Can’t See the Wood for the Trees

I always used to get stressed about leaving for work on time – because parking space is at a premium. In fact, if you’re not in there by 8.20am, you’re more likely to find a chilled-out T-Rex than an empty rectangular piece of car-sized tarmac.

So, I’m often left doing the ‘Car Park Shuffle’ – using short term parking, then moving on! We have several store car parks within walking distance of our building. The only problem is that they are limited to a maximum of two hours – some even less. And if you should accidentally go over your allotted time, you’re looking at a King’s Ransom in fines.

But if I can’t change the car parking situation, which, short of buying an Aldi store and levelling it, I can’t – there has to be another solution. I’ve had to look at things differently in an attempt to turn the negatives into positives.

There is a distant land where cars can stay, without fear of time limit or ticket. In the middle of a local park there are normally spaces to spare. But there is a downside – the long walk.

Realistically, the walk is less than 15 minutes each way. And now the British Spring has sprung, it’s a pleasant-enough hike on a tree-fringed tarmac path. And since I’m looking to increase my daily step count, it’s all good!  

And through the seasons, while walking through the park I’ve been inspired to use my phone and take a photo or two of something that catches my eye. Be it a beautiful winter wonderland, a spring flower bed in full bloom, or a travelling fair setting up.

Sometimes there’s hardly a person in sight, but often there are little kids zooming around on push scooters, being taken to school by their parents. Or small groups of dog walkers who stop to moan about the weather, just as the sun breaks through the dark clouds. 

A gardener occasionally chugs past on an industrial lawn mover like he’s in a Formula 1 Grand Prix race. A couple of the scooter kids give chase, leaving their parents trailing in their wake.

My route takes me past a big new-build house that I think looks perfect. I imagine myself living there, the owners having kindly moved out and handed me the keys. 

The gardener seems to be happily driving at half speed, now the kids have been drawn away by the urgent ringing of a distant school bell. 

And before I know, it I’m onto the road and outside my office building. Why did I ever think this option was a last resort? 

On some days, I find myself walking around the park in my lunch break, taking different routes, and soaking up the atmosphere.

So what was all the fuss about? Maybe I really couldn’t see the wood for the trees.  

Everyday Heroes

Recently I watched a TV series which featured the work of the lifeboat crews that protect the coastline of the British Isles.   

The crews are almost entirely made up of volunteers. These men and women give up their free time and risk life and limb, to help people in danger.

Countless lives are saved every year through their actions. The crews are ordinary people choosing to do extraordinary things – true everyday heroes.

I doubt the average person has such an impact on someone else’s life, on a regular basis. I know I don’t. Sometimes, it feels like we can’t make a difference. There are so many bad things happening around the world. What is the point? 

But then you see a story about a 14 year old girl whose petition convinced a supermarket giant to stop selling eggs from caged hens. Changing the world, one step at a time.

Signing a petition means you can add your voice for causes that are close to your heart. Or maybe your next door neighbour would appreciate seeing a friendly face every now and then. So if we can’t change the world, maybe we can change our corner of the world. 

Charities and good causes are always looking for volunteers. It’s more rewarding than just giving a donation, but that can help too.

If you don’t have the time to get involved yourself, you could use your social media influence to get the message out to those that do. Doing something, however small, is better than doing nothing.

Maybe you could clear out your closet and donate those shoes you regret buying. Who knows, it may help to buy another lifeboat. And then you and everyone else involved can join the ranks of the everyday heroes too.

Nature Nurtures

Photo by Steve Lakey

If you read my recent post, ‘Life Lessons From a Fitness Tracker’, you would know that I’ve recently become reacquainted with my Fitbit, after a long lay-off.

My stats are gradually improving, if not exactly hitting Olympian levels. But I’ve realised that my exercise doesn’t have to be extreme to be beneficial. Unlikely as you are to find me power walking past you at high speed, I’ve rediscovered another type of power walking – drawing on the power of Nature. 

This area of the country used to be scattered with coal mines and the railway tracks that served them. One of the few positives from the demise of the pits, is that a wealth of parks and trails have been landscaped in their place, to create an environmental legacy throughout the local countryside.

Just a short drive from my home, I can be walking on a secluded country trail. One minute, I’m strolling through a steep-sided cutting, hewn from its sandstone bed over century ago. And the next, I’m high on an embankment, looking down on a herd of sheep, through the canopy of trees. On occasion, a gap in the green affords me an unexpected glimpse of a farm. A few times, I walk under stone and ironwork bridges – relics of the industrial past.

