Archive for the ‘Home Front, Back and Sides.’ Category

Therapy?

Drama can hit you without warning; take for example a massive iceberg floating in the darkness in the path of an “unsinkable ship” on a maiden voyage.

But it can also creep up on you bit by bit. So that when it actually happens you realise that you knew all of the pieces were there … but didn’t see the consequences; a bit like the denouement in all of the Sherlock Holmes stories: so obvious in retrospect.

Our drama was of the latter variety, beginning with a delayed take-off (result of wonderfully courteous behaviour from Lufthansa, giving up our slot to a KLM flight to Amsterdam with umpteen onward connections). Late arrival at Frankfurt with a typical efficient airport transfer to the gate across the tarmac (thus avoiding a fairly stressful, many minutes of stairs, escalators, and corridors and looking for gateway signage) and off – on time – to Bucharest.

Not so our luggage!

On arrival at the Henri Coanda airport we got the expected call from our pick-up driver, but, waiting for a suitcase that didn’t make it, missed the bus. Some hours wait in the arrivals lounge (was there ever such a misnomer?) and several texts later we are on the next minibus. Stressing somewhat at the delay, that our friends are waiting at the hotel, that we still have two and a half (count ‘em, Henry, count ‘em!) hours of travel before we arrive in Brasov.

Two and a half hours which stretches to four and a bit hours as the one and only two lane road is being re-surfaced (a mile at a time) and traffic has to wait. And wait some more.

Eventually we make it. And, relief, the hotel staff are welcoming and friendly. Our friends understanding … and we head out for a welcome meal. And a beer!

The holdall that got through has underwear in it and, arrangements made at the airport reassure us that the suitcase will be delivered to the hotel some time tomorrow. That we need to be at the hotel to sign for it.

It’s reassuring – in a way, but I never find it easy to sleep in a strange room – and it is hot with the kind of heat that takes some getting used to.

So, the order of the day next day must be not to be too far away from the hotel. Our local friend takes us to a stunning fortified church (begun in 1211) at Prejmer. Getting out of the car we are greeted by the sight of an occupied stork’s nest atop a roof of a house in the street. Exotic enough to tell us we are away on an adventure. That, with the breezeless, easy heat and the absolute absence of hedgerows.

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The fortress itself  is wonderfully preserved and cared for, the “family rooms” used in times of siege accessible and it is an evocative and spiritual place where we linger for some time.

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Then Sorin has the brainwave. On the way back to Brasov we can visit his “garden”. I had heard about this but knew  few details.

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Would it be something like our allotment? Surrounded by similar plots in the same way? What would be growing? We were visiting Romania at the peak of the cherry cropping season, and delicious strawberries were also abundant. The beauty of knowing local people is that you can enjoy the real country and its traditions … this might be one of them. We drive, turn off, then turn off again, enter Bod and drive around, off onto a track that leads between houses, down a little used farm track, turn across and unmown hay field, sticking to some preordained path to avoid humps and bumps. Then we are at the garden. A football pitch sized piece of land, fenced (and hedged) off in the middle of a hay field. Sorin’s garden. A wired gate is unlocked, a dog turns up, seeking affection. There is a solid, single storied building in the garden where Sorin “keeps his tools”. There are some flowering plants and rows of fruit trees: pears, apples and cherries, growing from a thick carpet of

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meadow grasses and wildflowers that is buzzing with insect life. The sun beams down and I begin to feel relaxed. Open spaces are therapeutic: it is the very nature of being outside. Having spent just a few short hours with Sorin we have a good relationship (thanks to a great extent to his ability to speak my language of course) and here, where he feels comfortable, it is easy to let worries drift away. It is never any good to worry about things you cannot affect; the company and the hotel have our ‘phone numbers, we are near at hand … just let the air, the quiet and the friendliness work their magics.

