Spring is here

1 Mar

It does seem as though spring has arrived here in the south west of France. The garden is springing into life and the birds are very active.

It is always good to welcome spring. The days start getting longer than night (from 21 March) and the electricity bills rocket downwards. Hooray!

Here the French government has limited the rise in electricity prices to 5% for the rest of the year. Our highest monthly bill was 450€ so you can imagine how welcome that is.

Also this year, because we are pensioners, we received 340€ as an energy cheque which is given to the electricity provider and is offset against the bill. We also received an exceptional payment of 100€ via a tax refund to cover inflation plus a further 100€ bonus from our French pension provider to help defray extra costs. All very helpful!

Each morning we take the dogs out for a walk. We usually go round the sports field opposite the pharmacy in Leuc. Sometimes we cross the railway line that runs alongside the road near we live and walk past the vineyards. Another popular place is the green space alongside the river behind the chateau. Very healthy!

My right knee is now quite worn due to the rheumatoid arthritis So to avoid having a replacement, I’ve been having twice weekly visits to the physio, to strengthen the joint. It’s quite fun; first he applies a TENS machine to the joint for 10 minutes. Then it’s 10 minutes pushing down with my foot on a big inflatable ball; then it’s 60 repetitions on a machine where my legs push against a weight.

Today I walked over 6,000 steps and 2.5 kms, so the exercise is working!

Day out in Béziers

5 Jan

Today we went to Béziers for the day, to explore more of this beautiful area.

Béziers is a sub-prefecture of the Hérault department in the Occitanie region of Southern France. Béziers hosts the famous Feria de Béziers, centred on bullfighting, every August. A million visitors are attracted to the five-day event.

The town is located on a small bluff above the river Orb, about 10 kilometres (6.2 miles) from the Mediterranean coast and 75 kilometres (47 miles) southwest of Montpellier. At Béziers, the Canal du Midi spans the river Orb as an aqueduct called the Pont-canal de l’Orb, claimed to be the first of its kind.

Béziers is one of the oldest cities in France. Research published in March 2013 shows that Béziers dates from 575 BC, making it older than Agde (Greek Agathe Tyche, founded in 525 BC) and a bit younger than Marseille (Greek Massalia, founded in 600 BC).

The 9 écluses de Fonseranes


Fonseranes Locks (Frenchécluses de Fonseranesles neuf écluses) are a flight of staircase locks on the Canal du Midi near Béziers.

They consist of eight oval-shaped lock chambers, characteristic of the Canal du Midi, and nine gates, which allow boats to be raised a height of 21.5 metres (71 ft) over a distance of 300 metres (980 ft). The flight was originally built as an eight-rise, which together with the ninth lock (the écluse de Notre-Dame, 710 metres (0.44 mi) to the northeast) allowed boats to cross the Orb river on a level and re-enter the canal further downstream. The “nine locks” name dates from this time.

Visiting in January does not give any indication of how busy these lock are during the high season! We were able to park right alongside. We had a mooch around but we didn’t walk up the hill to the top lock. After 30 minutes we left and drove to Ceres for lunch.


The Bistrot Cersois is a favorite of ours; we have now lunched there four times and each time the food was excellent and the welcome warm. The last time we went was before Covid and we wondered what changes we would find. The waiter had left just after the first confinement started in France and the owner/chef’s wife took over front of house. It turns out she is English from Kenilworth! So for once we could order in English!

After a very nice lunch of pork and pasta & beef and chips, topped up by a sweet of Tiramisu (and a glass of Pastis for Trish and a Muscat for Richard), we paid the bill of 45€ and left to drive to a DIY shed nearby called Leyroy Merlin. Here Trish purchased a wooden frame of a map of the Languedoc Roussillon wine region that I had bought at Christmas.

The port of Béziers

We then drive to the coast on the Mediterranean, to the port of Sérignan. This is a small leisure port where the river l’Orb flows into the sea.

The town of Béziers

The town is in two parts, seemingly. The lower, adjacent to the river and the canal, and the upper, which is dominated by the cathedral.

We toured around the upper town but once again failed to find our way to the cathedral entrance. We weren’t worried as we’ve seen lots of churches in our region already, and after a while they all look the same – cold, gloomy and old!

So we decided to look at the other temple – the shopping area! it’s very upmarket with bijou shops. Then we found a tea shop – Le Monde du Macaron!

