Anti-Social Media?

Copyright Clare Ryan-Dodd 201
Copyright Clare Ryan-Dodd 2010

Look at Social Media is brilliant for keeping in touch with globally scattered friends simply and instantly; even more for making friends with like minded people you otherwise may never have met and getting your voice out there. The trouble is these sites can be addictive. Depending on the person, they can fill every spare minute, sometimes resulting in sleep disorders.

Unfortunately cyber bullying, stalking, scams and grooming are rife. Some bullying is rather more subtle than just malicious comments, there appears to be a sense of one-upmanship: This could leave more introverted souls feeling left out and maybe even inadequate. Some of the more subtle bullying may not even be intentional, it could just be a by-product of insensitivity, ignorance or insecurity. People just get caught up in their own heads especially when the ego-massaging starts.

Accidents must be increasing – people rarely look up from their mobile devices and just step out into roads or into others. People don’t seem to be present any more, face-to-face conversations, if started at all, are interrupted by notification beeps and buzzes which obviously can’t wait. This is apparent when traveling by train – some passengers are loathed to follow Quiet Coach etiquette for fear of missing something on such platforms. I am usually confident yet saddened that I’m one of the few people to look out of the window and watch the countryside roll by. Fellow passengers miss out on magical sightings of red kites, fawns, foxes and other wild or domestic creatures, as well as scenery.

Cast your mind back twenty years ago, even the most basic mobile phones weren’t common place – if you weren’t at home/work, people couldn’t reach you. You could check-in with loved ones if passing a payphone but that was it. And we managed! I’m very grateful that I have a mobile but am also amazed that I feel almost naked if I leave it at home these days. I’m not sure it’s healthy to have such an over-reliance on this kind of technology. They seem to have turned into security blankets/transitional objects, yet how else can we communicate that the train is late?!

I will say that I can cope without constantly checking for Social Media Updates – I enjoy a good electronic catch up but prefer face-to-face human connection, telephonic exchange a close second.

CFS permitting, I’m making a conscious effort to enjoy our surroundings more, preferably with some good company.

Great Tits

Inquisitive Great Tit
Inquisitive Great Tit
Inquisitive Great Tit

Sorry to disappoint those of you who were maybe expecting , er, something else, this post is about birds! It’s not just great tits that are great, I think all members of the genus are. Since suffering another CFS slump I haven’t been able to do much, my graduated exercise has ceased, including very light gardening. When I have had the energy to make it outside to bask in the sunshine and acquire Vitamin D naturally (this seems to help); I have taken great delight in watching the antics of flocks of tits. When I haven’t been able to get out of the back door they have saved me from cabin fever by flitting about in a comical fashion near the window.

I was concerned that I hadn’t seen a coal tit in the garden for about a year, I was over joyed the other day when three of them were in foraging in and around our Viburnum tinus, one of them had a mooch around at pot about 10-12 feet away from me.

Fluffed Up Coal Tit
Fluffed Up Coal Tit

The large groups seem marginally less talkative than they did when the excitable chicks first fledged but they certainly aren’t any less boisterous or busy. The pecking order, coined from avian behaviour, hasn’t changed. You can see that poor coal tits get shoved out of the way by blue tits, who in turn, get shoved away by great tits if they think they’ve found a tasty morsel. Long-tailed tits, one of my favourites because the first brood often stick around after fledging to help raise the second brood, seem to stay out of this.

A few years ago, we were full of anticipation when a pair of great tits were seen making regular visits to a little corner of our garden with beaks full of moss and leaf litter. Sadly, the stealthy cat from next door had also witnessed this behaviour. I was outside at the time and didn’t see but am told that in a heartbeat that cat sprang up and caught one of our little builders. I saw her play with her quarry before killing it, I wasn’t able to stop her, I was too far away. The surviving great tit searched for his/her partner before singing a lamenting tune for the rest of the afternoon. It has haunted me ever since, even the breeze seamed to stop rustling the emergent foliage, as if in respectful mourning. I found the whole incident upsetting and empathised with the sorrow that little bird expressed at the loss of his/her mate. I know it’s nature and as well as being a complete marvel, it can also be cruel but that day confirmed my belief that animals have emotions too.

