if they are ‘ all right?’  How thoughtful and kind is that? Here we see jolly old Farmer Jethro Giles in 1945, uninterested in anything but his turnips.

Sadly times have changed.  His grandsons, Toby and Hugh, have no appreciation of root vegetables and as we can see in this picture, are only really keen to be seen in good flat hats. 

They also seek to promote a squire-like expression, hugely intimidating to their ‘over-fifties’ prospective house purchasers. Like the wild rabbits on their land, they are hard to engage in conversation and ever harder to understand. Their language is composed of strange sentences that always start with the words: ‘ I ‘ave a very hard life, y’know…’

And so, for those who do wish to communicate with this strange and changing breed of rural folk, a new code of etiquette must be established. It includes writing long letters to young planning officers, local MP’s, chair persons of all sorts of local organisations and, if push comes to shove, setting up resident’s associations. Indeed, some older people are taking the law into their own hands. In the twilight of their years they are studying for law degrees and learning to pass on secret information with others in their partisan groups, by special sign language:

Together, they feel they may be able to defeat the decadent land owners and their money-making schemes and persuade them to go back to the land and grow potatoes. Will they succeed?

LYN FERRAND

Born into an Italian musical family, writer and director Lyn Ferrand started her career as a singer and actor. She studied theatre at Dartington Hall and founded  the registered charity Turning Point Theatre Company in 1989. She toured the UK and Scotland with her work. In 1994 her play ‘Carers’ was presented at a festival of theatre in Toronto, Canada.

Lyn also studied with director and humanist Augusto Boal, creator of forum theatre.  She wrote forum theatre plays and worked as a forum theatre practitioner for a number of clients in the field of health and social care. Her article on Forum Theatre was published in Contemporary Theatre Review.

In 2000, she launched Buzzword Interactive Films and was the Creative Director until 2008.  Buzzword won several awards for its training films. The Lost Child was nominated for and won The National Training Award 2005.

As the writer and director of Turning Point Theatre, she  was commissioned to write the following plays, working in association with a variety of voluntary and statutory agencies for 14 years.

You Deserve A Good Rest – ageism

Sour Grapes and Ashes – bereavement and loss

Big Girls Don’t Cry – issues for older women

Carers – exploring the lives of four full-time carers

One Man’s Meat – the foot and mouth outbreak

Wasted – drug and alcohol abuse

Sorted – bullying in school

Aggravated Trespass – racism in the judiciary

The Lost Child – child protection***

Nice People – rural racism*

The High Wire of Need – services for carers**

The Tameness of a Wolf – Schizophrenia

A Night With The Girls – Revue

Keeping Milly Happy – elderly fallers*

Sophie’s Choices – young carers

Lyn also wrote music and lyrics, working with musical director Paul McClure.

* Now a DVD training film.

** Adapted into the award winning training film Take Care. Distributed originally by Buzzword Interactive Films.

*** Adapted into training film, winning the 2005 National Training Awards.

THE LOST CHILD DVD  :  “An example of exceptionally effective learning”

The Lost Child training DVD was commissioned by Lancashire Social Services for the ACPC and is now available for other organisations working in the field of Child Protection to purchase.

  • Highly Commended at The Community Care Awards
  • Highly Commended at the Cumbria and Lancashire SHA Achievement Awards
  • Winner of The National Training Awards North West
  • Winner of The Skills for Care Training Accolade and was awarded 4 stars in Community Care Magazine.

The Lost Child is currently being used nationally and internationally (University of Southern Australia) and has proved to be a very useful and innovative training resource.


