Wow, we’re 20 weeks into 2020 already… and what exactly have we to show for that? A global pandemic causing untold suffering to many, and this week, police brutality leading to rioting. Nice. Like many people, I prefer not to discuss hatred and politics here on my blog, but I couldn’t start my weekly blog today without at least acknowledging it and suggesting a couple of useful links for those in my readership who would like to learn more about what we might be able to do from our position of privilege (I don’t need to look at my stats to know that the vast majority of you are sat in a position of privilege in this world). I came across this post on Instagram that’s been shared a few times and found it to be useful; it would be a good place to start with links to other resources you can use.
I will continue with my “normal” weekly blog shortly, but I hope you understand that I couldn’t begin this commentary on ordinary life today without bringing up this hugely important yet uncomfortable topic. We shouldn’t be silent. We cannot live in a bubble where we can ignore the amount of hatred that exists today. It’s showing its ugly face in all kinds of ways, not just in the violence on the streets of some American cities and through the nasty words that come from the mouths of leaders and politicians, but also in our own communities at home and online.
Maya Angelou said: “Hate, it has caused a lot of problems in the world, but it has not solved one yet.” We need more love. More kindness. More community. More good. As a good friend reminded me earlier today, we need less I and more we. It’s a cliché these days but it’s true – be the change you want to see in the world. Start at home. Start now. Read, learn, understand, and then do.
Thank you for listening to my TED Talk.
Coombe Hill Nature Reserve
I’m not afraid to admit that I’ve always been a fan of long weekends and short working weeks. I don’t hate work, but I relish that extra day when we get a bank holiday weekend, it’s such a nice treat. Last weekend that meant I could have a normal Saturday and Sunday (did I mention I finally finished painting the fence…?!!?) and then have an extra day to do whatever I like.
Of course I used my extra day off to go for a walk… We headed to Coombe Hill Canal and Meadows, just down the road from me between Gloucester and Tewkesbusy. We’ve not been there before but had heard good things, and I found a nice looking eight-mile circular walk on OS Maps added by Country Walking magazine. Having not been before I had no idea how popular it might be, but figured we’d give it a try anyway. The little parking area was pretty full, even at 9am, but we did get a spot, and once we were a mile or so into our walk we barely saw anyone else all day, which is how I like my walks even when we’re not in the midst of a pandemic.
Coombe Hill Canal and Meadows is based around a disused canal. The internet tells me that the reserve is good for wetland birds, particularly waders and migrating waterfowl, and you can also see birds of prey, including hen harriers, peregrine falcons and goshawks. It’s also apparently the best place locally to see dragonflies. I’ll be honest and say we didn’t take the binoculars and weren’t there for bird watching, but we did hear cuckoo and watch some birds of prey gliding in the thermals, so I reckon that counts.
Our route took us all the way through the reserve and out the other side, to the River Chelt at Wainlode Hill, along a dried out marshy brook to Prior’s Norton, up through some farmland, and finally through a couple of hamlets and back to the nature reserve again. It was a beautiful and a lovely flat route, but it wasn’t without its navigational difficulties. Unfortunately, we came across two parts of the route that were impassable thanks to footpaths being blocked. The first was footpath entrance that was so overgrown and hidden we missed it the first time and when we asked a lady who lived in the village we were in she didn’t know it existed, and the second was much more “on purpose” thanks to a series of paddocks created using electric fence with no gates or stiles allowing walkers to pass through. Grrrr, especially to the second one! I will be reporting both, and hope that the local authority can do something about it, because it’s a real shame to get halfway through a lovey walk to find you have to find alternative routes or head backwards.
Anyway, apart from those footpath issues we had a lovely walk in a new-to-us spot, and we’ll certainly be back at Coombe Hill to explore more another time. Within the nature reserve itself the walking is easy going and flat, and there are a couple of trails to follow, and I’m sure that if we took the binoculars we’d see a lot of wildlife.
What did you get up to on Bank Holiday Monday? I’d love to know, give me a shout in the comments below.
Time for a New Mattress
There comes a time in everyone’s life when they must admit that they’ve had their mattress a little bit too long and it’s now affecting the quality of their sleep. To be fair we’d agreed this probably around a year ago, but it’s one of those things that’s been put off for more than is healthy. Buying a new mattress is stressful at the best of times, it’s such an important (and expensive) purchase, and how do you know if the one you choose is actually the right one and the other four you narrowed it down to aren’t actually a little bit more comfortable without buying them all and trying them all one night at a time?! In normal times you’d go to a bed shop and give each one a little test, but even then you’re trying them for three minutes each in a shop, that’s not a good way to make the right choice either.
Having decided we wanted pocket sprung, because memory foam is not great if you prefer to be cool in bed, just over a week ago we settled on the “Perfect Mattress” from Loaf and placed an order. I mean, there’s a name given to a product the company really believe in! It seemed to be the best quality for the price, the reviews were great, there is a 100-day trial period in case it’s not the right one, and it just seemed like a good choice. It’s got 1400 springs, which sounds like a lot (you can get more, but then you pay more), and is made just down the road in Wiltshire, which we also liked. We plumped for the extra firm version, mainly because they describe the firm one as “marshmallow-like”, which isn’t something I would consider firm. It arrived on Friday (the delivery chaps took it right to our bedroom but virus restrictions mean they weren’t allowed to unpack it or take the old mattress away, so we’ve booked a tip slot for next weekend), meaning we’ve slept on it for two nights so far – not long enough to know if it really is the perfect mattress, but plenty of time to know it’s way more comfortable than our old mattress! I do think we’ve made the right choice, but I guess only time will tell.
Mini Book Review | Why We Sleep, Matthew Walker
My latest audio book “read” has been Why We Sleep: The New Science of Sleep and Dreams by Matthew Walker (affiliate link). I’ve been very interested learning more about, well, me recently, and thought this would be an excellent way to do that.
I’m not sure how much I took in, I’ve never been very good at remembering the facts and details of science, but this was an interesting accompaniment to my local walks over the last couple of weeks, and I did get a few takeaways from it. I have to say that now part of me feels anxious that if I don’t get eight-hours of sleep opportunity every night (which isn’t the same as eight-hours of actual sleep, but it’s not far off), then I’m doomed and will fail at everything. Maybe that’s why I’m a Jack of all trades and master of none?! Equally, part of me feels like the commentary made sense and there is clearly an awful lot of good scientific research behind each chapter.
Did you know, for example, that going 22 hours without sleep makes you as impaired as you’d be if you were over the legal drink-drive limit? That you can’t actually “catch-up” on sleep, and so lie ins are pointless? Or that if you don’t sleep properly before and after learning something new, you won’t remember it properly? How about not sleeping enough can lead to premature death? Yea. There were some nicer messages too, thankfully, including muscle memory sets itself overnight so if you’re struggling with playing a particular musical phrase on the piano, for example, your brain can sort through that while you sleep and when you wake up in the morning you might find you can suddenly play it after all.
I can summarise the book very quickly and easily indeed: Sleep is really important, and if you don’t get enough, life will be hard. I’m not saying you don’t need to read this book, it genuinely is interesting and uses a whole host of fascinating scientific studies to back up the statements, but equally this isn’t necessarily going to help you get more sleep. It’s about sleep, not how to sleep.
I guess my week has been all about walking and sleeping then… it could have been worse! What about yours?
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