We get a tour of the garden, eat a few cherries and hear how the land (everything is relative, but this is –literally – dirt cheap) was bought. The land may be somewhat blighted, in former times (during the Communist regimes) took contaminants from a paint factory higher up the river. The pollution is still in the soil and, counter-intuitively worse nearer to the river so that the closer plants are to the banks the less well they grow. And it is difficult – lack of money, networks and tortuous bureaucracies – to complete the building of a house on the land: the ultimate goal.

But, just wandering around the garden, thinking – I could not help it – what I would grow, how I would manage the land (get manure in first is always my instinct) – had a healing effect. And by the time we are climbing into the car again (reminding myself which is the passenger side, of course) I am feeling quite at home.

This “garden away from the house” is not, by any stretch, an allotment. It isn’t rented. There are less than no regulations and an easy going sense of right and not-right. But in many ways it serves a similar purpose: an escape, a place where time has less meaning and a place for simple mindless thinking. Crops of course and plans to make, things to do and to organise.

But a garden in any sense of the word is a restful place – give it a chance and it’ll get to you; even when you don’t expect it.

 

Post script: Needless to say the luggage duly arrived, we had a fantastic time with friends old and new in Transylvania … and when we returned the weeds were making their annual presence felt on the plot, the boundary dispute is still going on … but the strawberries are tasty and our first new potatoes well worth the growing.

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Foster Parenting?

Home after a satisfying day’s work in Tamworth.

Something not right in the back garden. The logs piled against the bottom wall (fire-pit fuel) are tumbled down. And the ruins of the nest built by robins inside it are strewn across the floor, nearby three dead nestlings. What caused the slippage? A cat? Searching for the nest, on the prowl or just using the pile as a route over the wall? But I would have expected a cat to take the chicks. Or maybe the unexpected downfall scared it away. A hedgehog? A rat? Something else?

We are truly sorry for parent birds, remembering our neighbour saying when she saw the secretive pair flying in and out of the narrow space (the nest was truly invisible) that there would, inevitably be danger, at least, from cats.

Later, we sit outside watching a pair of pipistrelles hawking the spaces around the small leafed lime tree and, so much higher swifts doing the same. Listening to the chatter of magpies and the evening songs of blackbirds.

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The following evening, we are enjoying another outdoor sit-down.  Hanging baskets planted up, seedlings in the greenhouse and those hardening off are all watered, newly planted out plants up on site watered in. It is hot (20 Celsius!) and these plants need settling down. The skies are pink as the sun lowers itself toward the roof top horizon. As we sit, quietly observing we notice three blue tit fledglings in a pieris by the fence. Clearly they have successfully emerged from the nest box in the tree. Each sits in a different part of the shrub: so well-camouflaged that I only notice them by following the circuitous flight of a parent blue tit as it brings food for its youngsters. This is parental dedication at its greatest: the exhausting search for more and more and more food, necessitating perhaps journeys further and further afield.

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We marvel at what we are watching, but the wonder turns to something else as a robin also begins to feed the youngsters. We do a double-take. Maybe one of these nestlings is a robin? Clearly not, they have the trade mark blue tit plumage.

Then, perhaps over-anthropomorphising, I come up with a theory:

This robin is one of the recently bereaved parents and is, either compensating for her own loss by feeding another species, or is simply programmed after so long brooding to respond to the ”feed-me” calls of young birds – even of a different species.

Now I know it is not good practice to assign human values to wild-life; their circumstances and “hard-wiring” are so very different so I don’t get too carried away with my theory.

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But the robin (or maybe it is two robins) continue to bring food until light is all but gone and the youngsters are falling asleep on their very perches.

Are robin and blue tit diets similar? I have the impression that robins (being thrushes after all) feed on worms and ground insects and that blue tits feed their young with caterpillars, greenfly and the like. So will the fledglings survive on the mixed diet they are, currently, being fed?

Will there be any conflict between the species co-parenting? Robins, particularly are aggressively territorial, so will they drive the natural parents away?

Certainly this behaviour is something I have never noticed before – unless, of course, it involves cuckoos.