I’ve noticed recently that the tits are tapping on wood like nuthatches, are they looking for food? They aren’t just sticking to trees – on blue tit ended up knocking loudly (sounded like a human) on the fence and a great tit gently tapped on our front door. Has this been happening to you?

Just Kidding

5rsaf0tAfter my visit to Natural Capital it transpired that going to stay with a friend would involve a shorter journey time than heading home and therefore require less energy. Well, traversing in the region of seven counties in one day and braving the rail replacement service was more than worth it. I even managed to get my coat back after I left it on the coach thanks to the helpful and friendly First Great Western staff. My friend kindly collected me from the station, we grabbed some food and flaked out in front of the TV – mostly nattering over it.

The following day we headed to Totnes where we had a nice lunch at a cafe with a view of the river. Happily the marauding gulls left us to tuck into our toasted sarnies but we did have to make hats for our drinks to keep the wasps off!

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We got a little lost both in the car and on foot, we got pointed in the right direction having ambled off course and so embarked on our pleasant riverside walk. We didn’t realise that we had to cross through South Devon Railway, and had we had a little more time would have liked a ride on the steam train. We braved the pedestrian level crossing and reached our destination – Totnes Rare Breeds Farm!

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We encountered a parliament of owls, red squirrels, chicks, several breeds of goats and sheep, chickens, ducks, geese, donkeys and all sorts – including my friend’s favourite – alpacas! I was impressed with their breeding program for harvest mice – they are becoming increasingly rare and will be getting a much needed population boost when they get released into the wild. They also rehabilitate hedgehogs back into the wild – we didn’t see any of them as they were deep in their slumbers.

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I found a kindred spirit in a toddler whose mother told us that after going around twice the little girl wanted to say goodbye to all the animals she had met! I know how she felt but with the mention of a drink in the Garden Cafe on a scorching day, I happily followed my friend…qliolqw

It turns out our friendship revolves around food – we independently ordered the same thing everywhere we went and eagerly went back to cook a roast! I must say no animals were removed from the premises but I did leave with an overwhelming urge to work with/keep animals in the future.

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If delivering a ewe’s young is called lambing, is delivering a nanny goat’s young called kidding? Surely it must be called something else?

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Natural Capital

Photograph courtesy of Natural Capital
All photographs courtesy of Natural Capital.

Horses have been good for commerce from the beginning. Britain’s long agricultural history was founded on the efforts of horses, commonly the magnificent shire. As we moved to industrialisation, canal boat horses trudged along tow paths, heaving to get the boats moving. Horses pulling wheeled vehicles would take goods to market, transport people and were the basis of the postal system. They have experienced untold horrors throughout history – we have taken them to war, and still do. They are equally relevant to business today. Competitive sport, riding lessons and holidays, equitation equipment manufacture and training are just a few of the more traditional examples, however Natural Capital has added a unique and exciting twist.

I was enthralled when I heard about them; a niche business whose mission is to develop their clients’ skill sets within the parameters of business, utilising equine influence. There are many business critical areas to study which can be explored in groups. I chose to go for a solo taster session about managing energy levels. Perfect for me as I’m struggling to balance work and CFS.

After being welcomed warmly by Rosie, we went through the “Programme Distinctions” which clearly states that the programme is about people and emphasises that it is experiential. We discussed my background and the progression of the session before heading to the horses.

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Initially I participated in an observational exercise, and went on to interact with the horses once we had built up a rapport. I’ve elected not to go into detail about the exercises – I think it it will spoil them for those who wish to try it for themselves. I will say, that apart from the horsemanship Rosie goes through in order to keep you safe, you do not need any prior experience with horses. In fact; I’m no expert, but what I’d had drummed into me at various stables may have hampered my ability to think completely outside the box when challenged.

I learnt a lot about my approach and discovered new ways of tackling tasks which are much less energy-consumptive. I don’t always have to lead from the front – something I was incorrectly taught at school. It became apparent that I’ve been pulling myself much too hard throughout my creative processes. I also need to be clearer with my non-verbal communication.

I was sad to leave such a wonderful place, I had discovered a lot in an enjoyably unorthodox manner with Rosie and her herd. As I said my thank yous and goodbyes to the whole team we saw two flocks of Canada geese overhead and swallows gathering in preparation for their migration to Africa.

