Connecting With Nature

This week has been Mental Health Awareness Week and the Mental Health Foundation’s focus for the week has been ‘Nature’. I’ve been thinking a lot about mental health over the last year, and especially these last couple of weeks as I’ve been on furlough for the first time.

Throughout the pandemic I’ve tried to make the most of the nature around me by spending time walking and visiting parks and natural spaces, but it hasn’t always been easy. Sure, I love walking, but when walking is one of the only things you can do when you leave your house, it can become a bit of a chore. It’s fine if I have a purpose, like I might walk the long way to the shop and back to combine exercise with an errand, but there have been plenty of times over the last year when I’ve really had to drag myself out for a walk just to make sure I haven’t sat inside at home on my own all day (and there have of course also been plenty of times when I have sat inside all day on my own).

When I went on furlough I was worried that I might not feel inclined to keep going out for walks to the same places and could end up staying home feeling bored and lonely, but actually so far I’ve been pretty busy and have managed to get out a lot because I wanted to, not because I had to.

As we both live alone, I’m in a support bubble with my mum, who lives a few hours away down in Bognor Regis. Given all the free time I had on my hands, I decided to take the opportunity to go and visit her this week so we could enjoy some walks and nature together. It’s been hard for us both, living alone and having limited options of where we can go, but we’ve both found that walks in local green areas and by the water (sea for her, harbour for me) have helped a lot through this crazy year. Although we both have some close friends to share these walks with, there’s nothing like sharing our favourite places with each other.

So today we went to visit a local nature reserve, Bersted Park, and I have to say it was like medicine for the soul. Sitting on a bench sipping local coffee and listening to the birds chirping in the trees, spotting swans through the tall grass, breathing in the fresh air, marvelling at the sculptures made of wood and positive messages painted onto stones set into the path. It may not sound like much to some – it’s hardly a wild party or a massive adventure – but this simple burst of nature was just enough to calm and realign me, ready to face the world again.

Read more about Mental Health Awareness Week here and if you have the chance, do try to find the time to connect with nature. If you can, go outside, listen to the birds, look at some flowers, breathe the fresh air. Make the most of this moment, of those around you, and of what you’ve got. It doesn’t have to be grand. Spotting the beginnings of a simple flower on your houseplant may be enough to bring some much needed nature, and hope, into your life.

It's rubbish…

I just moved into a new flat in London. It’s a teeny, tiny studio flat – basically a room above a shop with a small kitchen and small bathroom. I don’t mind that it’s teeny tiny – that’s not what’s rubbish. What’s rubbish, is the rubbish situation…

I can’t figure out where to put my rubbish. Before I moved in, I casually asked my letting agent as we were walking to the flat, and he pointed out an alley way. He told me to just put it in there, which seemed a bit strange to me.

Not sure about the alley way situation, I decided to email the council. They replied promptly and politely, and informed me that I should have a wheelie bin. They also told me that if I put my rubbish in the alley way it could be considered fly-tipping.

I have no wheelie bin.

I’ve looked around, and there isn’t even a place where wheelie bins for the five flats in this building could be. What’s more, the council website says that waste is collected every two weeks. So, does that mean I am supposed to store up my rubbish in my teeny tiny kitchen for two whole weeks until I can run outside and dump it in the alley way? If I dump it in the alley way before it’s due to be collected, foxes will probably open it up all over the street.

The council did very kindly provide me with a phone number which I could call to order a new wheelie bin. However, even if I did decide to splash out £15 for a bin, I would still be stuck for somewhere to put it.

On another rubbish-related point, I also asked the council what I should do about recycling. I was informed that, as I live in a flat, I am “not required to recycle“.

This was quite a shock to me. I thought we were supposed to be upping our environmental-consciousness and recycling more. I had already started separating out my paper from plastic, but no one cares – because I’m living in a flat.

Has anyone else in London experienced a similar problem? Can anyone offer a solution?

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Dreaming of a white Christmas…

I’m dreaming of a white Christmas… but I haven’t seen one for a very long time.

Today’s post is inspired by Blog Action Day, whose theme this year is ‘climate change’.  Initially I thought “I don’t have anything to say about climate change”, but the more I thought about it the more I found I did have something to say.

Back in December 1981, when I was born, it snowed on Christmas Day, which was the day I was brought home from hospital.  Of course, I don’t actually remember it, but having heard this story as I was growing up, I became convinced of two things.  (1) That’s why I love snow! (2) Christmas should be white!

I don’t think I’ve seen a white Christmas in England since then, but I do recall a rather shocking white Valentine’s Day in February 2007.

So What does this mean for our world?  Will our children’s children grow up wondering what the song ‘White Christmas’ is all about as they sun themselves in their gardens on Christmas Day and have a barbeque?  Maybe it won’t be that bad, but there’s no doubt that the weather in our world is changing rapidly.

But is there anything we can do about it?  Are we doomed?

Well, I’m no scientist (although I did use to work for a science journal!) but my guess is that we’re so far along now that all we can do is slow down the eventual destruction of our planet.  I think we need to be more aware of what we’re doing to our world, and try to help out wherever we can.

Here in Japan, it’s very cool to be ‘eco’ (pronounced ‘echo’) these days, and most of the major supermarkets (at least in my area) are trying to do their bit by stopping the use of plastic bags and encouraging everyone to bring ‘eco-bags’.  I know this is happening in England, too.  But what difference does this small action really make?

To be honest, I have no idea and, as I said, I’m no scientist.  But I’m happy to join in wherever I can and try to ‘do my bit’.  I’m still dreaming of a white Christmas, just like the ones we used to know.  I hope I can see one again someday…