 

We Don’t Know …

Back in the 1960s (if memory serves I could look … and, yes, dammit, I know I could probably look it up on the all-wise internettage but what the hell ?)

And, anyway that simple act would cause me to – entirely – lose my thread (“do you have something you wish to share with the rest of the class as any of my many teachers would have asked those grinning-wryly readers at this point. “No? I thought not!”

In the eager-beaver way of my rural youth I imagined all kinds of adventures on nearby Cannock Chase. Here was the Forestry Commission becoming public minded: involving said public, serving the public, allowing the public access to their land for the first time … indeed, actively encouraging participation. They had been engaged, their publicity machine said, in putting up nest boxes, bat boxes, trail markers and what-all else. So I was keen to be one of the first explorers of Forestry Commission wildlife trails ever; me, with my practical knowledge and my I-Spy badges for identification (not really but I saved the cards!)

Deer, red? Tick.

Deer, fallow: check.

Woodpeckers, green: yessir.

And I remember seeing what I thought – at the time – was a misguided (dying?) fat-assed bumble bee disappearing into a hole in the ground and asking why it wasn’t going home to a hive … Now I cannot remember whether I actually asked this question out loud, but I do definitely remember not getting an answer.

Cut to May, 2017.

Deer, once shy creatures rarely glimpsed on Cannock Chase are now, seemingly beyond control (if not yet beyond counting). They have been glimpsed in Walsall Town Centre and are residents now in the agricultural land around my mom’s house. Indeed last night she rang and informed me there had been a muntjac on the back lawn – first actual sighting down there but, of course, they must have been around for decades (shy etc.)

In our own garden, which I try to manage as wildlife friendly, we have, among other features, umpteen nest boxes for birds (the one placed high in the lime has blue tits present, the one on the house wall has, appropriately, house sparrows. Disappointingly the swallow decoy boxes have never been occupied. The purpose, I believe is to make other hirondelles think previous generations have built there, so encouraging new nests. Not so far, but I live in hope (also a small town in Texas).

There is a more ancient box by a Salix vitellina next to the packed-with-seedlings, lean-to cold-frame and, for a while it seemed a pair of robins were moving in. Clearly they had a change of mind and tried again in the wood pile.

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About a week ago, strolling by, I noticed the moss, leaf skeletons and blades of dried grass seemed to have been rearranged; so, next time I wobbled down that way en route to shed I took a circumspect – but closer – look. And was surprised to find a trio of bumble bees marching around all over the surface of the material.

It seems they have taken over the site; after all, they weren’t to know I’d built the thing as an open fronted bird’s nest box were they? And I am pleased – and reminded about that little moment all of those years ago on Forestry Commission land.

Bumble bees are regular visitors to the garden, entertaining with their ought-to-be-impossible manoeuvres, that reassuringly deep buzzing flight and clownish ways of collecting nectar and pollen. Bumblebees are larger and hairier than their honey bee relatives. This means they can be about when the temperature is lower. This is, however important because they do not manage to build up a big stock of food in their smaller nests. They literally have to go out and forage – or starve. For this reason gardens (hopefully) like ours with a steady supply of nectar rich flowers and blossom are a god-send for bumbles.

In return – and at the same time – they are important pollinators of our crops. The nest, started by an overwintering queen, may not survive longer than a few months (depending on the vigour of the queen, the weather, predation and – I guess – luck, so I take the opportunity to take a peek every now and then, absorbed by the simple pleasure, taken by the energy and altruistic activity I observe.

Often there are two or three, walking about on the top of the pile, which doesn’t seem to have been added to, and, after a while, one will stir its wings and hover gently away. In my mind something like a Chris Voss version of a Chinook leaving on a mission.

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And my mind is taken back to that naïve query on the edge of a forest car park. We never know what we don’t know do we?