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Horses are social creatures living in herds, which fundamentally have similar team dynamics to our own. Why not learn from such a powerful and truthful force like nature? Natural Capital can improve business functionality by empowering individuals. Over the years I’ve attended countless business focused and hard personal development courses which have since merged into one. Back on the train, with the Westbury White Horse gazing down, I knew this one would stay with me – I’m planning on returning!

Please note that Natural Capital do not offer therapy.

Bookish And All Of A Flutter – Part 2: The Birds And The Bees

Speckled Wood Butterfly

Well it’s been a while since my last blog! Although I’ve been doing the best I can, my CFS doesn’t seem to want to ease, meaning my book is still very much ish rather than complete. Hopefully I’ll be able to finish it this week if I continue to do the work in short spurts. I haven’t been anywhere near a screen for quite some time.

Speckled Wood Butterfly
Speckled Wood Butterfly

I’m not in a flutter about it – again I’m in a flutter about butterflies. I’ve been taking part in The Big Butterfly Count – meditative, restorative and most importantly, useful! butterflies are great and sensitive indicators of environmental and climate change. I was lucky enough to see multiple lepidoptera species in my garden- even some that look set to become extinct in the UK by 2050 if drought conditions increase. Ringlet, speckled wood, large and small whites are all regular visitors. Needless to say that the red admiral was resting on me again. I could even see her two vastly reduced front legs which aren’t used to stand on like the four larger legs. Instead these limbs are used to smell and taste with and give the Nymphalidae family the common name of brush-footed butterflies.

Created with Nokia Smart Cam
Created with Nokia Smart Cam

Butterflies aren’t the only insect life forms that I’ve been enjoying, the dragonflies and bees have also proved fascinating. I discovered what I think are Red-Tailed Bumblebees mating. Apart from minding the stinger, mating can be dangerous for bumblebees!

Created with Nokia Smart Cam
Created with Nokia Smart Cam

Flying ant day was a little less enjoyable – don’t get me wrong, the colonies and behaviour are just as interesting, however there is something about the sight of a flying ant that makes me itch! We have several species in our garden which I have resolved to identify. I looked out of the window the other day to discover a juvenile green woodpecker feasting on them – such a beautiful creature. I looked up to see a greater spotted woodpecker looking for food in the elder – he quickly hopped onto the tall foxglove*, and started pecking vigorously. The garden spider ended up with a disappointing web full of of tiny seeds, the flowers being long spent, I’m not sure what the bird got!

Created with Nokia Smart Cam - Hole In Foxglove By Woodpecker
Created with Nokia Smart Cam – Hole In Foxglove By Woodpecker

As well as the young green woodpecker cackling to himself, a young buzzard can be heard in the locality throughout the day. I was lucky enough to see him the this morning as I opened the curtains – the plumage appeared much darker than the average adult to my bleary eyes. Even the amorous wood pigeon cocks his head to listen to him – and probably work out an escape route!

I’ve spared you a picture of the hedgehog droppings I found, I just wish I had better camera equipment so I could capture the bats – I would probably need better reactions too! We have pipistrelles whizzing around the garden but I’ve also seen a larger species. I don’t know how to begin to identify them as they are off in a flash!

*Picture on Twitter – 22 June 2015

Bookish And All Of A Flutter

Red Admiral On IvyI haven’t given myself enough time to recover from recent events in terms of CFS. I’ve been keen to get my books published and have been busying away when I should have been resting. I know I’m being silly but I just can’t seem to stop myself. The excitement drives me forward, only for me to slump and feel wretched. I’ve got myself to the point of not being able to sleep because I’m over tired. Vicious circle!

My family are concerned and keep sending my up the garden with a book to read! I’ve really appreciated it. I decided to re-read a few old favourites. The primary objective of this was so that I wouldn’t get intrigued and feel the need to defy my heavy eyes and keep turning the pages, eager to discover the next events to befall the characters. This has failed: Firstly because I had forgotten significant chunks of the plots and secondly the books seem to have become more special since my last read.

It must be me who has changed, not the books! Perhaps I seem to identify and empathise more with the characters since experiencing more life than the last time we “met”. For me, characters tend to come off the page – I have a vivid imagination, which has always bolstered my enjoyment of reading. Having gone through significantly less dramatic events and their consequential thought processes and feelings, I can appreciate their plights more fully; making their tales really hit home. This is happening even in the most unlikely books which are completely disparate to my life, yet I somehow see (tenuous) comparisons. I can’t quite put my finger on it but whatever it is, emotions are running high and I’m struggling to put the books down! Does this happen to you?

