When I was younger, I wanted a pet lion. I am of the age that grew up watching Daktari on the TV. I also read Born Free, and my parents bought me a big cat book for my birthday when I was six. I still have it. I thought the lion would be my best friend.
As I grew up, our relationship with animals became more clear to me. That humans were the most powerful of all. Even the lion needed us to survive, protect his habitat. Stop hunting him. It was a hard lesson to learn.
When I was about thirteen, my mother told us all she'd had enough of eating animals and that if we wanted to eat them, well, we'd have to cook them ourselves. So, I was thrown into vegetarianism. She explained why we were doing it, and I think I just looked at the facts and realised too that I could remain perfectly healthy without needing any animal to be killed for my plate.
I turned vegan when I was 16, and I lasted about a year or two then. I tried again in my twenties and thirties, but it was always something that I'd crave. Milk chocolate, mainly. But then I watched the Earthlings documentary. It is a bit like Cowspiracy, or Seaspiracy. A hard but truthful watch.
It was the line in the sand for me. So now, I've been vegan for the best part of eight or nine years. I try not to buy products that have caused animal suffering. It's easy to replace so many house cleaning products these days, or shampoos too. I'm not 100% perfect. Sure, I make mistakes and buy some things. I'm currently trying very hard to find some good vegan trainers. But, I will get there.
Why am I telling you all this? I suppose for those who read my books, it might help explain why Professor Elizabeth Green is who she is.
My mother was a great influence when writing the character. I am so proud of her. She was ahead of her time. She was kind to animals. Rescued wildlife, stray cats and dogs. Would support the local rescue centres. As an aside, she didn't just care about animals. She cared about people. She used to point out anything she thought was wrong, wherever she was. She'd go into toy shops and complain about why all the boys toys were blue and girls toys pink. It was embarrassing, but she was right.
Sometimes, pointing out the need for change makes a person unpopular. Professor Elizabeth Green does not care about being unpopular. She speaks truth to power. That with power comes responsibility. I learnt that lesson from my mother. I miss her so.
I hope you have an animal in your life. Maybe a cat or dog, who brings you joy. It really is one of the best feelings. Hug those animals close to you, and they will repay you ten fold.
My son told me the other day, that isn't it interesting that technology doesn't feature in our dreams. Can you remember the last time your dreamt about your iPhone or your laptop? I can't remember it ever happening.
We come from Nature and we depart into Nature. As I grow older, I feel so much closer to nature, on an almost urgent level. Like a fix for coffee or alcohol (though I gave up both years ago), I now need a hit of Nature regularly. Jittery feelings run up and down my vagus nerve without it.
I'm allergic to shopping malls, hate the tube, can't stand offices without loads of plants, and even then can't wait to leave. Strip lighting and aircon, no thanks.
It made me realise how much time I spend with my laptop. I'm always on it. My body sometimes feels like it is being punished by it. Perhaps because I am currently editing a draft novel.
I know I'm not alone, and there are many who have no choice but to spend many hours at a desk staring at a computer. I try to remember what we all did before home computers. I remember our landline, and no emails. It was kind of wonderful in many ways.
When we dream, we often dream of sitting at the top of a field, staring down into the valley. Or, walking along a beach, watching the sand blow into ridges in the winter. Or, going for a walk in the woods in the Autumn. We just don't dream of staring at a screen. It is important to remind ourselves just who is in charge.
I have decided to write the next novel using a pen and paper, and then transfer it onto the computer by a voice recognition programme. So still technology, but less time tapping away. I shall make sure I'm outside when I write, even if sitting in the summerhouse when it gets cooler.
I think we all feel like technology is taking over. Some of us love it, and some not so much. Of course, it has its uses. Kinetic energy storing pavements sound fabulous.
I, for one, am making a rule though to put it all down more often and enjoy nature. This isn't a rehearsal, after all. And for me, well, I'm approaching Autumnal years. I will leave you with a song which I love so much, by Lee Hazlewood, 'My Autumn's Done Come'. Let's get outside, open those windows and enjoy!
Is there anything more beautiful than wild?
This morning, I spotted these wild flowers and wanted to share the photograph. I'm sure we have all seen them. Common flowers, on an ordinary patch of dry grass. But so intricate. So beautiful on my walk this morning.
I love walking about in Cambridge. The word for someone like me might be flaneuse, but that sounds a little too fancy for who I am. I like to tread lightly on this land and stay under the radar, knowing I am not here for long. A speck of grain on a whirling planet around just one solar system in the universe. That's why I find such beauty in small things. I know I'm not alone. Increasingly, through this pandemic, we have all found beauty in what is right in front of our eyes.
Ecotherapy would suggest spending an hour studying just one metre of space, either on the ground, or perhaps on a branch of a tree, or on a wall or in a pond, and just observe. There is something very calming about really looking at the small. Right outside my house I have a corner of the garden I call 'honey-bee corner'. It is about ten foot by seven, perhaps, and crammed with flowers and lavender (and a couple of seats which are disappearing into the flowers). It is a small space, tucked away, before my city garden opens up to grass and trees and a wider landscape. Friends come over and are a little nervous of having three dozen bees or more a mere half a foot away from their face. But I like it, and they get used to it. I can sit and stare and watch the bees and butterflies from May right through to late September.
In this world which always encourages us to have more of this, bigger of that. More land, more material wealth, bigger spaces, it is good to remind ourselves of just what happens in a small space. The whole world is taking place, right in front of our nose.
Would love to see your photographs of your small space where you love to watch the world turn.