*Much more useful and interested information on bumble bees at this site

http://bumblebeeconservation.org/

… and the Smug Feeling …

DSC03468There’s a reason I’m clinging onto the guttering while perched on a too-short ladder footed on a board (that until twenty minutes ago held six terra cotta pots of over-wintering fuchsias in our greenhouse) on top of the roof of the laundry room roof.

Our elder daughter and her partner were coming over today. He was bringing his extendable ladder that would reach from the ground to the roof and we would clean all of the accumulated moss and debris from said guttering. Debatable which of us would actually be mounting the rungs: he being allegedly a feared of heights and me suffering from the remnants of some kind of virus (Mostly recovered now, thanks for asking).

But then we discover that. The ladder. Doesn’t. Actually. Reach.

We’ve tried roping another ladder on to it. But, even for me, it looks risky. The vertical sides don’t marry up and thirteen metres of marine-standard rope won’t make it any safer. It won’t fall down and it is lashed tightly enough that the whole won’t collapse, but there’s a dangling propensity for sideways slippage before I’m even half way up. Discretion is the better part of most things, especially when you are taking on verticality eh?

So we root around, trying to bodge together a tool that’ll reach from the lower storey roof along the guttering so we can scrape the rubbish back to us and scoop it out. A dessert spoon, a garden rake, hand trowel?

Then, looking across the gardens from this lofty flat roof perch I espy Ian in his back garden. Maybe he can help. He’s got a big van that’s positively bristling with ladders.

I call out to him; there are only five gardens between us and I’m kind of famous for having a big voice (trust me that’s a whole different story). His partner is in the garden with him, kneeling by the aviaries there. They both look around. Funny how we always look at eye level first: then see me.

We converse about types of ladder and the two of us set out from our back garden to get the ladder.

No need, as it turns out. Before we reach the end of the road Ian’s big wagon is trundling round the corner.

He’d been checking out his bonsai collection he tells us. Funny really, he’s always friendly and helpful, but a big guy, skin covered with tattoos and hardly the sort that’d strike you as a bonsai practitioner (if there is a special term for this I don’t know it – yet!). Our kids (kind of grew up together) and he’s a marvellously generous big guy with a skin full of tattoos: not at all what you might expect from those mischievously misleading first impressions.

He gives us a brief introduction to his hobby and I’m fascinated (“You don’t call it privet if it’s a bonsai: that’ll be a ligustrum,” he informs us).

His ladders are perfect! Secure, heavy and easy to manoeuvre. Strangely the back guttering is fairly full of moss, but the front one has absolutely none. Theories pass between us: prevailing wind direction seems the obvious one. Remember that a theory is, after all, only the latest explanation that best fits all the known facts (including the Theory of Evolution). So, the job is accomplished in double quick time and we sit in the wonderfully warm sunshine around the wood burning stove in the Dell at the bottom of our garden. Even though it is a warm, blue-skied day the upwards change in temperature is tangible as we step nearer to the stove. Coffee, cake, the satisfaction of a job done and – yes – the smugness that can only come with knowing you have clean gutters.

The Unladen Weight: A Soap-Box Moment.

All those planting seasons ago when I ventured to start this blog I had no real plan other than to have a bash at describing events, effects and reflections generated by renting a standard allotment plot in South Staffordshire; lazily thinking that, surely a lot of human life and the human condition might be reflected within the confines of those hawthorn hedges.

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The title is a nod of the head to a sage comment made at the time by my friend, co-gardener and wife (often referred to in the blog as the Plantation Owner’s Wife. You see, at the time allotments were nowhere near as popular as they are at present and the plots I was offered (“Take it or leave it!” were the exact words) was over shadowed by a monstrous, thick hedge over flowing with pernicious weeds (squitch (couch grass), mare’s tails, docks and nettles) and hadn’t been dug for at least a decade. A ramshackle ”greenhouse”, bodged together from window frames and plywood and held together by hope and gravity stood in a sea of comfrey, next to a three feet high pile of stones and scraps of industrial carpet. Now I knew that I could make something out of it, but my wife simply sighed and said:

“They saw you coming if you’ve said yes to that!”