That was until the red admiral butterfly decided to read over my shoulder. She has been perched on the corner of my chair, my shoulder and my head. Her most effective attention grabbing move was when she landed on the bridge of my nose and spread her wings to bask in the last of the evening sunshine. It wasn’t long before she flitted away, leaving me free to reinstate my nose back into my book and get embroiled in the story.

Perhaps a less energetic occupation would be concentrating on finding out who has been leaving these signs in the garden… Any ideas? I don’t think it was the butterfly!

Created with Nokia Smart Cam
Created with Nokia Smart Cam
Created with Nokia Smart Cam
Created with Nokia Smart Cam
Created with Nokia Smart Cam
Created with Nokia Smart Cam

Flat Out!

Created with Nokia Smart Cam
Created with Nokia Smart Cam

I know it’s the longest day today in terms of daylight hours but as far as my valiant family and I are concerned, it has been the longest week! After much procrastination, I got my act together and did some hardcore packing. I’m amazed at the amount I’ve accumulated in a relatively short amount of time – I’d been moving things out since handing my notice in…Turns out after two van loads, we filled a car up as well! This isn’t taking into account the boxes a couple of heroic friends kindly took in and some furniture I donated to charity! Over the last few weeks my flat was feeling increasingly less like home.

Created with Nokia Smart Cam
Created with Nokia Smart Cam

I missed my plants and regretted taking my TV out early – it was fine to begin with, I did lots of reading but the planned artwork didn’t happen – I had CFS shakes & wouldn’t have been able to control my brush strokes. I might have invented a new technique had I tried 😉 The biggest mistake was moving my mirror out – I spent the last couple of weeks checking to see who was around and dashing down the corridor to the lift. Using the mirror in there and hoping nobody called the lift, I’d rush back to make the necessary adjustments! Luckily I wasn’t spotted!

Created with Nokia Smart Cam
Created with Nokia Smart Cam

I have mixed feelings about leaving that place, I’ll miss the nosy neighbours like the wood pigeon pictured at the top, my plants were thriving on the balcony. (Pictures from last spring & autumn.) I’d got the interior as I wanted it, but there we are. I shed a tear or two as a blackbird perched on the banister and serenaded us in the final stage of cleaning but know ultimately it’s the right decision.

Created with Nokia Smart Cam
Created with Nokia Smart Cam

The journeys took their toll although I was pleased to spot orchids on a motorway central reservation when we got stuck in traffic, an unexpected pleasure.

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After all that hard work getting out of my flat; I’ve been flat out! I summoned up the energy to do a quick floral arrangement today – everything grown in our garden – and as I did so admired three wren fledglings. One of them gazed as intently upon me as I did on them, less than six feet away. I might be the first human this constantly chirruping ball of fluff has seen. He wasn’t quite sure what to make of me but was clearly enjoying exploring this whole new world despite getting chastised by his mother. Wish I’d had my camera! Has anyone else encountered any fledglings yet?

Procrastination

I’m supposed to be packing my belongings ready to move out of my flat this week! I got on well with the first load to be moved the week before but have been lacking a little motivation recently…

I’ve been silly busy at work and even managed to do better than expected in my Social Media Marketing exam which, with hindsight, was timed badly with everything else going on. This has all left me a bit do-less so in order to combat that I’ve decided to do things that I enjoy doing rather than things I’m meant to. This quite possibly could be a mistake as I’m now almost devoid of energy and know that I’m going to have to push myself to get through the ordeal of moving.

Created with Nokia Smart Cam
Created with Nokia Smart Cam
Created with Nokia Smart Cam
Created with Nokia Smart Cam

This mistake is not one I regret, however, I’ve been catching up with old friends – some of whom I haven’t seen for years. It’s a shame that life just gets in the way sometimes. Yesterday I decided I needed to clear my head in order to pack properly (The best justification I could come up with!). Off I went again on the bus to experience the delights of Haldon Forest by horseback again. No deer this time, instead some big buzzards, the odd squirrel, red admirals, common heath, common blue and tortoiseshell butterflies.