North Essex  Partnership Foundation Trust is using the DVD – “The Lost Child” as a component of its mandatory two day Safeguarding Children Training which is provided to all clinicians and practitioners working within NEPFT. The DVD is used as an interactive exercise within which professionals explore the impact of parental mental illness on the child and the knowledge of professionals working in different domains and agencies.
The response to the DVD – (which has been used as part of the mandatory training programme for over three years with more than 750 professionals) – has always been excellent. It enables professionals to consider the impact of mental illness on relationships, the position of the child and frequent absence of the child’s voice in adult mental health services. Following use of the DVD as an interactive exercise, professionals link the lessons learned into policy and procedure – for example the use of genograms in all assessments. The DVD is thus an essential component in translating theory regarding the impact of parental mental illness on children and families into practice.”
Penny Rogers – Consultant, Safeguarding Children & Adults
North Essex Partnership Foundation Trust

To find out more or to buy a copy of The Lost Child training DVD contact lynferrand@aol.com

Lyn now works as a free-lance writer.  She is married with four grown-up children.

 

A RISKY BUSINESS?

A Twitter tweet
Image via Wikipedia

Superinjunctions have entered the national psyche. They are issued by serious-faced judges to stop the rabble out there saying nasty things about people who have done naughty things. But the problem with superinjunctions is that they DO NOT WORK!  They make a mockery of our judicial system and they make their owners a laughing stock. Because you see, the all powerful world of Twitter says whatever it likes, so before you know it, everything your superinjuction tried to prevent, is being blasted across the ether by someone at @letsgossip.

Superinjunctions are not a good idea. Okay, maybe in the case of blackmail they may have a point. But to use the excuse that to find out that your MP is having an affair with his char lady in in the ‘public interest’ is nonsense. I’m not in the least interested in what the MP gets up to in his broom cupboard, nor am I bothered by a footballers shenanigans in a hotel room, unless it’s a case of rape, that is. Then the whole thing becomes far more unpleasant.

Dominique Strauss-Khan is a case in point. He is still innocent until he is proved guilty, but here we have a man who was at the top of his game, who was heading for the top job in France, now bought down to gutter level by a chamber maid in a posh hotel. Do I want to know all about this? Well, yes I do, because this man wielded a great deal of power as the boss of the IMF. Mr Strauss-Khan won’t have the chance to ask for a superinjunction because he is in prison; his bail refused.

He was known in France as ‘the great seducer‘. What does that mean to those of us who are not French? I suspect it means that his colleagues chose not to see what he was doing. He was head of the IMF. What does it all say about his judgement per se? We will have to wait and see. Women seem to be coming out of the woodwork with stories about Mr Strauss-Khan, all ready to kick a man when he is down? Or desperate to tell the truth? Again, we shall have to wait and see.

It is sad when the mighty fall. But all too often,  people in positions of power seem to be made up of a contradictory mix of a desperate desire to indulge their need for risk taking while presenting an unblemished upstanding moral front. Many years ago I remember reading a piece about high court judges becoming overwhelmed with the responsibility of their jobs. To relieve the stress, some where revealed to have enjoyed time with the odd dominatrix or two.  Once found out, their careers were over. All those years of study, the thousands of pounds lavished on their educations, their status, their earning capacity – all shot away by their feckless risk taking. The need must be very strong.

We all have feet of clay, no matter what our status.

HAPPY RITUALS

Legamento delle mani
Image via Wikipedia

We Brits have some unusual rituals celebrating all sorts of everyday things, as well as ancient ones. Some of us are a bit nutty about standing in the middle of an old stone circle on a Moor pretending we believe in magic. Others will wait for nights on end, watching the skies for UFO’s. I myself favour the ritual of royal weddings so I can bitch about ‘that dress’ for weeks afterwards.

Watching an episode of that illustrious TV programme Time Team this afternoon, I relished our wild eccentricity. It goes back thousands of years. An archeologist was sitting in the middle of a pile of stones, ecstatic because he had found a mouldy old tooth belonging to an ancient global relative. More excitement when the building the team were trying to understand, turned out to be a very old Celtic chapel. All I could see was a pile of muddy stones. But these guys know their stuff. If they say chapel I believe them.