Whoops!

Hook, line and sinker became Muck, Line and Thinker. I hope and apt description for some of my ramblings. And the overgrown mess became a very productive, inspirational plot alongside the beginnings and developments of friendships, banter and experimentation with new crops and techniques.

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But the blog is salted with asides from my other lives and connections and bits and pieces picked up (books read, radio programmes heard (or misheard) observations on life and – hopefully – an injection or two of humour).

Indeed only last week I heard a comment by a primary school teacher in passing.

“I think it was on telly …” she was saying as I overheard unintentionally “… they were saying every child ought to b taught to recognise every British bird. I though t what a great idea. I couldn’t do it; I don’t know ‘em all.”

There was a pause. Neither of the two people she was with passed comment.

“Then I thought,” she went on, “that’s not enough. Maybe they should also be taught to know every kind of tree …”

At this point they were walking out of earshot. I was intrigued. By her honesty (in admitting her lack of knowledge) and the concept. I can recognise a lot of our bird species. I began to learn them from my grandfather, then from field guides and by asking. Trees too.

I have often been accused of having a grasshopper mind (ever tried to catch a grasshopper?) and of divergent thinking. As if either of those things is in any way wrong!

On hearing this snippet I am thrilled (“what a great idea, I love it!” a tiny fraction of my (tiny, let me say it so you don’t need to eh?) brain is cheering. But another part is remembering, and applying, something I heard on radio some years ago;

“Why not do both … and more!”*

It sounded so liberating: teach the kids the names of the birds. But how to do it? Show ‘em pictures of a chaffinch, a snowy egret, a marsh harrier. Copy out the names underneath? Just not appropriate. In my opinion – and my experience – I learned the names of the birds that were in the garden, in the farmyard, in the fields, on long, rambling no-purpose walks. I don’t remember setting out to learn the names of every bird, or every tree. Such knowledge as I might have crept up on me. And I didn’t learn the names in isolation, but linked to their behaviours, their location, their habits and habitats.

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Because I was curious. Because I am curious still.

I learned as a result of what I happened to be doing: chopping kindling, getting the cattle in to be milked, fishing for tadpoles in the local brook, collecting conkers. A kind of sympatico osmosis, because I wanted to.

Now it is true that if we want to conserve today’s wildlife and landscapes we have to engage youngsters, show them the delights of the countryside, the web of inter-relating causes and effects. “if it’s not important to them, if they don’t have knowledge and a perspective they won’t vote to save it in the future” argument is absolutely valid. And the schools starting to get involved in the Forest Schools Initiative are going some way towards it but there is a deeper role for parents and families to play. Because, it seems schools are straitjacketed and delivering a very narrow assessment-driven curriculum. So ..…

… and anyway:

What about species of flowers, breeds of farm livestock, models of cars … the unladen weight of an African swallow ?

* It was a question asked of a theatre director – what should drive theatre programmes: bums on seats or eyes on stalks?

 

Snow Moon: Pause for Reflection?

I’m learning such a lot from social media (though I realise it may not all be correct, know what I mean fellow conspiracy theorists?).

For example every full moon, apparently has a name, so last night’s February’s full moon is known as the Snow Moon*. According to a U.S. almanac web-site this tradition dates back to the native American tribes during colonial times, but has an element of prediction:

“And the Native Americans were right. On average, February is the USA’s snowiest month, according to data from the National Weather Service.”

N.B. I am living in central England, and the names of the full moons have graduated across the Pond. Last night this coincided with a penumbral eclipse. However both were invisible as flat grey clouds blanketed the skies.

And, sure enough Cochise, snow was falling gently this morning when I raised my head. First thoughts were about whether the football game at Bolton (I am a long-standing Walsall fan) would still be on and what travel arrangements did we need to make?