Created with Nokia Smart Cam
Created with Nokia Smart Cam
Created with Nokia Smart Cam
Created with Nokia Smart Cam
Created with Nokia Smart Cam
Created with Nokia Smart Cam

The last few forlorn bluebells were doing their best to get noticed amongst the other vegetation but this time the forest was awash with pink foxgloves.

Created with Nokia Smart Cam
Created with Nokia Smart Cam

Unfortunately the photos from my phone don’t do the sea of pink justice and my sixteen hand plus steed was eager to get going rather than take in the vista as I faffed about with technology.

Created with Nokia Smart Cam
Created with Nokia Smart Cam

After brushing down Woody and turning her out, I strolled back to the bus, hot and happy.  Enjoying the sight of a speckled wood butterfly flitting around and, from a distance, what looked like a little brambling. I was then extremely lucky to witness a hummingbird hawk moth feeding on valerian with its huge proboscis. Fascinating.

Created with Nokia Smart Cam
Created with Nokia Smart Cam

I did some packing and shifting when I got home but had completely over done it by teatime. And, my excuse for procrastinating today? I did my back in lifting heavy boxes! At least I’m being productive – I’ve just joined SCWBI: Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Member-badges

Let’s Do Lunch On The Broadchurch Set!

The Team!
The Team!
The Team!

It was great to see so many faces at The Big Lunch yesterday at Exeter University. You might even recognise the location of our Big Lunch as the court from the last series of Broadchurch!

School's Out!
Permission was given to me by the staff to publish this photograph.

It was a lovely surprise when a school passed through who were particular fond of our Hindu Chaplain’s mango drink & local man’s honey. A few children were looking back longingly as their teachers ushered them home, I think they would have preferred to stay to finish the goodies off!

Busy Bees!
Busy Bees!

The University Wellbeing team ran a popular craft stall, encouraging people to discover their creative side and just relax whilst doing so, a sort of mindfulness I suppose. Wellbeing also lent us their Mind Apple Tree – an interesting concept where you write down things that make you happy on a cardboard apple, then hang on said tree.

Craft Table
Great display of crafts to try out.

The brilliant RCHolistics, a local business, donated their time and gave massage taster sessions in return for a donation – there was such a queue I didn’t get a look in. Lots of people went floating back to their homes and offices once having risen from the portable massage chair!

RCHolistics
Massage in progress!

Grounds did really well with over £50 being attributed to plant sales. There were some wonderful specimens, bedding and houseplants – I had a difficult decision when it came to getting a little gift for my Mom. I noticed lots of other people deliberating too!

Grounds & The Mind Apple Tree
Grounds & The Mind Apple Tree

I was impressed again with the spread the Multifaith Chaplaincy Team and their helpers put on in with such a limited time to actually prepare food. My morning was spent dashing around plastering posters round campus, clarifying confusion, flyering, making a display about the DEC’s Nepal Earthquake Appeal, setting up tables and making sure all the store holders knew that the venue had been changed that morning.

The kind lady in charge of Grand Challenges got in touch with me that morning and offered to share the Forum Street with us that morning. They were holding a cookery demonstration, so it tied in well with The Big Lunch and we were immensely grateful as the rain hammered down. The original plan was to be outside with gazebos and brave any rain that dared to fall, as we were worried that people might not find the space booked for wet weather contingency. Then we heard that there was a weather warning of strong winds, so we would have had to concede to the storms.

Cookery Demo!
Cookery Demo!

Another good link was the fact that the University Community Wardens also happened to have a stall in the street – given that The Big Lunch is all about bringing people together, they were a great addition.

We did miss out on sunshine by one day, and I think the crowds were a little larger last year but then campus has been extraordinarily quiet this week, even for this time of year. Overall the event went very well, I’m pleased with the amount of smiling faces and money we raised – £130.56 for Nepal. Impressive given that the event was dynamic in the sense that it was still changing up to the very last minute!

DEC Display
DEC Display

I can’t thank everyone enough for their involvement, help & support with The Big Lunch, whether that was food purchasing & prep, helping promote the event, running a stall, simply turning up or any other form of support. Everyone did a brilliant job, and their time & efforts are much appreciated.

Hope the other Big Lunchers enjoy their events this weekend.

Who’s in next year?! I am!