Green Shoots

Spring feels like it’s almost here. Green shoots, buds, birds twittering – and the sun high enough in the sky, yesterday, to get over the building line; lighting up and warming a corner the quadrangle where I work. I stood in that couple of metres squared of sun yesterday – for a minute or two – which warmed my face and the cockles of my heart.

Green Fingers: 

A couple of weekends ago (adding to my Christmas bonsai and January’s tiny cactuses from Amazon) I potted up some tiny fragments from a tray of forgotten succulents. They were struggling through the winter under a tree, in our slightly unloved back garden. 

All five of them have taken root. Now they are catching stray photons of weak sunlight on top of a chest of drawers, happily converting carbon dioxide into sugars and plumping up nicely. 

Much like children; I’m learning – helping a few plants to grow near you is a constant joy.


Green Socks: 

Sat on the Tube, in a bit of a rush, I spotted a smartly dressed chap opposite; a little older than me, he had a very smart pair of turquoise/green socks on display. 

Following Thich Naht Hahn’s advice I reflected on ‘interdependence’ – all the things that had gone into those socks… 

The dye, the chemists from Du Pont who almost certainly created the colour and the designers who adopted that shade; the makers, buyers and then the retailers who chose to make and stock them; the man himself – probably on the internet – who thought they were a particularly fetching shade… And that’s just the colour. 

From my time in branding and advertising, I know that colour was probably selected for this year’s palate about 7 years ago somewhere in Paris. And that’s before we get into the myriad machines, the power sources materials (natural and man-made) lorries, ships, trains and more which made and moved them. 
The whole world in a pair of socks… Then screech, beep, swoosh, ‘mind the gap’ and back out into London life.



Green Run

We packed off my daughter (at 3am) this morning on her first ever ski trip – which as I was dozing back off made me think of mine… Almost the same age, I remember the flight: reading Smash Hits with Annie Lenox on the cover, listening to my (vast) Sanyo Walkman, wearing my silver C&A ski jacket as we flew over the Alps about 35 years ago. 

As my dad reminded me this morning the catch phrases of my Italian ski instructor have become family lore: “Hey Disaster Boy!”, “Don’t bend your botham”, “Knees to the mountain, shoulders to the vaa-lley.” It’s bitter sweet seeing her all grown up, but it certainly brings back memories. 

As the book I’m reading points out – you don’t need to be sat in silence to really notice and enjoy what’s going on around you. Especially at this time of year.

Nostalgia

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Turns out Nostalgia ain’t what it used to be…

Traditionally associated with wallowing in a rose or even sepia-tinted past; nostalgia has a bad reputation for losing us in misty-eyed escapism to a lost time that never really was.

I’ve always believed nostalgia was a thing to avoid; at best a source of melancholy and at worst downright sadness. But not so according to the New Scientist:

First described by Johannes Hofer in 1688, the word nostalgia comes from the Greek nostros, to return home, and algos, meaning pain. Hofer observed it as a disorder of homesick Swiss mercenaries stationed in Italy and France… a disease which whose symptoms included weeping, fainting, fever and heart palpitations. He advised treatment with laxatives, narcotics, bloodletting or if nothing else worked sending the soldiers home.

As recently as 1938 the New Scientist continues:

It was described in the British Journal of Psychiatry as “immigrant psychosis”: a condition marked by a combination of homesickness, exhaustion and loneliness.

However, in the last two decades nostalgia has been recognised as an emotion found in all cultures; a mix of happiness and longing. Its bittersweet nature is apparently “unique but universal” – and most of us experience it at least once a week!

Why?

One theory the New Scientist offers is that nostalgia gives us a sense of continuity in life: “Nostalgia reminds us we are the same person we were on our seventh birthday party as on our wedding day and at our retirement celebration.” 

It turns out nostalgia is an antidote to loneliness; not its cause. It lifts us when we are feeling down and boosts well-being. 

And it helps you cope… less nostalgic people feel less connected to others, that life has less meaning, are less likely to seek help from others and deal with loneliness less effectively.

Whereas: “reflecting on nostalgic memories boosts optimism and leaves people more inspired to pursue their goals.” Wow! What’s not to like?

Music is a particularly effective summoner of nostalgia by all accounts (explains my blog about Teddy Mac, Alzheimer’s and Sinatra’s: “You make me feel so good”).

So yesterday I tuned into Absolute 80s on the radio for some teenage kicks, and sent my folks some BFI black and white archive videos of our home town. I used to think that sort of thing might drive them to melancholy; not now.

I’m embracing and prescribing a regular dose of nostalgia – rose tinted spectacles all round!