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But then logic and wonder (not usual bed fellows) took over. Stock up the bird feeders. Spend a calming few minutes watching from the back bedroom window. Grateful visitors swarm in: chaffinch, goldfinch, long tailed tits, a single robin, blackbirds that spend more time squabbling than eating, a pair of crows, their would be neighbours the magpies, a house sparrow looking brightly coloured against the snow.

A whole blizzard of starlings drop in; their ability to feed from every single piece of equipment becoming obvious. There is a wood peckerish quality about these garrulous birds: their bills, their ability grasp a vertical surface, the fact that they will nest in tree trunk holes. Blue tits, the same pair I speculate that are working on the entrance to the new nest box high in the lime tree have ceased their courting and visit the table: eager and greedy.

Over the eight foot fence a cat that has been sneakily sheltering beneath a no-longer-used trampoline, slinks away between broken fence panels.

There is a sense of déjà vu here. Facebook has reminded me of a photo I took in 2013. Scarily similar.

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The crow versus magpie saga continues as I watch their WWF tag-wrestler-style behaviour on the lawn. The smaller magpies trying to exert some kind of dominance repeatedly fail to do so. The crows are wary, but not even slightly intimidated. This magpie pair have conceded the existing nest site to their larger cousins, but still visit it regularly, while also starting to build –from scratch – a new platform nest. On two separate occasions the crows have popped in and, literally picked it apart and dropped it from a great height. It is, after all, no more than thirty feet from their own nest-to-be. The mags cannot take the hint and, to date, have re-built it twice.

I am reminded of the Spy v Spy cartoons that appeared in Mad magazine.

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But, doesn’t this behaviour also mirror the “boundary dispute” in progress up at the allotment. No malice between ourselves and the house owner, but dispute between official parties (of course it is not quite so simple) that is going on and on. Most recently the house owner has removed his front hedge and intentionally or not the contractors doing the job have also taken out some of the hedge between the allotments and the Wolverhampton Road. Again we have a case of watch-this space as arbitration/discussion/resolution are at least as far away as they were before.

I am brought to mind of a “small talk” conversation with one of The stewards at Walsall Football Club last Saturday. We were discussing the weather (usual topic for English people – we have so much of it after all – and I said we needed a sustained cold spell to get rid of snails and slugs. Wise chap, humouring ing the paying customer, nodded sagely. Is today the beginning of a cold snap?

By the time I am setting out for the traffic marmalade that passes for roads between here and Bolton, the snow has turned to rain.

*Other web sites are available and one such talks of the green comet which should, cloud permitting be visible from earth for a couple of nights. Green Comet? My mind is racing; surely a DC super hero? Whose alter-ego is a mild mannered allotmenteer?

Super-powers ?

Hmmm …

Any suggestions ?

The Magic of Trees?

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Returning happily (we won!) from a home game I am pleased that the wide, pink skies are still light at half past five. This must be spring getting closer I’m thinking. Encouraging! Longer daylight hours, more time for outdoor evening activities. I’m also brought back to a time I spent with friends in Bergen – and an experience in the primary school where they worked.

A group of ten year old children at dinner time ere hauling the standard two inch something fire hose along the main corridor.

“You should see this,” they told me, as they pushed and pulled the anaconda nozzle out through a classroom window – and dragged it towards a ring of pine trees growing in the play area. Now the play area I should explain was not a level playing field, but sloped, included outcrops of the mountain rocks, the ridged, toe-trap roots of trees, lawns and copses. A child poking a stick down a lidless storm drain raised no eyebrows and there were never teachers – visibly – on duty.

A cleared circle at the centre of the spinney had a fire pit and around fifteen or so of the children had prepared a classic wig-wam of kindling. Which they duly set fire to, then added additional fuel. It was all very well organised. Next, to my surprise each of them sharpened a fifteen inch or so long ash skewer (with sheath knives) and used this to cook a sausage over the flames. Someone else (they took it in turns I was told) had brought bread (but not everyone wanted bread with their sausage).