What is harder to believe was the way our ancestors carried out any number of strange rites during the course of their lives. An earnest Time Team chap insisted on telling me all about it in detail. There used to be rituals for births, for burials, for killing your Sunday lunch,  for worshiping your preferred god and even for the way you chucked stones into a sacred pond!  Amazingly, we are still doing it – not chucking stones into a pond, although some of you reading this may indulge in such a ritual…

Now whether you enjoy the old game of welly tossing or the even older ritual of nob-bobbling (only discussed by those who carry it out when the moon is full and the green canary sings…), there is no doubt that you will have small rituals that you adhere to, no matter what. For myself, I cannot give up the habit of eating three times a day.  It is paramount to my staying alive…

Do you walk under a ladder or round one? Do you toss extra salt over your left shoulder? Do you enjoy street parties? Is it essential to you that Christmas involves a pudding, a tree and lots of cheap crackers? See, you are just like the rest of us – hooked on rituals and traditions. It makes you human, you know.

There is even a store called Rituals. You can buy beautiful scented lotions and creams that once you start to use them will become so much part of your life that the ritual of buying them will make the owner of the store very rich indeed. Ah, but how boring life would be without our special and personal ceremonies. They make us feel good. They create a little magic in the otherwise very ordinary.

There are many reasons for indulging in a ritual.  They may be linked with religion or other types of idealism; they may be necessary to your own spiritual or emotional needs, they may be part of making your social bonds tighter – like marriage, or perhaps they are used to enhance morals or show respect. They can also signify submission to another’s power – not so good, or show approval for an important event. Or maybe they just give pleasure?

My day is coming to an end so the ritual of preparing for bed will soon begin. This entails filling the hot water bottle, making a cup of hot chocolate, brushing my teeth once I’ve drunk it – for exactly two minutes, having a quick gargle with a mouth-wash, having a shower, taking off make-up, slapping on night cream and eventually rearranging my pillows before I sink into bed. Then comes the ritual of counting sheep to ensure a good night’s sleep. If any of these rituals are missing, it bodes not well.  The night will be restless and the body will be tired when the sun rises.

And so it was for our ancestors and will be for those who follow on when we are all gone. Continue with your rituals and enjoy!

ABOUT GHOSTS

It's a ghost!
Image via Wikipedia

So have you seen one? A ghost, that is. Interest in all things paranormal has soared the last few years. Why is this? In a country where many churches are being sold off and turned into expenses residences, we seem to be in love with all things ghostly. We do not attend church or believe in God, yet we believe in ghosts, spirits, hauntings etc… At least we want to believe, for there is absolutely no proof that these things exist. We are on a treadmill, searching for something that is so ephemeral that no scientist worth his or her salt would risk their reputation by saying the paranormal is actually a real phenomenon.

So what is going on? Becoming engaged with others in a ghost walk or by watching Most Haunted, we feel alive and connected. It’s a group activity that turns us on! Research into why people watch such shows reveals that although viewers agree that most of what they are watching is a lot of mumbo jumbo, or just show business, they then go on to tell their own personal stories about ghosts and paranormal experiences. It seems that we all of us have an internal need to ‘believe’ in something other than what we can see in the here and now.

My own experiences – here we go! – include a strange happening many years ago at Drury Lane Theatre in London – the most haunted theatre on record. Someone in my family was in a show playing at the theatre. In those days, there were two shows every Wednesday and between the performances, the cast would often chill out in the Green Room. That day, they decided to hold a séance to see if they could call up one of the many ghosts that were said to haunt the theatre. My relative, a practicing Catholic, refused to join in, but was stunned when the Ouija board spelt out the name of another relative and a date. The date, some four months in the future, turned out to be the day that this relative died. Explain that, if you will! Although I have to say that this story has come down the years as oral history and it could be that the facts have stretched a little…