Le Monde du Macaron

All in all, an interesting day. We then drove home on the motorway, arriving one hour later, to find one of the hens had escaped from the enclosure, yet again! Ah well, there is always something to do here!

I’ve been thinking …. again

23 Dec

I was thinking about “Blame”. What is blame? Why do we do it? I believe it is “a lack of taking responsibility for our own actions and a lack of acceptance”. When we don’t like what has happened, we often blame someone or something else for it happening. Or some of us will always blame ourselves for our stupidity or clumsiness.

Interestingly this can be a national trait as well as an individual one. Here in the south of France generally customer service is very poor when compared to England or the USA, except in restaurants of course. So if a customer is not happy, the response tends to be “it’s not my/our fault, therefore the fault must be yours”. If something goes wrong in the process the fault must lie with the equipment. “They don’t make quality equipment anymore”. So what effect does this have on us? it makes us grumpy, unhappy and maybe difficult to work with. It’s infectious also and so it continues until all your colleagues and customers alike seem unhappy and uncaring.

My impression of the USA is that customer service generally is excellent but why is this? Is it because everyone is frightened of being sued? Or is it that everyone is happy to take responsibility for their errors or mistakes? I believe it is the former but correct me if I’m wrong.

When we blame ourselves for everything going wrong it tends to have a cumulative effect and we start to see everything negatively and stop believing in ourselves. So how do top sports people cope with this? I believe they are coached not to think about what went wrong but to think how it could be done better next time and not apportion blame to either themselves or others. Then after the game to analyse dispassionately what happened to see if it could be a avoided the next time.

If it’s better to look forward than back, what is the objective of history? I think that each country writes its own history and that it doesn’t always coincide with that of another country. So how do historians think? Dispassionately or not? How do they prove historical fact from fiction? I believe the objective is to learn from history so that we can do better in the future. But it’s necessary to see history from different perspectives therefore the ‘proof’ cannot just be scientific or from stories from one country or people, it needs to be more global in its approach without apportioning blame.

So is blame always negative? A Buddhist would say that acceptance is a key to happiness. If we can accept that we are not perfect and that things will go wrong but accept things as they are, neither right or wrong, we will be happier. So how does blaming someone else help us? Does it make us feel better about ourselves and our capacity for thought? Does it mean we think we are better than others? Then what about those of us who blame ourselves for everything around us? Does this mean we think we should be perfect and better than everyone else or does it mean we think we are unworthy and not entitled to any success?

Personally I can’t see any reason for blame being positive. It seems to me destructive thinking which interferes in our relationships with others.

Rodents in the loft!

17 Dec

We came home one Sunday evening recently, to find water was dripping from the ceiling in the corridor. We got out the stepladder and opened up the hatch to the loft to have a look.

We found the insulation was quite wet but we couldn’t find the source of the leak without getting into the loft, which was impossible for us as the ladders were too short and the hatch opening quite small.

I shut off the water at the mains tap and the dripping stopped, eventually. What to do now? We needed a plumber but that would be expensive on a Sunday night. I know! I’ll call the company who collects our rent and manages the property! Only they are only open 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday and no emergency number is provided.

So I knocked on the door of our neighbour across the street. “Do you know if there is a plumber living in our village?”. “Yes, I’m a retired plumber!”. Result!

He came over and quickly diagnosed the problem. He want back to his home a couple of times to get tools. He cut out the bit of pipe that was leaking, and joined up the two ends. Perfect.

The damaged pipe

Now we have put a humane rat trap into the loft. Let’s hope it works!

The damaged ceiling

Our new home

18 Nov

We have been in our new home three weeks now. It seems we have been here for ever! We live in a small village called Leuc (pronounced lurk).

Our new house

The house is a bungalow with three bedrooms, kitchen, lounge diner, bathroom and separate WC. We share a boundary with one neighbour but on the other three sides it is clear. We are located on a small estate of similar but not identical houses.

It’s very quiet and the neighbours are friendly. We have introduced ourselves to most of the near neighbours, by offering them a small box of eggs. They had no idea that we had three hens living down the side of our garage. Shows how quiet they are!

Armistice day

Last Thursday 11 November we attended the ceremony at the war memorial to celebrate the end of World War 1.