“This week I bring the meat, next week the fuel …”

Together they sat, talked and took their responsibilities so very maturely. Something in the experience had me thinking of my own childhood in-charge-of-fires, another part had me thinking how very far removed from the reams of health and safety paperwork this was from a child’s life in an English school: the playground surfaces, the fire … and, please, nobody mention those knives!

It was all so very normal for the Norwegian kids: part of the marvellous forest schools that also had them spending half a day every week in the local forest (you are rarely far away from a forest in Norway) and granted permission –if not actively encouraged – to have a fire while there.

Then, completing the twenty five minute journey from the game I look at a blog that, coincidentally links with the flashback:

https://quercuscommunity.com/2017/02/03/friluftsliv/

The post is well worth a look, but is essentially about a Norway-wide philosophy that time spent out of doors is beneficial, even more so if it can be spent with nature. It doesn’t require great wilderness treks, but relieves stress and helps the mind to concentrate. The Victorian town planners with their parks and arboretums, the model-factory owners were visionary in their grasp of this concept it would seem, even though the word “friluftsliv” had yet to be coined.

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The same can be said for time spent up at the allotment – though, during winter’s dark passage this is done dutifully, rather than with any actual work going on (for me at any rate). The plans to lay the hedge, to set out paths, to repair retaining banks has been put on hold while the border dispute goes on.

However, the time usually spent up there is liberating: just enough work to employ the muscles, enough repetition to not tax the brain – and fresh air and, sometimes, the craic. Friluftsliv indeed!

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There is yet another serendipitous coincidence; I am currently reading a book, The man Who made Things Out Of Trees (Robert Penn) in which he mentions shinrin-yoku (or “forest bathing”) practised in Japan:

 

“… basically going for a stroll in an ancient forest – is a standard form of preventative medicine. Inspired by ancient Shinto and Buddhist practices, nearly a quarter of the Japanese population still enjoys forest bathing today. There is also a field of study that tries to understand not just why walking in fragrant, old-growth forests is good for us but also how the magic of trees works on humans at a molecular level, in our cells and neurons. The data is compelling: leisurely forest walks reduce heart rate and blood pressure, decrease sympathetic nerve activity and lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol.”

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“Research has examined the relationship between trees and the perception of safety in inner cities, the effect of gardening on the quality of life of people with disabilities, and how the use of wood in interiors can reduce levels of stress in schools. The effect of wood in hospitals has been studied in many countries, including Finland, Norway, Austria, South Korea, Japan, USA, Canada and Denmark. The research is far from conclusive but seems to show that humans react positively to wood in interiors both psychologically and physiologically. The findings correspond with research that suggests spending time in nature improves cognition, helps with anxiety and depression, and even enhances human empathy.

The polymath American biologist EO Wilson first propounded his theory of biophilia – that we have a deep affiliation with other forms of life, like trees, which is instinctive and rooted in our biology – in the mid-80s. Around the same time, Professor Roger S Ulrich completed one of the first and best-known studies in the interdisciplinary field now known as environmental psychology. Ulrich’s conclusion – that patients recovering from surgery in rooms with a window facing natural surroundings took less medicine for pain relief than patients with a window facing a brick wall – was ground-breaking.

The magic of trees works on humans at a molecular level, in our cells and neurons. The data is compelling.”

Certainly we felt better, having completed a steady four mile walk across Cannock Chase, From Marquis Drive to Birches Valley and back, sharing the forest trails with cyclists, walkers, dogs towing adults, horse riders and three outdoor classes (two for off road cycling and one for orienteering). The Chase is a popular place, deservedly so – and on Sunday morning neither of us, unusually objected to the company. There may be a little Norwegian in all of us I suspect.

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Life after the Care Farm

The Cynical Gardener

The most Dangerous plant to sleep under is the water lilly

wyrleyblog

Local History for Great Wyrley and Surrounding Areas

The Renegade Press

Tales from the mouth of a wolf

The English Professor at Large

Posts about old Hollywood, current concerns

Cornelia's Blog

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