On this May afternoon, I was joined by a chorus of happily chirping birds. Later, several horses cantered by. There were dog walkers aplenty, with their furry friends chasing around happily.

Everyone, humans and animals alike, seemed to have the time to say “Hello!” Even the speedy cyclists nodded their heads and gave a cheery thanks as I gave them room to pass. A sprightly senior dog walker told me that all this area was his playground when he was a kid. In the days when there were not only railways here, but steam trains using them.

But mostly, it was peaceful and I had myself for company. And whatever pace I was going, there was no denying the restorative power I drew from this walk.

Nature most certainly nurtures!

Big Boys DO Cry

I recently watched a YouTube video about ‘Top Ten Songs that Make You Cry’. I have to say that I was baffled by most of the choices, but I guess it’s a personal thing. The two main things against me crying at songs are:

  1. I’m British (stiff upper lip and all that)
  2. I’m Male (big boys don’t cry!)

I suppose it’s down to conditioning through many generations. Our tear ducts work perfectly fine. It’s just for most of us they don’t get used very often!

But things are changing, I would say for the better. No self-respecting U.K. X-Factor contestant, male or female, is afraid to shed happy tears when they qualify for the next stage of their journey. So maybe the ice is melting. And maybe there is hope too for the middle-aged generation of British men like me.

To prove my point, I stumbled on a song that gets me tearful every time I hear it. Even reading the lyrics gets me emotional. It just somehow resonates with me. Reading the YouTube comments, I’m not the only one that feels like this.

The way it brings my emotions to the surface in a calming way, allows a cleansing and healing process to take place. And through it, my spirits are lifted.

So sometimes, big boys do need to cry!

The song is ‘Big River’, written and performed  by Jimmy Nail. Jimmy is a British actor/singer who is synonymous with his home city of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne on England’s North East coast. With this song, he weaves a story that is deeply personal, together with a lament for times past, and concerns for an uncertain future. But as the song finishes, Jimmy sounds a note of positivity, that the spirit of its people will see a once mighty city restored to its former glory. His heartfelt vocals combine with the haunting guitar work of Dire Straits’ Mark Knopfler.

 One of the reasons I connect with this story is that I come from a former coal mining area. Now, all the pits are closed and most of the heavy industry has gone for ever. It isn’t just the economy that is suffering, it is the local identity. Four generations of my own family, including myself, worked at one of the local pits, Mansfield Colliery. The story for me is both historical and personal.

Like Jimmy’s big river, I hope my hometown of Mansfield, Nottinghamshire and the surrounding area will rise again. And in a way that looks to the future, while still honouring the traditions of the past.

It’s not the industry that made the people, it’s the people that made the industry.

 

 

Leaving Homepage!

Anyone that’s moved home will tell you that it can be a stressful experience. But moving homepage has definitely removed a whole lot of negativity from my life!

My morning routine for several years now has been to look at the BBC News website and watch their breakfast programme over my cereals. When I click to open my Safari browser, the first thing I see is a selection of the day’s news:

Our Prime Minister said this!

Their President tweeted that!

The Economy is about to do this! 

And of course, all the news and information is carefully screened and monitored to be inspiring, uplifting and positively the brightest way to start your day – Not!

It isn’t that the BBC is any worse than any other news organisation. But it can’t be coincidence that most of what we are shown is seriously negative. Is this really what we want?

Every disaster, natural or man-made, is systematically beamed from around the globe and presented in a condensed format that can be repeated at regular intervals, just in case we missed it fifteen minutes earlier. Perhaps we should be grateful that the misery is generally restricted to our planet. Presumably, in the future we’ll be shown the destruction of distant galaxies, holographically Live-streamed from the Delta Quadrant! 

So, I’m choosing to remain in blissful ignorance of Life’s misery. I’m sure if something is important enough, it will filter its way to me eventually.

My morning routine now consists of a slightly more healthy breakfast, with a reassuringly relaxing, yet superbly stimulating side-order of positivity.

My replacement homepage is WordPress. I now study positive posts on my Reader while listening to relaxing ambient background music. And when work beckons, I head for the shower with more of a spring in my step.

That feels like good news to me.