After the ceremony at the War Memorial, we all gathered in a large room in the Town Hall for drinks and nibbles. We introduced ourselves to the mayor and one of the deputy mayors, and we chatted to a soldier in uniform who is one our neighbours.

After talking about an Old Age Pensioners club which we belonged to in Montolieu, we were asked if we’d like to set one up here in Leuc as the last one disintegrated after the president of it died. However there aren’t as many pensioners in Leuc as in Montolieu!


All our close neighbours are very nice and have welcomed us.

Public transport

There is public transport to and from our village. A single carriage rail service runs from Carcassonne (below the Black Mountain) to Limoux (below the Pyrenees) six days a week. The line passes just the other side of the road. There is an unmanned railway crossing so the train drivers give a little hoot on the train horn as they approach. There are 13 train journeys a day, all of which stop at the halt in the next village (Couffoulens).

There is also a bus service that turns into Carcassonne but we have not explored that yet. It’s a bit difficult to know when to catch it, as there are roadworks in the centre of Leuc and the bus seems to terminate at the end of our road.

Our village

We have a small shop which is also a wine merchant and has regular wine tastings. Our boulangerie has lovely cakes as well as a choice of breads. The health centre covers quite a large number of villages and therefore we have 4 doctors, a nurse, 2 midwives, a physio, an osteopath and a chiropodist. The pharmacy next door is quite large and stocks more medications than our previous one in Montolieu. They also do the flu and Covid immunisations without appointments during the week. In front of the health centre is a large recreation are with outdoor exercise machines as well as a football pitch and a disused pétanque boulodrome. There is also a primary school here, not that we’re really interested in this facility but it is noticeable that many of the small villages of France have managed so far to maintain their local primary schools. Like the post offices which are slowly being closed down in the villages but some are being retained and serviced by the Town hall in order to keep the facility open.

Richard has already tested the osteopath and the barber and I’ll be checking out the chiropodist soon. I’m still looking for the hairdresser and beautician though.


Like a lot of villages close to water in the Aude, Leuc was badly affected by the floods of October 2018. The photographs below show the heights of the various floods over the years.


There are plenty of places to walk around us. Along the railway line, alongside the river, in fields and vineyards. The dogs can be let off their leads and often we do not meet another soul.

Posh Hotel

Just 5 kms from our house is a locally famous hotel and restaurant – the Chateau de Cavanac. Those of you that have eaten at Les Anges au Plafond in Montolieu, will know Bernard, the chef/owner, who now works at the Chateau de Cavanac following the closure of his restaurant.

Chateau de Cavanac

We have yet to eat there! Just waiting for a big celebration!

Coming to the village

The usual route to our village is from Carcassonne on the road to Saint-Hilaire. This is the view coming down past the village of Couffoulens.

You can see the Pyrenees from here

There is much, much more for us to explore. We do hope you will come and visit us next year.

What Motivated you to become who you are?

28 Apr

My first motivation came when I was about seven years old. I’d had to wear glasses since I was five for a squint and had many visits to the eye hospital to try to rectify it. But it was decided an operation was necessary. It was after the operation when they took the bandages off that I saw the nursing sister with her pretty frilly hat on. I said “I want one of those hats.” That was my motivation to become a nurse.

St John Ambulance Cadet

In order to achieve this I took several steps to prepare myself. The first was to join St John Ambulance as a cadet when I was fourteen. This is when I learnt first aid and studied for the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award and then met him when I was chosen to be in a guard of honour for him. He was so friendly and relaxed talking to us young people. I think it was part of the award scheme that encouraged me to assist in a care home, (the Philip Godley Lodge in Didsbury, Manchester – which I think is still open) on Saturdays. In the 1960’s we we allowed to take a Saturday job from the age of 14 years. Many young people delivered newspapers in the towns and cities.

QARANC Uniform

I wanted to start my nursing career as soon as possible but could not start until I reached 16 years as a cadet nurse in a hospital. So when I left school at 15, I went to work as a shop assistant at Boots the chemist in the hope that this would teach me how to deal with members of the public. It did and I enjoyed it but started work as a cadet nurse as soon as I reached 16. My uniform was yellow and my objective was to wear a blue uniform signifying seniority. Time seems so slow when you’re a teenager so when many of my friends joined the Queen Alexandra’s Royal Naval Nursing Corps, QARNNC, I decided to join with them. However having succeeded in being accepted to join the navy I was told there was a two year waiting list. I was too impatient and joined the QARANC (the army) instead. (They wore frilly hats too). I was accepted providing I could gain 7 lbs in weight. I was too thin! I did and was sworn in to join at age 17 and a half. I learnt to march, salute and the history of the QARANC. This was basic training and nothing to do with nursing! After completing nine weeks of this I was told that I’d have to do another nine weeks because my birthday was the day after the end of the training and I wouldn’t have reached my eighteenth birthday. I gave up and left at this point. I realised that maybe this life was too regimented for me.