Everyone has similar stories to tell. We all know someone who knows someone who lives in a house with a ghost. In my part of the UK we have hundreds of myths and legends that include strange happenings. Take the ‘hairy hand’ of Dartmoor. There is a road that runs between Postbridge and Two Bridges. It is said that as you drive along this ancient road, you should keep your windows closed. If you don’t, a couple of hairy hands will dive in through the driver’s open window, grab the steering wheel and drive you into a ditch. You can read stories of the poor unfortunates that this has happened to in many a west country book. And there are lots of them. They sell very well to holiday makers…

Could it be that we just like to be frightened? Like out ancestors who huddled round a fire in caves telling sagas, maybe we just enjoy the sensory feelings that listening to such tales produce in us. Small children love to be scared by stories of bogey men just as long as they are in the arms of their parents. We take pleasure in sharing these paranormal experiences in groups. I wouldn’t want to be left alone to experience sleeping in the most haunted castle in the UK, would you? But I might enjoy it if I was with a group of mates, sitting round a candle with a few bottles of wine and waiting for the ghost to appear!

Personally, I like the idea that death is not the end of everything. I like to imagine that my dead relatives – the nice ones, that is – are up there somewhere, looking down and helping out when I need their intervention. But it’s just an idea. I have no proof, and I guess I never will that this is even a vague possibility. But imagining it, is comforting.


Politics, A Princess and Broad Bean Pesto!

Broad beans, shelled and steamed
Image via Wikipedia

Atque Vale Mr Clegg and the rest of your dedicated followers. You messed up. The people don’t like politicians who break their promises. It’s a tough old game, this trying to keep everyone happy and further your own career. Ambition has been the downfall of many a man – and woman.

I concede however, that Clegg is probably a man of principle but he comes from the same ‘special’  background as his co-respondent, Cameron. They were both educated at the high end of the public school sausage machine and groomed for better things; service to the community, dedication, game playing and a moderately high place on the autistic spectrum when it comes to reading their work colleagues.

The Lib. Dems are cringing at the slapping they got from the electorate. I fear it will take them years to gain back what they lost last week.  And now we have Scotland to think about – in depth! Hadrian’s Wall may have to be resurected and patrolled once more.

While all this chaos ensues, a Prince and Princess settle into wedded bliss in Anglesey. The newly named Duchess of Cambridge will be getting used to cooking his meals, ironing his shirts, doing a bit of hoovering, cleaning the work surfaces, changing the sheets, popping down to Tesco’s for the weekly shop (on second thoughts, it will probably be Waitrose) and being an all round dutiful wife… We will never know. The intimate details of their day to day life may only be accessible in The Sunday Sport, who if they can’t find a story, make one up. So it could be that we read that Princess Catherine spends her days in a dressing gown (designer of course) reading O.K. magazine while hubby rescues lost sailors in his copter and gets abducted by aliens. All jolly fun.

In my corner of the world, the most exciting happening is watching my broad beans sprout. Oh joy! Broad bean pesto – food for the gods!

Ingredients:

A good handful of young broad beans (about 75 grams) removed from their pods.

1 large garlic clove (or two!)

A bunch of basil (to taste – I grow mine on the kitchen windowsill until July when it’s hot enough to go outside)

A good tablespoons of pine nuts (expensive but delicious)

Juice of a lemon.

A good glug of olive oil.

Grated parmesan cheese.

Salt and pepper.

Soak the broad beans in a pan of boiling water for a couple of minutes. Drain and rinse in cold water and then remove their skins to reveal the beautiful bright green flesh inside. Put everything into a blender and blitz until you have a smooth paste. Wonderful!

Use on pasta or bruschetta as a starter or just eat by itself when no-one is looking – you will finish the lot.  I find this recipe makes my very happy indeed!

NATURAL THEATRE

During the late afternoon and early evening of...
Image via Wikipedia

Six o’clock in the morning and a thunder storm is about to unload on my small patch of the earth. No use staying in bed. I’m up and at the window, watching the clouds get ready for war. Thunder storms in May in rural England? Rare in my childhood. Now, strange weather is becoming common place; even the TV weather lady looks perplexed as she tells me each morning what I am in for.

