Author: Mr A
Location: West Bagborough, Somerset, UK (still!)
If you’ve been reading our last couple of blogs you will know how lucky we have been to find ourselves isolating in such a stunning part of the world as the Quantock Hills in rural Somerset. We are therefore determined to make the most of this fortunate opportunity and do all we can to come out of this isolation in better shape mentally and physically.
During the bushfires in Australia earlier this year I couldn’t stop reading the horrifying news. My health was poor, and my spirits were low. We have decided in this crisis to look after ourselves better. Here’s what we’re doing in case there’s any useful ideas for our readers.
Limiting our “negative news” input. The single biggest and most impactful change we’ve made is restricting how much news about the pandemic’s negative impact we watch/read. We check in on whats happened in Australia overnight, then enjoy our day with no checking on media until we turn on the TV early evening for the daily BBC updates live from the the government. Then we force ourselves to switch it immediately off before the journalists and talking heads come up with all their “government is not doing enough” or “if only we had done this sooner” and other pointless finger pointing or sensationalist commentary. It gets us nowhere. Until we’re offered tests or a vaccine what’s the point? It just messes with your head.
Boosting our immune systems. Everything we’ve read from the medical profession points us to using all this additional free time we have on improving our overall health with exercise, preparing healthy food and having quality sleep. Catherine has mentioned our every other day pilates sessions, well we’re on session eight now and I’ve already noticed a difference in my balance moving around the house and out on walks. I’m a clumsy old fella as some of you know, with a pronating ankle that keeps pitching me over. Well I’m going to stop that and will be ballerina like in a few months 🙂
On the food side of our regime, Catherine has always been a fan of cooking from quality basic ingredients and using her extensive stash of herbs and spices, rather than using pre-mixed sauces that usually contain lots of long numbers of additives and sugar. Having said all of that, the first person to die in our network is healthy mid forties guy with no underlying health conditions we are aware of. So maybe we just take this path knowing it might not save us, but if we do survive then it will be in better shape!
Taking control – creating new routines. In this crisis where our daily routines are turned upside down, our minds need to find some order in this chaos to try and make sense of it all. The science of mental health tells us that keeping to a daily routine will help us reduce anxiety in a world where we can no longer maintain our old habits of going out to the pub, or the gym, or round the neighbours for a cuppa. So getting up and enforcing a structure to the day seems to help our minds settle. Its also a great opportunity with more discretionary time, to establish new routines that we’ve always aspired to, but never habituated (like our pilates). We can’t control the suffering that is happening all around us, so taking charge of things we can influence seems even more important to our well being.
So our days here pass into weeks, we fall into a pattern that takes us out almost every day into the beauty of the Quantock Hills. We read the government guidance on exercise quite carefully, and feel we are well within it to be walking for a few hours on mostly deserted paths. The few people we do come across we give a wide berth. We take hand sanitiser or alcohol wipes for when we have to open gates. Every day brings the simple delight of packing up a rucksack with some fruit and thermos of tea, lacing up our boots and walking out our front door. The biggest decision of the day being turn right or left.
Yes we feel guilty we have it this easy when so many people are suffering through this pandemic in horrific ways. 4,300 people have no died in the UK, but what can we do? Catherine spends an hour or so a day looking after her support group and working to help various doctors around the world, while I need to be protecting her by limiting my physical contact with people outside our cottage. So stay at home it is.
To know that we have the time to settle in one place and to really get to know an area, to read about its history, to explore every little footpath, to not have to feel rushed. The English countryside, and this little corner in particular, has just captivated us with its density and variety of visual, auditory, and olfactory delights.
Its no wonder this area inspired romantic poetry of the great Wordsworth and Coleridge, who spent some of their highly productive years living up the road and penning their great works after inspiring walks though these very hills. The sounds of the birds, the rich, country smells, the vivid colours of this landscape, they each trigger so many memories for both of us when we lived in England. Australia has given us both so much, but its a very different experience, and we’re so grateful we get the opportunity to spend time immersed in both.