My room

In the sixties and seventies there were three levels of nurses; state registered, state enrolled and auxiliaries. The state registered or SRN was able to progress to become a sister or matron and in training were called student nurses but a state enrolled nurse, SEN stayed permanently at that level and while in training was called a pupil nurse. She (generally females) was a practical nurse whereas the SRN did the drug and doctors’ rounds and management duties. The auxiliary was completely untrained in nursing duties and helped with cleaning and feeding mostly. I think you can guess which training I applied for next. I became a student nurse at Paddington General hospital in London. But this was not plain sailing either. You needed, I think it was three O levels (school qualifications) for SRN training but I left school before taking the exams. The alternative was to sit an entrance exam which was more of an intelligence test. With my results I was able to enter SRN training. In that era you weren’t classified as adult until you reached 21 so you had to live in the nurses’ home for the first year. It was a three year course whereas the SEN was a two year course.

Student Nurses

Remember, I was motivated by a frilly hat. Only nursing sisters wore the frilly hats so I had some work to do. I also liked the blue uniform and when I was a cadet the uniform was yellow but the students wore blue so I was looking forward to wearing a pale blue colour. This was not to be, because each hospital chose what colour they wanted for nurses in training and the colour for student nurses at Paddington General hospital was ….. yellow!

Eventually after transferring training to Manchester and five years later I took my final exams. Passed the practical exam but failed the written. Retook the written exam but failed again so I had to decide if I wanted to retake it for the third and final time or go and do something else. So I went off to do something else with the intention of returning to retake the exam when I felt more confident. However this was not possible because I had completed my training but I was not qualified as an SRN so the matron told me I could not return. Not to be defeated I contacted the General Nursing Council who oversaw all nurses and asked what could I do. There were two choices; to work as an auxiliary or enrol as a State Enrolled Nurse (SEN) as I had passed the practical exam, and retake the exam as an external candidate. So after becoming a SEN and working for six months in Wythenshawe hospital in Manchester I resat and passed the written exam by studying by myself.

My blue uniform

At last I was able to wear a blue uniform! (SENs wore green). I was offered a post as sister while working in the emergency department but declined it because I felt I didn’t have enough experience. After completing a specialist course on emergency nursing at Stockport Infirmary I accepted my first post as a nursing sister. It was around this time that hats were no longer worn by nurses!!

Life in Montolieu

30 Jan

We’re just beginning our ninth year in Montolieu. It feels like we’ve always lived here and yet it doesn’t seem possible that eight years have passed since we left the UK. Life here has been and continues to be interesting although now it’s a little quiet with COVID and not so much happening except through the internet. Let me introduce you to our village.

It’s a small rural village on the tourist trail. Consequently it’s very quiet in winter but very busy in the summer. It’s in the department of the Aude and boasts many attractions. We have thousands of visitors from across the world and many nationalities have settled here. The village dates back to the twelfth century and is included in the history of the Cathars. In fact the region now focuses its tourism on Cathar country. The earliest evidence of its age that I’ve seen in the village are the dates which are etched on some of the houses, 1700 is the oldest. It was a walled village and some of the walls still exist but I don’t know how far back it dates. The houses on les Ramparts have very interesting gardens which are built on several levels from the river Alzeau up to where the old wall used to be. On the other side of the village the houses rise up from the river Dure with terraces for their gardens.

We live in the Old Tannery which is situated just outside the wall next to the river Dure. Ours was one of five mills around this village and was used for preparing the leather for making leather goods. Other mills, as I understand from locals who used to work here, were for making the clothes. The village was surrounded by not only a wall but two rivers either side of the hill, the Dure and the Alzeau. This made it a secure village in medieval times. There is still a paper mill further up the Black Mountain which still produces paper 📝 and is open to the public.