Is it false memory syndrome or were the summer months once always sunny? Did thunder storms only happen in August when the flying ants appeared and was May once a sweet, gentle month, with soft rain and a bursting of green everywhere?

There is an anger in the weather these days. It’s as if nature is thoroughly fed up with the damage we are inflicting on her. Fanciful thinking, maybe? But nowadays, I do see nature as a ‘thinking’ force and not just a reactive one.

When I am in my garden, planting vegetables or waiting for flowers to bloom, if I give myself time to listen, there is a conversation going on out there and it’s a noisy one. Bees and insects are communicating in a robust symphony, birds are talking non stop, even the shrubs and bushes murmur as the wind touches them and who is to say that they don’t understand the language of a twitch of a leaf as they brush against each other in the breeze?

On the grass, although I cannot see them, millions of small crawling and flying and hopping insects go about their daily business in complete oblivion to my existence and me to them. It’s only when I suspend time and purposefully sit and watch the grass for some time, do I acknowledge that this other universe exists. Makes for some interesting remarks from my neighbours…

This strange feeling of connectedness with a secret and unseen force only happens when I allow it to. Most of the time, I am detached and busy with the logistics of living. I have to make a real effort to open my senses to the mysteries of nature. But when I do, the rewards are great. Watching the lightning begin is far more exciting than the start of any new movie. Waiting for the first thunder clap is spine tingling.  The birds know what is coming. They go silent before a storm. Everything goes still, waiting for the cataclysm to begin. Everything out there is holding its breath.

In the UK we have started experiencing wild weather. This island was always a temperate zone. No more. Floods, forest fires, arctic winters; all have hit us in the past few years. The power and beauty that is unleashed is awe-inspiring and dangerous. Our lives have to change. We have to adapt, survive and thrive in the face of these weather events. Our once calm environment is no more. Depending on how you view this, life will become very challenging or very exciting – or a mixture of both.

Noticing the seasons and really seeing them are two different things. Living in a city means we are often cut off from the cycle of weather through the year as the seasons come and go. Tall buildings and city streets obscure the flow and give us a sanitised version of nature at work. But now, cities are becoming over-run with foxes and rats. Cyclones visit urban streets and blow roofs away. Floods drown whole centres of commerce and we are forced to accept the sight of a rowing boat on a high street rescuing people from flooded homes on a regular basis. No longer is nature in the raw confined to that green stuff out there called ‘the countryside’ and those of us who live in the countryside, are now forced to be acutely aware of what nature is up to.

Last November the snow hit my neck of the woods. For weeks, walking to the shops took mind-numbing courage because broken limbs were a distinct possibility. The garden closed down; the countryside closed down. Everything turned icy white and stayed like that for weeks. But there was noise. It came from the birds who discovered feeding stations in every garden along my street. Breakfast was late for them as they waited for the light to reluctantly appear following the long freezing winter night. Then they flew into my garden in flocks – every size and shape and variety that hadn’t skipped these shores for warmer climes. The food we put out for them saved their lives. Now, in May the gardens and woods are full of baby birds and animals. The foxes and badgers visit and look for food, encouraged by the scraps we put out for them when the snows were here. Even otters have returned to the near-by river.

Despite today’s unusual thunder storm, the animal, bird and insect stalwarts are still going about their business, just like me. Only now, every day I make time to wait, listen and see as much of their lives as I can. Spring has bought such a variety of birds to my garden this year. Last week, a lesser spotted woodpecker strutted up and down the plane tree in next door’s garden, stopping at the top to tap away for a few minutes before flying off in pursuit of flying insects. Yesterday morning I counted six sparrows, two robins,  three great tits, 4 wood-pigeons, 1 large crow and three starlings. There is also a residents black bird in one of my trees that sings an opera every morning. Watching the courtship and nest building going on outside is something I wouldn’t want to miss. It’s a magic show that is free every day and night.

The thunder has started. I have a cup of coffee and a seat by the window. I’m waiting for the show to start.