Today it is called the village of books. There are 18 bookshops and 29 art galleries and artist workshops including a large old mill which has been converted into an exhibition centre and currently houses a collection called the Cerés Franco Museum and there is a museum with exhibits of printing machines and other items which relate to the area. Our church is a National Monument in the centre of the village. There are around 850 inhabitants of 28 different nationalities who live here all year round and we have gîtes, hôtels and B&Bs and five restaurants and cafes.

Alas we have lost one our restaurants, les Ange au Plafond during the COVID-19 crisis. We also have two food shops now. Our well established mini supermarket which is run by Nelly and was run by her mother and father before her and a small shop of local products which opened last year during the crisis called l’Abeille noire.

We are so lucky to have two automatic food dispensers in the village also. One selling organic vegetables from a local farm and the second local goods. This one is sited with our farm shop which opens every Monday and Thursday evening. Unfortunately all the shops have had to change their hours at the moment due to the curfew which means we have be be in our homes by six o’clock until six in the morning. However most French people buy their vegetables at the local markets and there are markets on different days in all the surrounding villages. Our wine merchant Adrian is open almost everyday and is well known and respected by the French for his knowledge and choice of wines from the region. The post office is run by our town hall and is open every weekday morning. Unfortunately there’s still two things missing from our village, a cash dispenser, which means we have to drive up to Saissac up the mountain or down to Carcassonne and a boulangerie as ours closed down a few years ago and we haven’t found a new baker yet to take it on.

The walled city of Carcassonne

Our health care needs are well provided for with a pharmacy, two doctors (a third one starting in June), two physiotherapists, one podologue, one speech therapist, two osteopaths, one naturopath and other therapists. We also have two schools and a care home which is a convent for retired nuns and is now open to members of the village. Before Covid-19 the children at our schools used to be able to have their lunch in the convent in their refectory. But the convent has been closed to visitors during the crisis. So the children now have their lunch in the village hall where the cooked meals are brought in for them. We are also well catered for with hospitals with two in Carcassonne, three in Toulouse, one in Narbonne and one in Perpignan.

Whichever direction we look there are places of interest for everyone. Up the Black mountain there are lakes and rivers and forests and the incredible Rigole which feeds water from the reservoirs into the Canal du Midi which winds across the plain between the Black mountain and the Pyrenees and stretches from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean.

Or we can go south to the Pyrenees and across to Spain or Andorra. If we go west there are the cities of Toulouse or slightly further north are Castres and Albi or the Atlantic coast. Going east we can visit the Mediterranean or the Camargue and a little further on to Narbonne, Montpellier and Marseille and onto Cannes and eventually into Italy.

Whatever your interests we can provide for most of your wishes from mountain climbing and skiing to sailing, swimming and parasailing 🪂 in the Mediterranean or hill walking in the National forests or visiting the huge caves with stalagmites and stalactites. There is a flying school at Carcassonne airport and a go kart circuit. From pony trekking to walking with llamas or water skiing on a lake. Many cyclists love the challenge of the routes which were taken a few years ago by the Tour de France up through St Denis. A route which is also favoured by motorcyclists along its winding roads up through the forests and down into the valleys.

Not forgetting the castles and chateaux of which there are numerous which you cannot get to without passing vineyards and olive groves or during July and August huge fields of sunflowers 🌻. A feast to the senses as well as great food. I almost forgot to mention that as in most villages we have a group of regular pétanque players who welcome visitors to join in. Who wouldn’t want to live here?!

A different kind of life continues

24 Nov

With the inability to travel we’ve found different ways to spend our time and perhaps got more done at home this year. Our only trip this year after confinement had been relaxed was to the Camargue. We saw the famous white horses and bulls and parts of France we’d not seen before. Not only is the Camargue famous for its horses and bulls but for the mosquitoes also. Unfortunately I get a strong allergic reaction to these bites and finishes the trip with 27 swollen bites all over my body. But it was worth it to see the animals and countryside.

We are very fortunate to live in a beautiful and rural area of France and even during confinement I was able to go out walking in the countryside with the dogs within a one kilometre radius. We are surrounded by woods and walks with rivers and valleys. On a clear morning we can even see the snow white tops of the Pyrénées from our road.

With high temperatures and lots of sunshine this year has been very good for grapes and sunflowers which surround our village. But it has also caused a lot of damage to trees around the area and many are now dead or dying and will need pruning this winter to prevent them falling onto the road.

My bees have also had a great year producing honey. In the spring I put on 2 extra floors onto the hive as they had already filled the nursery. By September both these extra floors were also full with honey. I restrict the queen to the nursery on the lower level with a queen excluder. This allows the worker bees through to store the honey but the queen is too big to get through. So she is able to continue to lays eggs but I’m able to harvest the honey without taking any babies. All I had to do was take away the top two floors leaving them with the full bottom level for the winter. We managed to extract enough honey to fill 50 jars. It tastes delicious. Thank you bees 🐝.

After confinement was relaxed I was able to recommence the English class in Montolieu so we decided to have a lesson in the garden. But the class in Carcassonne could not start again as they were held in the foyer which was closed for a longer period. But we restarts both in September but with many restrictions in place to ensure our safety. (Can we insert my avatar with my mask on here.)

Meanwhile in the UK aunt Jane died in her own home having survived COVID at the grand age of 107. What an interesting life she had.

Now we’re going to have to buy eggs for the first time in a long time as our rescue hens have finally stopped laying. They still try escaping occasionally though!

Living in the countryside it’s inevitable that we sometimes have little visitors. But with friendly traps I’ve managed to catch a whole family and relocate them further out in the countryside.

We’ve also had a few volunteers staying in the little house to help us with building and garden work thanks to Louise taking over coordinating them. So I’ve been free to do other things and not have close contact with them. The big garden is now recovering well after the flood 2 years ago and two of our seven terraces have been restructured and concrete repaired where necessary.

I had a painting 🧑‍🎨 lesson in February just before confinement so I’ve now set up my office in the garden as an artist studio.

Also this year I took Socks for some dog training sessions. He has improved but is still very active and loves to chase and hunt.

Ramblings of an amateur naturalist

19 Nov

Have you ever thought about where creative people get their ideas from? Or how some people are very creative and others totally logical? Have you considered that possibly both these seemingly opposite types find their resources in nature?

Nature is a balance between animals and plants great and small. We humans take in oxygen and give out carbon dioxide but plants take in carbon dioxide and give out oxygen. Moths are food for bats 🦇 and their caterpillars are food for birds 🐦. Flowers provide nectar and pollen for bees 🐝, wasps and bats. Oak trees are home to thousands of creatures. The oak and ash provide food for for caterpillars 🐛 in the spring which in turn are food for blue tits. Each animal predates on others and is predated on by yet others bigger than themselves. All creatures and plants 🪴 have their role to play in the food chain and the cycle of life.

In the current climate of a global pandemic humans are being predated on by microscopic organisms but we are finding that being shut away, confined or locked away from others causes many of us emotional strain, anxiety, stress or depression. One of the recommendations to overcome these feelings is to get out into nature. You may be asking yourself ‘how does this help?’ If we think about it humans (generally speaking) are social animals jus like honeybees. Each has it’s role to play within the society in which it lives. Seen at a macro level, humans could be seen as a well coordinated complete organism but at a micro level as individuals. When we look at a tree 🌳 we think of it as an individual but if we were able to look underground we would see that it is connected to many other trees 🌲 and whatever affects one tree will affect many others connected to it by their roots. Old trees die off and make room for young saplings to grow and flourish.

To understand where creativity connects with nature we need to use all our senses of sight, sound, smell, taste and touch. Take sight. Are all trees the same shape or colour? Are all the branches symmetrical? Are the leaves the same shape and size? How many different shapes and colours can you count? Study the bark. Does it grow vertically or horizontally? Is it dark or light? Is it smooth or highly fissured?

Sounds are all around us whether we live in a city or the countryside. The sounds of musical instruments 🎺 are copied from the sounds of nature. The wind blowing through the leaves 🍃 sounds very similar to the sound of the river flowing across the rocks or even the sound of traffic on the distant motorway. The ability to hear protects us from danger and allows us to connect with others.

Smell is important as it’s a signal to all animals to tell us where there is a source of food or if it’s safe to eat 🍄. Taste is an extension of the sense of smell and allows us to differentiate between sweet, sour, bitter, salt and savoury. Dogs, for example, see the world through their sense of smell and can be very useful in sniffing out diseases or drugs.

Touch is extremely important to some people (especially small children). 🤱It is part of the grooming process in many primates and helps to maintain group cohesion. This causes some people problems because they cannot touch for fear of spreading a deadly infection during the pandemic.

So simply a change of scenery, walking amongst nature helps with all our senses but most importantly the act of walking or exercising helps to increase blood supply to all our organs, to take away toxins and to stimulate serotonin and endorphins which help to balance the functions of our bodies and produce a sense of happiness.

If you are more analytical than creative being amongst nature may not appeal to you. However nature is based on chemical and numeric formula. 🔣 So looking at a tree you can use your knowledge of chemistry and physics to analyse how it gets it’s nutrients from the ground into the uppermost branches and leaves. Or you can see the different colours of the leaves and analyse what chemical compositions are involved in the changes of colour in the autumn 🍂. Or you can watch how the birds land on the thin branches and work out why they don’t break or how strong winds do not break them. Some animals are able to change their colour according to the background they are resting on 🦑 How do they do that? Others like bats use echolocation to locate their food and eat on the wing. How does this work? How do naturalists count the number of bees in a swarm or bats coming out of a cave? Could you produce a hexagonal shape 🛑 connected to hundreds of others and sloping down in the same direction to stop the honey 🍯 from falling out? How many bees 🐝 did I have that produced 30 litres of honey in six months?

We are talking here about biodiversity which is important to survival. If we were all clones of each other and all trees were exactly the same wouldn’t life be very boring? The same applies to people. 🧕🏼👳🏾‍♀️🧑‍🎤👨🏿‍🦳 We need that diversity to keep a balance across the earth 🌏. We are all part of it and need each other whether we recognise it or not. Eradicating anything or anyone we don’t understand demonstrates a fear which is unnecessary. What is needed now more than ever is understanding and compassion for ourselves and others and for the earth on which we rely. We need to support everyone including ourselves.

Keeping Life in Perspective

6 Nov

Being in confinement (or lockdown as it’s known as in the UK) has made me think about life in ways I haven’t considered before.

I always try to look on the bright side of life and spread happiness where I can. Most of the time this has been achieved by my actions helping people from all walks of life. And by thinking what have I learnt from this negative experience. At the same time I know I can be critical and sometimes appear negative but I consider myself a realist and not a dreamer. By this, I mean that I consider what I would like to happen and then try to look further into the future to see if it is possible. The danger of this type of thinking is that you never try anything because you talk yourself into thinking it’s not possible. I think I overcame this way back in my life because I have tried many different things. But I often put off doing things longer than necessary.

As I grow older I’m beginning to realise that we make our decisions according to our perception of the time we have available. When we are young we think we have a lifetime ahead of us. As we get older we begin to think time is too short. That got me to thinking about people who are incarcerated for whatever reason or people who are locked inside themselves (who may be described as being autistic) or people who are disabled and unable to get about by themselves or the elderly who for their own safety have to stay away from others during the COVID pandemic and how they might feel about time. I am sure that many of us feel bored and frustrated when our freedom is restricted.

The question is how we deal with boredom. Do we allow our frustrations to boil over into anger and take out our frustrations on the people closest to us by shouting, arguing or even physical abuse or do we turn it inside and decide it’s easier not to talk to anyone but ourselves? When this happens most of our thoughts are critical and blaming and it becomes a vicious cycle. So how do you deal with boredom and frustration?

I feel grateful that I live where I do but it doesn’t stop me from being bored or frustrated at times. Hence, this blog. I realise I can walk into the garden or simply look out of the window at the river or the forest to marvel at nature or I can take the dogs for short walks. So what stops me? It’s too hot or too cold or windy outside or my joints and muscles are causing me some discomfort. I’m enjoying being in the warmth of my home. So why do I feel bored? I can read and have hundreds of books to choose from but I’ve been reading for weeks now and I’m looking for something different. I can sit and listen to music or an audiobook or talk to friends on the phone or even see them, even from miles away with all the technology available to us today. So why do I feel bored? I believe it’s the feeling of having our freedom taken away from us and our routines changed by someone else. There’s something unsettling about not being able to do what we want to do when we want to or go where we want. It’s not simple dealing with boredom and frustration, is it!?

It helps me to think about the people I mentioned earlier and how much luckier I am than them. I have a tendency to think too much and things get out of proportion. So my message to myself is to go and do something different from what I’m doing at the moment within the constraints that I have. Perhaps connecting with someone else who’s in a more difficult situation than I am will help me feel more satisfied.